The Adventures of Kimble Bent
Chapter XV — A Battle in the Forest; and the Death of Von Tempsky
A Battle in the Forest; and the Death of Von Tempsky
The second fight at Te Ngutu-o-te-Manu—Titokowaru's prophecy—Tutangé and his sacred war-mat—Bent's narrow escape—Government forces defeated—How von Tempsky fell —A terrible retreat—Colonial soldiers' gallant rearguard fight.
Early one warm spring afternoon in 1868, when the vast forest lay steeped in calm and Taranaki's sentry-peak rose like a great ivory tent out of the soft blue haze that bathed its spreading base, the sharp, cracking sound of rifle-shots broke the quiet of the wilderness.
The shots came from the mountain side of “The Beak-of-the-Bird,” the opposite one to that by which the white troops had advanced the previous month. Te Ngutu-o-te-Manu was being taken in the rear this time. Colonel McDonnell had set out from the Waihi Redoubt before daylight in the morning, with a force of about two hundred and sixty whites, composed of three divisions of Armed Constabulary (many of them ex-Forest Rangers), the newly joined Wellington Rifles and Rangers, and page 146 a few veteran volunteers, besides about a hundred Kupapas, the friendly Maoris from the Whanganui and Ngati-Apa tribes under Kepa te Rangihiwinui. Fording the swift Waingongoro River (the “Waters-of-Snoring”), the Colonel's force, guided by the woman Takiora, marched through the native village of Mawhitiwhiti, which was found deserted, then turned into the dense forest, searching for the Hauhau stronghold, which was now reported to be at Te Rua-ruru (“The Owl's Nest”), situated some-where in the rear of Te Ngutu-o-te-Manu. A disastrous search, for it ended under the palisades of the “Bird's-Beak,” the savage beak that closed savagely on many a gallant pakeha before the sun went down in the western sea that day.
McDonnell had hoped by his early start to take the Hauhaus by surprise. But wary old Titokowaru was seldom caught napping.
. . . . .
On the previous night—as the old warrior Tutangé Waionui tells me—Titokowaru gathered all his men in the big house (wharé-kura), which had now been rebuilt. Then, when the Hauhau prayers and chants were over, the chief arose and cried:
“E koro ma, kia tupato! He po kino te po, he ra kino te ra!” (“O friends, be on your guard! This is an evil night—a night of danger, and the morrow will be a day of danger!”)
This oracular warning seemed to the superstitious page 147 people to be a message from the gods, of whom Titokowaru was the living medium. That night was a night of preparation for battle. Armed men slipped out along the trail in front of the stockade, and lay in wait for the expected enemy.
Long the grim old chief sat on his sacred mat that night in the wharé-kura, his enchanted tongue-pointed taiaha lying in front of him. Karakia after karakia he recited in a low monotone, incantations and charms, ancient pagan and latter-day Hauhau karakia, for success in the conflict that he felt was to envelop his pa on the morrow in a ring of smoke and blood.
In his own little thatched wharé that day sat Kimble Bent, the pakeha-Maori. He, too, was busy, squatting there on an old flax whariki mat. By his side were a keg of gunpowder and a bag of bullets, and in front of him a pile of old pakeha newspapers and leaves torn from looted books. He was making cartridges for the Hauhaus. Round a wooden cartridge-filler he deftly rolled a scrap of paper, forming a cylinder, which he tied securely with thread or with fine strips of flax; then, withdrawing the filler, he poured in the gunpowder. The cartridges loaded, he slipped them into the cartouche-boxes and holders, a number of which had been brought to the wharé by the men of the Tekau-ma-rua; when the boxes were full, the remainder of the ammunition he stored carefully in a large flax page 148 basket. Most of the receptacles for the ammunition —hamanu the Maoris called them—were primitive affairs smacking of the bush. In size and shape they resembled the ordinary military leather car-touche-boxes, but they were simply blocks of light wood, generally pukatea timber, slightly curved in shape so as to sit well on the body when strapped, and neatly bored with from ten to eighteen holes, each of which held a cartridge. A flap of leather or skin—in the earlier days it was often a piece of tattooed human skin—covered the cartridges; and straps of leather or of dressed and ornamented flax were attached to the hamanu, which were buckled or tied round the waist or over the shoulders. A well-equipped fighting-man usually wore two hamanu, by belts over the shoulders; and at his girdle he carried his pouches for bullets and percussion-caps.
