Incidents of The Maori War
Illustrations of Maori character during the War—They have a chivalry of their own—Recapitulation of the principal events of the War—Remarkable experiences of the Rev. Mr. Wilson during the contest—Receives from the leader Epiha an account of the reverses at Puketakauere—Weteni promises to endeavour to spare the wounded and prisoners in future—Mr. Wilson visits the native camp—His conferences in the cause of humanity—Maories anxious about the graves of their slain—Native orators—Extraordinary appearance of the fighting chief Haperona—Interesting dialogue with a wounded prisoner—How a New Zealander can endure suffering—Patience and resignation of the wounded soldiers—Two characteristic anecdotes of the natives engaged in the Taranaki war—Mokau's noble act of friendship, and Natawa's heroic endurance.
Those who have fought with the Maories are the last to despise them as foes; on the contrary, the British troops who contended against these lusty, active, intelligent, tattoed warriors in the deep gullies, on the wooded banks of the clear streams, and on the ferny plains of the Taranaki respect them.
As native engineers, who have not passed page 325through any military college, their ability was wonderful in choosing and fortifying a position with pahs or stockades, as was their arrangement of rifle pits to fire from, under cover of the picketing, and outside the pah to take in flank an advancing enemy, and if need be, to provide a rapid retreat for themselves down a wooded ravine in the rear. Like maids of Saragoza, young Maori women used their fire-arms as well as the men in the rifle pits of the Taranaki.
The Maories too have a chivalry of their own, in not taking undue advantage or striking before they have given warning to their enemies; but once the contest is begun, they, as is usual with other contending parties, take every means in their power to discomfit their opponents. Yet, anxious as they are to be thought civilized and superior to their ancestors in manners and customs, they will not yet understand that prisoners and wounded men should be spared.
On account of the dispute about a block of six hundred acres of land at the mouth of the Waitara river, Taranaki, this last war began, as we have stated, in the middle of page 326March, 1860, and fighting went on till April, 1861; then came a lull, the removal of Governor Gore Brown to Tasmania, Sir George Grey substituted at New Zealand, and the troops engaged in road-making towards the country of the most warlike tribe in the North Island, the Waikatos, till they should conclude terms of peace and amity with Her Majesty's most worthy representative.
The principal events during the contests in the Taranaki, were, as we may recapitulate, the taking the pah Te Kohia, or the L pah, by Colonel Gold, the fight at the Waireka hill, the Southern expedition from New Plymouth against the Taranakis and Ngatiruanuis, the reverse sustained by the troops at Puketakauere, the expedition to Huirangi by General Pratt, the Kaihihi pahs taken, the action at Mahoetahi, the affairs at Matarikoriko, the assault of No. 3 Redoubt by and defeat of the Maories, the operations of the sap against Te Arei pah, and the arrival of General D. A. Cameron to command the troops.
Among those who made themselves prominently useful in the Taranaki was, as we have said, the Rev. J. A. Wilson. He had page 327originally been in the navy, and for the last thirty years lie had laboured with the greatest zeal and success, as a church missionary among the Maories, highly esteemed by them, and greatly respected by his own countrymen. When no one could well venture along the roads and paths in the Taranaki during the conflict, there alone and carrying his handkerchief on his staff, he would fearlessly proceed on his mission of mercy and usefulness. I made his acquaintance at our camp at Otahuhu in order to elicit from him some of his experiences and also out of respect for his character.
To mitigate as much as lay in his power the horrors of war, was Mr. Wilson's chief aim during the conflict, and how he succeeded will be found in what follows.
