The New Zealand Wars: A History of the Maori Campaigns and the Pioneering Period: Volume I (1845–64)
Chapter 28: The First Engagements
Chapter 28: The First Engagements
ON THE 9TH JULY, 1863, the Government issued an order requiring all natives living in the Manukau district and on the Waikato frontier north of the Manga-tawhiri to take the oath of allegiance to the Queen and to give up their arms, and warning the Maoris that those refusing to range themselves on the side of the British must retire to the Waikato. Those not complying with this instruction were to be ejected from their settlements. This ultimatum was followed by the following Proclamation sent to the Kingites summarizing the reasons which prompted the military measures adopted by the Government:—
CHIEFS OF WAIKATO,—
Europeans living quietly on their own lands in Waikato have been driven away; their property has been plundered; their wives and children have been taken from them. By the instigation of some of you, officers and soldiers were murdered at Taranaki. Others of you have since expressed approval of these murders. Crimes have been committed in other parts of the Island, and the criminals have been rescued or sheltered under the colour of your authority.
You are now assembling in armed bands; you are constantly threatening to come down the river to ravage the Settlement of Auckland and to murder peaceable settlers. Some of you offered a safe passage through your territories to armed parties contemplating such outrages. The well-disposed among you are either unable or unwilling to prevent these evil acts. I am therefore compelled, for the protection of all, to establish posts at several points on the Waikato River, and to take necessary measures for the future security of persons inhabiting that district. The lives and property of all well-disposed people living on the river will be protected, and armed and evil-disposed people will be stopped from passing down the river to rob and murder Europeans.
I now call on all well-disposed natives to aid the Lieutenant-General to establish and maintain these posts, and to preserve peace and order.
Those who remain peaceably at their own villages in Waikato, or move into such districts as may be pointed out by the Government, will be protected in their persons, property, and land.
Those who wage war against Her Majesty, or remain in arms, threatening the lives of Her peaceable subjects, must take the consequences of thier acts, and they must understand that they will forfeit the right to the possession of their lands guaranteed to them by the Treaty of Waitangi, page 252 which lands will be occupied by a population capable of protecting for the future the quiet and unoffending from the violence with which they are now so constantly threatened.
Auckland, 11th July, 1863.
G. Grey, Governor.
On the 12th July General Cameron detailed a force from his army encamped at the Queen's Redoubt at Pokeno to make the first advance into the Waikato. The second battalion of the 14th Regiment, under Lieut.-Colonel Austen, crossed the swamp-fringed Manga-tawhiri Stream at the termination of the military road, and took up a position to the left, on the site of an old pa on a hill above the river, a spur of the Koheroa Range. A few days later this body was reinforced by detachments of the 12th and 70th Regiments, and was now five hundred strong. Three field-works were thrown up on the hill.
The process of ejection of those natives who could not bring themselves to abandon their fellow-countrymen was now carried out at the Manukau, Papakura, Patumahoe, Tuakau, and other districts between Auckland and the frontier waters. The principal tribe evicted was Ngati-Pou, who had a settlement on the right (north) bank of the Waikato at Tuakau, with large cultivations of food crops and fruit-groves. In the middle of July Mr. Dillon Bell, Native Minister, and Mr. Gorst carried out a rather perilous mission in the forested ranges above Papakura, at a small settlement called Te Aparangi, on the Kirikiri Stream, about two miles east of Papakura. Here a considerable number of Maoris had congregated, and, as most of these were known to be Kingites in politics, it was considered necessary to remove them south of the border-line. Te Aparangi was the village of the old chief Ihaka Takaanini and his people of Te Akitai and Te Uri-a-Tapa, hapus of the Ngati-Tamaoho; another rangatira of Te Akitai was Mohi te Ahi-a-te-ngu. The permanent population of the settlement was small, but some scores of young men from the Auckland side who had decided to join the Kingites had made it their rendezvous, and were believed to be fortifying themselves in the bush. Just above Te Aparangi on the foothills of the ranges is a level-topped hill known as Puke-kiwi-riki, formerly a strongly trenched fort belonging to the Ngati-Tamaoho Tribe. The ancient pa presented a tempting site for a freebooting stronghold. Mr. Bell gave the Akitai and their kin the choice of making a declaration of allegiance to the Queen or of going unmolested to the Waikato. He urged the former course, saying that the Government had no wish to drive them from their land. Mohi spoke in appreciation of Mr. Bell's generosity in going unarmed among the Maoris at such a time to carry a message of peace and good will, and declared that if the Minister had arrived a few days earlier with such an page 253 offer he and most of his people would have remained peacefully in their homes. But the Governor had crossed the Manga-tawhiri and invaded Waikato, and the Ngati-Tamaoho hapus, who previously had opposed Rewi and his war-party, now felt it their duty to join Waikato.