Such was the lone white man's occupation in the forest stockade that day before the looming battle.
. . . . .
Next morning, after the first meal of the day had been set before the warriors by their women and had been quickly eaten, the war-chief came out of his house, taiaha in hand, and walked out on to the village square in front of the sacred praying-house.
“Friends,” he cried, as he stood there on the marae, “I salute you! You have eaten and are content; for the proverb says, ‘When the stomach page 149 is filled, then man is happy and satisfied’ (‘Ka ki te puku, ka ora te tangata’). Now, rise up and grasp your weapons, for I wish to see you dance the haka and the tutu-waewae of war.”
When the men were assembled on the parade ground, in their dancing costume of a scanty waistmat, Titokowaru cried in a loud voice and prophesied, saying:
“Kaore e tu te ra, kaore e titaha te ra, ka tupono tatou kia to tatou whanaunga”—of which the meaning is, “The sun will not have reached its zenith, the sun will not have declined, before we have joined issue with our relatives”—the white soldiers.
“Then,” says Tutangé, “we danced our haka with the fire of coming battle in our hearts, and we hardened our nerves for the fight. For we knew that Titoko was a true and powerful prophet (poropiti whai-mana, tino kaha), and we believed that that day would see blood shed again around Te Ngutu-o-te-Manu.”
Tutangé Waionui, who was now to distinguish himself as a daring young warrior, was but a boy. He was not more than fifteen or sixteen years old, but was a strong, athletic youngster, full of fire and courage, and as agile as a monkey. He was of the momo rangatira, or “blue blood” of Taranaki, tracing a direct descent through a line of high chiefs and priests from Turi, the great sailor who navigated his long mat-winged canoe Aotea to the black iron-sand page 150 beach of Taranaki from the far-distant Hawaiki, the beautiful palm-fringed island of Rangiatea (Raiatea, as its people call it now) in the Society Group. His father, the old warrior, Maruera Whakarewataua, had carefully schooled him in the business of arms, the handling of the spear-tongued taiaha, most beautiful of Maori weapons, the quick and fatal use of the tomahawk, both the terrible long-handled one and the short hatchet, or patiti, as well as the musket and shot-gun and rifle of the pakeha. So here, now, was young Tutangé on his first war-path.
That morning, when the very air seemed full of rumours of battle and death, Tutangé was girded with the sacred war-mat, the maro-taua.
Tutangé Waionui, a Hauhau
This photo, taken in 1908, shows Tutange— who was one of Titokowaru's best fighting men —stripped and armed for the war-path as he was in 1868.
“One of the songs which we chanted as we wildly danced was this:
“‘Whakarongo ai au
Ki te koroki manu
Whakaorooro ana i te ngahere.
I na-wa e!’
(‘I'm listening for the voices,
The singing of the birds,
Sounding, echoing in the forest!’)
The ‘singing of the birds’ was a figure of speech for the voices of the soldiers on the march.
“That maro-taua was all the clothing I wore in the fight. Round my brows I bound a handkerchief, which held in place my tiparé rangatira, my chief-like war-feathers. My weapons were a double-barrelled gun (tupara), and a short-handled toma- page 154 hawk, which I carried stuck in my belt. Round me I had strapped a cartridge-holder. E tama! Now I was ready for my first battle.”
Meanwhile, what of the pakeha-Maori in this nest of Hauhaus?
