O-Rākau – Written version


The Siege of O-Rākau

From a photo by G. Bourne] After Fifty Years

THREE MILES TO the east of General Cameron’s advanced post at Kihikihi the village of Orakau (“the Place of Trees”) lay among its fruit-groves and its cultivated fields, gently tilted to the quarter of greatest sunshine. This easy northward-looking slant of the country is a topographical feature particularly marked in these parts of the Waipa basin. The contour of Rangiaowhia, Orakau, and the neighbouring terrain of Otautahanga and Parawera is distinguished by a gradual upward slope to the south, and then a sudden break in a descent of a hundred or two hundred feet to the swamps and wooded levels. The Orakau settlement, a collection of thatched hamlets, was spread over half a square mile of the slopes and plain extending from the ridge called Karaponia, on the south, to the edge of the swamps and kahikatea forest through which the Manga-o-Hoi coiled in its sluggish course to join the Mangapiko at Te Awamutu on the west. These swamps and the creek separated the Orakau country from the higher land of Rangiaowhia. To the east the range of Maunga-tautari made a rugged skyline; to the south the blue mountains of Rangitoto marked the source of the Waipa River in the heart of the Ngati-Maniapoto country. The crest of the Orakau ridge broke off abruptly to a manuka swamp; from the northern part of this swamp watercourses drained into the Manga-o-Hoi, and from the southern side of the imperceptible watershed the eel-waters flowed toward the Puniu, a clear stream running over a gravelly bed in a westerly course two miles away.

Orakau was an idyllic home for the Maori. Like Rangiaowhia, it was a garden of fruit and root crops. On its slopes were groves of peaches, almonds, apples, quinces, and cherries; grape-vines climbed the trees and the thatched raupo houses. Potatoes, kumara, maize, melons, pumpkins, and vegetable-marrows were grown plentifully. Good crops of wheat were grown in the “fifties” and early “sixties” on the northward- sloping ground between Karaponia* Hill crest and the groves of Orakau and Te Kawakawa. The Maoris at one time were paid 12s. a bushel for the wheat from Rangiaowhia and Orakau. “Ah,” said old Tu Takerei, of Parawera, who was born in Orakau, “it was indeed a beautiful and fruitful place before the war. The food we grew was good and abundant, and the people were strong and healthy—there was no disease among them; those were the days of peace, when men and women died only of extreme old age.”

The people of Orakau were the Ngati-Koura hapu of Waikato, with a section of Ngati-Raukawa. The focus of the settlement was the Maori church, which stood on the crown of a knoll on the west side above a deep but narrow swamp, through which a small watercourse, the Tautoro, flowed toward the Manga-o-Hoi. (On this elevation Mr. W. A. Cowan, father of the present writer, built his homestead a few years after the battle.) Near the church the chief Te Ao-Katoa, of Ngati-Raukawa, lived before the war. He was a tohunga of the ancient Maori school; later he became a war-priest of the Hauhau fanaticism. To the north a short distance along the slopes were the whares and peach-groves of Te Kawakawa; beyond was Te Ngarahu, where under the acacias on the swamp-edge Dr. R. Hooper lived (1848–63); he had a half-caste wife, and received a small salary from the Government for dispensing medicines to the natives.

OrakauSuch, before the war, was Orakau, soon to become a place of sadness and glory, the spot where the Kingites made their last hopeless stand for independence, holding heroically to nationalism and a broken cause.

There was a military expedition to Orakau a month before the construction of the pa to which the British troops laid siege. This was on the 29th February, 1864, when Colonel Waddy, of the 50th, led a column out from Te Awamutu, six miles away, with the object of dispersing some Maoris who it was reported were digging rifle-pits. The Forest Rangers were in the advance. A little more than half-way between Kihikihi and Orakau .
The name Karaponia (“California”), bestowed upon the hill of the wheat-fields at Orakau, has a curious history. One or two natives of the district who had gone to Auckland in the early “fifties” shipped in a New Zealand vessel bound for San Francisco, where the gold-diggings of the Sacramento had created a demand for wheat, flour, and potatoes from the South Pacific colonies. After trying their luck at the diggings they found their way back to New Zealand, and when they reached their homes narrated their travels to California (Maorified into “Karaponia”). The word appealed to the native ear as a pleasant-sounding name—“He ingoa rekareka, ingoa ngawari,” says the Maori. So “Karaponia” presently came to be given to the wheat-farm terminating in the ridge on which the British guns were emplaced in 1864.

The spot where the present main road ascends a small hill above a narrow swamp) the Rangers encountered a newly built stake fence; a high bank rose behind it, and the crown of this bank looked suspicious to Von Tempsky. He ordered his men to throw down the fence, making a gap; they then rushed the bank. As expected, there was a line of rifle-pits there; the trenches were masked with branches of manuka stuck into the earth. The position was deserted, but a few shots were fired at long range by some Maoris, who fell back on Orakau. The village was abandoned, and the Rangers went through it in skirmishing order. The natives made no stand, but drew off eastward in the direction of Otautahanga, and the troops, after burning some of the whares, returned to Te Awamutu.

