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Reminiscences of The War in New Zealand

Chapter XIV. — The East Coast Expedition. — Waiapu. Attack on Pakairomiromi Pah

Chapter XIV.
The East Coast Expedition.
Waiapu. Attack on Pakairomiromi Pah.

Patara finding that Kereopa had left for Poverty Bay, followed closely on his footsteps, with the hope of preventing further atrocities. On his arrival at Taureka he found that Kereopa had been well received by the Aitanga-a-Mahaki tribe, nearly the whole of whom had submitted to the power of his god, and were ready to do his bidding. Patara, who was really averse to violent deeds, at once opposed Kereopa, and denounced the murder of which he had been guilty. This action had considerable effect upon the Poverty Bay tribes, and probably saved Bishop Williams and his family from violence, if not death; but it did not moderate the feelings of the Hauhaus against the Pakehas as a body, or render them less determined to drive the intruders into the sea if possible.

After thus throwing oil upon the troubled waters, Patara, left for the Bay of Plenty, taking with him his band of Taranakis; but Kereopa remained to work out the destruction of the tribes whom he pretended to assist. His doings will be related on another page; at present it will be sufficient to narrate the troubles that followed the teachings of the more peacefully disposed Patara. This prophet, after leaving Poverty Bay, travelled round the East Cape, converting the Hicks Bay, Kawakawa, and Waiapu Ngatiporou. The majority joined readily enough, but there were notable exceptions—viz., Rapata and his tribe Te Aowera, Mokena Kohere and his people, and page 82Hotene Porourangi, the then leading chief. These men stood firmly by the Government, and determined to try conclusions with their fanatical relatives. Ngatiporou as a tribe had always been inimical to the Pakeha, and strong supporters of the Maori king. This disposition will probably account for their turbulent behaviour towards those chiefs who refused to acknowledge the power of Pai Marire. Their behaviour was such that Hotene and Mokena, with the faithful portion of their people, retired to the Hatepe pah, near the Waiapu beach, and wrote to Sir Donald, then Mr. McLean, asking for guns. They were immediately supplied, and in all probability this prompt action saved the country half a million of money, for had not the arms and ammunition been sent at once, Rapata and Mokena would have been destroyed or forced to join the Hauhaus; Henare Potae would have followed, and the Government would have had 2000 fighting men of Ngatiporou, Poverty Bay, and Te Wairoa against them, without any adequate force to resist them. The significance of 2000 fighting men will perhaps be hardly understood unless it is known that General Cameron never met more than one-third of this number in his Waikato campaign, and General Chute never met one-fifth. Lest my estimate of these tribes should be considered exaggerated, I may state that Ngatiporou can bring 900 fighting men into the field at the present time, and previous to 1866 the Poverty Bay and Wairoa tribes were most numerous.

The loyal chief Henare Potae of Tokomaru was also threatened by the Hauhaus of his tribe and retired to Te Mawhai, an almost impregnable stronghold on the sea coast, where he awaited the further movements of the Hauhaus. Thus there were 800 Hauhaus and 400 Queen's natives ready for action. In June, 1865, hostilities were not long delayed, for on the 10th of the month, Rapata and forty of his Aowera started to ascertain the enemy's intentions. When near Pukemaire he was fired upon, and notwithstanding his want of firearms (he had only seven page 83fowling-pieces and one rifle) he engaged the Hauhaus at Mangaone and drove them back to their pah; the enemy's loss was not ascertained, but Te Aovvera lost six killed and three wounded.

Rapata now saw that fighting was really meant, so he strengthened his pah against surprises and again sallied out; he fought his relations at Tiketike with much the same result as on the former occasion, for the enemy, better armed, inflicted a loss of nine men on Te Aowera, but were nevertheless driven back, leaving three dead. Rapata finding that his men, however brave, were unable to cope with the well-armed Hauhaus, remained quiet for a few weeks; the result was that the Hauhaus grew brave and attacked him at Te Horo, and Rapata, by a clever piece of strategy (for a Maori), gained his peoples' confidence for ever. Finding the Hauhaus too strong for him, he ordered his men to retire in seeming disorder to a creek some distance in rear, where a portion of them would lay an ambuscade while the others continued their flight; the order was well carried out, a few old mats being thrown away to make it look still more like a stampede. The enemy, deceived, followed closely, delighted with their success, and received a volley from the ambush which threw them into confusion. Maori-like they bolted, leaving five behind them. Nothing of interest occurred until August in the same year, when Mr. McLean's representations to the Government brought Captains Fraser and Biggs to the scene of action with 100 Europeans; this sounded the death-knell of the Hauhaus. The first position attacked was Pakaiomiromi. The pah was not a strong one, nor the palisading high, yet it was well built; but our men stormed it at grey dawn, and before the garrison had time to arm the place was taken. Twenty-five of the Hauhaus lay dead in and around the pah; our loss was one European killed and one severely wounded by a tomahawk as he scaled the palisades. He was lucky in getting off with an ugly gash, fur a long-handled tomahawk is an awkward page 84weapon. About the same day Mokena had a skirmish near Te Hatepe, in which he captured two men and wounded two or three others.