That morning, after he had supplied the men with ammunition, he sat on the marae watching the wardances. The morning went, but there was no sign from the outlying Hauhau piquets. Most of the women and children had been sent away into the bush at the rear of the pa in charge of the old chief Te Waka-tākere-nui, in anticipation of the predicted attack. The pakeha-Maori was also a non-com-batant, but he remained in the pa with Titokowaru until the firing began. There were not more than sixty fighting-men in Te Ngutu-o-te-Manu, but nearly all of these were tried and experienced warriors, and even those who, like young Tutangé, were still to be blooded, were more than a match for the average white soldier in bush-warfare.
It was well on in the afternoon before the first shots were heard. The Maoris had expected attack from the seaward or Waihi side, but to their surprise the sound of the firing came from inland, indicating that the troops had worked round to the rear of “The Beak-of-the-Bird.” The Maori advanceguard of Colonel McDonnell's column had encountered the Hauhaus in the bush and fired into them.page 155
When the first sharp rifle-cracks echoed through the forest, Titokowaru went up to his pakeha, with a flax kit in his hand.
“Friend,” said the stern old captain, “take this kété of mine in your charge. It contains some of my tapu treasures; take great care of it, for I may not see you again; I may fall with my tribe. Take it and leave the pa, and join Te Waka-tākere-nui if you can find his camp in the forest.”
The white man took the carefully strapped kit and hurried out of the stockade. Te Waka's camp, he knew, was somewhere away in the rear; the firing was in that direction, and he was in danger of falling into the enemy's hands. However, he struck out into the bush from the rear fence, expecting to steal through the thick timber on the flank of the troops, who, he guessed, were advancing by the track which led in from the east.
He managed to elude his fellow-countrymen as it happened, but it was “touch-and-go” with him. Scarcely had he run out from the stockade and entered the hollow, through which a little creek wound through the bush at the rear of the pa, than the advance-guard of the white column also reached the creek, and crossed it to attack the pa. A heavy fire was at this moment opened on the troops by the Hauhaus, and bullets flew thick around the pakeha- Maori.
Two or three of the Armed Constabulary came page 156 almost upon him just as he mounted the farther bank of the creek, near where a little burial-ground clearing broke the continuity of the thick undergrowth; it was here that the Hauhaus had interred those of their number killed in the previous attack on the pa.
The Colonial soldiers must have mistaken Bent for a Maori, for they immediately fired at him but missed, and next moment he ducked into the jungle, and on all-fours scrambled down into the creek bed, where he followed down the little stream as hard as he could go.
There was small wonder the A.C.'s took Bent for a Maori, for it would have been difficult in the halflight of that bush, at the distance of a few yards, to have detected much resemblance to a white man in the dark, shaggy-headed, bare-footed fellow with an old and dirty blanket strapped around his waist, a ragged jacket about his shoulders, and a red handkerchief tied round his head.
Scrambling along, stooping low to avoid being hit, the pakeha-Maori went down the creek until he came to a large hollow mahoé-tree standing by the side of the watercourse. He squeezed into the hollow trunk of the tree, and there he remained for a few minutes listening to the cracking of the rifles and the loud reports of the Hauhau smoothbores and the yells of the combatants. Soon the firing came nearer, and bullets began to zip through the leaves page 157 and come plunk into the mahoé, in whose hollow heart the white man hid.
“The bullets are finding me out,” said Bent to himself. “I'm in a fix still; anyhow, here goes,” and he cautiously crept out from his place of concealment and took to the jungle-fringed creek again. Following down the creek, crawling, scrambling, running, he presently began to feel his head more secure on his shoulders, for the sound of the firing grew fainter. He left the creek, and, striking through the bush, found a familiar track which led him to the little nook in the forest where old Te Waka and the anxious women and terrified children were camped. There he remained that night.