Mr. Wilson was originally led to visit Taranaki from various interviews which he had with some of the Waikato tribes after their return from the action of Pukatekauere. On that occasion part of the 40th Regiment under Major Nelson, and a small naval force under Commodore Seymour, were obliged to retire, leaving the dead and wounded on the field. When in the Waikato, Mr. Wilson page 328heard the native account of this tragedy from Epiha, the chief who led the natives, and also from other tribes immediately engaged in the repulse. It was indeed a sad catastrophe! The native narrative excited his sympathy and energy to interpose in behalf of his own countrymen. After the military retreated, all the wounded were indiscriminately put to death. Some of the wounded who had survived a day or two afterwards were found, and even these were not spared. Epiha said that on the-morning after the fight he sent natives to bury any of the dead who hitherto might have been unobserved. When they came to the first body which they found, the person who was about to dig the grave sat down on the fern, and in so doing, hurt a wounded man who was concealed beneath. The soldier instantly raised himself up and drew his bayonet in defence, but he was overpowered, and the native killed him with his spade. The party then came to a second body, at the back of which sat a wounded man, who had crept from the bush, and was eating the food found on the person of his dead comrade. This poor fellow had sufficient strength to wrest from page 329the first native his weapon, but being crippled and unable to rise, was shot dead by a second. Mr. Wilson enquired of the chief, why they behaved with such cruelty and cowardice to men who could no longer resist them? He answered, " What else could we do? had we spared them, we should ourselves have been killed." He spoke with praise of Lieut. Brooks of the 40th Regt., who defended himself for some time against three young men, till a fourth coming up, shot him. This man he pointed out, and who afterwards did Mr Wilson good service at Taranaki. But we shall omit further mention of this sad detail. The only object in stating thus far, is to show that there was a cause which led Mr. Wilson to visit the scene of death.
During a prolonged visit at the Rev. Mr. Morgan's station in Upper Waikato, and which is situated in the very centre of the disaffected tribes, Mr. Morgan and Mr. Wilson spent many days among the natives who had recently returned from the seat of war; and as they were shortly to return there, every argument was used to influence them for the future, to spare and to treat kindly the page 330wounded and prisoners. To this, however, they would not consent. " What do you think we are going to Taranaki for?" they replied—"do you suppose, we are going to save mens' lives? We ask for no quarter ourselves, we give none! We only give what we ask." However, frequent intercourse with these men by degrees made some slight impression; and the night before they left the Waikato, Weteni Taiporutu, the chief who was to lead them, (a man of real patriotism and humanity, and who had already done what he could to strengthen the arguments used, and to persuade his people to be merciful as well as brave,) said to Mr. Wilson. "To-night we hold a Runanga, (meeting of deliberation and council) to consider what Mr. Morgan and yourself have hitherto urged; I shall induce the people if possible to comply. We leave at daylight to-morrow; return early, and you shall hear the decision of the Runanga."
Early the next morning the natives were under arms, and the last were leaving when Mr. Wilson arrived. He found Weteni alone and displeased. His words were few; he observed, " We held the Runanga as I pro-page 331mised, but the people will not hear. Epiha, Tioriori, and myself, (the three principal chiefs,) were for mercy; all the rest were against us. I now go with them to Taranaki, but should they persist, and act as at Puketakauere, I shall return to Waikato." He added in a low voice. " They say they will spare women and children," and after a pause, said, " perhaps!" This was a sad reverse to the hopes which had began to be entertained; and Mr. Wilson made a last effort by observing " I shall follow you to Taranaki! Perhaps, when you are all assembled, the chiefs may act otherwise? What do you think of my doing so?" He replied, " That will be best: if these tribes who have just left did consent, what would be the use of it? But come and see us there, and when all are assembled you will hear their determination."
Thus they parted, he to fall in a few days at Mahoetahi, Mr. Wilson to carry out his humane intentions among his colleagues in the war. As Mr. Wilson had now no object to remain longer in Waikato, he returned to Auckland and stated the above facts to the Governor, Colonel Gore Brown, who advocated the page 332cause of humanity, and tendered his good wishes and kind advice in so good a cause; he provided a passage to New Plymouth, where Mr. Wilson arrived on the 27th December, 1860. The same afternoon he called on General Pratt and stated simply the object of his visit; his willingness to do anything to lessen on the part of the natives the ferocity, of the present struggle, his knowledge of the Ngatihaua, the bravest and most influential of the Waikato tribes, his long residence in the country; and asked his permission to proceed to the native camp.
