Soldiering in New Zealand, Being Reminiscences of a Veteran
Pursuit of the Kooti Through the Urewera Country
Pursuit of the Kooti Through the Urewera Country.
Having been invited to describe the operations against Te Kooti in the Urewera country from August, 1870, until his escape to Waikato in May, 1872, I must first give a short account of the events that led up to them, as well as of the Taupo campaign under Herrick and McDonnell, and the fighting at Tapapa in January, 1870, under Colonel McDonnell. I have only my memory to guide me with regard to the dates of this campaign, but as that is fairly good I do not think I shall be far out. So far as I know, no account of the Taupo campaign has been published. The stories of the Urewera and West Coast campaigns have been given in Gudgeon's and Whitmore's books.
In July, 1869, fighting on the west coast had practically ceased. Titokowaru had been driven out of the Patea country by the field force under Colonel Whitmore, and had taken refuge in the Ngatimau country at the back of Waitera. Some two hundred of the Pakakohe tribe under the chief Tauroa had been captured by Major Noake up the Patea river, and the armed constabulary with a division of Ngatiporou occupied New Plymouth and the coast from Patea to Waihi. Armed constabulary were stationed at several positions up to White cliffs; but no actual hostilities again occurred in these districts, though they were in a very unsettled state for many years.
The expedition under Colonel Whitmore moved by way of Auckland to Tauranga and Matata on the Bay of Plenty to take action against Te Kooti. The rebel chief had recently raided Whakatane, capturing a friendly native pa and killing a number of natives and a page 168 Frenchman, his wife and half-caste daughter, who occupied a fortified place outside the pa and made a very gallant defence.
The Urewera force moved up in two columns, one along the Whakatane river into Ruatahuna, the other under Colonel Whitmore by way of Ahikereru. At the end of April or early in May, 1869, another column advanced from Wairoa to Waikaremoana, under Lieut.-Colonel Herrick. It was intended that the three columns should concentrate at Ruatahuna; if, however, Colonel Herrick could not cross the lake, the other columns were to move on after occupying Ruatahuna.
Colonel Herrick's command consisted of the 2nd, 3rd and 5th divisions of armed constabulary, a large contingent of Arawa natives under the chiefs Te Pokiha, Matene, Henare and Petera Te Pukuatua and others, and the corps of guides attached to the staff under Captain Swindley and his able assistant, Sergeant Christopher Maling.
The other force under Colonel St. John comprised the first division of armed constabulary and other detachments, with a large force of Ngatiawa and Ngaitai tribes under Major Mair and the friendly chiefs Wiremu Kingi and Hohaia. Both columns met with heavy fighting, that experienced by Colonel St. John, who captured five native forts on the way to the Whakatane valley and Ruatahuna, being especially severe.
The forces joined at Ruatahuna about the middle of May. Several small indecisive engagements followed in the bush during the next few days, though five natives were killed in one of them. Colonel Whitmore had to abandon his intention of joining Colonel Herrick at Waikaremoana, as his Maoris absolutely refused to go further. They declared that the country was very difficult; that page 169 winter was approaching; that the Huiarau might get covered with snow; in fact any excuse was better than none. In the circumstances Whitmore decided to retire to his base at Fort Galatea on the Rangitaike river, there to await a more favourable opportunity of dealing with Te Kooti and the Urewera, Herrick being ordered to hold his ground at Lake Waikaremoana.
There is no doubt that the Ruatahuna expedition had the effect of proving to the Urewera that their country was not impregnable, and that European forces could fight them in their fastnesses. Considering the nature of the country our losses were very few. Colonel St. John lost Captain Travers, Lieutenant White and five or six men. The bodies of these men were afterwards dug up by order of Te Kooti, who said that they should be food for the beasts of the field and the fowls of the air; I re-interred their bones on my first expedition to Ruatahuna in 1871. The other column lost only one killed, a Taranaki guide named Hemi, who had distinguished himself in many fights at Taranaki, and three wounded, including the late Tom Adamson of the constabulary.
The whole force retired to Fort Galatea and the intervening posts on the coast between there and Matata. Colonel Whitmore left the district in charge of Lieut.-Colonel St. John, and went on to Wellington after interviewing Colonel Herrick at Wairoa with regard to further movements.
A change of government having taken place in the month of June, active hostilities were suspended for a while. I had been sent by Colonel Whitmore to Patea with a fresh contingent of Ngatiporou who had been enrolled for service in the armed constabulary on the west coast. After handing them over to Major Noake at Patea, I returned to Wellington, and then received instructions to proceed to the Bay of page 170 Plenty with Colonel Harrington, who was to take command. On our arrival at Matata, Colonel Harrington ordered Colonel St. John and Colonel Fraser with the whole force to abandon the redoubts from Matata to Fort Galatea, and to fall back on Tauranga, where he intended to put them through a course of drill for a few months.
Just before this, Colonel St. John, under instructions from Colonel Whitmore, had proceeded to Taupo for the purpose of arranging for the occupation of that country, and making a further line of forts from Galatea to Taupo. Unfortunately he went up with a very few men. Leaving most of a small detachment of troopers at the Opepe bush, he went on to Tapuaeharuru on the lake to consult with the friendly chief, Poihipi Tukairangi. On his return the next day he found that Te Kooti, with a large body of men, had come up behind him, occupied the bush and surrounded the troopers, who were all killed with the exception of three who escaped towards Fort Galatea.
I afterwards heard from natives who were with Te Kooti that they had no idea that our forces were moving towards Taupo. When they came on their tracks, and saw there was only a small party, they decided to cut it off. They worked their way round to their camp through the edge of the bush, sending by the track a friendly native who had been taken by Te Kooti to get into conversation with our people and put them off their guard. The plan acted well. Trooper Gill, knowing the man as a friendly, but unaware that he had been taken prisoner by Te Kooti, got into conversation with him, and was told that he was with some other friendly natives who had come to scout. A few more came up and engaged our men in talk, thus giving the main body time to surround them, with the result as stated above. Te Kooti moved on to Waikato, getting the adherence of Te Heuheu and all his people.page 171
Subsequent events proved that the occupation of Taupo was the right policy, but it was unwise to send forward a small body of men a distance of over forty miles from the main body. The withdrawal of the troops from Fort Galatea to Tauranga was another insane act, as will be shown hereafter.