When the Minister and Mr. Gorst rode back to Drury that afternoon they heard the news of the first blow of the war. A settler named Michael Meredith and his young son had been found tomahawked on their bush farm near Ramarama, about four miles from Drury; they were out fencing when the marauders caught them. Some blamed Ihaka's people, but wrongly; the killing was the deed of a party of young men who sought to distinguish themselves by drawing first blood. A force of Nixon's Cavalry (Otahuhu troop, numbering thirty) and the 65th Regiment (three hundred) invaded Te Aparangi and took prisoner Ihaka and a number of others, chiefly old men and women and children, but the young armed men escaped and joined their relatives at Waikato.
Canoe-paddles dipped and flashed all along the broad Waikato as the Upper Waikato tribes and Ngati-Maniapoto, Ngati-Haua, and Ngati-Raukawa came hurrying down the river, eager to measure their strength with the pakeha. There were men even from Taranaki and the Upper Whanganui among the war-parties. Before the main body of the Kingites had had time to concentrate on the south side of the Manga-tawhiri the first encounter of the war was precipitated by an advance force of Waikato, numbering between two and three hundred, under Te Huirama, a near relative of King Tawhiao. Te Huirama had a fortified position at Te Teoteo, an old Maori pa on a bluff immediately overlooking the Whanga-marino Stream, which joins the Waikato a short distance above the present Township of Mercer. From this point the range of the hills on which Te Teoteo stands trends in a crescent, the northern horn curving in again towards the Waikato at the point where the Manga-tawhiri comes down into the swamps near the main river. Near the tip of the northern horn of the hills was the British advanced camp, under Lieut.-Colonel Austen. Te Huirama and his men hastened to provoke an attack from the British troops, and dug a succession of trenches across the narrow ridge.
The movements of Waikato were observed from the 14th Regiment's camp on the south side of the Manga-tawhiri on the forenoon of the 17th July. Lieut.-Colonel Austen immediately ordered his battalion under arms, and moved out to meet the Maoris, followed by a detachment of the 12th and 70th Regiments. General Cameron, from the Queen's Redoubt, overtook the column on its march to the ranges, over low hills covered with fern and manuka.page 254 page 255
The force had advanced in skirmishing order for about two miles when the Maori outposts opened fire. They fell back, taking advantage of the broken ground to continue their firing. From their rifle-pits they opened a heavy fire when the leading troops were well within gunshot, and the young soldiers of the 14th hesitated momentarily after some men had fallen. The gallant General Cameron rushed forward waving his cap, and shouted to the 14th to come on. Cheering, the young battalion now swept forward at the charge, their officers—Captains Strange and Phelps, and Lieutenants Glancy and Armstrong—leading them sword in hand; and the lines of entrenchments were taken at the point of the bayonet. The Maoris, leaving many dead in and around the trenches, retreated south along the fern-hills, fighting as they fell back from one line of defence to the next, until they were driven to the heights above the Maramarua and Whanga-marino. Some escaped down a gully on the east, but lost a number of men to the heavy converging fire from the high ground on either flank. The majority of the survivors made for the south side of the Whanga-marino and thence to Meremere; others took to their canoes in the creek and paddled out into the Waikato River. The creek and the great swamp beyond stayed the further progress of the troops. The British loss was one killed; twelve were wounded, including Colonel Austen. (This officer afterwards was fatally wounded at Rangiriri.) Of the Maoris, the leader, Te Huirama (Ngati-Mahuta), and about thirty others were killed, many of them with the bayonet; a number of wounded were taken away in canoes. Many spades and some double-barrel guns, antiquated flint-lock pieces, and tomahawks were found on the battlefield.
After this sharp bayonet-work a British detachment was sent to hold a position on the south side of the heights commanding the Whanga-marino Stream. The spot selected was the summit of a bluff close to the old Maori pa Te Teoteo, and a short distance east of the junction of the Whanga-marino with the Waikato. (The redoubt-site is almost immediately above the spot where the Great South Road crosses the Whanga-marino about half a mile south of Mercer.) This post was armed with two field-guns, under Lieutenant Pickard, R.A.