The General, to whom Mr. Wilson was a perfect stranger, but of whom he subsequently saw much, though most anxious to, save life, did not quite like this request; he at first received the proposition coldly; but after much consideration, he at last said, " You can go, but it will place you in an awkward position as we march at daylight to-morrow; there is not time, you should have come sooner." Mr. Wilson, however, accepted his assent; and the next morning while the troops were forming in the town, he left with a native guide for Matarikoriko. Weteni and most of the men he had led from Waikato had already page 333perished at Mahoetahi, and he had now no supporter among the chiefs, and was unknown to the natives in this part of the country. After a ride of three hours through a country deserted by settlers and wasted by the aborigines, he arrived at the native pah, some distance inland of Puketakauere, and situated on a beautiful elevation commanding the chief part of the Waitara; here the Maories were cheerfully awaiting the advance of the troops, of whose movements they appeared to have received intelligence. When about half a mile from Matarikoriko, Mr. Wilson came up to two men gathering sow thistles, who belonged to the Weteni tribe. They saluted him kindly, and then called to the people in the distance, in a manner peculiar perhaps to the natives of New Zealand, in terms of excitement, and announced his name, &c. They were soon surrounded by a number of armed men who were surprised to see a stranger, and refused to let him go further.
Though at first disposed to be insolent, the influence of the few Ngatihaua present kept things quiet, and when the chief men had assembled from the pah, Mr. Wilson explained page 334the cause of his coming among them, and proposed the following terms for the mutual good of both sides:
1st. That all the wounded shall be treated with humanity. 2nd. That prisoners shall be uninjured, and exchanged. 3rd. That the dead shall be unmolested, and buried by their respective people. 4th. That persons approaching under a flag of truce shall be respected.
Mr. Wilson reminded them of the scripture doctrine of mercy; of the uncertainty of success in war, and their personal interest in these conditions; but being flushed with the events at Puketakauere, they were deaf to remonstrance. A Ngatihaua chief named Henere, and Haporona of Taranaki, replied on the part of the natives, and refused to make any terms. Haporona turned angrily and said, " The soldiers are now on their way here; this is not a time to speak about mercy; we have given our reply, you must leave at once, and take this message to the General," (which is not worth repeating). Mr. Wilson smiled. " Do you deride my words page 335and mock me?" (coming at the same time close in front of him.) Fastening his eyes as firmly on him in turn, Mr. Wilson replied, " Why should I not laugh? You think you have only to speak, and I must obey you and carry your message to the General; I bring you a message from above, and you reject it. What I have offered is for your own good, and for the Europeans." Henere, whom Mr, Wilson had known in better days, when he was the chief teacher at Matamata of the Ngatihaua, knew that he spoke rightly, and checked his furious comrade. The other, savage as he was, ceased to menace; and then strange to say, he insisted on Mr. Wilson holding prayer with them before he left, in which he was warmly seconded by a native teacher from Waikato. This Mr. Wilson refused; they asked the reason. " Because," said he, " you knowingly disobey the will of God. God is a God of mercy; you know this, and yet you refuse to shew pity. God will not hear the prayer of the unmerciful; prayer would be useless." They still continued to urge, but Mr. Wilson refused. He afterwards followed the General, told him what had passed, and the present failure.page 336
The day following the natives were attacked at Matarikoriko. Mr. Wilson came up with them on the second day of the encounter. It was Sunday; the General consented to a truce, and Mr. Wilson went over to the native rifle-pits. Little more than 130 yards from the troops, Mr. Wilson came upon two sentries; the first a dwarf who was also humpbacked, (and was afterwards killed at No. 3 Redoubt.) The dwarf, who was slight and nearly naked, presented so striking a contrast to the fine men of the 40th and 65th Regiments, who were now carelessly lounging in their great-coats along the parapets they had thrown up in the midst of the native fire, that it was impossible to repress a smile as Mr. Wilson approached him; but he and his companion, both of whom were unknown to Mr. Wilson, were in another mood, and remained, stern and silent, refusing to answer. While in this rather awkward position, a third native rose up from the fern, and recognised Mr. Wilson; he belonged to the Ngatihaua and had lived with Mr. Wilson about twenty years since when a boy. This man who seemed delighted to see Mr. Wilson, immediately held page 337out his hand, saying " he had once been a son of his, when he lived at Matamata." He made his comrades let Mr. Wilson pass, and then shouted his name to their encampment, formed in a valley close to the rifle-pits; but concealed from the fire of the military, and where Mr. Wilson was received with surprise and kindness. Mr. Wilson told them, that it was the Ra-tapu, (the sacred day) and that if they would remain quiet on the Sunday, the soldiers would do the same. To which they replied, " Tell their chief we never fight on this sacred day; it is they, and not ourselves who desecrate it. There shall be no firing on our part." The defile in which they were now beginning to prepare breakfast, unconcerned and at ease, was not more than 200 yards from No. 1, or the Kairau Redoubt. The constructing this redoubt so near their pits, and during the action, called forth the admiration of the natives, who for the first time in this war acknowledged the persevering courage of the Pakeha. The ground chosen by the Maories was well selected, and they had a fine retreat open if obliged to retire, but page 338through which it would have been difficult to follow them.