About the beginning of August I was ordered by Colonel Harrington to proceed from Tauranga to join Captain St. George, who was in command of the friendly natives at Tapuaeharuru, where all the Maoris at the northern end of the lake and surrounding districts had assembled, under their chiefs, Hohepa Tamamutu and Te Poihipi Tukairangi. After some time word came up from Napier that the friendly natives under Henare Tomoana were advancing with the field force which had been withdrawn from Waikaremoana under Colonel Herrick. This caused great joy in camp, for it was known that Te Kooti had returned from Waikato to Tokaanu, at the south end of the lake, and was there in considerable strength.
There was the usual delay in moving up into new country. Towards the middle of September we got orders to proceed to the south end of the lake by water and co-operate with Henare Tomoana and Colonel Herrick. They were to move on from Runanga where the bulk of the force had arrived; Henare Tomoana was to take the lead, Colonel Herrick was to follow. Tomoana, however, pushed too far ahead and engaged the enemy at Tauranga, a pa on the Taupo lake, before we could join him. We were delayed by adverse winds and arrived on the following day, too late to take part in the fight, to find that Te Kooti had lost several men and had abandoned his position during the night. If the whole of our force had got there he would have been in trap; but Tomoana's party was not strong enough to take the fort unaided, and we had the mortification of seeing another good page 172 opportunity lost.
Tomoana's party and ours moved on to Tokaanu, Te Heuheu's place, the same day, and we heard of the arrival of Colonel Herrick and his force at Tauranga early next morning. The rebels had abandoned Tokaanu before our arrival, and were traced towards the upper end of Lake Rotoaira. Colonel McDonnell sent word that he had arrived at the northern end of the lake with Renata Kawepo and his men from Hawkes Bay, and that he expected to be joined in a few days by Major Kemp with the Whanganui contingent.
In the course of the morning our scouts found signs of the enemy on Te Pononga hill at the back of the settlement. I moved out at once with the Arawa contingent, Captain St. George having gone to Rotoaira to meet Colonel McDonnell. We did not then think that the enemy was in force, but at the edge of the bush they had entrenched themselves in rifle pits, and we were soon involved in a hot engagement. Henare Tomoana advanced with his men and we had a stubborn fight, driving the enemy from point to point. Captain St. George came up with reinforcements, and quickly grasping the position, gave orders to charge. It was all over in a few minutes. The rifle pits were filled with dead. Amongst them was Wi Popata, one of Te Kooti's best men, who had followed him from the Chatham Islands. We lost one man killed, and a young chief of Maniapoto mortally wounded. Colonel McDonnell came up just in time to see the finish of the fight and to congratulate us on our success. On our return to camp we found that Colonel Herrick had arrived with the armed constabulary field force. I think the date of this fight was 27th September, 1869.
During the next few months Te Heuheu and his natives surrendered to us at Poutu, and reported that Te Kooti was wounded in the hand and side and was in the bush. We made numerous expeditions and had some small engagements up to the middle of January. Colonel Herrick had left and Colonel McDonnell remained in command. Kemp returned to Wanganui to get more men.
Two very brave actions performed at this time by members of the native contingent are worthy of record. It was necessary to send a despatch to the Premier, Mr. (afterwards Sir William) Fox, who was at Hiruharema on the Whanganui river. I was in charge of page 176 the Taupo and Arawa contingents after Captain St. George's death, and Colonel McDonnell instructed me to send a native orderly with a despatch more than 90 miles, of which 30 were open to the enemy. None of the Taupo natives knew the road, so I said to Te Puia (who was partly a Whanganui and partly an Arawa), “The colonel wants a despatch carried to Hiruharema; do you know the country?” He replied, “Yes, give me a trooper's horse, and let me take any horse I see on my way.” He faithfully carried out his instructions, and on his return got through in one day and part of one night; he had used five horses on his way there and back, picking up his troop horse to get to camp. I often quoted this man as an example to other natives, but they only replied, “That is not bravery; he was a fool; he did not know he was in danger.”
The other incident occurred when we wanted to get accurate information as to Te Kooti's movements. He was known to be in the neighbourhood of Taumaranui, and two men, Te Honiana and Wiremu (I forget his other name), volunteered to go through on a scouting expedition. They went fully armed with carbines and revolvers, travelling the open part of the track by night, and the bush part by day, a distance of forty miles, mostly bush. They reached the ridge just above the settlement at Taumaranui, where, lying hidden part of a day, they heard all the speeches of the enemy. At the end of five days they returned to report that the rebels were moving along the west side of the lake to Tapapa at the back of Tauranga. I do not think that this valuable service of theirs was ever recorded.
No sooner was this information obtained than news came that Major Kemp and Topia (an up-river Whanganui who had recently left Te Kooti to join us) were on their way to us with 200 men. Moving by the eastern side of the lake we crossed the Waikato river page 177 at Whakamaru. There Colonel McDonnell decided to halt for the arrival of Kemp and Topia. I was sent on through the bush with an advance party to locate the enemy, and managed to surprise and capture a party of Ngatiraukawa, who were local Hau-haus. They said that Te Kooti was at Tapapa in great force, but they did not want to join him. Although some of the tribe had done so, they themselves only wished to be left alone. I sent back to inform the colonel that I thought it advisable to stay where I was, and to keep the natives under control. We camped there and kept a good guard. Late in the night we heard a call some way off on our front. We challenged, and after a little while we heard an English voice, to which I replied, and found that it was Sergeant Maling, who, with a native orderly named Raimona, had been sent from Tauranga by Colonel Fraser with despatches to Colonel McDonnell. They had crossed Te Kooti's trail on the Tokoroa plains and had got between us and the enemy. This was only one of Maling's many plucky acts. Two days after, lying low by day and marching at night, we attacked and took Tapapa. On the following day Te Kooti reversed the order and attacked us just as we were about to move out against him. It was fortunate he attacked us when he did, for if we had moved off he would only have found a small force there.