The Waikato Maoris, in referring to the engagement on the Koheroa Hills, speak of it as the fight at Te Teoteo.
Photo by Iles, at the Thames]
Hori Ngakapa Te Whanaunga
This warrior chief was one of the leaders in the attack on the British escort at Martin's Farm, Great South Road, 17th July, 1863. He was the head of the Ngati-Whanaunga, a subtribe of Ngati-Paoa, of the Hauraki Gulf coast. In 1851 he was a leader of the war-canoe expedition of Ngati-Paoa to the Town of Auckland (see note in Appendices). Hori fought at Rangiriri, and escaped by swimming across a lagoon. His brave wife, Hera Puna, accompanied him on the war-path in 1863.
Remains of Ring's Redoubt, Kirikiri, 1921
The redoubt at Kirikiri (now locally misspelled Kerikeri) came to be known as Ring's Redoubt, after the captain in command. Like the Queen's Redoubt at Pokeno, its walls and trench, partly demolished, now enclose a farmhouse. The old fort stands alongside the main road two miles from Papakura on the way to Clevedon, Wairoa South. It is on part Section 29, Hunua Parish, and is the homestead of Mr. C. J. Hibbard.
The Imperial soldiers found the Militia already in action on the edge of the bush. The united force skirmished with the Kingites in the bush in the direction of the hill Puke-kiwi-riki, above the page 259 deserted settlement of Ihaka Takaanini at Te Aparangi. The natives were gradually driven up into the hills, and occupied Captain Ring's first entrenchment on a knoll in a small clearing. From this place they were forced back by the Militia and the 18th, but they presently threatened the flanks of the British force, which was almost surrounded. One of Ring's men had been killed at close quarters, and his rifle and bayonet seized by the Maoris. Under cover of the earthworks and logs the troops kept the Maoris back by heavy and accurate firing, and awaited reinforcements. Their position was now one of some anxiety. It was near sunset when Colonel Wyatt, with a force of the 65th and some of Lieutenant Rait's Mounted Artillery troopers, armed with swords and revolvers, came to the rescue and vigorously engaged the Maoris, whose numbers seemed also to have been reinforced. The troopers dismounted to enter the bush with the 65th, and this diversion compelled the Maoris to draw off from Ring's force. The united column, after recovering the body of the soldier killed, withdrew from the forest, and Ring returned to his redoubt above Kirikiri. This was the first occasion on which the Militia had been engaged with the Maoris, and Clare's few men behaved with skill and courage in the forest skirmish.
On the 10th August a scouting-party of thirty-five men of the Wairoa Rifle Volunteers and No. 4 Company, Auckland Militia, under Lieutenant Steele, discovered the great secret encampment of the Kingites in the Hunua Ranges, which it was believed had been prepared for a war-party essaying an attack upon Auckland from the east. This party, marching from the Wairoa stockade, explored the bush through to Drury. Passing Buckland's Clearing, a tract of open fern land in the bush, the scouts came to another fern opening, and advanced in skirmishing order upon a large encampment intended as the headquarters of a Maori army. This nikau-thatched township consisted of thirty-one whares from 20 feet to over 100 feet long, and capable, in Steele's opinion, of containing about fifteen hundred people. This camp was in the open, where the bush road from Drury emerged from the forest. On the road, and about a mile nearer Drury, they found a few small whares, and again some huts three-quarters of a mile farther on, which appeared to have been used as advance posts.
The Kingite Maoris who gathered in the Hunua and Wairoa Ranges and thence made their forays were chiefly members of the Ngati-Paoa Tribe, from the Hauraki coast villages, under Hori Ngakapa and other chiefs; the Koheriki, a hapu of that tribe, headed by Wi Koka, from the country around the mouth of the Wairoa River; some of the Ngati-Haua, from the Upper Waikato and the Upper Thames Valley; and a number of the Ngai-te-Rangi and Piri-Rakau Tribes, from Tauranga, led by Hori Ngatai page 260 and Titipa. The Koheriki party did not number more than thirty to thirty-five fighting-men, but they were all active and ruthless fellows: they fought right through the war, and the survivors shared in the defence of the Gate Pa at Tauranga in 1864. With them were some women; one of these was a remarkably gifted and courageous young half-caste woman, Heni te Kiri-karamu—later otherwise known as Heni Pore (Foley)—who followed her brother Neri into the war; she was armed with a gun and used it. She took her young children with her, and her mother and sister accompanied her on the bush trail.