From Te Waka's people he heard the account of the morning's work. The Government Maori forces, Kepa's men, came upon the camp of refugees and killed two children; one of these, a boy of about nine years of age, was the son of the Hauhau warrior, Kātené Tu-Whakaruru. The other child, a little girl, they most cruelly slew by throwing her up into the air and spitting her on a bayonet as she fell. Another child, a little boy, was captured, but was saved by a Whanganui Maori, who carried him out of the forest on his back. He was a son of Te Karere-o-Mahuru (“The Messenger of Spring”). This boy became a protégé of Sir William Fox, who had him educated, and he is to-day a well-known page 158 and gifted representative Taranaki man; his name is Pokiha (Fox) O-Mahuru. When the camp was surprised a woman ran away into the forest in terror; as she was never again heard of, it is believed that the soldiers shot her.
. . . . .
For the rest of the story of that battle in the bush, from the Maori side, my chief authorities are Tutangé Waionui, who gave me his narrative in 1908, and Whakawhiria, of Taranaki. Of the disaster from the European side there are numerous accounts, no two of which agree. The truth is, it was a lamentably bungled affair, redeemed by numerous acts of personal heroism, and particularly by the gallant rear-guard action fought by a portion of the column under the brave young Captain Roberts during the terrible retreat which followed the repulse of the troops.
The Government force outnumbered the Hauhaus in the pa by more than five to one. Of this, however, McDonnell and his officers and men were ignorant, otherwise there might have been a very different story to tell. In the obscurity of the dense bush, where the savage forest-men were in their familiar haunts, everything was strange and terrible to the recruits, and the imagination magnified the numbers of the foe, who poured bullets from their well-masked fastnesses.
Major Von Tempsky
(From a photo, 1865.)
“Wawahi-waka,” the Waikato Maoris called him —“The Splitter-of-Canoes”—because of his exploits in war. “Manu-rau”—“Hundred Birds”— was the name by which he was known amongst the Taranaki Hauhaus. The name had been given him because of his activity in rushing from place to place, fighting here and fighting there, as swiftly as the forest-birds that flitted from tree to tree. Every Maori knew of “Manu-rau,” and many of those in arms had been chased by him at one time or another during the three years of war since he led his Forest Rangers to the assault at Otapawa stockade.
Von Tempsky was of aristocratic Polish blood. He had begun soldiering life as a Prussian chasseur, had served under the unfortunate Emperor Maximilian in Mexico, and fought in several little wars in Central America; had been a gold-digger on the great tented fields of Victoria and the Hauraki; page 162 he was a clever artist in water-colours and a good miniature painter, and he had written a book of travels in Mexico, “Mitla,” illustrated with his own sketches. In the Waikato War he and Captain William Jackson had led their Forest Rangers in several sharp skirmishes, and in Taranaki he was in the thick of the bush-fighting, and had tramped with his veterans through the forest in General Chute's great march from Ketemarae northwards to Mataitawa and New Plymouth, round the back of the Mountain.*
He was a good shot, a finished swordsman, and could throw a bowie-knife with deadly accuracy. It was in Mexico that he learned the use of the knife, and he never tired of impressing on his men its advantages in bush fighting.
Swarthy of visage, with long, black, curling hair, upon which a forage cap was cocked at a defiant angle, his grey flannel shirt carelessly open at the neck, his trousers tucked into long boots that came nearly up to his knees, a bowie-knife in a sheath and a revolver at his belt, a naked sword, long and curved, in his hand—this was von Tempsky on the war-path, a picturesquely brigand-like figure, upon whom the soldiers' eyes rested with wonder and a good deal of admiration.
* See von Tempsky's sketch, showing General Chute's column setting out on this march.
Some of the large rata and pukatea trees growing close to the stockade were hollow, and in several of these the Maoris had cut loopholes, which they used for musketry fire. Some of the trees, too, spat leaden death. Brown figures flitted like forestdemons from cover to cover. At these and at the naked arms and shaggy heads that showed themselves for a moment the coolest and best shots of the Constabulary sent their bullets, and every now and then a Hauhau came crashing to the ground; but for every Maori that was hit five white men fell.
