Sir Donald Maclean
Chapter XXIII — The Bush Campaigns — Maclean and the Expeditions Against Te Kooti
The Bush Campaigns
Maclean and the Expeditions Against Te Kooti
The military position when Maclean took office with the dual ministerial responsibilities of Native Affairs and Defence was the most harassing and anxious in the whole history of the Maori Wars. Although Titokowaru's power had been broken on the West Coast and there were prospects of permanent peace there, the frontiers were menaced, there were raids and rumours of raids, and many tribes inimical to the Government were plotting renewed risings. The people were readily receptive to the emissaries who advocated attempts to recover the confiscated lands. Te Kooti's mana had been strengthened by his surprise and slaughter of a detachment of Bay of Plenty cavalry posted at Opepe, near Taupo, by Lieut.-Colonel St. John (5 June 1869). The success, really of little military importance, was enormously exaggerated by Maori reports and Te Kooti and his followers toured the interior of the island, parading the arms and equipment captured from the troopers, and recruiting men for further raids upon the pakeha.
The Upper Waikato border was in fear of foray and massacre; it was known that Te Kooti was in the King Country seeking the aid of Waikato and Ngati-Maniapoto. The Bay of Plenty Coast settlements feared further descents of the mountain men; the Urewera and their fellow-Hauhaus were in a mood to seek revenge for the recent invasion of their country by Colonel Whitmore.
There was a perilous lack of a strong controlling hand in military and native matters, the two were so closely interrelated at this juncture that one-man administration page 101 was a necessity. There was only one man left to fit the situation, and that man was Donald Maclean.
One of Maclean's first steps when he took over the direction of the campaign was to enlist the active assistance of the Maori tribes friendly to the Government. He could always rely on the support of his friend the resolute Ropata Wahawaha and Ngati-Porou; he now determined to enlist the services of Ngati-Kahungunu, or as many of them as could be depended on as fighting men. Ropata and his people for the present were needed to protect the coast settlements; Ngati-Kahungunu were available as auxiliaries to the Armed Constabulary forces operating against Te Kooti. The old warrior Renata Kawepo was the principal chief of the Hawke's Bay mounted expeditions which presently moved in across the ranges to the Taupo country. Te Kooti had now returned to Taupo, recruiting men from the Ngati-Tuwharetoa tribe, and was joined by the paramount chief, Te Heuheu (son of the great Heuheu whom Maclean had visited in 1845). Lieut.-Colonel Thomas McDonnell, who had been in the background since his disastrous defeat at Te Ngutu-o-te-Manu, was appointed to the command of field operations, replacing Colonel Whitmore. McDonnell was not long in retrieving his soldierly reputation. Well supported by some good officers of the Constabulary, with their well-trained men, and backed up with dash and fire by the best of the Maoris—the Whanganui men were the best fighters of all the natives—he routed Te Kooti at Te Porere, on the plateau near Mount Tongariro, and drove him and the survivors of the action into the western forests.
Te Heuheu and his family, who surrendered soon after this sharp and decisive affair, were brought down to Napier on a kind of parole by Mr. Maclean. He had a friendly feeling for the son of his old acquaintance, the patriarchal warrior of Te Rapa; and he knew that Te Heuheu was really only yielding to force majeure when he joined Te Kooti.
Two more successes in the next few months still further reduced Te Kooti's powers for mischief. McDonnell's action at Tapapa and Gilbert Mair's most gallant chase and defeat page 102 of the retreating Hauhaus near Rotorua. Mair's running fight was indeed described as the turning point in the war; it justified Maclean's faith in the value of picked Maori fighters led by experienced white officers. Mair was the only pakeha in his little force in the action that won him a captaincy and the New Zealand Cross.
Te Kooti had now been driven back into the Urewera ranges, some of his best fighting men killed. Kereopa, the murderer of the missionary Volkner, was there too, in refuge, a dangerous fellow still but without influence and quite devoid of Te Kooti's military ability. Maclean's task now was to kill or lay hold of these two disturbers of the country's peace, or to detach the Urewera from them and destroy the ever-present menace of raids on the pakeha coast settlements and the friendly tribes.
It was now that the Fox Ministry, on Mr Maclean's initiative, resolved to rely entirely on Maori forces officered by their chiefs and a few pakehas, to carry on field operations against Te Kooti and his followers, leaving the white Armed Constabulary to do garrison duty in the redoubts, blockhouses and stockades, and maintain the various lines of communication, besides watching the various routes by which the rebels might escape to the King Country.
Maclean had a handful of tried and reliable officers—Porter, the Mair brothers, Preece, Ferris, and one or two others well used to dealing with native forces. The best of the Maori leaders were Ropata, of Ngati-Porou, and Kepa te Rangihiwinui (Major Kemp) of the Whanganui tribe. Gilbert Mair and Preece, on Maclean's instructions, enlisted two companies of Arawa Armed Constabulary, picked from the tribes at Rotorua, Rotoiti, Tarawera, Matata and Maketu. They took no chiefs of high rank, having experienced the drawbacks of divided control.
The success of these measures was all but complete. Mair and Preece and their allies on the other side of the island made many expeditions into the Urewera Country during 1870–72, penetrating the heart of the wildest tract of mountain and forest in the North Island, fighting numerous skirmishes. Ropata's force at the end of 1871 captured Kereopa and took him out by way of Waikaremoana and Wairoa to Napier, where he was executed for his crimes. Te Kooti was better served by his guardian atua. Time and again he escaped death when his camps of refuge were surprised and rushed. Porter very nearly had him, under the heights of Maungapohatu; Mair and Preece, too, at Waipaoa, in the most secret parts of the mountain wilderness one snowy day in 1871. But month by month his following grew less; his best men were either killed or parted from him. With a few faithful men he at last escaped across the Kaingaroa Plains to the Waikato River and the shelter of the King Country. That was in May of 1872.
The Urewera had by this time had enough of it, and were heartily tired of the Government columns continually scouring their country and.giving them no peace. Maclean's policy was to conciliate them, contingent on their renunciation of Te Kooti and his schemes. Many of them were taken over to the coast and located for a time on land bordering the shore between Whakatane and Matata, where the Government Maoris kept an eye on them.
As for Te Kooti, he was left in peace. Maclean wisely chose to regard the King Country as a sanctuary whither he would not follow political offenders. He counselled the people lately in arms to devote themselves to peaceful industry and repair the injury of the long wars.
So peace came to the land at last, a peace that was all the firmer because Maclean did not push his opponents to desperation by threats of punishment but on the contrary page 104 extended the hand of forgiveness to them and secured them in the possession of their ancestral lands.
Through all that period of guerilla warfare Mr. Maclean kept in touch by telegraph with his trusted fighting officers. He followed their movements closely, furnished them with advice as to the rebel doings and the supposed where-abouts of the leaders, and did not forget to give them prompt praise for their difficult and trying work of bush campaigning in a roadless, foodless mountain land.