After the defeats at Rangiaowhia and Hairini, and the British occupation of Kihikihi, Ngati-Maniapoto with some of the other tribes gathered at Tokanui, below the group of terraced hills now called the “Three Sisters.” Thence they travelled southward to Otewa, on the Waipa, and from there they were called to a conference at Wharepapa, a large village about three miles south of the Puniu. The gathering discussed two questions: (1) Whether or not the war should be renewed; (2) whether a fortified position should be taken up on the northern side of the Puniu River or on the southern side. The decision to continue the war was unanimous. As to the site of the new fighting pa, it was resolved to confine the war, if possible, to the northern side of the Puniu. Rewi made a proposal to consult Wiremu Tamehana at the stronghold Te Tiki o te Ihingarangi, on the upper Waikato, on the question of the future conduct of the campaign. It was decided to send to the kingmaker and ask his advice, and Rewi and a small party of his men set out for Te Tiki. They marched by way of Ara-titaha, on the southern spur of Maunga-tautari. There they met an Urewera (Tuhoe) war-party, 140 strong, under the chiefs Piripi te Heuheu, Hapurona Kohi, Te Whenuanui (Ngakorau), the old warrior Paerau te Rangi-kai-tupu-ake, Te Reweti (of the Patu-heuheu), Ngahoro (of Ngati-Whare), and Hoani (Tuhoe and Patu-heuheu). Tuhoe proper numbered fifty; the Ngati-Whare and Patu-heuheu party was also fifty strong. The prophet Penewhio sent two tohungas, Hakopa and Tapiki, with the contingent. In the contingent were twenty men of the Ngati-Kahungunu Tribe, from the Wairoa, Hawke’s Bay, under Te Waru Tamatea. The main body of this force, numbering a hundred, led by Piripi te Heuheu, had fought in some of the engagements of the war, including Hairini, and had helped to garrison Manga-pukatea and Paterangi. The Ngati-Kahungunu party did not arrive until after Hairini had been fought. About the end of 1863 Rewi had made a recruiting  journey to the Rangitaiki country and to the Ngati-Whare and Tuhoe headquarters; there were old ties of friendship between his section of Ngati-Maniapoto and the Warahoe people and some of their Urewera kinsmen. Rewi visited Tauaroa, Ahikereru, and Ruatahuna, accompanied by Te Winitana Tupotahi and Hapi te Hikonga-uira, and aroused the fighting blood of the mountain tribes by his appeal for assistance and his chanting of two thrilling war-songs. The first was the Taranaki patriotic chant beginning “Kohea tera maunga e tu mai rara?” (“What is that mountain standing yonder?”) referring to Mount Egmont. The second was the song that began “Puhi kura, puhi kura, puhi kaka” (“Red plumes, red plumes, plumes of the kaka”), his favourite battle-chant. These impassioned war-calls intensely excited the young warriors of Tuhoe, and in spite of the advice of some of the old chiefs they raised a company for the assistance of the Maori King. Two casks of gunpowder were given to Rewi’s party. One of these—presented by Harehare, Te Wiremu, and Timoti, of the Ngati-Manawa, at Tauaroa—had been sent from Ohinemuri by the old cannibal warrior Taraia Ngakuti, of Ngati-Tamatera. The tohungas had recited charms over the cask of powder to render the contents doubly efficacious against the pakeha; and it had been given a name, “Hine-ia-Taraua.” Takurua Koro-kai-toke joined Rewi; he was the elder brother of Harehare, the present chief of Ngati-Manawa at Murupara, on the Rangitaiki. He and his wife Rawinia (Lavinia) were both wounded at Orakau. Harehare himself, having no grievance against the Europeans, did not join, saying that he would fight the troops if they invaded the Rangitaiki country, but not otherwise. But Tuhoe and Ngati-Whare entertained no such punctilio; they were eager to make use of their weapons, and would travel far for the pure love of fighting. A small war-party of Tuhoe had already gone to the Waikato. This taua consisted of twenty men from Ruatahuna, led by Piripi te Heuheu. These warriors assisted Ngati-Maniapoto in the Lower Waikato in the latter part of 1863, but did not share in the defence of Rangiriri, and returned to Ruatahuna. It was then in response to Rewi’s appeal for reinforcements that the larger expedition was formed. It numbered a hundred men (rau taki-tahi). After Hairini, the Urewera remained at Arohena with Ngati-Raukawa; and the Ngati-te-Kohera section of this tribe was assembled with them at Ara-titaha when Rewi reached that village.

The Urewera chiefs, strongly supported by Ngati-Raukawa, urged that a fort should be built at or near Orakau as a challenge to the troops; and Te Whenuanui chanted a song composed by the chief tohunga of the Urewera, prophesying the defeat of the Europeans and the reconquest of the land by the Maoris. Rewi replied that he had no faith in such a prophecy, and proposed that the chiefs should all consult Tamehana before renewing the war. He opposed the suggestion to fortify Orakau, but the Urewera were persistent. Their tohungas, Hakopa and Tapiki, said, “Let us go on; let us challenge the pakeha to battle. We are bearing heavy burdens [guns and ammunition]; let us use them.” Rewi angrily replied, “If you Tuhoe persist in your desire for battle I alone will be the survivor”; and he chanted this song of warning, foretelling defeat:—

Tokotokona na te hau tawaho,
Koi toko atu
E kite ai au
I Remu waho ra,
I kite ai au,
I Remutaka ra,
I kite ai au
Mate kuku ki W ai’mata ra e.
Tohungia mai e te kokoreke ra
Katahi nei hoki ka kite
Te karoro o tua wai,
Tu awaawa ra.
Na te kahore anake
E noho toku whenua kei tua.
Tera e whiti ana,
E noho ana,
Ko te koko koroki ata,

In this chant, a mata or prophecy, Rewi in figurative language endeavoured to dissuade. Tuhoe from again entering the campaign. He sang of the winds of war, of the enemy troops gathering at the seaports, in the south and on the Waitemata, to sweep over the lands of the people; and concluded with an allusion to the koko (tui) singing in the dawn. He was the bird of dawn; by this he meant that he would be the lone survivor of the battle. “But this,” says an Urewera survivor, “did not change our purpose, although Rewi repeated his warning and again declared, ‘If you persist I alone will be the survivor,’ for he had a strong presentiment that we would be defeated.”