The forest rang with the sharp cracking of the rifles and the bang-banging of the heavily charged muzzle-loaders, and within the stockade the women that remained encouraged their warriors with shrill yells.
” Kill them ! Eat them ! “they screamed, as they waved their shawls and mats. “Fight on, fight on! Let not one escape!”
White men dropped quickly, wounded or shot dead. McDonnell evidently over-estimated the strength of the enemy, for he concluded that it would be impossible to rush the pa or to hold it if it was successfully rushed, for the enemy were now all round him. Had he only known the real state of affairs, that there were barely sixty armed Hauhaus, of whom only about twenty remained within the stockade, the story of Te Ngutu-o-te-Manu would page 165 have been far less saddening, at any rate to the pakeha.
McDonnell, considering the position too strong to be carried by assault, determined to strike out to the left through the forest and retire. Von Tempsky and Major Hunter pleaded with him to let them charge the stockade, but the Colonel would not consent, and presently ordered the retreat. Moving off, he sent a message to von Tempsky telling him to collect his men and form a rear-guard. He sent the wounded on with Major Hunter and Captain Newland, and followed with about eighty men, cutting a way through the undergrowth.
Von Tempsky remained, angry and disgusted at being refused permission to storm the pa, but too good a soldier to disobey orders. With him were most of the men of his two Armed Constabulary Divisions, No. 2 and No. 5, with Sub-Inspectors (Captains) Brown and J. M. Roberts, a few Patea Rifle Volunteers under Captain Palmer, the Wellington Rangers under Lieutenants Hastings and Hunter, and about twenty-five Taranaki Volunteers under Lieutenant Rowan.
Sword in hand, von Tempsky moved restlessly to and fro, regardless of the bullets that hummed about him. He ordered those nearest him to take cover but himself remained erect, angrily cutting at the undergrowth with his sword. And there he was when a Hauhau bullet found him.page 166
Now I will let the Maoris tell their story of how von Tempsky and his comrades fell. Tutangé Waionui says:
“When the attack on our pa began, two or three of us, including Hotu and Tihirua, climbed up on an old partly hollow rata-tree that grew in a slanting position near the centre of the stockade, in order to see whether it would be a good place from which to fire at the pakehas. A little way up it forked into two large branches, and it was from this fork that we intended to fire. However, we found that it did not suit us, as we could not see anything of the soldiers who were hidden in the thick bush outside the stockade, so we rushed out into the forest, seeking our enemy.
“There were two large rata-trees outside the stockade, but the statement made that von Tempsky was shot from a rata is incorrect. I have seen a picture which purports to show him being shot down by a Maori perched in a tree. This is altogether contrary to fact, as I will explain to you.
“When we rushed out to the rear of the pa the soldiers were rapidly approaching the stockade. We crouched down amongst the undergrowth, close to the little creek, and directed our shots at the thicket which grew between the pa and the creek. Some of the soldiers, crossing the creek, were in this part of the bush, and soon I saw Manu-rau (von Tempsky). Heavy firing was going on all this time, page 167 and many white men had fallen. Presently many of the soldiers withdrew, carrying their wounded, but Manu-rau remained with his men, his drawn sword in his hand—the long curved sword which had already become famous amongst the Maoris. He came out into clear view of us, within a very short distance of where we were crouching—I should say less than half a chain. I fired with the others. One of our bullets struck him—I have always believed it was mine. One of his fellow-soldiers, who was close by, ran to pick him up, and he too fell, shot by one of my companions. Others ran out to rescue the fallen pakehas, and they were shot down by us and by the other Maoris, until soon there were nine white men lying dead or wounded around Manu-rau.
“When the Government forces had fallen back before a kokiri, a charge, led by Kātené Tu-Whakaruru, the Hauhau leader and scout, I ran out to where Manu-rau was lying dying on the ground. He seemed to be still living when I reached him. I snatched out my tomahawk from my girdle and dealt him a cut with it on the temple, to make sure of him, and killed him instantly. Then I took from him his uniform cap, his revolver and sword, and a lever watch which he had in his pocket.