After an address to their whole camp, in which their temporal and eternal welfare was the object, and to which they listened without the slightest interruption; they prepared some breakfast for Mr. Wilson, consisting of slices of beef and potatoes, which they roasted in the bottom of an iron pot. As Mr. Wilson sat refreshing himself, some few whose faces he was acquainted with gathered round, among whom was Rewi, the principal chief of the Ngatimaniapoto. After conversing upon other subjects, Mr. Wilson returned to that which was ever upon his mind and referred to the case of the wounded, &c. Rewi replied, " It is well that you have come among us, return to-morrow to the woods at Huirangi, and we will hear what you have to say." As none objected to this invitation, Mr. Wilson now felt with gratitude that the first step towards his object had been gained. A chief then said, " Last night we buried some of our dead in the parepares, (rifle pits). Ask the chief of the soldiers to respect them. Let them remain undisturbed." Mr. Wilson said, " The page 339General will allow you to remove them, if you desire it," but to this they objected. " No! let them remain where they fell, the funeral service was read over them in the night during the battle, the ground is sacred, we wish them to lie where we have laid them!" Thus under no ordinary fire, and at a distance of from 100 to 150 yards from the enemy, these people thoughtfully and without confusion interred their dead,—a fact which, perhaps, has no parallel in the annals of war.
* The natives have a great dislike to remove the dead when once the burial service has been read over them.
The arguments advanced on this, and on like occasions were drawn from Scripture,* and from the chivalrous usages of Christian nations in time of war. They approved, and even commended all this, but denied its application to themselves. One would observe, " We cannot reach so high." Another, "Our fathers taught us this mode of warfare, and we will adopt no other." A third, " Your customs are best for Europeans, ours for Maories," &c., &c.
* Micah, chap. 6, verse 8; II. Kings, chap. 6, verses 21. 24; Proverbs, chap. 25, verses 21, 22.
Though Mr. Wilson strove in vain to soften this man, yet on the whole he was satisfied, knowing that if they entered into an arrangement of the nature he wished, they would induce page 342others to keep it. After the confusion occasioned by Te Tapehana was over, they again requested that the graves at Matarikoriko might be respected. Mr. Wilson asked, " Who will go with me and point them out?" The object was to give them confidence in English honour, and the usages of humanity practised by civilized nations, even in war. Two young men shortly came forward to accompany him, but afterwards thought it safer to decline. Much talking ensued, and Mr. Wilson began to despair, till a man stood up and said, "I am the son of Te Kara (a chief of Kawia and near relative to Te Tapehana) who is buried there; I will go." The natives after some further debate approved of this. He then laid aside his arms, put on his girdle and followed Mr. Wilson. When they arrived near Matarikoriko, the Naval brigade and military were fast filling up the native pits, and Mr. Wilson led his companion through the midst of these, to give him some idea of the nature of ' a safe conduct.' As they passed to the extreme right which the natives had occupied during the action, and where the troops were now at work; seeing the guide page 343look anxiously about, Mr. Wilson asked whether "he feared anything." "No!" he replied, " not from the Pakeha, but from the Maories who may be among them." Mr. Wilson said, " You have nothing to fear from them, your life here is as safe as mine." They came at last to the spot where his father and some others were buried. The bodies, through mistake, had already been disturbed by the Naval brigade, but the graves were again covered before they arrived. The native immediately detected it and said, "The bodies have been disturbed," and seemed displeased; he added, "there are others in the valley below." At this spot Commodore Seymour and a few officers who were amongst the men, inquired the object of the natives coming. It was explained that the General had given permission, in order to ascertain where the natives had been buried, that their graves might remain unmolested. The following conversation then occurred.