Rewi, abandoning his visit to Tamehana, gloomily returned to Waikeria. He had dreamed, he told his people, that he was standing outside the church in Orakau and flying a kite, one of the large bird-shaped kites made of raupo and adorned with feathers. At first it soared strongly upwards to the clouds; then it broke loose and came to the ground in pieces. The shattering of the kite he interpreted as a portent of the utter defeat of the Maoris. But Rewi’s recital of his matakite, or vision of omen, did not turn his tribe from their resolve to renew the war; they were burning to join the Urewera and

The Battlefield of Orakau, Present Day

The Battlefield of Orakau, Present Day

The eucalyptus tree in the foreground was planted by the Armed Constabulary in the “seventies” to mark the position of the British Armstrong guns on Karaponia Hill.

strike another blow in defence of their land. Now, reluctantly and against his better judgment, he acceded to the general wish.

The war-parties united at Otautahanga, and marched to Orakau, two miles to the west, to select a site for the fort. Near Ara-titaha some of the people had begun to fortify a mound called Puke-kai-kahu, but the majority of the warriors demanded that a position be taken up nearer the British advanced post. One important reason for the selection of Orakau was that it was in a convenient position for the supply of food to the garrison.

Only a few of the Waikato people living at Orakau joined in the forlorn hope of the Kingites. The greater number of Ngati-Maniapoto had gone southward for safety, and did not return in time for Orakau, and the war-party of that tribe consisted chiefly of Rewi’s immediate kinsmen, in number about fifty. The backbone of the defence was furnished by the war-loving Urewera and Ngati-te-Kohera.

The ground chosen for the fort was the gentle slope of  Rangataua, in the midst of the Orakau peach-groves.* Rewi saw the folly of constructing the works in such an exposed position, and urged, now that he had consented to the building of a pa, that it should be placed more to the north, on the lower part of the Orakau slopes and close to the kahikatea forest of the Manga-o-Hoi; this bush would afford a way of retreat Others suggested that the site should be near the church at the edge of the hill above the Tautoro swamp on the west; the land here fell rather steeply on the Kihikihi face, and could be entrenched strongly. But these counsels were overruled; and on the crown of the slightly rising ground at Rangataua, about 400 yards from the native church and 250 yards from the southern crest of the Karaponia ridge, the lines of the Orakau entrenchments were drawn.

The main work thrown up by the natives, working in relays because there were not sufficient spades, was oblong in figure, about 80 feet in length by 40 feet in width, with its greatest axis north and south. The design was an earthwork redoubt with external trench and a broad parapet, inside which was another ditch, well traversed against an enfilading fire, and converted into a series of ruas, or burrows, partly covered over for protection from shell-fire. The main parapet was about 6 feet thick; the height from the bottom of the ditch was 6 to 8 feet. In constructing the rampart the builders used alternate layers of earth and armfuls of newly pulled fern; the fern helped to bind the friable soil, and gave the wall an elastic quality which greatly reinforced its resistance to shot and shell. The interior scheme, divided into a number of ruas, also neutralized to some extent the shell-fire; a shell dropped into one of these burrow-like compartments would have a very circumscribed radius of damage. In portions of the earthwork the builders made long horizontal rifle loopholes or embrasures, with sections of board for the upper part and short pieces of timber at the sides.

* Pou-patate, of Te Kopua, who was sent as one of the messengers to assemble the people at Wharepuhunga and other places for the defence of Orakau, states that a proposal was made by some of Ngati-Maniapoto, when the refugees were gathering near the Puniu, to build a fort at Kiharoa. This is on the crown of the high ground just to the north of the three round hills at Tokanui, two miles south of the Puniu River, on the road from Kihikihi to Otorohanga. But by this time the chiefs had decided upon Orakau.

Another Maori survivor says that when the warriors gathered at Orakau to select the site of the pa it was seen that the crest of the hill at Karaponia was the most suitable spot, but upon consideration it was disapproved because there was no water there, and Rangataua was chosen because it was close to a water-spring and also was in the middle of the food cultivations.

Plan of the Battlefield of Orakau Showing disposition of the British troops, 31st March and 1st and 2nd April, 1864.

Plan of the Battlefield of Orakau
Showing disposition of the British troops, 31st March and 1st and 2nd April, 1864.

There was no palisading, but surrounding the redoubt was a post and three-rail fence. This fence, harmless-looking enough, was in reality a serious obstacle to any rush; it was partly masked by flax-bushes, high fern, and peach-trees. The pa was built in a scattered grove of peach-trees, and the defences were only a few feet above the general level of the ground. Orakau pa, flimsy as it was, proved an unexpectedly difficult problem for the assaulting forces.

