The Story Of Gate Pa, April 29th, 1864
On the Battle of Gate Pa
On the Battle of Gate Pa
1. General Cameron's Despatch to His Excellency the Governor, Sir George Grey.
Sir,—It having been decided by Your Excellency and myself in consequence of information received from Colonel Greer, Commanding at Tauranga, that reinforcements should be sent to that station, detachments were embarked without delay in H.M. ships “Esk” and “Falcon” placed at my disposal by Commodore Sir William Wiseman and by the 26th April were all landed at the Mission Station of Tauranga, to which place I had transferred my headquarters on the 21st April. On the 27th April I moved the 68th Regiment, under Colonel Greer, and a mixed detachment of 170 men, under Major Ryan, 70th Regiment, towards the rebel entrenchments of which I made a close reconnaissance. It was constructed on a neck of land about 500 yards wide, the slopes of which fell off into a swamp on either side. On the highest point of this neck they had constructed an oblong redoubt, well palisaded and surrounded by a post and rail fence, a formidable obstacle to an assaulting column and difficult to destroy with artillery. The intervals between the side faces of the redoubt and the swamp were defended by an entrenched line of rifle pits. I encamped the 68th Regiment and Major Ryan's detachment about 1,200 yards from the enemy's position on the 27th, and on that and the following day the guns and mortars intended to breach the position were brought up to the camp which was joined by a large force of seamen and marines, landed at my request from the ships of the squadron by Commodore Sir William Wiseman. The strength and composition of the force assembled in front of the enemy's position on the evening of the 28th are shown in the footnote.
The Memorial Church (Church of England) which stands on the site of the Gate Pa.
Photograph by R. J. Smith A.R.P.S.
Practically nothing remains to-day to mark the site of the engagement at Te Ranga. In an open field on the farm
of Mr W. Merrick the trenches lie covered. This view was taken from where the trenches evidently lie, on the edge
of a steep bank looking out in the direction in which the native survivors fled.
Photography by R. J. Smith. A.R.P.S.
The entrance gates and old Mission bell still preserved at “The Elms” (the old Mission Station) at Tauranga.
An interesting story of this bell is to be found in “Recollections and Reflections of an Old New Zealander,” by
the late Mr E. Maxwell. Photograph by R. J. Smith. A.R.P.S.
Surrender of Arms by the Natives to Colonel Greer after the engagement at Te Ranga on June 21st, 1861. From
a sketch by Major-General Robley.
I enclose Colonel Greer's report of his proceedings.
During the same night the guns and mortars were placed in position and opened fire soon after daybreak on the morning of the 29th. I gave directions that their fire should be directed principally against the left angle of the centre work, which, from the nature of the ground, I considered the most favourable part to attack. Their practice was excellent, particularly that of the howitzers, and reflects great credit on the officers in command of batteries.
About 12 o'clock, a swamp on the enemy's left having been reported by Colonel Greaves, Deputy-Assistant Quarter-Master General, practicable for the passage of a gun, a six-pounder Armstrong gun was taken across to the high ground on the opposite side from which its fire completely enfiladed the left of the enemy's position, which he was thus compelled to abandon. The fire of the guns, howitzers and mortars was continued with short intermissions until 4 p.m., when a large portion of the fence and pallisading having been destroyed, and a practicable breach made in the parapet, I ordered the assault. One hundred and fifty seamen and marines under Commander Hay, H.M.S. “Harrier,” and an equal number of the 43rd Regiment, under Lieut-Colonel Booth, formed the assaulting party. Major Ryan's detachment was extended as close to the work as possible to keep down the fire from the rifle pits with orders to follow the assaulting column into the work. The remainder of the seamen and marines, and of the 43rd Regiment, amounting altogether to 300 men, followed as a reserve.
The assaulting column, protected by the nature of the ground, gained the breach with little loss, and effected an entrance into the main body of the work, when a fierce conflict ensued, in which the natives fought with the greatest desperation.