Commodore to Mr. Wilson.—" What relation has he lost?"
Mr. Wilson.—His father."
Commodore.—"Does he lie here?"page 344
Commodore.—" Poor fellow! Has he lost his father? Tell him I am sorry for him! Tell him we bear no malice. It is war!"
Native.—"I am not dark (unhappy) on his account. He fell in open field, in battle. It was fairly done! he was not murdered!" this he said gravely and coldly.
Commodore.—" Say that the graves shall not be injured; tell him my carpenter shall fence them!" In repeating this generous and manly assurance, so characteristic of a seaman, Mr. Wilson said to the Maori, "This person who speaks to you is the chief of the English sailors." He looked satisfied, but made no reply. It was some disinterested act of this kind Mr. Wilson had so much wanted, and felt assured that its influence would not be lost upon the natives in arms. They then visited some other graves situated in a deep valley beneath the rifle-pits, where the native was kindly treated by two military officers.
A few days after this occurrence, the Governor was pleased to release from the gaol at New Plymouth a chief named Te Wiona, who was wounded and taken prisoner at Mohoetahi, page 345and Mr. Wilson had the pleasure of returning this man to the Waikato tribes, who had a short time previously arrived at Huirangi, and who with the Taranaki tribes amounted to about 2,000 men.
When they arrived at Waitara, as Te Wiona could with difficulty sit on horseback, the commissariat officers (from whom Mr. Wilson had received many acts of kindness) immediately furnished a bullock cart for his conveyance. In this the wounded chief with his baggage were placed; for though taken all but naked on the field, he returned to his people well clothed, and in the possession of several presents. At No. 1 Redoubt near Matarikoriko the soldiers crowded round the cart to see Te Wiona, and it was both amusing and pleasing to hear their attempts, and also the Maori's, to convey to each other the sympathy of brave men. Some saluted him in a language coined for the occasion, some shook him by the hand, while others laughed kindly. The native, who was a man sensible of kindness, was much delighted by this demonstration, and when the cart drove on he sat as erect as his wound would allow, and page 346waving his cap to the troops, cheered them heartily in token of good will and amity.* When about a mile from the woods, Mr. Wilson sent back the cart, put Wiona and some of his things on his horse, and carried the rest himself. They were soon surrounded by natives, who crowded out of their works and conducted them to the place where the prisoner's tribe was encamped. In a short time most of the principal chiefs were assembled. On solemn occasions the natives are very formal, and in this instance, they placed the chief and Mr. Wilson (he still sitting on the horse, and which Mr. Wilson was obliged to hold to prevent Te Wiona failing,) in the centre of an open place in the wood, and commenced a wail for the dead who had fallen at Mohoetahi, addressing Te Wiona as their representative and fellow-sufferer, and which he by responsive moans fully appreciated. When this was concluded, Te Wiona retired among his own people, and Mr. Wilson saw him no more till the close of the day.
* This man never fought again, but nearly lost his life by Rewi, in an attempt to induce his own people to return to Waikato.
