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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 69

[Chapter XII]

Guerilla parties were now formed at each outpost, consisting of an officer, a couple of sergeants, and about fifty rank and file. These were in the habit of falling in quietly at night, and sneaking off to lay traps for the enemy. This was easy enough; but they seldom made a haul. Our coloured brethren were too sharp, as a rule, to fall into traps; in fact, on one occasion it was very near the other way.

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A party went out one night (3rd October, 1863) and took up a position on Allan's Hill. This commanded a bridge over which the enemy generally came. The party was very cosy until a member strolled some distance from the main body, and, lo and behold! he spotted a party of natives. It may be surmised that he soon returned and informed the officer, who had some doubt on him as to the genuineness of his report. So the two started off, and were not long gone. On the officer's return, the men were quietly moved away to camp, and a mounted messenger despatched off to New Plymouth to report the circumstance to Colonel Warre, who sent orders for a party to go out in the morning as strong as possible, and that reinforcements should be sent from town in the event of their services being needed.

In the morning the advance guard moved off from the Poutoko Redoubt, and had not gone far when they were fired upon from some bush near at hand.

Lieutenant Powys was here wounded, also the fine old regimental dog; but neither severely. This created a little excitement, and word was soon off to New Plymouth. The two parties kept banging away at each other nearly all day. The enemy was pretty strong, judging from their fire and the space from whence their firing was coming.

Two men were killed—Thomas Finn and Daniel Crane. Finn had been hit in the head, and maddened by this, he rushed towards the bush, and Lieut. Downes and Bugler D. Stagpool went out to bring him back. As the officer picked him up (he fell near the bush) a Maori rushed out, He was despatched, however, by Lieut. Downes. For this both Lieuts. Downes and Stagpool received the Victoria Cross, Finn and Crane were the first two men of the military who found resting-places in the New Cemetery at New Plymouth.

It could not be ascertained how many of the enemy fell on that occasion; but there must have been a considerable number.

One night at Poutoko the writer was in charge of a guard composed of some "Die Hards" and the—th Regiment About midnight one of the latter, who was on sentry, came to the guard tent and whispered—

"Sergeant, I think there are some natives in the trench."

"Oh!" I said quietly; "stand to your arms, men."

I went out and listened—no sound. I then sprang on the parapet and gazed around—no sign. My sight was better page 69 then than now, and I was quite satisfied that he only heard them in his imagination. I knew him to be a very timid man, so I said—

"Come on with me. We'll go out and walk round the trench. Then you will be satisfied."

"Oh!" he replied, "I might have been mistaken. I think I was."

"Come," I said, "we will soon see."

I believe that man would have forfeited ten years of his life rather than have given that alarm.

Trapping? It remained for Captain H. R. Russell to lay a successful trap, of which the following are the particulars:—

During his own term on outpost duty he had not succeeded in bagging any game, and as he was a bachelor, he remained out with his Company another term for a married officer, and this term had nearly run out and no game caught, so he took it into his head to lay a trap on the track leading from the beach up to Raitaki, at the foot of which our men had met their doom on the 4th May.

The party moved off in the silence of night, and forded the two rivers Taipoi and Oakaru. On the north side of the latter was a redoubt which was not then in use; in this the Captain left about a score of men under Sergeant Tom Hackett, with the intention of protecting his retreat over the River. From the redoubt to the river there was a considerable descent, much greater than on the south side. The remainder went on, found the track, then went up. The natives were in the habit of going down fishing nearly every day.

The party went within 800 or 1000 yards of Kaitaki, then divided, one half turning off into the fern, the other moving on a couple of hundred yards up. This last party was to let any natives pass and allow the other to deal with them. This was more easily said than done. As it turned out a mistake had been made in not going up some distance in the fern before lying down. Everyone was shivering with the cold, And a hearty welcome was given to old Sol when he made his appearance.

Soon the natives could be seen on the move on the hill, and it was not long before a party of six were seen on their way down. The men were now getting warm, and much interest was beginning to be taken. On they came—on—on—till their voices could be heard. There was a chief among page 70 them carrying a very fine spear, on which was hung a beautiful bunch of feathers. On they came, and were just opposite the party when the chief spotted the boot tracks in the dust and roared out "Pakea," and looking in the direction he say them leading he observed Worsley's head, then all the fa: was in the fire.

Worsley rushed out and ran the poor old chief through and grabbed his spear, which he afterwards presented to General Cameron. The party was soon despatched, ant another party on their way down, got alarmed, and three of them were picked off, making in all nine, just the number they killed of our men at the foot of the same track.

The trappers were soon ordered to move homeward, which they did, followed by several natives, but at a very respectful distance; but by the time they got in the river the natives somehow reached the bank above and began to indicate that they were about, when up jumps the party in the old redout: and opened on them, then they thought they had better get back to breakfast.

Captain Russell was now well satisfied and said, "Now we will soon be off to town." And we did during the next week.