Most of the outlying farmers had abandoned their homes and were serving in the district Militia or Volunteers, but the smoke rising from the chimneys in some of the forest-clearings showed that a few stout-hearted settlers had determined to remain on their sections. One was Captain Calvert, whose home was on the Papakura-Wairoa Road, three miles from Papakura and a mile beyond Captain Ring's redoubt at Kirikiri. Early on the 24th July the alarm was raised at Calvert's that a party of armed Maoris was surrounding the house. The captain jumped out of bed, and just as he had snatched up his revolver some of the natives rushed into the kitchen, and one of them fired at the inmates. Calvert and his son Sylvester, a boy of sixteen, fired in return. The lad was mortally wounded. The captain, having emptied his revolver, rushed furiosly at the enemy with his sword. They retreated before the brave old soldier, and fired heavily on the house from a hillock. The firing was heard at the Kirikiri Redoubt, and a party of soldiers drove the Maoris into the forest. Young Calvert was carried to the redoubt, where he died. On the same day Mr. George Cooper, a settler in the Wairoa Ranges, was shot down and killed when he went out to drive his cows up for milking. These attacks on bush-country settlers gave impetus to the formation by the Government of a special crops of guides or bush fighters, and the first company of the Forest Rangers, under Lieutenant Jackson, was soon enlisted.
After the attack on the Imperial convoy at Martin's Farm on the 17th July measures were taken to destroy the cover for the Maori parties in the most dangerous parts of the Great South Road, and the felling of the forest, making clearings a quarter of a mile wide, was begun on both sides of the road in Sheppard's Bush, at Martin's Farm, and along the west slope of Pukewhau Hill and part of the Razorback Range. This work was done chiefly by contract, under the superintendence of Mr. Martin. General Cameron ordered that the bushfellers should in every case be protected by a covering-party. The neglect of this precaution in one instance involved a party in a one-sided skirmish which provided the Maori raiders with a welcome supply of arms. This attack occurred on page 261 the west face of the Pukewhau Hill; the site, then known as Williamson's Clearing, is the present settlement of Bombay. On the 25th August twenty-five men of the 40th, under a non-commissioned officer, besides some bushmen, were engaged felling timber, leaving their rifles piled on the edge of the road in charge of a sentry. Suddenly a volley was fired from the bush, and two of the 40th fell. A party of Maoris rushed out from their ambush and easily captured the stacked rifles, twenty-three in number, and the pouches of ammunition. The bushfellers were rescued by the advance-guard of a convoy escort from Drury, under Captain A. Cook, of the 40th, and retired after fighting a skirmish with further reinforcements. Three of the natives were shot in the skirmish, and one of the 18th was wounded, besides the two shot dead in the first attack.
On the morning of the 2nd September, 1863, Ensign C. Dawson (2nd Battalion, 18th Royal Irish), subaltern in charge of the Pokeno picket, had a lively skirmish with a large body of Maoris within a short distance of the Queen's Redoubt. The picket, consisting of two sergeants and sixty men of the 18th, left the redoubt at 7 a.m., and marched towards the Pokeno native village (which had been deserted by its owners, the Ngati-Tamaoho, on the outbreak of the war). Near the village the force was fired upon from the rear by a large body of Maoris. Dawson faced his men about and charged with the bayonet. He drove them down a gully towards the swamp and into the bush on the east side of Pokeno. After following the Kingites for about half a mile on the track inland towards Paparoa, he heard yells in the direction of the village in his rear, and returned with his force. He was saluted with a volley from Maori musketeers extended across the clearing, encumbered with logs and felled trees, between him and the settlement, and also was fired upon by some men in the bush on his right, near the hills. The soldiers, taking cover, in skirmishing order, kept up a steady fire and inflicted some casualties; the Maoris were seen carrying off their wounded. At this stage Captain Trench, of the 40th, came up with supports from the redoubt, and the reinforced skirmishers advanced and drove the Maoris out of the kainga and the log clearing into the bush.