The chiefs now requested Mr. Wilson to remain till he had heard the speeches, and seen some of their tribes reviewed. The gathering was on elevated ground, where the native flag was flying, and which on this occasion was white. About a thousand men suddenly rushed down from the spot, throwing down several of their comrades as they advanced, and then with uncommon energy brandishing their arms and performing the war dance; around stood the spectators, consisting of men, women, and children, Mr. Wilson sitting near the front, where he was joined by the chief Te Tapehana, the person who a few days before had so fiercely opposed him. It turned out that the young man who accompanied Mr. Wilson to Matarikoriko was his nephew, and what passed on that occasion had sensibly impressed him. On Mr. Wilson's arrival among them in the morning, he came and shook hands with him, and Mr. Wilson had afterwards the pleasure of his company during the whole day. He explained the persons and speeches of the chiefs, and when anything particularly interested himself, he was anxious that Mr. Wilson also should observe it; and page 348when his turn came to speak, he spoke moderately and well. The native phalanx opened a line through their centre along which the speakers ran to and fro, till either their eloquence or passions were exhausted. Some few spoke with quiet dignity, but the rest, carried away by their feelings, denounced war and vengeance against their enemies. By some the spirits of Witeni and his friends who had fallen with him were addressed in sympathizing accents; and by others the tribes were rashly exhorted to abandon the rifle-pits, and throw themselves headlong on the military —" to act as their fathers would have done." But the great orator of the day was Hapurona, William King's fighting chief. When he arose he first passed slowly through the phalanx, his loins only covered with a small piece of sackcloth, his head thrown back, and his face, frightfully distorted, was turned upwards. His eyes were so contorted in their sockets, that the white only could be seen, appearing like small balls of chalk. Thus, he twice passed through the square of warriors in perfect silence, giving at the same time a quick and tremulous motion to his arms which page 349were extended at right angles from his body, and which agitated a native weapon, carried in his right hand. Then suddenly starting into violent energy, he used every possible argument to induce his countrymen to emulate the courage of their fathers, and to annihilate their enemies. The action which he gave to his weapon (the Hani or spear) always violent, yet often graceful, called forth acclamations from the people, and would have done credit to any theatrical performer. Mr. Wilson's new friend Te Tapehana, would not allow him to withdraw his eyes from him; and he observed, "that man's action is wonderful, he has not his equal."
Hapurona and others, while speaking, sometimes broke out into traditional songs; these the men under arms would take up in chorus with admirable effect, their voices marking that nicety of time as though it had been the voice of one man, and the exact motion of their limbs and bodies giving additional excitement to the concourse.
* At Mohoetahi, before the struggle was over, a soldier came up to a native who had been mortally wounded; and observing his tongue out of his mouth (as he supposed from thirst), he placed his rifle on the ground, and ran with his can to the next swamp, and brought him water. This humane spirit characterized both officers and men. General Pratt, on the same occasion, shook hands with a native lying in the field, in order to restore his confidence.
Te Wiona now sent for Mr. Wilson to visit his wife and friends, who treated him with much kindness; but he reminded them that it was more to his countrymen than to himself that these friendly feelings were due. They were all very cheerful and happy, and he left them rejoicing over their restored companion. At the rifle-pits Mr. Wilson found his horse waiting in charge of Himiona, Te Tapehana's nephew, who attended him to Matarikoriko. Unasked he had taken it in the morning and watched it till Mr. Wilson returned, a mark of attention not to have been expected through a day of no ordinary incidents.
Though the object which led Mr. Wilson to Taranaki was now accomplished, and for which he felt sincerely grateful, he yet thought it right to remain some time longer on the spot, in order to see how far the natives would keep their promises. The contest was carried on nearly daily, and he was generally present on the field; with the object of being of use to the wounded, or in the event of their fall-page 353ing into the hands of the natives to demand them according to previous arrangement.
On the 23rd January, No 3 Redoubt was attacked by the Waikatos, and as it will illustrate the nature and character of the men with whom the military had to contend, we will allow one of the wounded prisoners to speak for himself. When Mr. Wilson first saw this man he was lying between two of his fallen countrymen, who had shortly before expired. Mr. Wilson sat down by him, and asked him who the dead were.
Native.—" This man is from Waikato, and that from Maungatautari."
Mr. Wilson.—" Where are you wounded?"
He pointed to his right leg shattered to pieces by a shell, and to a wound in his left arm.
Mr. Wilson.—" What part of the country are you from?"
Native.—" From Kawia. I belong to Ngatemahuta; I am a relative of the King."
Mr. Wilson.—" How many of you were in the attack on the Redoubt?"
Native.—" One hundred and forty. Ngatehana led. Perhaps they have all fallen?"page 354
Mr. Wilson.—" Did many fall?"
