Bush Fighting. Illustrated by remarkable actions and incidents of the Maori war in New Zealand.
Skirmishing in Taranaki—Captain Close is killed—Dangerous adventure of three officers of the 14th Regiment—Colonel Colville's ambuscade—He is wounded—Reception of the Native Contingent at Wanganui—General Chute prepares to conduct a campaign against the Hauhaus—The force organised—Okotuku taken—Difficulties of the assault on Putahi pah—Smart action at Otapawa—Colonel Hassard killed—Successes against the Hauhaus—Preparations for a bush march round Mount Egmont to New Plymouth—Difficulties of the undertaking—Labour and privations encountered—Horseflesh used—The force received with distinction—End of the service of the regular troops—Proclamation of peace.
Subsequent to the fall of the Wereroa pah, some skirmishes took place in Taranaki. A party under Captain Close, 43rd Regiment, of one subaltern, Ensign O'Brien, two sergeants, one bugler, and fifty-one rank and file, went from the camp at Werea to patrol the country on the 28th July. They were guided by Jim, a Maori, and came upon a large number of the enemy on a hill, page 283who commenced gesticulating and shouting "Pai Mariri!" The party advanced on the Maoris in skirmishing order, and were received with a heavy volley, by which Captain Close was mortally wounded through the left eye, and a private was killed—this was at Konga-Kumi-Kumi. The natives firing in front also tried to outflank the detachment; two of the men were wounded, also the guide Jim: bayonets were charged by Ensign O'Brien, and the enemy was dispersed. Sergeants Horley and Phelan behaved extremely well on this occasion; and Bugler Croghan remained under a shower of bullets to guard the body of Captain Close, and behaved with such courage that it was considered he had earned the decoration of the Victoria Cross. Assistant-Surgeon Grant cared for the wounded.
On the 24th of August three officers of the 14th Regiment, stationed at the Wereroa pah, went down the gully on the left of the pah for the purpose of tracking some footsteps, which had been seen early in the day, of natives who page 284had come up the night before. The officers imprudently continued their search to the village of Perikamo, 400 yards in rear of the pah, and then went round the spur of the hill, 300 yards, and set fire to an old wharré. On their return Captain Bryce (a relative) wandered towards the bank of the river for game, when shots were fired at him from its banks and from the bush on his other flank.
The officers retreated towards the pah, but were all wounded: they were Captain Bryce, Lieutenant and Adjutant Butler, and Ensign Symonds; also two soldiers, Carey and Green, who went to their assistance.
Ensign Symonds threw himself into the river to swim across, and was followed by two natives; he managed to hide himself in the bush till assistance was sent him. Lieutenant Butler owed his life, as he said, to Captain Bryce, who by his coolness, and armed with a fowling piece, was able to keep at bay the natives, who were gaining fast on them. Though of course it was tedious to be shut up in a pah, yet this affair page 285shewed the danger of wandering from one's post while hostilities were still being carried on.
During the Maori war a sergeant of the 14th Regiment had a disagreeable night adventure. He was on outpost duty; and on coming back from patrol he found that his blanket had disappeared. As the night was not warm, he went in search of a covering, and seeing some men in blankets lying on the ground, he laid down beside them, and gradually drew off a couple of their blankets to make himself comfortable. After dosing for some time, and the moon breaking through the clouds, he found he was lying among some dead Maoris, and of course he suddenly left his silent bedfellows.
In the Taranaki, on the 22nd of October, a party of the 43rd left the Werea camp at a quarter past two a.m., under the command of Lieut.-Colonel Colville, to lay an ambush for the hostile natives at a place called Ngakumikumi, about three miles from camp. The force was concealed in an old pah. Captain Mace left Werea at seven a.m. with his mounted men, page 286to draw the enemy towards the ambuscade. Lieut.-Longley, with twenty-five men detached in front, opened fire upon a party of natives coming along the path, who, immediately taking advantage of the cover afforded by a gully, returned the fire briskly. Another party of natives advanced in skirmishing order towards the hill-side, occupied by Colonel Colville, and heavy firing took place from both sides. The native fire slackened by degrees, when the natives retired. Colonel Colville was seriously wounded in the thigh, a sergeant was killed, and two men were dangerously wounded. Captain Harris, 43rd, brought in the party.