I need not mention all the little engagements in the Tapapa bush during the month we were there. Suffice it to say that after getting through our lines and Fraser's, Te Kooti made for Ohinemutu, and would probably have taken the place, if it had not been for the determination of Captain Mair who forced an action while Petara Pukuatua and other natives were parleying with him. The result was a running fight and his escape into the Urewera country after severe loss.page 178
The force then moved to Tauranga, and thence to Matata with the intention of working against Te Kooti with the Ngatiporou under Major Ropata and Captain Porter from the Poverty Bay side, and from the Bay of Plenty by way of Waimana or Ruatahuna and Ahikereru.
The Whanganui natives had moved to Whanganui under Major Kemp, and Colonel McDonnell proceeded from there to interview the Minister of Defence, Mr. (afterwards Sir Donald) McLean. I was instructed to go to Tarawera and then on to Fort Galatea with a body of Arawas, and, as soon as a column arrived, to make a movement on the Urewera through Ahikereru. After a short while we were ordered back to Tarawera, and shortly afterwards to Te Teko.
It had then been decided by Mr. McLean to relieve Colonel McDonnell of his command. The field force of armed constabulary was sent to occupy a line of posts at Taupo and several points on the Bay of Plenty. Meanwhile the field work was to be carried on by natives under their own chiefs and a few European officers.
I received instructions about 26th March to disband the Arawa and Taupo native contingents, and to enroll a special corps of not more than a hundred picked Maoris, who should be drilled in the same way as the European force. I was to be stationed at Te Teko and work from there as a base. Captain Mair had been instructed to raise a similar number and would be stationed at Kaiterirea. He and I were under the officer commanding the Tauranga district. We were ordered to act together and meet at Fort Galatea patrolling the country, and at the same time to keep in touch with Major Roberts commanding the Taupo district; but a good deal of discretion was allowed us. I picked my men from all tribes and avoided choosing any chiefs in order that I might have them under my own page 179 control, as I had previously had a sickening of native chiefs. I had considerable opposition from the chiefs, but I selected good men in spite of them, and was fortunate in getting some excellent European and Maori non-commissioned officers. I never regretted the composition of the force. The men worked well together; my Europeans were experienced armed constabulary men, and one of the native sergeants had been many years in the Auckland police and was well drilled.
In the meanwhile the Whanganui natives, under Major Kemp, Ropata Wahawaha and Captain Porter, the loyal Ngatai tribe under the chief Wiremu Kingi, and the Ngatiawa under Hohaia and Hori Kawakura, attacked Te Kooti at Maraetai in the Waioeka gorge after he had raided Opepe, a settlement near Opotiki, where he had captured a number of the Whakatohea tribe and taken them inland with him. These operations were very successful. Ropata drove the natives out of their stronghold, and as they escaped from him they fell into the hands of Kemp and his men. The local Maoris who had been taken prisoners, or had joined him recently, were spared, but the Chatham Islanders belonging to Te Kooti's band got no mercy. A great many were killed; Hakaraia, a noted old ruffian, was among them. Of Te Kooti's Whakatohea captives, 270 men, women and children were taken by us, and we discovered a letter from one of their chiefs to Te Kooti inviting him to make the raid, which explained why he had spared their lives when he took them.
From 6th April, 1870, Captain Mair and I made expeditions on the borders of the Urewera country, and had a few unimportant skirmishes with the enemy in different places. On 17th April a Ngati-whare, named Paraone Te Tuhi, and four others who had been in one of the skirmishes, came in under a white flag and surrendered. Paraone said to us: “I am the rope; pull me and the horse will page 180 follow,” intimating that he was the first to give himself up, and that if we sent him back to his tribe they also would surrender. Shortly after this the whole of the Ngatiwhare tribe from Ahikereru, under their chiefs Hapurona Kohi and Hamuera, came in, and under instructions from the Government, they were conveyed to the coast near Matata and located there. Subsequently natives of the Warahoe tribe surrendered under their chief Wi Patene, and were settled near my redoubt at Te Teko, the Government providing them with food until they could gather their crops. In all cases they gave up their arms.
Here I must mention that when Kemp and his Whanganui advanced from Ohiwa up the Whanganui river, Tamaikoha, the Urewera chief of Waimana, who had been the leading spirit in the rebellion in the Opotiki country in 1867 and 1868, met Kemp and made peace. He declared that he had never joined Te Kooti, and promised that our troops could go through his country in pursuit of the rebel chief without being molested by his men
Some time after the junction of Kemp's party with Ropata's and their successful fight at Maraetai, and after they had left the neighbourhood, Colonel St. John, who then commanded the district, heard that rebels were afoot, and had made a raid up the Waimana. He fired on some men he saw, killing one, who unfortunately turned out to be one of Tamaikoha's men. This naturally caused trouble, because Tamaikoha said that we had made a treacherous peace and then attacked him. Colonel St. John was removed from the district, and Major Mair was sent to try and patch matters up. His efforts were successful, and Tamaikoha was ever afterwards our firm friend. I mention this for a reason that will appear later.
The Urewera tribe as a whole were growing weary of allowing themselves to be used by the rebel leader. Early in May I had heard page 181 that the chiefs Paerau Te Rangikaitipuaki and Te Whenuanui of Ruatahuna were inclined to break away from Te Kooti, who, after his defeat at Maraetai, had taken up a position with the remnant of his followers at Te Hautapu at the head waters of the Waioeka and Hangaroa rivers, about midway between Opotiki and Wairoa on Hawkes Bay. I accordingly sent letters to them telling them that if they would come in and give up their arms, we would merely go through their country in pursuit of Te Kooti, and would not harm them. They replied that the peace made with Tamaikoha had resulted in blood being spilt, and that they would not surrender. However, shortly after this Te Whenuanui met Major Mair at Ruatoki, and peace was made with his party. A little later Paerau met me at Ahikereru, and his people made peace and opened their country to us. After these important surrenders the only chief of the Urewera on the Ruatahuna side of the country who supported Te Kooti was Kereru, who occupied the lower end of the valley and Maungapowhatu; one chief of the latter place had surrendered to me with the Ngatiwhare.
About this time a body of Wairoa natives under Mr. F. E. Hamlin took up a position at Onepoto Waikaremoana, and the Urewera wrote to me saying that we were fighting them on one side of their country, and making peace on the other. After a few skirmishes the chief. Hona Te Makarini, and his people gave themselves up to Mr. Hamlin, and with a few other chiefs went to Napier to confer with Mr. Ormond.