Native.—" Yes! all of them Rangitera (gentlemen) many have fallen."
Mr. Wilson.—" How is it you have remained so long at Huirangi? you must have found it difficult to procure food."
Native.—"No! There is still plenty of food at Mataitawa, and when we want more we make a descent on the Pakeha cattle," and then with a smile added, " this perhaps is wrong."
Mr. Wilson.—" Well, you are a brave people; the chiefs of the soldiers say it is a pity you should thus destroy yourselves."
Native.—" Once we were brave, that was formerly, where is our valour now? have we succeeded?"
Mr. Wilson.—" Brave formerly, and still the same, though beaten."
Native.—" It rests now with the soldiers;" by which he implied that victory or success was the best evidence of " toa " (courage).
Native.—" Friend, there is no (také) root, or cause for all this fighting. If there was a cause it would be right, but there is no cause."page 355
Mr. Wilson.—" Are you a believer?"
Native.—" Yes, I have long believed; my name is Maraikai."
Mr. Wilson.—"You know that God is now near you; that He knows where you are, and what has happened to you, and that He will hear your prayer if you ask Him."
Native.—" I know it all."
Mr. Wilson.—" You are now in the power of the Pakeha, but you have nothing to fear. They will not injure you now, you will, be treated with kindness."
Native.—" Why, one of them would have killed me after I was twice wounded. I was saved at the instant, by a young chief. It was agreed in the woods that the wounded should receive mercy; had it not been for the chief's seizing my hand and putting aside the soldier's gun I should have been shot."*
Mr. Wilson.—" That was in the heat of conflict. He knew not, perhaps, that you were wounded."
* This officer was Lieutenant Pennefather, 65th regiment, whom I have elsewhere mentioned with the honour which is his due; also Lieutenant Mair, 12th regiment, for a similar act.
Native.—" There was much confusion; perhaps he did not; it might have been an oversight. The young man saved me. But it is the same with the Maori. Gentlemen (Nga Rangitera) only have the hearts of gentlemen!"
Mr. Wilson.—" My friend listen to me. Make God your friend, and He will not forsake you; He can restore you to strength, and return you at last in safety to your own people."
Native.—" Yes, it is true."
Mr. Wilson then passed on to some others who had fallen, but he found that Maraikai and a young man named Kiritoha were the only surviving prisoners. As he turned from the dead, he again met Commodore Seymour, and said to him, " Come and see how a New Zealander can endure suffering, and let us not think that manhood is confined to ourselves." The morning was exceedingly hot and calm, and the dead and wounded collected in the ditch of the Redoubt were covered with swarms of flies. Maraikai though suffering intensely, received them in quiet gravity. In answer to the remarks of the Commodore, he page 357spoke cheerfully and at the same time playfully, though free from levity, and, with the exception of the position in which he reclined, seemed as one who had received but little injury. He at last said, " When will the doctor come and cut off my leg? bid him come soon." The Commodore observed, " He is a fine fellow, and he bears it wonderfully." He then called one of his seamen, and sent him for some tobacco and pipes. As they were placed by his side, Mr. Wilson said, " This is a present from the leader of the seamen." Maraikai raised himself a little on his elbow, and looking up kindly at Commodore Seymour, he slightly inclined forward in acknowledgment with all the ease and dignity of a Spaniard of the last century. Then without shewing the slightest expression of pain, he coolly commenced untwisting the end of the tobacco and filled one of the pipes, and which he asked Mr. Wilson to place by his head where he could conveniently reach it. Though unconscious of it himself, he was now much exhausted, and we left him quietly enduring war's terrible penalty under the care of the sentry.page 358
Mr. Wilson visited him again in the afternoon, and sat some time conversing with him. He appeared rather more depressed in spirit (owing no doubt to increased weakness) but still cheerful. In the evening before his leg was amputated, a person inquired " how he would manage without it?" to which he goodnaturedly replied, " The doctor must give me a new one." After the operation, the blood was washed from his person, and comfortable blankets given him. This man was between forty and fifty years of age, rather slight but wiry and well made. His features were small and ordinary, but intelligent. As Mr. Wilson sat and admired his manly fortitude, the stories he had heard, when a boy, of English seamen after a battle, holding out and assisting the surgeon in the amputation of their own limbs, appeared verified in the conduct of this man, whose nerve and heart seemed equal to the same trial if necessary. The head of the Medical Staff, Dr. Mouat, C.B., V.C., has since observed that he never had a better or more confiding patient. " He would let us," he said, " do what we liked with him."