In advance of the north-west angle of the redoubt, and connected with it by a short trench, a small outwork was built by the Ngati-te-Kohera and Ngati-Parekawa. This bastion was not completed when the attack began, and the outer trench was not more than 3 feet deep. There was a proposal to strengthen the fortifications by constructing another redoubt on the crest of the ridge at Karaponia—where the British headquarters presently were fixed and where a blockhouse was built during the Hauhau wars—and connecting the two works by a parapet and double trench. This would greatly have increased the defensible value of Orakau, but the swiftness of the British attack prevented any extension of the kind.

While the people were entrenching the position several men were sent, on the suggestion of a prophetess, to procure some otaota (fern, or leaves of shrubs) from the scene of the bloodshed at Rangiaowhia. The otaota was to be used in ceremonies to propitiate the deities and ensure the successful defence of the fort. But the scouts did not reach Rangiaowhia. One of them was shot in an encounter with some troops near the Manga-o-Hoi, and the others returned without the material for the luck-bringing rite.

The builders and defenders of the fort in the peach-groves numbered scarcely more than three hundred; among them were about twenty women and some children. The units were—Urewera, Ngati-Whare, and Ngati-Kahungunu, about 140; Ngati-Raukawa and Ngati-te-Kohera, with a few of Ngati-Tuwharetoa, about 100; Ngati-Maniapoto, 50; Waikato, 20: approximate total, 310. A number of the wives and sisters of Urewera and other warriors shared in the toil and peril of the enterprise, and several of the Orakau families joined the garrison and carried in food-supplies. Ngati-Maniapoto held the south-east angle and the east flank; the Urewera the south-west angle and part of the west flank, facing Kihikihi; the north-west angle and the outwork were defended by Ngati-Raukawa, Ngati-te-Kohera, and some men of Ngati-Tuwharetoa.

Rewi Maniapoto was by common consent the chief in supreme control, but he consulted his fellow-chiefs on important questions. The principal men of the various tribes under Rewi’s generalship were: Ngati-Maniapoto—Te Winitana Tupotahi,

From a sketch-plan by Captain W. N. Greaves, April, 1864] Plan of Orakau Pa

From a sketch-plan by Captain W. N. Greaves, April, 1864]
Plan of Orakau Pa

The shaded parts indicate the trenches and the dug-outs for shelter from shell-fire. Maori survivors of Orakau state that this is a more accurate plan of the redoubt than the one which follows. The flanking bastions at the north end are here shown of a rounded form, resembling the plan usually adopted in a British field-work. The defences at the north end (foot of the plan) had not been completed by Ngati-Parekawa and other hapus when the troops attacked the position.

Raureti Paiaka, Te Kohika; Waikato—Wi te Karamoa (Tumanako), Te Paewaka, Aporo, Te Huirama; Ngati-te-Kohera, Ngati-Parekawa, and allied sections of Ngati-Raukawa—Te Paerata, his sons Hone Teri and Hitiri te Paerata, Henare te Momo, Hauraki Tonganui; Ngati-Tuwharetoa—Rawiri te Rangi-hirawea, Nui, Rangi-toheriri; Urewera—Te Whenuanui, Piripi te Heuheu, Paerau, Hapurona Kohi; Ngati-Kahungunu—Te Waru Tamatea, Raharuhi.

One of Rewi’s lieutenants, his cousin Te Winitana Tupotahi, was a man of enterprise and some adventures. He was one of several Maoris who had vovaged to Australia, attracted by the gold rushes of the “fifties” in Victoria. Tupotahi worked

From drawings by Robert S. Anderson, draughtsman, 8th July, 1864] Another Plan of Orakau Pa

From drawings by Robert S. Anderson, draughtsman, 8th July, 1864]
Another Plan of Orakau Pa

Ngati-Maniapoto state that this plan is not quite accurate as regards the outer contour of the work and the position of the fence. The cross-sections, however, are useful as showing the construction of the interior.

on the diggings at Ballarat, and returned with a little hoard of gold, although he had suffered losses by robbery on the gold-fields. At the gold-diggings he learned a good deal about shaft-sinking, tunnelling, and boarding-up, and this knowledge he turned to account in military engineering when the Waikato War began. Tupotahi was severely wounded at Orakau. Another notable man was Te Waru Tamatea, the leader of the small Ngati-Kahungunu party; his home was at Te Marumaru, Wairoa (Hawke’s Bay). He was a veteran of the olden Maori wars, a figure of the pre-European era in his attire of flax-mats, with his long hair twisted up in a knob on top of his head and adorned with feathers. His son Tipene te Waru, who was taken prisoner and had an arm amputated after Orakau, became a desperate Hauhau in the war of 1868–70. At last he and his father surrendered. Another warrior of the ancient type was Te Paerata, the leader of the Ngati-te-Kohera. When his party reached Orakau, the ancestral home of his people, he declared, “Me mate au ki konei” (“Let me die here”), and he and his son Hone Teri insisted on the pa being built where he halted on Rangataua Hill. They both fell on the last day of the battle. There were lay readers or minita of the Church of England in the garrison—Wi Karamona, of Waikato, was the principal minita—who led in the religious services, but the ancient Maori rites were not neglected. Most of the people, including Rewi himself, while adopting the faith of the missionaries, turned to the old religion in their extremity. When the ancient Celts and Norsemen began to amalgamate, the people are described as having been “Christians in time of peace, but always certain to invoke the aid of Thor when sailing on any dangerous expedition.” There was as curious a mixture of Christian and pagan beliefs in the hearts of the Orakau defenders. The principal tohunga Maori, or men skilled in ceremonies and incantations and arts of divination, were Apiata and Tiniwata te Kohika; and the latter’s wife, Ahuriri, was gifted with the powers of matakite, or “second sight,” and of prophecy. There was also an old tohunga named Te Waro, who had fought in the Taranaki Wars. Pou-patate says that Te Waro was the priest of the god Tu-kai-te-uru, whose aria, or visible form, was a fiery glow on the horizon seen on certain occasions.

