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The Story Of Gate Pa, April 29th, 1864

Victory at Te Ranga — End of Hostilities between Natives and Europeans in Tauranga District

page 29

Victory at Te Ranga
End of Hostilities between Natives and Europeans in Tauranga District

After the Gate Pa, a large number of troops were sent to the Taranaki district, where a fresh outbreak was expected, Colonel Greer remaining in command at Te Papa.

On June 21, 1864, information having been received that the rebels were entrenching at Te Ranga, about six miles inland, Colonel Greer ordered a reconnaissance, and moved out with six hundred men. He found the enemy so intent entrenching, and with such insufficient tools, that our force was allowed to come up quite close unmolested.

The position selected by the enemy was the narrowest portion between two gullies which ran up from the Waimapu waters on the left and the Kopurererua on the right, less than fifty yards wide, the ground falling steeply several hundred feet on either hand. By the time they were discovered the rebels had dug a shallow trench across the neck and along the edge of the gully in an easterly direction about sixty paces apart, and the troops by taking up a position on either flank of the enemy, were able to enfilade the trenches, which had the effect of bunching up their numbers in the centre, and impeding their hurried entrenching operations.

Colonel Greer immediately sent to Te Papa for reinforcements, and on the arrival of two hundred and twenty men and one gun, a heavy fire lasting two hours was opened. Major Shuttleworth repeatedly reporting that he could not restrain the men much longer, finally they were about to anticipate the bugle, when the charge was sounded, and they advanced with loud cheers, burning as they were to avenge their dead at the Gate Pa and efface the stain from their flags which were emblazoned with the names of glorious battles won in India and the Peninsula.

The Maoris poured in one tremendous volley which caused only a few casualties, being, as usual, too high, and next moment, before they could reload, our men, with a wave of steel, swept over them, notwithstanding their desperate valour when clubbed rifle and bayonet met long-handled tomahawks. Only a few minutes elapsed from the bugle call until all was over, and with hardly an exception, all had died from bayonet wounds.

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The very flower of Ngaiterangi and associated tribes had fallen with their faces to the invader, in full accord with the proud ancestral boast, “Me mate ahau mo te whenua”—”If I die let it be to die for the land.”

A small detachment of the Defence Force, under Captain A. C. Turner, pursued the fleeing enemy some distance, sabreing a number, but the deep bush gullies on either hand made effectual pursuit impossible.

Sixty-eight bodies lay in the shallow trenches alone. Truly they had dug their own graves. Their total loss was at least one hundred and forty killed, and thirty-seven wounded were taken prisoners.

Colonel Greer states that the Maoris made a most gallant stand, meeting the fierce bayonet charge without flinching, and only with great difficulty were they forced from the trenches at the bayonet point. A large force of rebels came to the assistance of their countrymen, but arrived too late.

There were many fierce personal encounters. Private John Smith drove his bayonet through a Maori's body, and before he could recover the native wounded him severely in the head in two places and shot him through the leg. Corporal Byrne had passed his bayonet through a native, who seized the bayonet with his left hand and was about to tomahawk him with his right when Sergeant Murray killed him.

Our casualties were thirteen killed and thirty-nine officers and men wounded. Ten unwounded prisoners were captured. The gallant chief and leader, Rawiri Puhirake fell, and was subsequently re-interred in Otamataha Pa at Cemetery Point by the side of his adversary, Lieutenant-Colonel Booth—fitting tribute to a heroic and knightly foe, and only a measure of the general admiration exhibited by the British for their Ngaiterangi antagonists. Henare Taratoa, the young Otaki teacher, also fell, and on his body was found the “Order of the Day” for combat beginning with prayer and ending with the words in Maori from Romans XII 20: “If thine enemy hunger, feed him, if he thirst, give him drink.”

The Tauranga tribes soon afterwards surrendered, and the friendliest relations were re-established, and on the final peace-making, when Sir George Grey met the assembled Ngaiterangi tribe, he informed them that as an earnest appreciation of their chivalrous conduct of the war, the boundaries of the lands confiscated by proclamation—commencing north of the Katikati harbour at Ngakuri-a-whare extending easterly to Wairakei, mid-way between Maketu and Tauranga, and on the south-west side, the watershed, would be abandoned, and only the area lying between the Wairoa and Waimapu Rivers, estimated to contain fifty thousand acres, would be taken.

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An old chief of Ngaiterangi gratefully accepted this concession, and concluded his speech by a touching reference to their ancient sacred mountain “Kua whiti te ra ki tua aTawauwau,”-“the sun now shines over Mount Tawauwau.” This settlement was most honourably kept, though in '67 small wandering, disaffected parties of rebels' caused considerable intermittent fighting along the edge of the great forest, and on 4th February, 1870, a final action took place with Te Kooti's forces, when Colonel James Fraser's column was defeated with considerable loss at Paengaroa.

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This completes the stories of the Gate Pa and Te Ranga engagements furnished by Captain Mair. The information and records following have been gathered from various sources to supplement the Captain's interesting narratives.