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Reminiscences of The War in New Zealand

Chapter XXXV. — Five Hundred Hauhaus Within a Day's March of Wanganui. Colonel Whitmore Suddenly Ordered With All His Available Force to Poverty Bay, Te Kooti Having Massacred the Settlers There

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Chapter XXXV.
Five Hundred Hauhaus Within a Day's March of Wanganui. Colonel Whitmore Suddenly Ordered With All His Available Force to Poverty Bay, Te Kooti Having Massacred the Settlers There.

On the 14th, Titokowaru occupied the position of Tau-ranga-a-hika, an old pah on Mr. Handley's farm at Nukumaru, and commenced to build a stronghold, at the same time sending out marauding parties to burn and destroy the homesteads and settlers' property.

Captain-Newland, who was then in charge of the mounted men, received orders to waylay some of these marauders; this was done successfully. The cavalry concealed their movements by marching under the sandhills, until they reached the neighbourhood of Mr. Handley's woolshed, opposite Tauranga-a-hika, when a scout was sent to the top of the sandhill, to observe the movements of the enemy; he returned almost immediately, and reported that a dozen or so of the Hauhaus were killing pigs at the woolshed. The troop galloped over the ridge, and charged for the enemy, but very few succeeded in reaching them, as they were stopped by a formidable bank and ditch. Sergeant Maxwell and a few men of the Kaiiwi Cavalry, who happened to be good riders and well mounted, got over and killed six of their foes before they could escape, Maxwell himself killing three.

As might have been expected, the presence of 500 Hauhaus within a day's march of the town caused the usual panic among the peaceful inhabitants, and this feeling of insecurity extended to the districts south of the river, so much so, that two divisions of the constabulary were sent to Turakina on the 22nd, as protection in the event of Titokowaru marching on that place, viâ the Upper page 203Wanganui. This alarm was utterly unfounded and absurd, but the men were sent rather to restore confidence than because they were likely to be required. While things were in this uncertain state, Colonel Whitmore received orders to proceed with all his available force to Poverty Bay, where the settlers had a short time before been massacred by a sudden irruption of Te Kooti and the Chatham Islands prisoners. The defence of the Wanganui district would therefore be left to about one hundred of the armed constabulary and the local forces. As Colonel Whitmore's orders were to start without delay, he proceeded at once to carry out certain arrangements for the safety of the district in his absence, viz., to throw two months' supplies into the Wairoa redoubt, and to relieve Colonel Fraser's veteran division at Patea, replacing them with recruits sufficiently trustworthy to hold redoubts. With a view to the latter part of the programme, a message was sent to Colonel Fraser to march with his division at daybreak on the 30th, and meet Colonel Whitmore at Waitotara, from which place the relief would march to Patea, at the same time escorting the convoy to Te Wairoa; consequently on the 30th the whole effective force, preceded by the mounted armed constabulary and Wanganui cavalry, marched for Waitotara. On the way the enemy appeared in great force, many of them being mounted, and Colonel Whitmore desired Captain Finniraore to try and cut some of them off with his Wanganui cavalry; this officer made a very dashing attempt to do so, but the enemy retired at a gallop, and our men got into broken ground, protected by rifle-pits, where they had four horses killed and some wounded. The cavalry was then recalled, and the infantry sent forward as skirmishers, while the main body passed the sheep and drays across the river, and saw them safe on their road to Te Wairoa. After the skirmish, one of our men was killed by a shot fired at least 1400 yards off, and at a great elevation, for the man was in a deep gulley at the time he page 204was hit. On the following morning, Colonel Fraser and his division arrived from Patea, and the whole force returned to Wanganui, ready to embark for Poverty Bay. As a proof of the mettle of No. 1 Division, I may state that they marched from Patea to Wanganui, nearly forty miles, in one day, and a large portion of the distance was over heavy sand; a feat never before equalled in New Zealand by a body of men. On the 2nd of December, 212 men embarked for Poverty Bay, and the settlers of Wanganui were left with 100 men of the armed constabulary to guard the frontier; these men, with 290 militia and volunteers, were placed under Colonel Herrick, to guard the Kaiiwi line. The plan of defence was simple and effective, viz., a line of small block-houses along the border, while the main body was concentrated in the centre and rear of the line, ready to move on any point, while a patrol of cavalry kept up communication night and day. The operations during Colonel Whitmore's absence were unimportant; two separate bodies of mounted men, under the command of Colonels McDonnell and Lyon, scoured the country between Patea and Waiihi. The former went as far as Te Ngutu; no trace of recent occupation was found; the bodies of those who fell at the last attack appeared to have been collected and burnt, as the remains of a sort of funeral pile was found. After partially destroying the pah, the force returned to Wanganui. On the 28th of December, a rash and unfortunate affair happened to the Wanganui Cavalry; they had gone out for a raid, in the direction of Nukumaru, and Sergeant Maxwell and nine men, forming the advanced guard, found themselves close to Tauranga-a-hika. The sergeant proposed that they should ride up to the palisades and have a look, and the whole party, nothing loth, galloped up to the palisades and fired their revolvers at the Hauhaus, who returned the compliment with a volley, by which Maxwell was mortally wounded, though he sat his horse for a hundred yards before he was supported by his comrades and carried off page 205the field. Three horses were also shot, one of them falling on his rider (Trooper Wright), but his brother seeing his peril rode back, and after extricating him, took off the saddle and bridle and rode away with them. Trooper Lingard also distinguished himself, by riding up to the palisades and cutting loose a Maori horse which was tethered to them, thus enabling a comrade to escape; for this action he has received the New Zealand Cross. On the 4th of January a flag of truce was seen approaching Woodall's redoubt, and two Hauhaus rode up and presented a most impertinent letter from Titokowaru, ordering the whole of the Pakehas to return to England and leave New Zealand to the Maories, further intimating that this would be the last warning we should receive. To their surprise they were seized and searched, and as a watch, the property of Lieutenant Hastings, was found on one of them, they were both sent to Wanganui as prisoners of war. By this time large reinforcements of newly raised constabulary had arrived at Westmere, and the drill-sergeants were kept continually going to work these men into shape before Colonel Whitmore could return, as that officer's well-known energy would allow no time for such work when he once commenced his forward march.