“The sword, revolver, watch, and cap which I took from the soldier-chief's body I carried into the pa and laid before our war-chief Titokowaru. That page 168 was one of the rules observed by Titokowaru's warparties; the spoils of war must be taken to the chief for division. I was given the revolver, and used it afterwards in the war.
“That is the story of how von Tempsky was killed. I hope you will, when the opportunity comes, tell the pakehas that the picture which represents Manu-rau as being shot by a Maori who was perched up in a rata-tree is not correct. You pakehas will not regard my action in tomahawking Manu-rau as a kohuru, a murder? Well, then, as you say, it was in the course of war, and it was quite tika and correct. I was but a very young man then, just a boy, and it was my first battle.”
By the side of this I will put Whakawhiria's account. Whakawhiria lives at the big native village of Parihaka, the old-time town of the prophets Te Whiti and Tohu. His narrative was given in May, 1909, to the Rev. T. G. Hammond, of Opunake, Wesleyan missionary to the Taranaki Maoris, who has sent it on to me to supplement the other versions of the fight. Whakawhiria's story is generally accepted as authentic by the Taranaki Maoris; most of the survivors of the fight agree that it was his father Te Rangi-hina-kau, as he says, who shot von Tempsky.
Whakawhiria was a young man of eighteen or so at the time of this engagement, but though so young he was already a veteran on the war-path. He had page 169 seen the smoke of battle in 1860, at Waireka, when the Taranaki settlers for the first time met the Maori on the field of war.
His estimate of the strength of the garrison in Te Ngutu-o-te-Manu is even lower than Tutangé's, for he says there were not more than forty-five fighting men in the pa when it was attacked.
Te Rangi-hina-kau, Whakawhiria, and a party of others sallied out from the stockade and met their enemy skirmishing in the bush. In the rear of the pa ran a little stream, the Mangotahi. On the banks of the creek the eight Hauhaus took cover, Whakawhiria and his nearest companions crouching under a karaka-tree, and it was from that point that they shot von Tempsky and his men. The eight warriors were Te Rangi-hina-kau, Whakawhiria, Ika-wharau, Tutangé Waionui, Te Whau, Heheu, Umu-umu and Wairau. They fired at von Tempsky at very close range, not more than twenty paces, just across the little creek.
“It was Te Rangi-hina-kau who shot von Tempsky,” said Whakawhiria. “He dropped on one knee, and, taking careful aim, fired and shot von Tempsky. He shot him through the head, and afterwards cut out his heart as an offering to the Maori war-gods.” (Kimble Bent's and Tutangé's versions given me contradict this.) “Young Tutangé,” continued Whakawhiria, “acted a very brave part, but it was not he who actually page 170 shot the major. Tutangé obtained von Tempsky's watch as his share of the loot, and Whakawhiria got his gun and pistol.”
During the engagement Titokowaru remained in the pa, shouting to his men, urging them to continue firing, and yelling such battle-cries as “Whakawhiria! Whakawhiria!” (“Twist them round and round!” or “Encircle them!”) It was from this circumstance that the warrior Whakawhiria assumed his present name.*
* The following account of Major von Tempsky's death, given in Auckland by Mr. James Shanaghan, who fought at Te-Ngutu-o-te-Manu as an A.C. private, and was wounded while attempting to rescue the major's body, is worth placing beside the Maori story for purposes of comparison. It is the most circumstantial narrative of von Tempsky's end ever given by a European survivor of the bush-battle:
“Our brave old major was walking to and fro with his sword in hand, furious at being caged as he was. I met him and he spoke to me in his kindly, thoughtful way, and asked why I did not take cover. I answered by putting the same question to him. He then said, ‘I am disgusted. If I get out of this scrape I will wash my hands clear of the business.’ He then sent me to take up a position and keep my eyes open, as the bullets were coming thick. I left him to obey the last order he ever gave. I had not gone far when a man of our Company was shot. The major went to his assistance and was shot, the bullet entering the centre of his forehead. He fell dead on top of the man to whose assistance he was going. That was how von Tempsky died.