This ended the war against the Urewera, although a small section of them from Maungapowhatu under Te Whiu were still out with Te Kooti at Te Wera or Te Houpapa. Among them was Kepa Te Ahuru, a trooper of No. 1 Division A.C., who had been captured by Te Kooti at Rotorua just before Mair's engagement with him. This man afterwards escaped during a skirmish when Te Kooti raided page 182 Tologa Bay. He made his way through the country to Maungapowhatu and surrendered to me at Horomanga. I sent him to Tauranga to report himself to Colonel Moule, who, having satisfied himself that he was forcibly detained and had taken the first opportunity of escaping, sent him back to duty and gave him his back pay. Kepa was then attached to my force. He served in it for several years, and was on all the subsequent expeditions through the Urewera country.
Te Waru and his tribe of Wairoa natives, who dared not show themselves at Wairoa on account of the murder of four scouts at their pa, Whataroa, in October, 1868, surrendered unconditionally to me at Horomanga and laid down their arms. These people were sent under escort to Tauranga as there were murderers among them, but the Government decided to place them on the coast at Maketu under charge of loyal Maoris. They were afterwards settled at Waiotahi, near Opotiki, on land allotted to them by the Government, and were never allowed to return to the Wairoa district.
On one of the many expeditions that we made during the latter part of 1870, scouring the borderlands of the Urewera, we intercepted a party of Te Kooti's men trying to get through to Waikato, and drove them back into the bush near Heruiwi. One of these men, Paora Wakahoehoe, was afterwards killed at Waipaoa in May, 1871. Another, named Maka, was captured by Captain Ferris in the early part of 1872. He was one of the ringleaders of Te Kooti's butchers who committed the atrocities at Poverty Bay, and was tried at Napier and condemned to death. The sentence, however, was commuted to penal servitude for life, and after serving ten years he was released.
From the latter part of 1870 to April, 1871, we, in conjunction with Captain Mair's contingent, patrolled the country from Te Teko as far as Heruiwi, and through the bush from Waiohau to Horomanga page 183 and Ahikereru, keeping in constant touch with the constabulary under Major Roberts at Taupo and Major Mair at Opotiki. Then orders came that we were to hold ourselves in readiness to take the field against Te Kooti, as it was reported that he was making for Waikaremoana to avoid Ropata and Porter, who were moving up towards Te Houpapa from Poverty Bay.
On 27th May, 1871, Captain Mair and I started from Fort Galatea on our first expedition after Te Kooti through the Urewera country. We had about 50 men of each contingent and had brought up three weeks' rations from Te Teko. We arrived at Ahikereru the following day and then got deep into the Urewera mountains, where the knowledge of the country that we had gained on Colonel Whitmore's Ruatahuna expedition was of great service to us. On our arrival at Ruatahuna we were welcomed by the natives under Te Whenuanui and Paerau, this being the first visit of troops to their country since we had made peace with them in 1870. We camped there one day and buried the remains of Captain Travers, A.C., and the five men who had been exhumed by Te Kooti in May, 1868. With us was old Hapurona, the chief of the first Ureweras who surrendered to us. He was a man of great influence with the Urewera, and could be trusted to give us reliable information. Our passage through the country was not without risk of opposition from the more irreconcilable members of this wild hill tribe. Indeed, just before we left Ruatahuna we received a defiant message from Kereru, a chief who occupied the lower end of the Ruatahuna valley, warning us to return or we might get into trouble; this man's influence extended as far as Maungapowhatu.
Our first march was over the Huiarau range, and thence through rugged country and down the river-bed to Hereheretaunga on the Waikaramoana lake. We had previously sent an Urewera native with page 184 a message to Te Makarini, the chief who had surrendered to Mr. F. E. Hamlin in the latter part of the previous year, bidding him to have canoes to take us over to his settlement and to be ready to meet us. We found the canoes duly provided, and having crossed to Waitohi, sent them back for Mair and his men. On the following day we went over to Tikitiki, Makarini's settlement. Mair remained there with his men while I crossed with Sergeant Bluett, twelve men, and a prisoner named Hone Pareha, one of Te Kooti's men who had recently turned up at Tikitiki. Other Wairoa natives were there who had left Te Kooti, and they promised to surrender to Major Cumming at Wairoa, Makarini undertaking to take them out. I proceeded to Wairoa to get further provisions and boots for our men. Though we had exceptionally bad weather we got back ten days later with a good supply.
Taking with us Hapurona, who proved very useful as a guide, we crossed the lake to the Whanganui arm towards Maungapowhatu, travelled for one day up the Hoporuwahine stream, and then ascended the range by a very old track. On the third day we arrived at Maungapowhatu, surrounded the settlement of Te Kakari, and then sent Hapurona to tell the natives that we had no quarrel with any one but Te Kooti's people, who must surrender. When they found that we were in possession of their place they made no trouble. We afterwards learned that as we marched in, Kereopa, the murderer of the Rev. Mr. Volkner, escaped out of the other side of the fort.
We then pushed on through the bush to Tauaki, the next settlement, by a good well-used track. Our intention was to go as far as Te Wera, at the head of the Waioeka and Hangaroa rivers, where Te Kooti was believed to be. But bad weather set in again, and we halted until Tamaikoha arrived on 21st June. He advised us not to go page 185 on to Te Wera as supplies were running low, but to make for Opotiki by way of Waimana.
It was now late in the season, and the weather being unfavourable we decided to follow his advice. We went on to Opokere and from there to Te Whakaumu, where the track to Te Wera parts off, thence to Tawhana, the junction of the Tauranga and Tawhana creeks which form the Waimana valley. Our next point was Tauwharemanuka, where Tamaikoha had built a large whare. It had been named Runanga to commemorate the making of peace, but he, with grim humour, renamed it Tipene after the man who was shot by St. John's party after peace had been made. A long march down the stream, which we crossed no less than forty-two times, took us into the Waimana valley proper, and here is an extract from my notes: “The Waimana is a very fine valley for small farms; the land is of the best quality.” On the 26th we arrived at Opotiki, and after some bad weather reached Te Teko on the 2nd July.
