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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 69

Chapter XI

Chapter XI.

In the middle of April I was one of a party on duty in the advance redoubt (a small one thrown out to keep men in all night after the sap was filled in), Captain Shortt incommand, when we saw a flag of truce coming down from the Pah. A very respectable native dressed in black cloth was carrying it. There was another man with him, and two young women.

Captain Shortt said, "Come up with me (picking out two or three, myself among them) and bring all the tobacco you can."

Up we went and met them about half way between the redoubt and Pah. There were great salutations and shaking hands. One would think we were very old friends just meeting after a long separation. Such, I am always proud to say, is the feeling when meeting an enemy under such circumstances.

The man in seedy black had a letter for Mr Drummond Hay, the interpreter. This was sent on down and we kept the party in chat until Mr Hay came up, from about a third of a mile from where we met the flag of truce.

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They had a chat, then all went back but the man in the seedy black coat, who accompanied Mr Hay down through the trenches to the head quarters. I must not forget to mention that we gave away all the tobacco we had, and it is worthy of note that the two girls got the lion's share. From this day there was no more firing, and not many days passsed before we moved down to Waitara.

Then the question of the distribution of the troops came on. First, we were led to believe, that we were to go to Auckland. This was pleasing, for many had no doubt made a few friends during our short stay there; but this did not come about. We were ordered into New Plymouth, where the remainder of the regiment was. It was sad news to some, who would have liked Auckland. For myself I can only say this, "Had I not gone into New Plymouth I should never have met the party I did, and I am sure had I searched every settlement in the whole colony I could never have been so well suited as with the one who has already shared over five and twenty years with me, and who I hope will yet share as many more." More than that would hardly be wise on my part to wish for.

Into New Plymouth we went, and matters were quiet for a time. We furnished small detachments north of the town, viz., Bell Block, Mohoiti, and Waitara. Then there were several block-houses round the town, in each of these a small body of either troops or militia were located. Marsland Hill barracks was the chief centre for troops. I had a look at it in '86. Alas! what a change from the good old days of '61, 2, 3, and 4. I walked into the room formerly used as an orderly room. The room was there, and in one corner a bit of dirty straw on which some stray pig must have been in the habit of passing some of his spare time. Then I looked into the once pleasant Sergeants' mess-room, in which I had spent so many pleasant hours with comrades, many of whom have long joined their kindred dust. After viewing round I left with a sad heart, to think that the bright past, the association with true friends, was for ever gone.

I went outside and stood gazing townwards. On the very spot I had often gone to, at a certain hour named by arrangement, to give the signal to a dear little creature whether I should be out in the evening or not; but I could not see the place the signal was given to, for trees had grown up and shut out the view. I went also to the grave-yard to have a page 62 look at the "Obelisk" therein erected to the memory of the poor fellows who fell or died in this colony. The names of those on it will be found at the end of these reminiscences.

In roaming over the grave-yard seeking for graves of my lost comrades, as I would come to one, one perhaps concealing the remains of an intimate friend, (this I can say was the case at many), I noticed they were sadly in need of repair; and a year later, when the encampment was held in New Plymouth, on the very ground which was our rifle range in 1862, something was done in this respect; funds were collected, and among some of my Wairarapa friends a few pounds were made up and sent to Colonel Stopp, and as he had the repairs in hand I feel sure ample justice has been done, and I also feel sure that if funds are needed on any future occasion they will not be asked in vain. The old Die Hards will not be forgotten; they will die off, but their offspring will not be wanting on such occasions, I feel quite sure.

Going back to our furnishing men for the different outposts; this was the only change we were subjected to for a time. A few companies went down to Wanganui, it is true. Thus the whole regiment was embraced in those two places. I went to the Waitara in February, 1862. It was here we first heard of the death of "Prince Albert the Good." We did not get English news a day old then, and though the Prince died on the 14th December, 1861, public notification of it in this colony was not published till St. Patrick's Day, 1862, three months after the event. The peach season was on during our stay at the Waitara, and we did not appear to eat much else. I often now look back and think of the peaches of those days and the scrags we see now.

We had rather a rough character in our Company-rough when in liquor, but otherwise one of the best of fellows. He was just on his last chalk, as we called it, that is if he got another offence for drunkenness against him within a certain time he was bound to be tried by a court martial. I could see one day that "Mickey" was drinking, and unfortunately he was bound to be run in when he got to a certain stage; so I went up to him and whispered—"Scannell, you'll have to take the cramp—mind you must, or in you go." Mickey took the hint, and in a few minutes he was rolling on the floor in apparent agony. I ran to him, so did others; then the Captain, hearing the scuffle, came round from his room, which was under the same roof as ours, to ascertain the cause page 63 of commotion. I ran out to the canteen, kept then by a well known Land Court Judge of the present, got a glass of rum, and put a handful of pepper in it, made it about the consistency of porridge, and ran over with it and said, "Now, Scannell, take this down at once, it will soon remove the pain." So it did, but by the way he wriggled about and roared out in real earnest it was pretty plain that it was touching him up inwardly. Mickey soon got over it, and he was sobered down, and a pretty good eye after him prevented him again getting into trouble until he had wiped off a chalk or two. Mickey and I were the only two who knew that joke for some time after.