Shorty after these events, intelligence was brought that the Hauiti and Whanauarua Hauhaus had taken up a strong position at Pukepapa, a few miles inland of Tokomaru. Rapata with 100 men started at once and joined Henare Potae, who invested the place. After considerable skirmishing with small loss, the majority of the enemy surrendered, the remainder escaping to Pukemaire. In the encounter three of the Hauhaus were killed and many wounded; among the prisoners taken were eleven of the Aowera, Rapata's own tribe, and he gave them a lesson in paternal rule that other chiefs might follow with benefit to their tribes. Calling them out, he briefly told them that they were about to die, and said, "I do not kill you because you have fought against me, but because I told you not to join the Hauhaus, and you have disobeyed me," so saying, he shot them one by one with his revolver. This affair well finished, the two chiefs advanced upon another Hauhau position, Tahutahupo. On the 18th of August they came up with the enemy, and the Hauhaus retreated to the edge of a large swamp. Here they made a stand, and a sharp skirmish ensued; twelve Hauhaus and one of Henare's men were killed; Rapata himself chased one of them into the swamp and shot him with great satisfaction; the enemy scattered in every direction and succeeded in escaping. Two of the retreating Hauhaus fell in with one of Henare's men; he had not taken part in the fight, but was carrying important despatches from Tologa Bay to Rapata; he was made a prisoner and threatened with instant death, but our friend remonstrated with his captors and played his part so well, assuring them that he was a genuine Hauhau in disgnise, that they finally agreed to take him before Patara, who would pronounce sentence upon him. While on the road, Hare, a powerful man, noticed that the doublebarrelled fowling-piece of one of his captors was loaded and page 85capped. Watching his opportunity he suddenly wrested it from him and shot his companion; the other, unarmed, was now at his mercy, and was soon disposed of. Hare Mowhata achieved greatness. The main body of the retreating Hauhaus were naturally anxious to avenge their defeats; casting about for some place to attack, it suddenly occurred to them that Te Mawhai must be undefended since Henare was with Rapata. Here was a chance for safe butchery of women and children. Forty Hauhaus started at once, and at grey dawn scaled the cliffs surrounding the pah; fortunately they were seen by a woman, who gave the alarm in time. There were but four men in the pah, but the women were equal to the occasion, and made such a vigorous defence that the enemy retreated to Poverty Bay, leaving ten of their number dead behind them; three of the defenders were wounded, and a European named Enderson, who, Pakeha-like, would not take cover, was killed. This man's half-caste son had been barbarously murdered a few days before by the infamous half-caste Eru Peka, who is said to have murdered Mis. Biggs at the Poverty Bay massacre. Enderson and another half-caste named Ryland had been sent out to look for horses; they were met on the road by Peka, who suspected that Enderson had been given some percussion-caps to carry to his people. He demanded them from the boy, who denied having any, and at the same time dropped them behind him and dug them into the sand with his heel; Peka unfortunately saw the action, and seizing hold of him beat his brains out with a stone. The other boy, frantic with terror, ran for protection to the Hauhau pah, and found a good Samaritan in the shape of an old woman, who hid him until there was a chance of escape. The force had now much more serious work before them than they had hitherto undertaken, for the Ngatiporou Hauhaus had fortified the Pukemaire Hill, one of the best positions in the country, situated about three miles from Waiapu. The position was a high terraced hill crowned by two diamond-shaped page 86pahs connected by a covered way; the whole work was in the best style of Maori fortification, and was garrisoned by 500 fighting men. This formidable position was now besieged by the Europeans under Captains Fraser and Biggs, and the Maories under Rapata; at daylight in the morning the men advanced, skirmishing up the hill, taking advantage of all available cover until they were near enough to open a flying sap. The day was wet and bitterly cold, but the men worked hard to establish themselves firmly in their trenches; it was not until late in the afternoon that the Aowera sap was sufficiently near to commence operations, then a rather celebrated character (Hemi Tapeka) threw a rope with a strong bar attached to it over the palisades, but it was immediately cut by the Haubaus. It was again thrown over, this time by Watene Keitua, and again a Hauhau rushed forward to cut it, but he was shot in the act by Watene; and before another Hauhau could summon courage to attempt this dangerous duty, the united strength of the Aowera and Tuparoa men