On the 25th of November, 1865, the Native Contingent who had gone to the east coast for active service, and to avenge the murder of Mr. Volkner and others of our countrymen there, returned to Wanganui, and were received with every honour. They had previously fought well in defence of that settlement. Walter Buller, Esq., Resident Magistrate, Major von Tempski, Forest Rangers, and others, went on page 287board the "Storm Bird" to welcome the native allies; His Honour, Dr. Featherston, the Superintendent and now the Agent-general for New Zealand in London, met them with congratulations. The natives esteemed him as a father to them.
Major-General Chute, in compliance with the desire of the Governor, now being prepared to make a campaign against the hostile natives, the Hauhaus (the inveterate enemies of the Pakehas, who refused offers of peace), between Wanganui and New Plymouth, organised the following force, and marched out of Wanganui for Waetotara on the 30th of December.
|Her Majesty's 14th Regiment||107|
The Native Contingent joined with women among them, who carry packs, cook, and fight on occasion, and utterly despise those of their people who are backward in action; but ladies generally do this everywhere.page 288
The transport consisted of forty-five drays, two horses to each.
On the 2nd of January, 1866, his Honour Dr. Featherston, the Superintendent of Wellington, joined the camp at Waetotara, along with some native chiefs, and continued during the campaign with the troops, and was of the greatest service to the cause in which they were engaged.
As a commencement, a party of the contingent went out and captured thirty-two horses, and brought them into camp.
On the 3rd of January, Lieut.-Colonel Trevor joined the force, with 132 officers and men of the 14th Regiment, also detachments of the 18th Regiment joined under Major Rocke, and of the 50th under Captain Johnstone. The Native Contingent, under Major McDonell, next attacked the Hauhaus in the village of Ohine Motu, and drove them out of it, and pursued them for three miles beyond.
The march of General Chute's force was then directed on Okotuku, some natives from which had wavlaid and murdered some white men. It page 289was a palisaded village, with well-fenced cultivation all round it. The native contingent and Forest Rangers skirmished round it, and Captain Vivian was ordered to charge with a party of the 14th: they did this in good style, Lieutenant Keogh and Ensign Callwell, the subalterns; and the natives, after resisting, fled from their pah, sliding down the banks in rear of it, with the assistance of ladders of supplejack. Lieutenant Keogh and three privates, 14th Regiment, were wounded. Six bodies of the natives were found, and their wounded were carried off. The native contingent celebrated their success with a haka or war-dance by moonlight.
The next enterprise was the attack on a very strong pah—Putahi, on a plateau, supported by precipitous spurs, and cleft by deep forest gullies. The approach to it was favourable for ambuscades to receive an attacking force.
At three a.m. on the 7th, the General proceeded with about 700 officers and men of all arms from their camp, which was 1500 yards from page 290the pah, and making their way in silence and darkness across the valley, ascended the ridges of Putahi. The Native Contingent, knowing the ground, led the way, under Major Mac Donell and Captain Kemp, followed by Major von Tempski, a valuable partisan officer, and his Rangers. General Chute and his staff, Major Pitt, and Captain Leach headed the column of regulars by an exceedingly steep and rough path.
The last ascent to the pah was almost perpendicular, but the forest screen, and aided by the branches of the trees, made climbing possible. The plateau of the pah gained, Major Mac Donell was sent round to the rear of the pah, and Major von Tempski opened fire in front at 300 yards; the Hauhau flag was then hoisted, and a war-dance performed by the garrison, 200 strong, to get up their courage.