Two months was the period of stay at those out-posts. My Company went out again in February '63, right in the peach season again. I often went into town on Sundays to see some one I knew there. I know her now. One Sunday, nearly the end of April, and what I thought would be my last Sunday's trip in, good old Tamati Whaka brought me his horse as usual to go in on, and he gave me a letter to give to Mr. Parris, Native Commissioner. I may here state that there were nearly always rumours about that something was going to happen, that another outbreak would come on us soon. Outposts had been established on the southern side of New Plymouth as well as the north; these were beyond Omatta, Poutoko, Oakaru, and Tataramaka; from New Plymouth about six, nine, and fifteen miles respectively. At each post there were men of our regiment located.

Tamati was a good loyal chief and he requested me to deliver the letter into no other hands than those of Mr Parris.

It was about mid-day when I arrived, but Mr Parris was at church, it being Sunday. However, I met him a little way down Devon street and handed him the letter. Waited to see if I could be of any service by taking anything back with me in the evening. He opened the letter, and I could see by a sudden surprise expressed in his face that very important news was contained in the letter. He said—

"When do you return?"
I replied "About eight o'clock."
"Oh! well I must be off at once."

I expressed the hope that nothing very serious was likely to occur.

He replied "I hope not."

When returning in the evening I met Mr Parris at Bell Block, just where the Wairarapa volunteers made the attack page 64 at Easter in 1887, and he told me he had been to the Waitara, but could not see Captain Russell, (his chief business was, of course, with the natives), and he asked me to tell that officer from him not on any account to leave the Waitara for the next few days.

We parted, and on my way I had to call at Mohoiti, where part of my company was located.

As I approached I was challenged by the sentry, in what I thought was rather an unusual way, and as I ascended the hill I saw the men were under arms.

"Hello," I said, "what the deuce are you fellows up to?"

"Oh," said they, "we are warned to be on our guard, as we may be attacked at any time."

"Why," I said, "who told you?"

"Mr Parris."

"By Jove," then said I, "that letter I took in from old Tamati must be of importance."

The officer in charge told me I was not to go by the road to Waitara, but straight down to the beach and round that way. I led him to suppose I would, but when I got out of sight and over the river, Tamati's horse (which was a good one) did a good gallop to Waitara.

On my arrival there (about ten p.m.) I found even more excitement than at Mohoiti, for they were all engaged throwing up earthworks round the base of the block house, and every man had been told off to his place at the parapet in case of an attack. That attack never came. In a few days our company wont into New Plymouth, and nothing transpired till the 4th of May.

We were out road-making on the Great South Road near Cooper Ward's house, between ten and eleven, when we saw Major Greaves, the D.A.Q.M. General, gallop in from the southern direction. There was a bar across half the road to prevent traffic, and he did not even turn his horse aside to escape it, but sent the fine animal over. We were all quite sure that something unusual was the matter. Not half an hour could have passed before we saw Captain Mercer's troop of mounted artillery come thundering along from town. Then same Sir Geo. Grey (Governor), and General Cameron and staff. They were on parade at the time, hence their quick-response. Sergeant Major McKay, of this city, was among them.

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A man from Poutoko passed us on his way to town on leave, between the time of Major Greave's passing and the troops going out. He knew of nothing; all was quiet, he said, when he left the camp. At 12 o'clock (dinner time) we left, feeling pretty well convinced that we should do no more road-making that day, and while at dinner we received orders to march to Poutoko at 2 o'clock. At that time every man was there. We had heard by this time of the murder of our party on their way from Tataramaka, consisting of Lieutenant Traggett, Assistant Surgeon Hope, Colour Sergeant Ellers, Sergeant Samuel Hill, Privates W. Banks, J. Flynn, E. Kelly, B. McCarthy, and M. Ryan. F. Kelly only escaped and returned to his post.

Then off we started. We were just out of town when we met General Cameron, who instructed the Captain to march the company back, and await fresh orders. On the 7th the remains of the massacred party were interred. On the 8th we marched out. On the 25th of same month Lieut. Waller met his adventure which has already been recorded. The captive Hori, on that occasion indicated where the body of Ryan was lying. This body was taken from the place of massacre and thrown into a pit. On the 29th a force went out and found it, and it was buried at the first post we came to (Oakaru). When the 4th May came round again I was stationed at Oakaru, and had prepared a head-board and fence for the grave, and on that day they were duly placed in position. The first time the Colonel visited that post after this, he saw the grave and enquired who had done the work, and when he was informed he sent for me and heartily thanked me for it. Nothing further of note occurred till the 4th June.

