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An Epitome of Official Documents Relative to Native Affairs and Land Purchases in the North Island of New Zealand

Enclosure. — Major-General Chute to Governor Sir George Grey, K.C.B

Major-General Chute to Governor Sir George Grey, K.C.B.

Head-quarters Camp, Putahi, 8th January, 1866.


I have the honour to report, for your Excellency's information, that on the 30th ultimo, the date on which the colonial troops your Excellency had acquainted me would be placed at my disposal were ready, I left Whanganui with a small field force, and encamped at Alexander's farm.

On the 31st the force marched to Wereroa, where we were detained for two days waiting for the Native Contingent, who, on the 1st January, were employed in capturing horses the property of rebels, thirty-two of which they secured; and on the 2nd, in preparing some particular food they declared to be absolutely necessary for the march.

On the 3rd instant, the field force, total strength as per margin,* moved across the Waitotara. I directed the Native Contingent to cross at Perikama, beneath and on the right flank of the post at Wereroa, and with the remainder of the force I made a diversion through the Waitotara Block, crossing by the ford near the mouth of the river. The Contingent having joined me on the main inland track, we marched towards Moturou, and encamped about a mile and a half from that village, situated at the edge of a dense forest, within which and about two miles from Moturou was the strongly fortified and formidable position of Okotuku, which I was informed was considered impregnable by the rebels, and there it was stated they had collected in considerable numbers. During the afternoon of the 3rd instant the Native Contingent, under Major McDonnell, proceeded to reconnoitre this position, and taking the rebels by surprise entered it without opposition: a few shots only were fired at them by the enemy's scouts. Having set fire to the whares outside the pa, the Contingent returned to camp.

On the following morning, having reason to believe that the enemy in considerable force had reoccupied the position they had apparently evacuated the evening before, I marched with the force† to attack the Okotuku Pa. The line of march for the last two miles was through dense forest, and the track itself obstructed throughout by ravines, rocks, and supplejack, rendering the advance most difficult, especially for the skirmishers whom I had thrown out from the Native troops as I entered the forest. At a small clearing overhanging a deep ravine, just before commencing the steepest part of the ascent, the skirmishers were fired upon by the enemy. I pushed on as rapidly as the excessive badness of the ground would admit of, and soon gained the plateau. This is a narrow tongue of land of about twenty acres, the greater part being under cultivation. As the troops crowned it they were exposed to a very heavy fire from the pa, distant about 350 yards, I immediately extended the Forest Rangers on my extreme left, the 2nd Battalion 14th Regiment in the centre. The Native troops were on

* Royal Artillery: Officer, 1; sergeants, 2; rank and file, 30. Under command of Lieutenant Carre.

2nd Battalion 14th. Regiment: Officers, 8; sergeants, 11; drummers, 4; rank and file, 250. Under command of Lieut. Colonel Trevor.

Forest Rangers: Officers, 2; sergeants, 3; rank and file, 41. Under command of Major Von Tempsky.

Native Contingent (including Natives): Officers, 12; sergeants, 8; rank and file, 96. Kupapus, or Volunteer Natives: Rank and file, 150. Under command of Major McDonnell.

Total: Officers, 23; sergeants, 24; drummers, 4; rank and file. 567.

† 2nd Battalion 14th Regiment: Officers, 3; sergeants, 4; drummer, 1; rank and file, 100.

Forest Rangers: Officers, 2; rank and file, 33.

Native Contingent: Officers, 3; rank and file, 200.

Total: Officers, 8; sergeants, 4; drummer, 1; rank and file, 333,

page 181 either flank and in reserve. I directed all to keep as much as possible under cover of the many fallen trees about us. Advancing in this manner for a short distance, the fire became still more severe, and two men were wounded. I ordered the party to advance, and endeavour to occupy the pa, when the 2nd Battalion 14th Regiment, led by Captain Vivian, in the most gallant manner charged the stockading, succeeded in entering the pa and in driving the enemy down the almost scarped sides and rear of this defence, formidable by nature, but rendered doubly so by Native skill. In this affair I regret to say that Lieutenant Keogh and four men of the 2nd Battalion 14th Regiment were wounded. The bodies six Natives killed were found; it is supposed their loss in killed and wounded amounted to twenty, but owing to the density of the bush into which they retreated it was not possible to ascertain their real loss. When the pa was captured a portion of the Native Contingent entered the bush, and endeavoured to pursue the retreating enemy. They succeeded in taking the rebel chief and killing one man. The most formidable part of the defence consisted of a palisade several feet high, and fully three feet thick, made by piling logs of hard wood horizontally between two rows of thick upright stakes, extending a distance of about eighty yards from one scarped gully to another. So precipitous were the sides and rear, and so dense the forest beneath them, that it was impossible to approach them and cut off the retreat of the enemy. The whole clearing, of which this pa formed the stronghold, was surrounded by bush, and is situated on one of the high points of the range of mountains running nearly in a north-westerly direction from Wereroa. It would be difficult to exaggerate the obstacles opposed to the advance of the troops to such a position, or the spirited manner in which they were overcome by all concerned. The defences of the pa, whares, &c., having been burnt and completely destroyed, the troops returned to camp.

I am much indebted to Major McDonnell and the Native Contingent for their services on this occasion. Dr. Featherston, Superintendent of this province, who accompanies the field force, was present at the assault on Okotuku, and I have every reason to be obliged to him for his assistance on all matters connected with the Natives.