Young Mr. Campbell, of the Rangers, exposing himself, fell wounded, and the firing between the Rangers and the pah continued for an hour. General Chute now drew up his page 291regulars to rush at the pah, and cut down part of the palisading with hatchets and bill-hooks—14th in the centre, 18th on the right, and 50th on the left. Bayonets were fixed, and with a cheer the pah was entered. A private, Michael Coffey, 14th, hauled down the Hauhau flag, and presented it to his commanding officer, Colonel Trevor. Malcolm, a Ranger, was shot behind Major Von Tempski, and some of the Contingent were struck. The enemy fled into the bush, and were pursued by the Native Contingent, and ten fell, besides fifteen killed in and about the pah.
* Red soil.
After a day's rest, the march was continued, the mouth of the Wheneakura was forded at low water, and at the camp of Kakaramea the force was augmented by two six-pounder Armstrong guns, and two sergeants and 15 gunners of the Royal Artillery.
On the 11th of January, Lieut.-Colonel Hassard, 57th Regiment, joined with 120 men of his regiment; next day the march was to Ketemarae, a very strong pah. The camp was formed a mile from it, where Colonel Butler joined it.
At the large village of Taiporohenui stood a King's parliament house, 100 feet by 40, for runangas or conferences; this was burnt, and the cooked dinners of the Hauhaus were found there, consisting of beef, boiled potatoes, and native cabbage, &c., in abundance; also a butcher's shop, with scales and weights—an advance in civilisation. There were also herds of tame cattle in good condition, horses, pigs, and cultivated fields.page 293
The stronghold of Otapawa was now reconnoitred. Like Putahi, it was considered impregnable and inaccessible to Europeans. It was considered the most important position in the Ngatiruanui country, and had never fallen to an enemy. At two a.m., 18th of January, the following force marched to attack it:—
Royal Artillery, with three guns, under Lieutenant Carre.
Her Majesty's 14th Regiment, 200 men, under Lieut. Colonel Trevor.
Her Majesty's 57th Regiment, 180 men, under Lieut. Colonel Butler.
Forest Rangers, 36 men, under Major Von Tempski.
Native Contingent, 200 men, under Ensign MacDonell.
It was ascertained that artillery could play on the pah from a neighbouring height, and this was put in execution with effect. The Native Contingent were ordered to the rear of the pah, while the General attacked in front. The 57th led, followed by the Rangers and the 14th. Three shots from the Armstrongs had called forth no reply from the Hauhaus, an unusual thing, and the pah seemed abandoned. It was not so. Colonel Butler, within 200 yards of the pah, saw the rifle-pits in rear of the pali-page 294sading thickly lined with black heads (the garrison was 200 strong), and a bush at right angles to the pah was also full of Maoris. There was silence but no hesitation, and the General gave the word, "57th, advance! Rangers, clear the bush!"—They went off at double quick, as did the 14th, who extended in front of the pah firing. The Rangers got to the rear of the pah. The 57th suffered severely from the cross-fire on the right; and Colonel Butler then led his men to the left and entered the pah with the Rangers in rear. The 14th, when also inside the pah, suffered from a fire from wicker-work platforms on trees round the pah, till the occupants of them were disposed of.
The Hauhaus lost fifty men killed. The loss of the force was Colonel Hassard and nine men killed, and Lieutenant Swanson, 14th, and fourteen men wounded, including Major MacDonell, the brave commander of the Native Contingent.
Ketemarai was next to be attacked, but it fell without resistance, as did several other pahs and hamlets, which were burnt in sight of the snowy page 295peak of the magnificent Mount Egmont. The Hauhaus were evidently cowed by the fate of Otawapa.
General Chute's "ready" mode of attacking pahs was this. There was usually an open plateau in front of the pahs; he brought up his men there to the edge of the bush, and when his line and supports and natives in reserve were all ready, he made his bugler sound a single page 296G; the men advanced from under cover, and on the double G being given, a rush was made at the pah, hatchets were drawn from the belts of the men, the withes of the outer fence were suddenly cut, the palisading broken through, and the pah stormed with cheering, "in the smoke."