Lieut-Colonel Booth and Commander Hay, who led into the work, both fell mortally wounded. Captain Hamilton was shot dead on the top of the parapet while in the act of encouraging his men to advance, and in a few minutes almost every officer of the column was either killed or wounded. Up to this moment, the men, so nobly led by their officers, fought gallantly and appeared to have carried the position, when they suddenly gave way, and fell back from the work to the nearest cover.
This repulse I am at a loss to explain otherwise than by attributing it to the confusion created among the men by the intricate nature of the interior defences, and the sudden fall of so many of their officers.page 34
On my arrival at the spot I considered it inadvisable to renew the assault, and directed a line of entrenchment to be thrown up within one hundred yards of the work so as to be able to maintain our advance position, intending to resume operations the following morning.
The natives, availing themselves of the extreme darkness of the night, abandoned the work, leaving some of their killed and wounded behind.
On taking possession of the work in the morning, Lieut-Colonel Booth and some men were found still living, and, to the credit of the natives, had not been maltreated, nor had any of the bodies of the dead been mutilated. I enclose a list of our casualties.
I deeply regret the loss of the many brave and valuable officers who fell in the noble discharge of their duty on this occasion.
The 43rd Regiment, and the service, have sustained a serious loss in the death of Lieut-Colonel Booth, which took place on the night after the attack. I have already mentioned the brilliant exmple shown by this officer in the assault, and when I met him on the following morning as he was being carried out of the work, his first words were an expression of regret that he had found it impossible to carry out my orders.
The heroism and devotion of Captain Hamilton and Commander Hay, reflect the highest honour on the naval service.
The loss of the enemy must have been very heavy although not more than twenty bodies and those wounded were found in and about their position. It is admitted by the prisoners that they carried off a large number of killed and wounded during the night, and they also suffered in attempting to make their escape as described in Colonel Greer's report.
In my reports to His Royal Highness the Field-Marshal, Commanding-in-Chief, and the Right Hon. the Secretary of State for War, I have brought to their favourable notice the names of the officers who particularly distinguished themselves on this occasion.
Commodore Sir William Wiseman on this, as on every other occasion, co-operated with me in the most cordial manner, and I am much indebted to him, as well as to the whole of the officers and men of the Royal Navy and Marines who took part in these operations, for their valuable assistance. I have, etc.,
D. A. CAMERON,
2. Colonel Greer's Report to the Deputy Adjutant General.
I have the honour to state for the information of the Lieut.General Commanding that in compliance with his instructions I marched out of Camp with the 68th Light Infantry, carrying one day's cooked rations, and a greatcoat each, on the 28th instant, at a quarter to 7 o'clock p.m., my object being to get in rear of the enemy's position by means of a flank march round their right. To accomplish this it was necessary to cross a mud flat at the head of a bay about three-quarters of a mile long, only passable at low water, and then nearly knee deep, and within musketry range of the shore, in possession of the enemy—rough high ground, covered with ti-tree and fern.
At the point at which I got off the mud flat there is a swamp about 100 yards broad, covered with ti-tree about 5ft. high, on the opposite side of which the end of a spur—which runs down from high ground in rear of the pa—rises abruptly. This was also covered with heavy fern and ti-tree.
It being of the first importance that these movements should be accomplished without attracting the attention of the enemy, my instructions were to gain the top of the spur alluded to during the darkness, and to remain there until there should be sufficient light to move on.
The regiment was all across, lying down in line across the crest of the ridge, with picquets posted around them, at 10 o'clock, which was two hours before the moon rose. I beg here to state that to the well-timed feint attack made by the Lieut-General Commanding on the front of the enemy's pa, I consider myself indebted for having been enabled to accomplish this, the most difficult part of the march, without being attacked at a great disadvantage, and exposing the movement to the enemy; for when we reached the top of the ridge, the remains of their picquet fires were discovered, the picquets having no doubt retired to assist in the defence of the pa.
About half-past 1 a.m. I advanced, and at 3 o'clock I reached a position about 1000 yards directly in rear of the pa. I was guided in selecting this position by hearing the Maoris talking in their pa, and the sentries challenging in our headquarters camp. It was dark and raining at the time.