Previous to my departure from Wereroa, I sent to the officers commanding at Patea, Manawapou, and Waingongoro, informing them that it was my intention to proceed northward by the inland track, pointing out the probability of the rebels retreating in that direction, and instructing them to patrol the country in the vicinity of the bush near their posts, with the view of intercepting and cutting them off. Colonel Warre, C.B., commander at Taranaki, has also been instructed, if possible, to clear his district of rebels, more particularly in the vicinity of his southern outposts, and to prevent their retreat to Mataitawa, should they take the road at the back of Mount Egmont.

On the 5th January, the Native Contingent desiring rest, the troops were occupied in destroying cultivations.

On the 6th January the force marched to the Whenuakura River, and encamped on some high land to the southward and front of the rebel stronghold of Putahi. I purposed attacking the pa at once, and had directed two hundred men from the Patea to advance on it at the same time from the side next the river, but the only information I was able to obtain regarding the tracks to it was so meagre that I was obliged to wait until the following day. On the evening of the 6th, while reconnoitring the position, a small party of the Native Contingent were fired upon by the enemy's scouts, resulting in a skirmish in which we had one man wounded.

Putahi is situated on a clearing about half a mile in diameter, on the top of a hill, rising abruptly on all sides from the river plain to the height of about 500 feet, and covered to the crest with dense bush. The usual approach is from the side on which we are encamped, and was one the rebels evidently anticipated we should attempt, having, as I was informed, erected stockades and other impediments in the bush to assist them in its defence—information which I found to be perfectly correct.

Knowing that by this route the pa could only be taken with the loss of many men, I decided in attacking it in rear, and, having succeeded at a late hour on the night of the 6th in obtaining the services of a guide with a tolerable knowledge of the country, I marched at 3 a m. on the morning of the 7th, with a force,* crossed a tributary of the Whenuakura by a bridge constructed the evening before, and passing over a plain, of about half a mile, ascended a steep spur, which brought us on an isolated plateau, lying to the left front of the pa, about two miles distant from it in a direct line. Descending this, the march may be described as one continued struggle through a dense primæval forest and bush, over ravines and gullies which could in most cases only be ascended and descended by the aid of supplejacks, and then only with great difficulty. The extreme distance to be traversed could not have exceeded four miles, but the obstacles and obstructions opposed to us made it a severe task of four hours.

When we arrived at the clearing, the Native Contingent, who had led through the bush, formed to the left and on the edge of it; the Forest Rangers were, opened out in skirmishing order, and lying down to cover the formation of the remainder of the force, who, as they emerged one by one from the bush, were extended with supports; the 2nd Battalion 14th Regiment being in the centre, the 2nd Battalion 18th Regiment on the right, and the 50th on the left; the Native Contingent forming a reserve. The formation occupied more than an hour, under a desultory fire from the pa, from which we were then distant about 400 yards, and when complete I gave the order to advance. The rebels now opened a heavy fire; but the line did not charge until they were within 80 yards, when, with a cheer and a rash, they carried the position, the rebels retreating to the bush beyond, to which I immediately sent the Native Contingent, who followed them for some little distance. The whole of the

* Royal Artillery: Officer, 1; sergeants, 2; rank and file, 28. Under Lieutenant Carre.

2nd Battalion 14th Regiment: Officers, 6; sergeants, 9; drummers, 3; rank and file, 204. Under Lieutenant-Colonel Trevor.

2nd Battalion 18th Regiment: Officers, 5; sergeants, 4; drummers, 2; rank and file, 89. Under Major Rocke.

50th Regiment: Officers, 4; sergeants, 4; drummers, 2; rank and file, 90. Under Captain C. Johnson.

Forest Kangers: Officers, 2; sergeants, 2; rank and file, 38. Under Major Von Tempsky.

Native Contingent, &c.: Officers (including Natives), 10; rank and file, 200. Under Major McDonnell.

Total: Officers, 28: sergeants, 21; drummers, 7; rank and file, 649.

page 182 troops behaved admirably, and, though working through high fern, conducted the attack as steadily as on an ordinary parade.

The flagstaff, whares, &c., were all pulled down and burnt. The work of destruction being completed, and the formidable pa of Putahi, hitherto considered impregnable, on account of its inaccessibility, being levelled to the ground, I ordered the troops to march to camp. Their loss has probably been very severe, though sixteen bodies only were found in and around the pa. From information I have received, the garrison appears to have consisted of about two hundred rebels of the worst character.

I enclose a return of our casualties, by which your Excellency will observe we had one man killed and seven wounded. Amongst the latter, I am sorry to say, is Major McDonnell, who, as usual, was most active and zealous, not only in directing the march through the bush, but in pursuing the rebels in retreat. Where all have behaved so gallantly, it is difficult to select any names for favourable mention; but of the colonial forces I beg especially to bring to your Excellency's notice Major Von Tempsky, commanding Forest Rangers; Major McDonnell; commanding Native Contingent; as also Ensign McDonnell, of the same force.

I had directed Colonel Warre, C.B., to send one hundred men from the Patea to the right bank of the Whenuakura River, and to the right flank of the pa, in order to intercept rebels retreating by the inland route towards Kakaramea. I beg to forward a copy of this officer's report of the proceedings on the occasion.

I have, &c.,

T. Chute,

His Excellency Sir George Grey, K.C.B., &c.