Not all the garrison were armed with guns. Peita Kotuku, a veteran of the first Taranaki War, says that he laboured in the building of the Orakau pa, but he had no firearm. Te Huia Raureti says: “Our weapons were mostly double-barrel guns, with some flint-muskets and a few rifles; some of us also carried greenstone and whalebone mere, taiaha, and tomahawks. We carried our ammunition, roughly made up in paper-cased cartridges, in wooden hamanu, or cartridge-holders, fastened on leather belts, which we wore either as cross-shoulder belts or buckled around the waist. These hamanu were made out of kahikatea, pukatea, or tawhero wood; they were curved in form so as to sit well to the body, and each was bored with auger-holes for eighteen or twenty cartridges. Many of us wore three hamanu buckled on for the battle. We were, however, short of ammunition; most of our powder and lead had been left in our deserted villages, and the troops were in occupation before we could obtain it.” Before the attack a man was sent to Kihikihi to recover a bag of bullets left there, but he found a sentry walking up and down on the very place where it had been buried. Pou-patate was armed with a Minie rifle; it was one of fifteen captured rifles which had been brought from Taranaki by the victors of Puke-ta-kauere in 1860.

As for food, there was little in the pa when the attack began, but under cover of night and the bushes some of the young men stole out during the siege and brought in kits of maize, potatoes, pumpkins, and kamokamo, or vegetable marrows. The water-supply on the east side was cut off early in the battle, and all the defenders then had to quench their thirst were raw potatoes and kamokamo. The women, who worked under fire like the men, ground flour from wheat in small steel hand-mills (such as were in general use in the country at that period), and baked bread at the beginning of the siege. Potatoes also were cooked in the excavations on the inner side of the main parapet, but the people were unable to swallow this food when the water-supply in calabashes (kiaka) was exhausted.

On the morning of Wednesday, the 30th March, two surveyors, Mr. Gundry and Mr. G. T. Wilkinson, from the eastern hill of Kihikihi observed through a theodolite telescope a large number of natives at Orakau working at entrenchments. Lieutenant Lusk, of the Mauku Forest Rifles, attached to the Transport Corps, also reported the presence of Maoris at Orakau. The news was sent to headquarters, and Brigadier-General Carey, who was then in command—General Cameron was at Pukerimu—at once organized an expedition. Three columns were despatched, with the object of surprising and surrounding the Maoris. No. 1 column, starting from Te Awamutu about midnight, was to take the natives in the rear; it consisted of about half of Von Tempsky’s company of Forest Rangers as the advance guard, and detachments of the 40th and 65th Regiments, the whole numbering about three hundred men, and commanded by Major Blyth, of the 40th. This force marched to the west of Kihikihi, flanking the Whakatau-ringaringa swamp, fording the Puniu, and taking a track along the south side of the river as far as Waikeria, where

From a photo by Pulman, Auckland, 1883]Rewi Maniapoto (Manga) (Died 1894)

From a photo by Pulman, Auckland, 1883]
Rewi Maniapoto (Manga) (Died 1894)

the Puniu was recrossed and a route followed that brought the column well in rear of Orakau. John Gage, half-caste, who had lived in Kihikihi before the war, was the guide. No. 2 column, the main body, consisting of six hundred men of the various regiments, with two 6-pounder Armstrongs, under Brigadier-General Carey, started from Te Awamutu shortly after daylight, and marched by the cart-road to Orakau, picking up at the Kihikihi redoubt a detachment of the 65th and a company of the 1st Waikato Militia (Colonel Haultain). Lieutenant Roberts and nineteen men of the Forest Rangers marched with this body, holding the usual post of honour as advance guard. (Jackson’s company was camped at Ohaupo, and did not arrive till the next day). No. 3 column was a smaller force—detachments of the 65th and Waikato Militia from the redoubt under Captain Blewitt’s command at Rangiaowhia; this force crossed the Manga-o-Hoi River and advanced through the bush and swamp, guided by Sergeant Southee, of the Forest Rangers.

Major Blyth’s column, after a rough and wet march, came out on the Orakau-Aratitaha track soon after daylight, at a spot near the old pa Otautahanga, and close to where Mr. Andrew Kay‘s homestead now stands. Here Von Tempsky’s leading men fired at five Maoris at the head of the swampy gully on the right (north) and killed one (Matene), hit by Sergeant Tovey. Then, quickly advancing westwards again in extended order, Major Blyth moved in the direction of heavy firing which was now heard, and came in sight of the Orakau ridge, veiled in gunpowder-smoke.