All the principal villages and positions of the Hauhaus up to and within reach of the headquarters camp at Ketemarai having been destroyed and the enemy scattered with heavy loss, General Chute proposed, in accordance with Sir George Grey's instructions, to continue his march immediately towards New Plymouth, by the bush-track round the east side of Mount Egmont. This was a novel and remarkable undertaking, and proved that white soldiers could not be stopped by the difficulties of bush-ranging.
General Chute could get no reliable information regarding the track, so he embarked on the undertaking with considerable anxiety, and undertook it to fulfil the Governor's desire to page 297produce a salutary effect on the native mind. The distance from Ketemarai to Mataitawa, Taranaki, was fifty-four miles, and it took nine days to accomplish this, always on the move for ten hours daily. Twenty-one rivers had to be crossed, and ninety gullies with precipitous banks, and working parties were constantly in advance, cutting down trees and clearing the track of supplejack, &c., and making stairs of tree fern logs and pickets up steep banks to admit of the passage of the pack animals. The weather, which had been fine for two days, changed to continuous rain, which increased the difficulties in crossing gullies, and necessitated the construction of corduroy roads over swamps, which might otherwise have been impracticable. It was on the 17th of January, 1866, that General Chute commenced his hazardous enterprise. He left his camp at Ketemarai at four a.m. with 424 men of all ranks, 14th, 18th, 57th Regiments and Royal Artillery, also fifty-four Forest Rangers, and sixty-eight Native Contingent with their veteran chief—Hori Kingi. The page 298transport consisted of sixty-seven pack-horses and twenty-four riding-horses. The Major-General rode in front, and on his staff were Colonel R. Carey, C.B., Deputy Adjutant-General; Lieutenant-Colonel Gamble, C.B., Deputy Quarter-master-General; Major Pitt, Acting Military Secretary; Captain Scott, Aide - de - Camp; Deputy Commissary - General Strickland, the head of the Commissariat; Deputy Inspector- General Gibbs, the head of the Medical Department; and the Rev. Mr. Collins, Chaplain.
The men carried a waterproof sheet, a blanket, and a great coat each, and two days' supply of biscuits. Mr. Strickland took five days' supply of food, except for the Native Contingent, who insisted on getting all their rations in advance, the result of which will afterwards appear.
Clearing their way with axes, tomahawks, bill-hooks, and spades, and encountering a few Hauhaus and making prisoner a girl of twelve years old, going with a small party to get arms for a pah—nine and a half miles were accomplished the first day. The second day the bush page 299became more dense and difficult of passage, and, as also on the next day, a difficult march. The tree-fern was well adapted for forming footing for the horses in the swamps, and the halt was made on the bank of the Mahatawi river. As the loads on the commissariat horses became consumed, the General allowed the men's packs to be carried on them. On the 20th the weather became gloomy, and a deep leaden sky was seen through the dense foliage of the forest; but the men sang and joked, Colonel Gamble encouraging them in every possible way, and there was no depression in the men's minds, though there was now no meat rations, and no tents had been taken with the force. On the fifth day the camp was without food, a most anxious time.
Deputy Assistant-Commissary-General Price now volunteered to start for the Taranaki for supplies, and was accompanied by Captain Leach and Ensign McDonell and ten of the ablest men of the Native Contingent. The rain came down in torrents, and Mr. Price became so page 300exhausted that he was obliged to be left in a blanket at the foot of a large tree, and Captain Leach gave him his last wet biscuit to keep him alive. Next morning the rest of the party reached Mataitawa, as did Mr. Price, with the assistance of some friendly natives who found him.