I immediately sent Major Shuttleworth forward with three companies to take a position on the left rear of the pa, and I placed picquets round the remainder of the rear, about 700 yards distant from it.page 36
At daybreak I despatched three companies to the right under command of Major Kirby and posted a chain of sentries so that no one could come out of the pa without being seen. Up to this time the enemy did not appear to be aware that they were surrounded; they were singing and making speeches in the pa. Later in the morning Lieutenant-Colonel Campbell, C.B., Deputy Quarter-Master General, visited my post, having an escort with him of thirty men of the Naval Brigade under Lieut. Hotham, R.N., and seeing that I wanted a reinforcement on my right, he left his escort with me, and I received valuable assistance from that excellent officer and his party. About the same time Major Shuttleworth moved more to his left and closer to the pa.
These positions were not altered during the bombardment, except temporarily, when the Maoris showed a disposition to come out at one or other flank, or when it was necessary to move a little from a position getting more than its share of the splinters of shell which kept falling about all day during the bombardment.
When the bombardment ceased, and the signal of a rocket let me know that the assault was about being made, I moved up close round the rear of the pa in such a position that the Maoris could not come out without being met by a strong force.
About 5 o'clock p.m. the Maoris made a determined rush from the right rear of their pa. I met them with three companies, and after a skirmish, drove the main body back into the pa; about twenty got past my right, but they received a flank fire from Lieut. Cox's party (68th 60 men) and Lieut. Hotham's (30 men) Naval Brigade, and sixteen of the Maoris were seen to fall; a number of men pursued the remainder. By the time I had collected the men again and posted them it was very dark. My force available on the right was quite inadequate to cover the ground in such a manner as to prevent the Maoris escaping during the night; in fact I consider that on such a wet dark night as that was nothing but a close chain of sentries strongly supported round the whole rear and flanks could have kept the Maoris in, and to do that a much stronger force than I had would have been necessary.
During the night the Maoris made their escape. I think that, taking advantage of the darkness, they crept away in small parties; for during the night every post saw or heard some of them escaping and fired volleys at them. The Maoris, careful not to expose themselves, never returned a shot during the night, but there were occasional shots fired from the pa, no doubt to deceive us as to their having left it.
I cannot speak too highly of the conduct of the 68th during the march on Thursday night; it was performed with the most complete silence and regularity. I have also the greatest pleasure in being able to state that during the whole of their fatiguing duty page 37 they were always ready to obey cheerfully any order they received, and after dark it was most difficult to move about from the way in which the ground in the rear was swept by the musketry in front.
I am much indebted to the officers and non-commissioned officers for the active intelligence and zeal with which they performed their duty. I beg to mention particularly Major Shuttleworth, 68th Light Infantry, who, with the guide and six men, went feeling the way to the front during the night march, and afterwards commanded on the left, repelling several attempts of the Maoris to get away in that direction.
Captain Trent, 68th Light Infantry, who with his company formed the advance guard during the night march, and performed that duty with much intelligence, and was afterwards engaged on the left, where he enfiladed a rifle pit, and in the front covering a working party.
Lieut. Cox, 68th, who occupied with judgment and good effect an important position on my right, where he enfiladed a rifle pit, and quite shut up what appeared the principal point of egress from the pit.
Lieut. Hotham, Royal Navy, who was with a party of the Naval Brigade at the same post with Lieut. Cox.
To Lieut. and Adjutant Covey, 68th Light Infantry, Field Adjutant, I am on this occasion, as on every other where duty is concerned, much indebted for the zeal and intelligence with which he has assisted me in seeing my orders carried out. During the whole time he was constantly on the alert, and active wherever he was required. To all I owe my best thanks.
I wish to bring to particular notice the admirable manner in which the regiment was guided by Mr Purvis, who volunteered to act as guide on the occasion. He went to the front with Major Shutteleworth and six men, and without hesitating or making a mistake, brought him straight to the position I was to occupy.
The whole of the 68th Regiment was back in camp at 4 p.m. yesterday. The Casualties are as follows:—
Killed— Sergeant, 68th Light Infantry.
Wounded—16 Privates Infantry.
H. H. GREER,
Col. and Lieut.-Col. 68th L.I.,
Commanding Field Force,
Camp Puke Wharangi.