The first attack on the pa was delivered early in the morning of the 31st March by the Forest Rangers (the advanced guard of Carey’s main body) and 120 men of the 18th Royal Irish, under Captain Ring, supported by a company of the 40th Regiment. The work of the garrison in relays of diggers had gone on continuously for two days and two nights, but the parapets and post-and-rail fence on the east side and the outwork at the north-west angle were still unfinished. Most of the Maoris were outside the fort, and were holding morning prayers when the troops were first seen. “Wi Karamoa, the lay reader, was praying to Jesus Christ to guard and uphold us, and protect us against the anger of the pakeha,” said Tupotahi, narrating his experiences in the battle, “and the people were bowed with their hands over their eyes, so. I was a little distance away, and happened to look toward the parapet, and saw a Ngati-Raukawa man beckoning to me and pointing. I looked towards Kihikihi, and there I saw in the distance the bayonets and rifles of the soldiers glinting in the morning sunshine. I waited until prayers were over, and then gave the alarm. Then, too, Aporo, who from his  post on the parapet had seen the soldiers, raised the shout, He whakaariki! He whakaariki—e! (A war-party, a war-party!) and each man ran for his gun.”

Now Rewi gave his orders for defence, as the British column came marching in fours along the track past the groves of Te Kawakawa and into the fields of Orakau. The majority of the garrison he had instructed to take post in the outer ditch, leaving about forty, including the older warriors, inside the parapet. He bade the tupara men hold their fire until the soldiers were close up to the post-and-rail fence, and then fire one barrel in a volley, reserving the other barrel for a second volley.

The troops could see little of the defences as they approached through the fern and the fallow cultivations. All that were visible were low parapets of freshly turned soil in a grove of peach-trees, with a post-and-rail fence. The line advanced in skirmishing order on the west and north-west sides of the position, the Forest Rangers on the left of the line. The bugle sounded the “Charge,” and the Royal Irish, led by Captain Ring, and the Rangers, under Lieutenant Roberts, dashed at the apparently weak position. The Maoris held their fire until the attackers were within 50 yards. Then Rewi shouted to the defenders in the outer trench “Puhia!” (“Fire!”). Two hundred guns thundered as a line of flashes and smoke-puffs ran along the front of the works and back again. The tops of the flax-bushes and the fern were mowed off in swathes, and but for the usual Maori fault of too heavy a charge of powder and too high a fire the British losses would have been heavy; as it was the first rush was stopped. Captain Ring fell mortally wounded near the ditch, by Lieutenant Roberts’s side, and several others of his regiment were hit. The “Retire” was sounded, and the assaulting column fell back to re-form, and was reinforced by another company of the 40th. But the second bayonet charge was no more successful than the first. Reserving their fire, the garrison waited until the leading files were close to the fence; then Rewi gave the orders, “Puhia, e waho! Puhia, e roto!” (“Fire, the outer line! Fire, the inner line!”) and the volleys swept the glacis. Several men of the 18th and 40th were killed, and Captain Fischer (40th) and some men were wounded. Captain Baker, of the 18th, who was Deputy Adjutant-General, galloped up on Captain Ring’s fall, dismounted, and rallied the men of his regiment; but his gallant effort was also repulsed by the heavy fire from the trenches at point-blank range. Lieutenant Roberts and his Rangers advanced to within a few yards of the defenders, who had now all retired behind the parapet, and a few of the men got into the outer ditch, close enough to get a glimpse of the dense row of Maoris lining the earth-wall, with many a long-handled tomahawk gleaming for the  expected combat at close quarters. The natives yelled defiance and derision as each storming-party fell back; some of them cried in English, “Come on, Jack, come on!”

A soldier had fallen just outside the fence. The old warrior-tohunga Te Waro, of Ngati-Paea, seeing the man lying there, pulled out his knife, and called to some of the young men to rush out of the fort and drag the body into the ditch, in order that he might cut out the heart for the rite of the whangai-hau. The heart of the first man killed (the mata-ika) must be offered in burnt sacrifice to Uenuku, the god of battle. But Rewi and his fellow-chiefs and Wi Karamoa, the lay reader, forbade this return to the savage war-rites of old. Te Waro argued that if the heart of the mata-ika were not offered up to Uenuku the garrison would be deserted by the Maori gods. “I care not for your Atua Maori,” said Rewi, “we are fighting under the religion of Christ.”

Finding that the pa was a more formidable place than it appeared at first view, the Brigadier drew off his troops, and, as Major Blyth and Captain Blewitt were now at their appointed posts, he determined to invest the place closely and play upon it with artillery. The two 6-pounder Armstrongs were brought up and emplaced on the highest part of the Karaponia ridge. At a distance of 350 yards the guns began to throw shells into the redoubt, but the shells made very little impression on the earthworks, resilient with their packing of fern.

The Brigadier now decided, upon the suggestion of Lieutenant Hurst, of the 18th, acting engineer officer, to approach the redoubt by sap. A trench was opened on the western side of the pa, in a slight hollow covered by some peach-trees and flax, about 120 yards from the Maori position. The sap was first carried in a northerly direction, crossing the line of the present road, and then continued easterly towards the pa, with many turns and angles, and traversed every few yards. the necessary gabions for head-cover were first ordered up from Te Awamutu, where a supply had been prepared for an impending attack upon Wiremu Tamehana‘s pa at Te Tiki o te Ihingarangi, and a party of the 40th Regiment was sent down to the edge of the swamp on the south to cut manuka and make more gabions.