“A Frenchman named Jancey and I went to the major and lifted him up and laid him on his back, and just as we did so a bullet struck Jancey on the side and travelled across his breast-bone, and another struck the cartridge-box he had on his back. I left von Tempsky and picked up Jancey, carrying him out across the clearing. I then met Lieutenant Hunter (of the Wellington Rangers), and when we were about ten paces from von Tempsky's body Hunter was shot dead. I got hold of him and started to pull him back. Then I said to one of our men, ‘Come along for Major von Tempsky's body.’ This man refused, but Captain Buck (Wellington Rifles) came up and asked if I knew where von Tempsky was. I said, ‘Yes,’ and he said, ‘Come along, lad, let's get him out.’ When we came to the body I was hit by a bullet on the left thumb, which was shot nearly off. Just as I changed the carbine to my other hand a bullet went through my left hand and struck the carbine-stock, knocking me backwards. Then Buck was shot dead, and as I got up a bullet took my cap off. I got away from the clearing, leaving von Tempsky and Buck dead together. There were four of us who went for von Tempsky's body; Jancey and I were wounded, and Hunter and Buck were killed.”
On von Tempsky's fall, Captain J. M. Roberts, a cool and gallant young Constabulary officer, ordered his bugler to sound the “Halt” and the “Officers' Call,” and tried to form the rear-guard into some order. Collecting as many of the wounded as he could, he began his retreat through that terrible death-haunted forest.
All through the fighting Titokowaru remained within the stockade, directing the defence and reciting incantations and chanting sacred waiatas to his gods for success in the fight. With him was the priestess Tangamoko, the woman who had that morning garbed the young warrior Tutangé with the sacred war-mat.
When von Tempsky fell and the retreat of the survivors began, Titokowaru ordered a kokiri, or charge, in pursuit, which, as Tutangé has mentioned, was led by the warrior Kātené Tu-Whakaruru. page 172 Those of the Hauhaus who were in or near the stockade gathered under Kātené and danced in their ferocious joy a dance of victory, and this is the ngeri (war-song) they shouted all together as they leaped in that terrifying tutu-waewae:
A kia rere atu
Te Kawana ki tawhiti,
Titiro mai ai!
Au—au! (imitating the bark of a dog)
See the Government soldiers flee away,
And turn and fearfully gaze at me.
The puffy clouds of smoke now drew away from the pa, as the Hauhaus followed their defeated foes into the dark forest. With appalling yells they rushed at their white enemies, tomahawking those who had fallen to make sure of them, as Tutangé had done with von Tempsky.
Major Von Tempsky.
The sun had just set. The ghostly tree-shadows lengthened, and it was already dark in the deeper thicknesses of the bush.
Just after the retreat commenced one of Captain Roberts' steadiest men, Corporal Russell, dropped his carbine and fell; a big-calibre bullet had smashed his thigh-bone.
“Shoot me, boys—shoot me!” he begged his comrades. “Don't leave me to be tomahawked.”
He knew as well as they did that his smashed leg meant death. The rear-guard was already encumbered with wounded and could carry no more.
“No, we can't shoot you, old man,” said a big, tall volunteer sergeant, who was a tower of strength to Roberts' little band, shooting with deadly aim from his post in the rear of the retreat. “Take this,” and he shoved into the wounded man's hand a loaded revolver.
Then the sergeant (James Livingston) picked up the corporal's empty carbine, and swinging it by the barrel, hot with much firing, smashed it against a tree-butt. “Old Tito'll never use that gun, anyhow,” he said.