We had been over a month going through some of the roughest country in New Zealand, and although we had not achieved much in the way of fighting, we had shown the Urewera that we could get through their country in the depths of winter. After events proved that it was fortunate that we did not go to the Te Wera country, for Te Kooti was close to Waikaremoana at the time we were there, and had a distant view of us as we returned.
On 17th July we received a telegram stating that he was at Waikaremoana, and that Ropata and Porter were seeking for him in that direction; Major Cumming and fifty men were also going to Waikaremoana, and we were instructed to keep a sharp outlook on our side. On the 19th instructions came that we were to proceed to Ruatahuna. We got the men ready and started the same day for Fort page 186 Galatea, where we met Captain Mair with his men. The weather was fearful. Flooded rivers forced us to make a detour of over twenty miles before we crossed the Rangitaike river by the natural bridge at Te Arawhata, and then we were compelled to fell trees to make a crossing over a branch of the river. We had to send to Major Roberts for a further supply of rations.
In spite of the weather which still continued to be very bad, we were constantly busy. Captain Mair started with twelve men to scout the country towards Runanga where Captain Gudgeon was stationed. I sent a sergeant to scout towards Ahikereru. Mr. Ormond telegraphed that Te Kooti was supposed to be at Ruatahuna. Captain Scannell arrived with a body of constabulary to take up a position at Okaromatakiwi between us and Captain Gudgeon to prevent Te Kooti breaking through. On the 29th the rations arrived by pack-horses from Opepe. In the meanwhile, in reply to a message which I had sent to Urewera to enquire if Te Kooti had been heard of near Ruatahuna, word came that he had not been in that locality, but that it was reported he had disappeared from Waikaremoana on the 31st. Captain Mair returned from Runanga, but had found no traces of him in that direction. On the same day a telegram arrived instructing us to march for Waikaremoana with the least possible delay by whatever route we thought advisable.
We started at once, making for Pareranui through the bush. The Whirinaki river was flooded, and we had great difficulty in crossing, but in the open valley of Ahirinaki we found good marching for about five miles. Then we took to the bush again and camped at Manawahiwi. The next day we marched over the ranges to Oputao in the Ruatahuna valley, and thence to Te Whatakoko where we camped, and sent a message to Paerau at Ruatahuna telling him to keep his page 187 people together for fear Te Kooti should get hold of them. Starting at daylight next morning we marched through bush, crossed the Huiarau range at 11 a.m., and soon reached Hereheretaunga on the lake. There were no canoes, although we had wired to Wairoa before we started that canoes were to await our arrival there. Consequently we had to cut our way through the bush, skirting the lake over very rough country to Maungarerewai, where we fired guns to attract the attention of Makarini's people at Tikitiki. No other course was open to us. It was impossible to get further round the lake owing to the nature of the country. We had, therefore, to take the risk that Te Kooti might hear our guns and make off. Two men came over in canoes. They reported that Major Cumming was at Onepoto on the other side of the lake, and though his men had followed Te Kooti's trail on the Whanganui-a-Parua arm of the lake, they could see no fires. All that night and all next day it snowed heavily, and there was a heavy sea on the lake. Fortunately our camp was on a point which had been an old potato cultivation, and the men were able to get a few potatoes by digging through the snow.
On 4th August two men arrived in a small boat with a letter from Captain G. McDonnell. Mair remained with the men and I went in the boat to arrange with Captain Cumming for rations. We were unable to get to Onepoto owing to the heavy sea and remained at Makarini's pa at Tikitiki for the night. Early next morning I got over to Major Cumming's at Onepoto, secured three days' rations and arrived at Mair's camp to find his people nearly starving. Next day we moved over in canoes to Whanganui-a-Parua, and leaving ten men to guard the canoes, started through the bush to the top of the range from where we could see Lake Waikareiti. Sergeant Bluett was the first white man who ever saw it. He climbed a tree and called down to page 188 us that he had located it.
We thought it likely that Te Kooti might be making in that direction. Captain Mair returned with ten men to search the edges of the lake towards Te Onepoto, while I went over the range and followed the trail of one man until it joined others, and at last brought us to a camp which appeared to have been left about four days. From there I sent word back that we were on the trail. That night we caught a dog, and then knew that we were not far from the enemy. Early next morning we started to follow the trail, and had only gone a short distance when a volley was fired at us as we were going up a ridge. There were no casualties as they fired too high. Our men returned the fire, but the enemy soon got away into the bush. We followed for some distance, but found they had scattered, and as we only had food for one day we deemed it advisable to let them know that we had retired. It was evident that they were making along the Matakuhia range. Knowing the country well I thought that if we returned to Onepoto and got fresh supplies we could make for the same direction as the enemy by keeping on the Waikareiti side of the range, while we should avoid ambuscades if we did not follow directly in their track. At Onepoto, to our surprise, we found Captain Mair, with Sergeant Bluett and the whole of his force, and decided to go back over the same ground with all the men. After a forced march we came upon a camp of Te Kooti's at the base of Matakuhia range, and found there a letter from him, which ran as follows:—
“Ki Nga Kawanatanga Katoa. E hoa, ma he kupu tenei naku kia koutou, me mutu te whaiwhai i au notemea kei taku nohonga ano au e noho ana, kei te puihi, engari ka puta au ki te moana whaia, ko tenei mahi kohuru a koutou me te kiorete
ketu and i te hamuti me whakarere, he whai na koutou i au tonoa mai he tangata kia haere atu au ki waho na tatou riri ai. Kapai.
He kupu ke tenei ko taku mahara ko te maungarongo te oranga ko te mahi kai hoki kati kei te whakarite ahau i enei mahara kia oti. E hoa, ma ko tena mahara a tatou ko te riri kaore ano i tae mai ki au engari ka tata ahau te whakarite ia koutou mahara, engari kia tupato kei ki koutou kaore.
E hoa, ma i tonoa atu e au aku tamariki ki te kawe i taku pukapuka whakahoki mo koutou tahuri ana koutou ki te whawhai. Kati kauaka hei haku ki to koutou matenga, ko aua tamariki hoki ko Hata Tipoki ko Epiha Puairangi ko Patoromu ko Ruru he tamariki end i tohia ki te tohi o Tu i whangaia ki te whatunui a Rua. He tamariki hoki e whakaaro nui ana ki te whenua.