A few days later (8th September) some of the Maoris attacked the British redoubt which had been erected on the top of Kakaramea, the northern spur of the Pokeno Ranges, over which the Great South Road was cut, between Williamson's Clearing and Rhodes's Clearing, overlooking Pokeno. This field-work was perched on the narrowest and most commanding part of the ridge which carried the road, but there was a higher hill a short distance to the east. The present road cuts through the western page 262 angle of the old fortification. A sentry outside, about 60 yards from the redoubt, at 10 a.m. saw a Maori stealing up on him through the bush. He fired at him, and the fire was returned by a war-party from the partly cleared hill about 100 yards on the east side of the road. The garrison (one hundred of the 65th Regiment, under Lieutenant Talbot) turned out and kept up a steady fire on the natives, who had the cover of felled timber and stumps. Ensign Ducrow, of the 40th, came up with forty men from Rhodes's Clearing, the next post on the south, and Talbot took half the detachment at the post and skirmished out, driving the attackers into the bush. Further reinforcements arrived from Williamson's Clearing, but they were not needed. The dead body of a Maori was afterwards found; there were no British casualties.
From a sketch (1863) in the “Illustrated London News”]
The Alexandra Redoubt, Tuakau
This large redoubt, on the right bank of the Lower Waikato, was built in July, 1863, by a detachment of the 65th Regiment. The position, on a bold bluff about 300 feet above the river, was commanding and of great strategic importance. The redoubt is the best preserved of all the military posts built in 1863–64. The present entrance is from the roadway in the rear into the north-west flanking angle, where a monument erected by the Government bears the names of British soldiers who fell in the district. The redoubt covers an area of about three-quarters of an acre, and is a parallelogram, with the usual two flanking angles at diagonally opposite corners of the work. The surrounding trench is still in most places 4 feet or 5 feet in depth, and from the bottom of the ditch to the top of the fern-grown parapets the height varies from 10 feet to nearly 20 feet.
The heavy firing in the skirmish between the friendly natives and the Kingites at Camerontown was heard at the Alexandra Redoubt, Tuakau, and a party of Maoris came paddling up in great haste to report the death of Mr. Armitage and the burning of the stores. Captain Swift, of the 65th, who was in charge of the detachment at the redoubt, marched at once for Camerontown, with Lieutenant Butler and fifty men, in an attempt to intercept the attacking-party. The senior non-commissioned officer of the detachment was Colour-Sergeant E. McKenna. An page 264 engagement which took place that afternoon in the bush near Camerontown resulted in the death of Captain Swift and three men, and the disabling of Lieutenant Butler. Swift, as he lay dying, ordered McKenna to lead on the men, and the non-commissioned officer conducted the bush skirmishing with great skill and Judgment. His little party sustained a heavy fire from the natives, and had to spend the night in the forest, struggling out to Tuakau in the morning. The colour-sergeant estimated the Maori loss at between twenty and thirty killed and wounded. He saw seven shot dead; their bodies were dragged into the bush by their comrades. Lieutenant Butler recovered from his severe wound. McKenna was awarded the Victoria Cross for his valour, and was also given a commission as ensign in his regiment. He settled in New Zealand, and was for many years a stationmaster in the Government railway service. Lance-Corporal Ryan was also awarded the V.C., but before he received it he was drowned in the Waikato in an attempt to save a comrade. Four of the privates engaged—Bulford, Talbot, Cole, and Thomas—were each decorated with the medal for distinguished conduct in the field.
After the tragedy at Camerontown the Ngati-Whauroa, with their chief Hona, who up to this time had nominally been friendly to the Government, turned to the Kingite side and joined their kinsmen in the war.
* The Martin's Farm ambush was the 18th (Royal Irish) Regiment's first taste of Maori warfare. This fine corps served in most of the actions of the Waikato War, and later was transferred to the west coast. The Royal Irish (2nd Battalion) came out from Portsmouth in the ships “Elizabeth Ann Bright” and “Norwood”; it was a new battalion recruited at Inneskillen in the late “fifties.” The “Elizabeth Ann Bright” arrived at Auckland on the 2nd July, 1863, and the “Norwood” on the 2nd August; the strength landed was seven hundred officers and men. The Royal Irish Regiment was the last Imperial corps to leave New Zealand; the main body sailed from Auckland on the 28th February, 1870, leaving between three hundred and four hundred men who had taken their discharges to settle in the country.