On the 21st of January, after working hard at clearing the track and road-making all day, officers and men employed under soaking rain and exhausted at night, a horse was killed and distributed as rations. The heart was reserved for the General. As I found in Africa with the zebras and quaggas, soup was the best way to deal with horse-flesh; but the men tried steaks and chops, roast and boiled also.
"I'm not going to eat any of that horse!" said one man.—"By dad, ye'll be glad to get it, my boy, before the morning," said another; and so it was, the objector to horse-flesh rose in the night and took a ration of it gladly.
The Contingent, raging with hunger, from imprudently not husbanding their supplies, bolted ahead to search for food. On the 22nd page 301another horse was killed and eaten: Captain Leach, to whom the greatest praise is due, came in exhausted with fatigue after forty-eight hours' hard work, but with men laden with food. On the sixth day Colonel Warre pushed on supplies, and two fat bullocks, biscuits, and groceries were joyfully received in camp; but the country was so difficult to traverse from the continued rain, that only four or five miles were made, the men wading ankle deep, in the two following days. On the 25th of January they were out of the forest, and on the 27th made a triumphal entry into New Plymouth.
Here General Chute and his force were received with every honour and distinction; also when he returned to Wellington, Sir George Grey entertained him at a public dinner, at which 200 persons were present. From Her Majesty he received the Knight Commander's Star of the Bath, and Colonel Colville the C.B., and Major Pitt.
Of His Honour Dr. Featherston, Superintendent of Wellington, Sir Trevor Chute said in a report to Sir George Grey, "It is hardly possible page 302for me to convey to your Excellency how much I feel indebted to Dr. Featherston, Superintendent of the Province of Wellington, for his able advice on all subjects connected with the Maoris. He accompanied me throughout the campaign,* sharing all our dangers and privations, and was present at every engagement and assault. I am particularly obliged to him for the zeal with which he has at all times laboured to obtain information of the movements and positions of the enemy, which it would have been impossible for me to acquire without his assistance."
The claim for a high distinction for this valuable public servant will no doubt be duly recognised and acknowledged.
* It may be called the Mount Egmont campaign.—J. E. A.
In one of these encounters one of my late regiment, the 14th, Captain Buck, was killed, and Major Von Tempski, while storming a pah at Ngatuotimanu (Parrot's beak pah), was shot. Thus perished an active officer, a very intelligent man and very deeply regretted.
It would enlarge this work too much if I attempted to narrate the exploits of Her Majesty's Colonial forces subsequent to 1866, which were so highly creditable to them, and resulted in peace: so I must now close this history of the War in New Zealand from 1863 to 1866.
A Proclamation of Peace was issued by His Excellency Sir George Grey, and countersigned by his minister, The Honourable Frederick A. Weld, announcing to the natives of New Zealand that the war which commenced at Oakura was at an end; that the Governor had taken up arms to protect the European settlements from page 304destruction, and to punish those who refused to settle by peaceable means the difficulties which had arisen, but resorted to violence and plunged the country into war. Upon those tribes sufficient punishment had been inflicted: their war parties had been beaten, their strongholds captured, and so much of their lands confiscated as was thought necessary to deter them from again appealing to arms.
His Excellency declared that none would now be prosecuted for past offences, except the murderers of certain settlers, &c., who were enumerated (Mr. Volkner, Mr. Falloon, &c.); that certain native lands, which had been taken in Waikato, Taranaki, and Ngatiruanui, would be restored, and boundaries settled by commissioners; and that His Excellency would consult with the great chiefs how the Maori people could be represented in the General Assembly and help to make the laws which they had to obey.
All this was liberal, just, and fair.
Having served much in British Colonies, I know and appreciate their great value and page 305importance to the Mother Country, and I much regard the colonists, our own people, our equals, and who ought at all times to be highly esteemed for their energy and intelligence.
Loyalty to our gracious Sovereign will, I trust, be ever preserved among them, and which, as an old soldier, I imagine would be cemented by seeing the British uniform wherever the British flag was displayed.page 306