Heoi ano. Ki te kino koutou ki ena korero me aha mo koutou na ano ia.
Na to koutou hoa riri,
Na Te Turuki.”
(Translation of Te Kooti's letter).
To all Government men.
Sirs. This is a word of mine to you. You must give up chasing me about because I am dwelling in my own abiding place, the bush. But if I come out to the coast then pursue me. This murderous purpose of yours in pursuing me is like a rat rooting dung: you must give it up. Send a man to tell me to come out to you in the open where we can fight. That would be fair.
This is another word.
My thought is that in the maintenance of peace and in the cultivation of food is safety. I am trying to carry out these thoughts and to accomplish them. Sirs, that idea of yours that we should fight has not come to me yet; but I am about to adopt your idea, so beware. Do not say it will not be.
That is all.
Sirs, I sent to you some of my young men to carry my letter warning you and you attacked them. Cease then to complain about your own killed. Those young men, Hata Tipoki and Epiha Puairangi and Patoromu and Ruru, were young men consecrated by the rites of Tu and fed with the bread of Rua. They were young men who loved their country.
That is all. If you dislike these words what does it matter? All the worse for you.
From your enemy,
We camped for the night, but not wishing to attract the attention of the enemy, did not light fires until 9 a.m., and then only with dry supple-jacks to boil tea. On the following morning Mair and I went forward with forty men without swags, and came to an old kainga a few miles from Eripeti on the Ruakituri river. We struck back into the bush where we heard a dog bark, but, not finding it, kept along the bush parallel with the track. No traces of people who had been pig hunting were found. Te Kooti's party appeared to have broken up into small parties in their usual way, and we were at a great disadvantage in not being able to get supplies without going back for them.
On the following day I went out with Sergeant Bluett and thirty men. We climbed the Matakuhia range, and after crossing several gullies, at length struck the enemy's trail which we followed until we found his camp, which seemed to have been abandoned three days earlier. The trail appeared to go down towards Papuni, but there it scattered again. We then returned to camp. The following day page 191 Captain Mair and I decided to go back to Onepoto for a fresh supply of rations, and to follow the course that I at first thought of as the only means of overtaking the enemy, namely, from Whanganui-a-Parua across country at the back of the Matakuhia range towards the Waipaoa river.
On 13th August we drew ten days' rations from Major Cumming, intending to get across the lake next day; but the sea was too high, and we were obliged to make our way round through very rough country. We then struck across through the trackless bush, guided by compass and cutting our way, till we reached a high table land where there was no undergrowth and travelling was easier. Heavy snow fell and we had to camp early. On the following day we marched through more difficult country. The men complained of cold, but were still cheerful, believing that we were making for Maungapowhatu. Next morning it was still snowing when we reached the top of a dividing range, and sent a man up a tree to observe the country in the Waipaoa valley. To our delight he beckoned to Mair and me to climb up, saying that he saw smoke. We soon saw that he was right, and at once began to descend the range into the Waipaoa valley. It was necessary to go carefully and with as little noise as possible, and it took us four hours to reach the valley across an intervening ridge. At the river we found a camp a day old. Leaving a guard of thirty men there we hurried on, and after two hours came on the trail. Kepa Te Ahuru, N.Z.C., captured a woman named Mere Maihe, from whom we ascertained that the camp was not far off, though many of the men were out in different directions hunting pig, and might come in from any side. Te Kooti and some of his followers, however, were in camp, and as it was already late and there was no time to be lost we decided to attack at once.page 192
The enemy were taken completely by surprise and made no stand. Four men, Paora Te Wakahoehoe of Wairoa (who I recognised), Mehaka Hare, a Bay of Islands native, Petera and Wi Heretaunga, two Chatham Islands men, were killed; and we captured four women and three children, took nine rifles, two B.L. rifles, three revolvers, four fowling pieces, and a greenstone mere. We also found Te Kooti's shoulder belt full of Spencer ammunition, a trophy which I still have. Two men were in a hut on the left. One of them named Paora was shot as he was swimming across the stream; the other got over up the bank, fired one shot, and then disappeared into the bush. This, as we afterwards found, was Te Kooti himself, who thus narrowly escaped us. If most of the men had not been away pig hunting, our success would have been greater. We followed the few who had escaped, but night was falling and we had to abandon the chase.
We left camp next day, and after two days' hard marching got out of the bush into the fern country, where we camped on an old potato cultivation; this helped us as we were again getting short of food. We had made arrangements with Major Cumming to send a party with pack-horses with supplies along the open country towards Whataroa, as we knew we should have to make for that district, and seeing their fires in that direction we sent a corporal and nine men to meet them and advise them of our whereabouts. In the meanwhile as our men had had a very hard time we determined to try to communicate with Ropata and Captain Porter, who were believed to be in the vicinity of Te Papuni with the Ngatiporou tribe.
It was decided that I with forty men should make a forced march up the Ruakituri river and endeavour to overtake them. I knew the country well, having been through it during the fighting in 1865 and 1868. Heavy rain, however, prevented me from getting away till the page 193 22nd, and I was again delayed on the 24th at Erepeti by flood. We crossed the Ruakituri river by bridging a narrow place, and had a hard march over the hills by Colonel Whitmore's track. Then cutting the track to escape the river, we met seven sick Ngatiporou with Ropata and Porter ahead. On the morning of 25th August we reached Papuni, and left Sergeant Bluett and forty men in camp there. The rest of us hurrying on caught up the Ngatiporou on the range nine miles from Papuni, where they had just found a trail of one man. After reporting our engagement to Ropata and Porter, and telling them we thought Te Kooti was making for Maungapowhatu, we returned to Papuni that night and got back to Mair's camp the next night, covering six Ngatiporou camps in one day. At last, on the 28th, we reached Wairoa, having been constantly on the move from 17th July through the roughest country in New Zealand and carrying our supplies.
From Wairoa we had to march to Whangawehi on the northern side of Mahia, where we shipped for Whakatane, getting back to Te Teko on 8th September. On 14th we got news that after we left them, Ropata and Porter followed Te Kooti's trail to Opokere at Maungapowhatu, where they surprised him early one morning, killing four men and taking seven prisoners, including one of Te Kooti's wives.