Bursting from the trees, the brown, nearly naked savages came yelling at the rear-guard. Hastily slipping fresh cartridges into their carbines, the page 176 gigantic volunteer and his comrades sent a volley at the enemy. It was taking utu for the corporal in anticipation. Then they sorrowfully turned and went on into the dusky forest, leaving their comrade stretched there on the mossy ground, gazing sternmouthed, unflinchingly down the way of death.
Out from the ferns and supplejack leaped the foremost of the Hauhaus, a tattooed, blanket-girded man, with wild eyes rolling in blood-madness. His double-barrelled gun he had shifted from his right hand to his left, and he drew his shining tomahawk from his flax belt.
With an ear-ripping cry and the bound of a tiger he came on, hatchet in air.
The corporal stiffened his back, levelled his revolver, and fired.
The Maori fell, and lay with his face touching the soldier's boot.
A yell of “Patua! Patua!” came from the trees, and more bare figures with crossed cartridgebelts came rushing on, war-axe in hand.
Gripping his revolver hard, his trigger-finger steady, the corporal fired again, and another of his foes fell.
Now they stood off and shot the brave corporal dead, and so, after all, he died like a soldier and not under the frightful tomahawk.
. . . . .
McDonnell's column, the stronger one, was in the page 177 meantime fighting its way out through the forest to the Wai-ngongoro, hard beset by the Hauhaus, who had by this time been reinforced by others from the nearest villages. The Maoris followed closely in the rear and kept up a heavy fire, to which McDonnell and his officers and men could only return occasionally; their ammunition was getting very short. With McDonnell marched a French Roman Catholic priest, Father Jean Baptiste Rolland, the padre of the forces, who had been described only a few weeks before, in a letter written by von Tempsky, as “a man without fear.” Whenever a soldier fell, whether he was Catholic or Protestant, the kind-faced father was by his side in a moment, tending his wounds, and, if dying, soothing his last moments with a prayer. He took his turn, too, at carrying the wounded.
Three holes, drilled by Hauhau bullets, ornamented the padre's old wide-brimmed soft felt hat when he reached the Waihi camp that night.
It was just dark when the snoring Wai-ngongoro was reached, and the bridgeless river, running high and swiftly, was forded with some difficulty under fire. At ten o'clock at night the redoubt was reached, and here it was found that a mixed party of fugitives from the battle-field, numbering about eighty Europeans besides the Kupapas, had already arrived, and had reported all the officers, McDonnell included, killed or wounded and left on the field.
. . . . .page 178
And how fared Captain Roberts' little rear-guard of sixty men?
Extending his force in skirmishing order, the young officer pushed on as well as he could, carrying his wounded—one in every six. When darkness came on he halted, for it was hopeless to try to force a way through the jungle-matted woods in the blackness of the night. It was a cold frosty night, and the wounded were in agonies of pain, which their distressed comrades were helpless to relieve. There on the damp and freezing ground they crouched till the moon rose at two o'clock in the morning. Now, guided by five brave fellows of the Maori contingent, Whanganui and Ngati-Apa men, who stood by Roberts and his wounded to the last, the rear-guard recommenced the retreat. Struggling wearily on through the tangling kareao and the densely growing shrubs, stumbling over logs and splashing through little watercourses, they emerged at last thankfully on to the open country, and soon, bearing their wounded and dying comrades across the dark flooded Wai-ngongoro, were greeted by the joyful cheers of their comrades, European and Maori, under Kepa te Rangihiwinui, who had set out from the Waihi Redoubt to their rescue when daylight broke.
Only then was the full story of the repulse pieced together—a story of a fight that in point of numbers page 179 was only a skirmish, as battles go, but that was the most serious set-back the white man had yet suffered at the hands of the brown warriors of the Taranaki bush. Of the twenty-four whites killed five were officers, men who could badly be spared in that frontier warfare. The wounded numbered twenty-six, whose rescue from the tomahawks of the Hauhau was carried out in a way truly heroic.