On the east side of the pa the cordon of troops was completed by Von Tempsky and his Forest Rangers, who were stationed under the fall of the ground near the swamp which trended toward the Manga-o-Hoi. Von Tempsky, observing that a large party of Maori reinforcements had appeared in the distance eastward, placed a picket of his men near a sawn-timber house (formerly occupied by a European named Perry) which stood on a hill on the east side of the swamp, commanding a view of the quarter from which the Maori relief was coming.

The Maoris in the pa had early observed the approach of reinforcements, and raised loud shouts in chorus and fired volleys, which brought responsive calls, although the intervening distance was more than a mile. A warrior in the pa, pitching his voice in the high-keyed chant that carries over long distances, called route directions to the advance skirmishers of the relief who had made their way across the swamps. Then the British riflemen and the sap-workers heard the Orakau garrison burst into the stamp and chorus of a war-dance. One of the songs chanted, as Tupotahi narrated, was the Kingite haka composition likening the Government and its land-hunger to a bullock devouring the leaves of the raurekau shrub:—

He kau ra,
He kau ra!
He kau Kawana koe
Kai miti mai te raurekau
A he kau ra, he kau ra!


Oh, a beast,
A beast that bellows—
A beast art thou, O Governor,
That lickest in the leaves of the raurekau—
A beast—oh, a beast!

The Maori reinforcements (Ngati-Haua, Ngati-Raukawa, and other tribes) who were gathered at Otihi, on the Maunga-tautari side of the Manga-o-Hoi swamp, responded to this bellowing chorus with volleys of musketry and the chanting of war-songs. The Orakau garrison saw them rush together in close column and leap in the action of a peruperu, or battle-dance, with their guns and long-handled tomahawks flashing in the sun as they thrust them above their heads at arm’s length. The action and the rhythm told the watchers that the peruperu was the great Taupo war-song “Uhi mai te waero.” Skirmishers from the party of reinforcements soon appeared on the nearer edge of the bush and fired at long range at the Forest Rangers’ line, but could not venture across the intervening open ground.

The Forest Rangers had a rather uncomfortable position in their hollow on the eastern flank of the pa, for the soldiers who covered the sap-workers with their rifle-fire dropped many of their bullets into the lines on the other side. Heavy firing continued all the afternoon, and all night long there was an intermittent fire from the Maoris and the troops. The soldiers’ investing detachments, lying in the sap-trenches or in shallow

Photo by J. Cowan, at Te Rewatu, 1920]Te Huia Raureti

Photo by J. Cowan, at Te Rewatu, 1920]
Te Huia Raureti

This veteran of Ngati-Paretekawa hapu, Ngati-Maniapoto Tribe, is a nephew of Rewi Maniapoto, and with his father, Raureti Paiaka, shared in the defence of Orakau pa, and helped to safeguard Rewi on the retreat to the Puniu. Te Huia was born about the year 1840. Much of the information embodied in these chapters was given by him.

holes scraped with bayonet and bowie-knife, heard bullets whistling over their heads, cutting off the fern or dropping in their midst, until the early hours of the morning. All night the Royal Artillery troopers, under Lieutenant Rait, patrolled the lines. The strength of the force investing the redoubt had now been increased to about fifteen hundred men by the arrival of two hundred more of the 18th Regiment, under Captain Inman, from Te Awamutu.

In the pa the sentinels, or kai-whakaaraara-pa, paraded the rampart, chanting their high songs and bidding the garrison be on the alert. The first of these inspiriting watchmen, Aporo, of Ngati-Koura, was shot dead before night. The second was Te Kupenga, of Ngati-Raukawa; but he made a whati, or break, in one of his chants, which was unlucky; and his place page 384 was taken by Raureti Paiaka, of Ngati-Paretekawa (Ngati-Maniapoto), who continued to chant sentinel songs and war-cries until the last day of the siege.

“The second morning of the battle dawned,” narrates Te Huia Raureti. “A thick fog enveloped the pa, and completely concealed the combatants from each other. By this time Tupotahi had discovered that the greater part of our ammunition had been fired away, and that there was no reserve of powder and bullets; also that there was no water, and that the people were eating raw kamokamo and kumara to relieve their thirst. Tupotahi therefore made request of the council of chiefs that the pa should be abandoned, in order to save the lives of the garrison, under cover of the fog. The runanga considered the question, but resolved not to abandon the pa. This was the announcement made by Rewi Maniapoto: ‘Listen to me, chiefs of the council and all the tribes! It was we who sought this battle, wherefore, then, should we retreat? This is my thought: Let us abide by the fortune of war; if we are to die, let us die in battle; if we are to live, let us survive on the field of battle.’* So we all remained to continue the fight. When the sun was high the fog lifted from the battlefield, and then again began the firing. When the sun was directly overhead we made a sally from the pa—a kokiri, or charge, against the troops on our eastern flank. Every tribe took part in this kokiri, which was directed against the troops who formed a cordon between us and the quarter from which we expected relief. Most of us rushed out on that flank, but on all four sides of the pa warriors leaped outside shooting at the soldiers. The Urewera, Ngati-Maniapoto, Waikato—all sallied out. My father, Raureti, was on top of the parapet, firing. Just before we rushed out many of us formed up on the east side of the works, and there we leaped in the movements of the war-dance and we chanted the war-song of the Ngati-Toa and Ngati-Maniapoto:—

“Awhea to ure ka riri?
Awhea to ure ka tora?
A ko te tai ka wiwi,
A ko te tai ka wawa——”


Oh, when will your manhood rage?
Oh, when will your courage blaze?
When the ocean tide murmurs,
When the ocean tide roars—

* Rewi’s words translated above were: “Whakarongo mai te runanga, me nga iwi: Ko te whawhai tenei i whaia mai e tatou, a i oma hoki hei aha? Ki toku mahara hoki, me mate tatou mate ki te pakanga, ora tatou ora ki te marae o te pakanga.”