had torn down a whole line of palisades and made such a formidable breach in the outworks, that the remainder appeared easy enough. Yet it was not to be, for instead of following up the success already achieved, Major Fraser suddenly ordered the whole force to return to Waiapu and the chance was lost. Another hour and the pah would have been taken: so thoroughly cowed were the Hauhaus by the success of the besiegers, that they were actually deserting the pah when the order to retire was given, and did not resume possession when the Government forces were withdrawn, but retired by the Pakiaka upon Hungahungataroa. In this affair nine Hauhaus were killed, including the Taranaki chief Te Whiwhini, and our loss was two killed and seven wounded, exclusive of a man of Major Fraser's company who died of exhaustion on the road home. So cold was it, that Rapata, who had entered the pah after the breach had been made, was unable to put a cap upon his gun to kill a Hauhau who had fired at him, page 87It having been ascertained that the enemy were in force at Hungahungataroa, no time was lost in attacking them. Late in the month of September the force marched in two columns; one under Major Biggs and Rapata advanced up the creek leading to the position, while the other column under Major Fraser, which was intended to co-operate by way of the Kawa Kawa, for some unexplained reason, did not come into action. Biggs and Rapata advanced up the stream, crossing and recrossing until they arrived at the base of the hill upon which the pah stood. The Hauhaus were evidently unconscious of their presence, or they would have defended the gorge-like approach to their stronghold. Rapata and nine of his immediate relations led the way as advanced guard, and when about half-way up the hill came across a Hauhau in a potato-plantation; he was immediately shot. The report brought up Biggs and eleven of his volunteers, who started with Rapata to reconnoitre the position. It was found to be stronger than they had anticipated, and it was finally decided that Rapata and Biggs should scale the cliff in rear of the position, while the main body held the slope in front, and engaged the enemy's attention by a false attack. This was a dangerous and desperate attempt to dislodge the enemy, but it was the only way to command success, and Biggs and Rapata were not the men to allow mere danger or difficulties to intervene. The Maories, bootless and trouserless, went up the cliff with tolerable ease, but the Pakehas, encumbered by civilisation, laboured behind. Just after reaching the top, Natene, a relation of Rapata, observed a man among the trees and pointed him out to the chief, who called on his men to fire, which they did, but without effect; the man, however, finding escape impossible, shouted to them not to fire lest they should hit him. Rapata, amused at this naïve request, inquired who he was; the man replied, "It is me." "Yes," said the chief, "I know, but I want to see your face; I shall then know you better." The man approached and was recognised as Pita Tamaturi, a chief of the page 88Aitanga-a-Mahaki, a man very objectionable to the Government. A Ngatiporou, Rapata, took him by the wrist to lead him away, but found he could not hold him, Pita being a veritable giant for strength and size; he was, however, disarmed by Natene's help, and Rapata would have shot him had not Biggs arrived at the moment and a ked,"Who is the man?" "Pita Tamaturi," said Rapata, "the man who brought all this trouble on Ngatiporou; it was he who brought the Hauhau religion here." On hearing this, Biggs drew his revolver and ended further argument by shooting the prisoner dead. Our small party now took possession of a small hillock immediately in rear of and above the pah, from whence they could fire right into the place. The first volley caused considerable commotion among the enemy, so much so, that the Ngatiporou Hauhaus tried to hoist a white flag while the Taranaki men tried equally hard to prevent it, but without success, for the others saw the futility of resistance, the pah being completely commanded. Terms were granted them by Rapata, who called them out of the pah Hapu (sub-tribe), after Hapu of Ngatiporou, when they laid down their arms and surrendered to the gallant twenty. Meanwhile the men from Taranaki, Ngatiawa, Waikato, and Te Whakatohea who were in the pah began to get uneasy at their tribes not being called out, and one old man remarked, "If we remain here, our bodies will soon form the ashes of this pah." He was right in his judgment, for Biggs and Rapata fully intended to sacrifice them all; but they, now fully alive to the fact, dashed out of the pah as desperate men will do, and sliding over the precipitous cliff, most of them escaped. Only twelve Hauhaus were killed in this engagement, but over 500 were taken prisoners; our loss was two friendly natives killed. This fight completely crushed the Ngatiporou Hauhaus and ended the rebellion of the Waiapu tribes.