During the previous night a force was marched to Tataramaka, made up from New Plymouth and the southern post. I was stationed at Poutoko and I think it was about midnight when the town party arrived, which we joined and moved on. From dusk that night patrols had been posted to prevent any native passing from town, so that no information of the intended attack could be conveyed to the hostile tribes.

Being rather "chummy" with the Commissariat issuer, I procured a soda-water bottle full of good old Jamaica and gave it to the man who kept my traps in order to carry for me. We had three or four rivers to cross, and in the month of June the water flowing from "Majestic Egmont" is not of that temperature which is altogether agreeable. When there page 66 is no such thing as taking off hoots, &c., or turning up [unclear: pants] the main point is to keep the powder dry.

We arrived at Tataramaka some time before daylight, [unclear: and] a double "tot" was served to each man. This was [unclear: very] welcome after wading through three rivers. We had to [unclear: cross] another to get at the Maori position, "Johnny's Flat." [unclear: A] daybreak we fell in, and Colonel Warre (now General Sir [unclear: H.] J. Warre, K.C.B.), just referred to what took place that [unclear: day] month, and said the General had decided to allow the "[unclear: Ol] Die Hards" to make the attack, and was sure they would [unclear: i] their duty. Some thoughtless individual was leading for "hip, hip, hurrah!" which would have given information [unclear: to] the natives, as their position was less than a mile [unclear: of] However, they soon got a "rouser," for the Eclipse man-o'-[unclear: was] opened fire at the position whilst we were moving [unclear: toward] it under cover and getting over the river. Some of the [unclear: shell] from the Eclipse were falling short, and a signal was [unclear: give] for them to stop, and the Armstrong Battery on shore [unclear: too] up the running until we were over the river in [unclear: sufficient] number to make a rush across a small potato field. There [unclear: we] no time to be lost. We were in full view of them and not [unclear: of] hundred yards off, and a rush was made for the outer [unclear: trend] There was no palisading, the trenches were full of [unclear: native] and the bayonets were freely used against tomahawks.

The man Lever, whom I had entrusted with the bottle grog, had probably got fatigued carrying it in a bottle, [unclear: an] this with what was issued infused rather more courage [unclear: thus] discretion into him, for he jumped into the trench, and [unclear: had] very narrow escape indeed. Another man (Worsley) [unclear: jump] down, but at this time only one man was left [unclear: alive], and appeared to agree to leave him for Worsley, who charged his to the end of the trench, and there pinned him to the [unclear: ba] Lieutenant Waller, who had such a narrow escape ten [unclear: ds] previously, exerted himself well, taking satisfaction.

That was a very quick bit of work from the time commenced. There were three drays loaded with the [unclear: de] which were on their way to the Tataramaka [unclear: Redoubt] burial, when Sir George Grey was met, [unclear: accompanied] General Cameron and staff. Sir George had landed [unclear: from] Eclipse, and the captain of my company, with [unclear: whom] George shook hands and congratulated on the [unclear: morning] work, was requested to march his company back, [unclear: as to] Governor wished to have a look at the position.

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As a matter of course the hand formed a stretcher party, and two of them went and took down a board on which a schedule of fees to be paid by Europeans passing through the toll-gate was painted. Old Colonists will remember hearing of that toll-gate, more on account of the moderate charges than anything else. For the Governor to pass through was £ 1000, a Bishop £900, and so on down to the small fry. Sir George was supposed to have told General Cameron that one thousand men would be required to capture that toll-gate schedule.

The General saw the two bandsmen walking off with it and remarked to Sir George—

"I thought you said a thousand men would be required to take that toll-gate. Why, there's two bandsmen of the "Die Hards" walking off with it."

This schedule was exhibited in New Plymouth, and is no doubt in existence now.

In this attack the "Die Hards" lost three killed and five wounded. The killed were—E. Martin, J. Osborne, and Geo. Shipman.

After returning from accompanying the Governor and General to the position, a short halt was made prior to our march back to our respective camps. This was when a wag of a bandsman ran round the ranks of my company and noted with pencil and paper each man's account of the number he had killed, the total reaching close on one thousand. Each man had dispatched half a score or more according to his account, but as we could only account for about fifty there was a slight exaggeration somewhere. Matters were pretty lively in the Taranaki province for a few months after this. I may mention that at the trial of Hori, the half-caste, for the murder of the party on the 4th May (he being the only one brought to justice), Mr Parris mentioned having received a letter from Tamati Whaka, the one previously referred to.