On 22nd September, Captain Mair and I with some fresh men in place of those unfit to march, met at Fort Galatea and started on another expedition up the Horomanga gorge. Our way thence lay over rough country to Omaruteane on the Whakatane river, one of Keruru's settlements, where we were met by Paerau, Te Whenuanui and other Urewera chiefs, but not by Kereru. On the 26th we got a letter from Te Purewa, a chief at Maungapowhatu, saying that he had found Te Kooti's trail and was following it. We reached our old page 194 camping ground at Te Kakari next day and were well received by the Maoris, who reported that some of Te Kooti's men who had left him had got guns and rejoined him.
Then we started for Neketuri for the purpose of hunting up Kereopa, who we heard was there, and to endeavour to pick up Te Kooti's trail. Sergeant Huta and ten men went in another direction, but Te Kooti had four weeks' start of us, and the heavy rain had obliterated his tracks. For several days we divided our men into small parties under Huta and Bluett, Captain Mair and myself, each going in a different direction through the bush, our main camp being at Te Kakari. On the 30th, Mair sent word that he had found a trail leading towards Ruatahuna or Waikaremoana, and Bluett came in with his party and reported that Hemi Kakitu and twenty men of Tamaikoha's tribe had joined in the pursuit of their own accord. We now spread out our men in three parties to follow up the trail, Mair moving by Tatahoata with the main body. One day we passed two camps. Te Kooti had about twenty followers and was avoiding the settlements of Urewera, keeping away from the tracks.
When we reached Tatahoata we found that a trail had been found at Paterangi, inland from Ahikereru, and that Mair had started by the ordinary track with thirty men and intended to sleep at Tarapounamu. Within half an hour we were off once more, and reached Tahuaroa that night. On the following morning we made a splendid march over the ranges to the foot of Pukiore, where we found that though Mair had not passed, Paerau with ten men had gone by. The river being low we decided to go by the Okehu stream. Mair caught us up about one mile and a half from Ahikereru, and we arrived there at 11 a.m. Paerau and his Maoris there reported that the trail had been seen on the 30th on the Okehu stream beyond Paterangi, evidently several page 195 days old; so sending the sick to Fort Galatea under Sergeant Matutaera, we marched to Whataroa.
It was evident that Te Kooti was making for Waikato. We started next morning in heavy rain and had trouble crossing the Whirinaki river. Mair went with his column by way of Tapiri, and I struck through the bush by an old track. At Ohihape we struck a trail, but it was old. After we had followed it for some time, one of our men caught sight of a Maori, but we lost his track, though we found a place where Te Kooti had camped about six days before; the man whom we saw was evidently in search of Te Kooti and had slept there the previous night. Here Mair joined us. He went off again with 35 men and Bluett with ten; I started with my column to Arawhata to communicate with Captain Morrison and get fresh supplies from Opepe, and went on to Ngahuinga. Next day Mair had a brush with Te Kooti in the bush. There were no casualties on either side, but we knew at least that he had not escaped to Waikato.
The weather continued very bad for several days, and we had so little food that we could not move. Starting again on 10th October for the bush in very cold weather with snow and hail, we found a trail of Te Kooti's people in small parties of twos and threes, which we followed until we lost it on open ground. Tamaikoha's men reported that they had seen signs of the enemy in a creek in the bush, and had followed them until night.
Tamaikoha with twenty Ureweras now joined us, and Rakuraku, another of the Urewera chiefs, went to Ruatahuna to cut in ahead of Te Kooti in case he should double back that way. Next day we followed the trail through dense bush along the ranges beyond Ahikereru, coming in the afternoon on his camp where we slept: we thought he would be at Weraiti by that time. As we were short of page 196 food, Mair and I decided to return, leaving Tamaikoha to follow up the trail, and we went out into open country to await supplies from Opepe. On 17th October word came in that Hemi Kakitu had attacked Te Kooti in Okehu at the back of Ahikereru, wounding one man, capturing one rifle and a woman; so we went on to Ahikereru with 43 men and interviewed Huhana, the captive woman, who stated Te Kooti was trying to get to Waikato, but that some of his men were not willing to venture it. Scouting parties were sent out right and left. Sergeant Huta, finding traces of three men, for several days scoured the bush at the back of Ahikereru and towards the head of the Okahu stream, but came upon no more signs of the rebels. On 24th October some of our scouts returned, reporting a trail up Okahu leading towards Te Weraiti. We followed it for three days beyond Weraiti at the back of Ruatahuna, where we met Netana, Rukaruka's brother, who said that their party had surprised three men; they had, however, escaped down the creek, leaving cooked food behind them. At Ruatahuna one of Te Kooti's men had surrendered to the chiefs. He was a young Urewera chief from Maungapowhatu named Te Whiu. The Urewera were not inclined to hand him over to us, and as they had given us help in the chase and promised to be answerable for his future behaviour, I allowed him to remain with them.
Heavy rain set in for several days and we were obliged to make for Ahikereru once more. Then starting again from the head of the Whirinaki valley we crossed the ranges at the head of the Ngamate and Okehu streams and on to the dividing range over the head of Waiau. The heavy rains, the flooded streams and shortness of food combined to make it dangerous for us to remain in the bush, so we made back to Ahikereru, and on 4th November returned to Te Teko, leaving men at Galatea. On the 22nd it was reported that Ropata and Porter had page 197 been to Ruatahuna and had captured Kereopa who was being sent to Wairoa, Hawkes Bay. On 7th December I sent Sergeant Raimona, with a small party, on our last track, with instructions to go further on towards the head of Okehu stream and then to turn down stream. Instead of following my directions they crossed the range into the Waiau valley, where they lost themselves. Then going down the Waiau for four days, they came out at the western end of Lake Waikare-moana, and managed to communicate with Captain McDonnell at Onepopo Here they were supplied with rations and they got back to camp on the 15th, just as I was starting with a party to search for them. They had followed the tracks of two white men and a woman in the Waiau, and this gave us a clue as to the whereabouts of Te Kooti.