Mr. Wilson was very anxious that this chief page 359should recover; he would have had much to have told the natives, and which might have been attended with the happiest results. But his subsequent history is short; he died about two weeks after the operation, owing to a collection of pus in the upper part of the limb. The medical gentleman who was with him at the time said, " If any poor man prayed in the hour of death, he appeared to do so!" Maraikai's fellow prisoner, Te Kiritoha, was a very fine young man from Maungatautari in Upper Waikato. He had been shot through the lungs and was left in a tent at No. 3 Redoubt. As the ball by which he was struck passed out at the back, the air from the lungs rushed out at the orifice, and till the time of his death he suffered extreme agony. Shortly after he was taken charge of, he asked the doctor whether he should recover, and being answered in the negative, he requested some drug that would at once end his sufferings; to which it was replied, " We never kill our prisoners!" He was treated with the greatest humanity; a soldier was appointed to sit up all night with him, to give water, and to alter his position, &c., and this kindness was not lost upon him. The next page 360morning Mr. Wilson was informed that he wished something to be written to his friends. Mr. Wilson immediately visited the Redoubt, but when he arrived he had just expired. As no one present understood the native language there was no information conveyed. But Mr. Wilson was told that in the act of dying, he took the soldier who attended him by the hand, and in this manner bade him farewell, the only mode he had left to demonstrate his sense of gratitude. Mr. Wilson might have greatly enlarged this narrative which I got from him, but as his intention was merely to illustrate the native character and action during the war, the few examples already given may perhaps suffice. In this short reminiscence, Mr. Wilson made no reference to what passed on the side of the military, yet he said in few words that the valour, cheerfulness, and humanity which animated all ranks were worthy of the British name and character.
The wounded soldiers whom Mr. Wilson visited (and some were dreadfully injured) bore their sufferings without a murmur or a groan, and endured agony, with nearly lamblike patience. As he modestly added, " A page 361short time spent amongst them, might have imparted instruction to perhaps many a better man."
He stated also that the conduct of both officers and men towards himself was that of confidence and kindness. And the future recollection of the time spent amid the turmoil of Taranaki will afford him the highest satisfaction, as among the most useful and best days of his life.
Before closing this chapter I annex two original anecdotes of the Taranaki war, characteristic of the natives engaged, a fine race, enterprising and intelligent, in whom I took a particular interest. Worthy of an ancient Roman was the conduct of the Chief Mokau, at the close of the action of Mahoetahi in November, 1860. When the Maories were driven from the old pah on the hill, by the spirited charge of the 65th, the Taranaki Militia and Volunteers, they became " whakawara," or dispersed, and took to the swamp below; Mokau, retreating, saw at the edge of it a friend lying mortally wounded; he stopped, and though the avengers were close behind, he seized the hand of the dying man and stooped to say farewell, and to press noses in page 362the native fashion; raising himself up, he himself was shot through the heart, and fell across the body of his friend. His noble act of friendship had thus a fatal result.
Of endurance and determination in a Maori there was a remarkable instance at Huirangi in the summer of 1861. Natawa, a wild character, tired of firing away all day in his rifle-pit, got up into a tree, ten feet above the ground, to fire with better effect at the 12th, 14th, 40th, and other skirmishers, but he was dropped by a ball in the forehead. Having perhaps a thick skull, the Minié ball stuck fast over one eye without passing into the brain, and Natawa recovering himself, went on fighting for two days afterwards. The second evening, some of his friends tried to get the ball out, by moving it with their fingers, but perhaps a portion of bone was dislodged and touched the brain, and Natawa, after five days' raging madness, died.
Mr. Wilson has now revisited his native land, and those of the United Service who may read what he endeavoured to do for the combatants in the Taranaki, and who may meet him, will doubtless pay him every honour.