On 17th December Ropata and Porter with their party reached Whatatane from Ruatahuna after sending Kereopa under escort to Napier. A month passed quietly, and on 18th January, 1872, Captain Mair and I made an expedition up the Horomanga gorge, on a rumour that Te Kooti was in the vicinity of Tutaepuke-puke. We captured two men, who denied that he had been in the locality. However, we detained them and surrounded the settlement at daylight next morning. They were very indignant at being made prisoners and stoutly denied all knowledge of Te Kooti, and after they had prepared plenty of food for us and invited us to stop a month and search the country, they convinced us of their good faith. We scoured the whole country for days without result, and on our return heard that Te Kooti had burnt Mr. Dolbel's wool-shed at Maungaharuru. On 31st January we left Akikereru, travelling first by our old trail of October, and then through rough, rocky country following the bed of the river we cautiously proceeded by the trail which our men had made into the head waters of the Waiau.page 198
On the following day, still following the river, we discovered a hot spring just above the junction of the main stream. I mention this because during recent years it was claimed that the Tourist Department had made a most important discovery of a hot spring which was even unknown to the Maoris of the district. As a matter of fact we came across several hot springs, one hot creek, and one place where hot water bursts up in the middle of the river. The Waiau proper comes in on the left, rising at the head waters of the Whakatane behind Ruatahuna.
We saw the camp that Sergeant Raimona had found, and on the following day came upon the tracks of a man and a dog, and then on a plantation of potatoes. For two days we followed those tracks, and then came on a new camp only two days old, where we lost them. Then striking Raimona's trail we made for the Marau end of the lake, and found traces of natives there. On our arrival at Marau we lighted a fire, the first that we had had in daylight for six days, and followed the tracks to a canoe. Tanira and Urewera and his wife came across and told us that the last tracks we had found were made by their people; those which we had seen in the Waiau were not made by them. On this I communicated with Captain Ferris at Onepoto, and arranged with him to take his men along the other side of the lake and work in concert with me. We got Raharuhe, an old native acquainted with the country, to accompany us. On the 10th Ferris and I joined hands, but neither of us had any success to report; the rain had obliterated all tracks. For one day Ferris stayed there, co-operating with me and scouting the country. He then left for Ngaputahi, while I worked towards Te Putere. Heavy rain set in, and that day I was compelled to allow the men to light fires to warm themselves. On the following morning, 13th February, I sent out parties page 199 scouting right and left. One of them returned with news that they had found a trail and a camp about seven days old. The heavy and long-continued rains had made the river too high to cross, but we marched early the following day and passed three more camps. I sent Bluett up the Mangaone stream, and Huta up a small creek where a camp was found with the fires still quite warm. The occupants had only recently left, so sending Huta to cut them off, I recalled Bluett and followed the trail with him and seven men for seven miles to the mouth of the Mangaone, leaving our main body to come on with the swags. We came up with the fugitives as they were climbing a cliff on the opposite side of the stream. I called on them to surrender, but, receiving no reply, fired on them. Unfortunately our ammunition had been damaged by the rain and was very defective, and the enemy got safely up the cliff and made good their escape. We followed them for two miles and then gave up the chase, but they left their food in our hands, and it proved very acceptable.
This was the last engagement in the New Zealand war. Both Captain Ferris and I continued to follow Te Kooti, but we never came actually across him, although Ferris captured Amaru Matete and Maka, Te Kooti's head executioner, near Te Reinga some weeks after. We followed the trail next day to Whataroa, where Captain Ferris took it up; my party remained at the lake for a few days to rest after our long and trying marches. When we arrived at Fort Galatea on 26th February, we had been for a month constantly travelling through trackless country. If we had been armed with Sniders instead of Terry carbines we should have been able to reap the benefit of out toil; but it was not until 2nd April that I got the men armed with the Snider rifles for which I had asked for a long time in vain.page 200
On 19th April I started on my last expedition for Waikaremoana by way of Ahikereru and Maungapowhatu. Puketapu, where I found Ferris' trail, was reached on the 27th after very hard marching in continuous rain. We worked our way out to Marumaru and from there sent to Wairoa for rations and a fresh supply of boots. Having news that Te Kooti had crossed the Maungapowhatu and Ruatahuna road and was making back for Waiau, I marched to Waikaremoana through Whataroa, and found that Ferris had started from the Marau end of the lake with ten armed constables and ten natives. Te Kooti was now making for Waikato, so I wrote to Captain Mair to come up to Heruiwi, telling Lieutenant Way to bring ten men from Galatea to keep watch from that side. On 6th May we left the lake, going towards the Hoe river, over the ground we had traversed in February. We worked down towards Ngatapa and Mangaharuru, where Te Kooti had spent some time in the summer. Finding no trace of him there, I determined to work out to the constabulary post at Te Haroto, and then make a forced march round by road to co-operate with Ferris and Mair from the Heruiwi side. On our arrival at Te Haroto and Tarawera on the 13th, I sent Sergeant Bluett ahead with a small party to get rations from Runanga and then to work through the edge of the bush towards Ahikereru and try and strike the trail there; I was unable to push ahead myself owing to a sore leg. On the 17th a telegram arrived from Mr. McLean, the Defence Minister, stating that Te Kooti had got through to Arowhenua on the 15th and left for Te Kuiti on the 16th.
So ended all our expeditions. Ferris followed the trail as far as Heruiwi, but got there too late; Way, who met me at Tarawera, had seen nothing of the trail.
I cannot close this without stating how well Captain Mair and I page 201 worked together. There was never any question of seniority between us; we consulted one another on every detail and worked loyally together for the public good during a very trying time.
G. A. Preece, N.Z.C., Capt. N.Z.M., Ret. List.
* We are indebted for the translation of this letter to the Rev. Canon James Stack, who adds the following interesting note. “The letter has a special interest for me, as I happened to be the translator of the first letter received by the New Zealand Government from Te Kooti after his escape from the Chatham Islands. The man was a political fanatic and announced his ‘deliverance from captivity by Jehovah.’ He warned the Government not to interfere with him in future but to leave him in peace. No heed was paid to his warning, and troops were sent to capture him on landing at the East Coast. The letter I have just translated is Te Kooti's protest against the policy adopted by the Government towards him.”