“But we were too impatient to finish the chant. When we shouted the word. ‘wawa,” with one accord we all dashed out of the pa to meet the soldiers. Rewi Maniapoto directed the charge from the parapet, and as we rushed out to the east we heard his voice crying, ‘Whakaekea, whakaekea! (‘Dash upon them, charge upon them!’) Only one man was in high command, and that was Rewi. He carried a famous hardwood taiaha, called ‘Pakapaka-tai-oreore’; it had been taken in battle long ago in the Taupo country; in his belt glistened a whalebone club, a patu-paraoa. I lay down and reloaded after firing off my two barrels as the troops fell back before us, and fired again. In reloading my tupara I did not wait to use the ramrod, but dashed the butt of the gun on the ground to settle the bullets down; this was our way with the muzzle-loader when we were in the thick of a fight. Our charge down the slopes extended as far as from here to yonder fence [about 200 yards]. One of our chiefs, Te Huirama, was shot dead; he fell near the grove of elderberries below the pa, close to where a tall poplar-tree now stands on the right-hand side of the road as you descend the hill eastward. We fell back on the pa as quickly as we could, but some of us were cut off from the work by the lines of soldiers, and had to lie concealed in the fern and creep back under cover of night.

“We were in better spirits after our fight in the open; nevertheless we realized that our position was hopeless, short of food and water, short of lead, and surrounded by soldiers many times outnumbering our garrison, and with big guns throwing shells into our defences.”

Further reinforcements arrived on the second day (1st April), including Jackson’s No. 1 Company, Forest Rangers, from Ohaupo. There were now a hundred Rangers with their carbines and five-shot revolvers guarding the east flank.

The sap was pushed on vigorously, in spite of two kokiri, or rushes, made by the warriors, who delivered their fire as they charged into the head of the trench. The Armstrongs threw some shells at the Maori reinforcements near the Manga-o-Hoi. On the hills to the east, in the direction of Owairaka, were some Ngati-Tuwharetoa, from West Taupo, under Te Heuheu Horonuku, but they were powerless to assist the garrison.

The day had been very hot, and the garrison, surrounded by that ring of fire and helpless to stay the steady approach of the sap, were quite without water. Wounded men were lying about the pa tortured with thirst. That night a young warrior, Hitiri te Paerata, crept out through the British lines to the spring in the gully on the east side and returned with a calabash of water for the wounded. Hitiri, narrating this, said, “I passed right page 386 through the line of soldiers. Perhaps they knew what I wanted the water for, because they did not fire at me.” A British sentry told his comrades next day that when on duty in the night on the east side of the pa he saw a woman creeping down through the fern to the spring to obtain water, and he allowed her to pass, pretending he did not see her.

That evening Tupotahi proposed to Rewi that the garrison should fight their way out of the pa under cover of darkness. Rewi agreed, and suggested that he should speak to the other chiefs in their trenches and obtain their opinions. After dark the chiefs assembled and discussed the question. Rewi declared in favour of evacuating the pa that night. Hone Teri te Paerata strongly opposed this. “If we do not break out through the soldiers to-night,” said Rewi, “we will all perish. If we retreat in the darkness we will be able to fight through with little loss. Do not wait for daylight, but go to-night, so that the soldiers will be confused and will not know our line of retreat.” Rewi pointed out the way of flight he suggested, in the direction of the Maori force on the north-eastern side of the Manga-o-Hoi.

But the Paerata family and the Urewera chiefs were stubborn in their decision not to retreat but to continue the battle. (“Kaore e pai kia haere, engari me whawhai tonu.”) “E pai ana” (“It is well—so be it”), said Rewi, submitting to the general voice of the council.

The supply of lead was now running very short, although there was some powder in reserve. Rewi instructed his people to reserve their bullets for daylight firing, and to use pieces of wood for the night fighting. The chiefs experimented with the wood of peach and apple trees and manuka, cut up into small pieces, about 2 inches in length. The sections of apple-branches proved the most solid and carried the farthest. That night Ngati-Maniapoto and their allies fired chiefly wooden bullets. Several of the men smashed off the legs of their iron cooking-pots for projectiles; others fired peach-stones. Some of the old smooth-bores began to give way from the heavy powder-charges and the jagged iron bullets, to the rage of their owners, who made shift heroically with their damaged guns. In spite of the poorness of the ammunition, the Maori shooting was accurate enough to make the troops keep close to cover.

The Last Day

AS THE FIRST faint glimmer of coming dawn spread over the battlefield, the chiefs of the beleaguered redoubt held council. Tupotahi, as shrewd a soldier as his cousin Rewi, realized that now or never was the hour to make a dash for liberty, with a fighting chance of escaping in the uncertain light. He proposed to Rewi that the pa should be evacuated at once.

“Let us charge out before it is day,” he said; “if we retreat now we may fight our way through.” Rewi smiled grimly, and bade Tupotahi consult Raureti Paiaka and the other chiefs. When the question was put to Raureti he refused to abandon the pa. Nor would any of the other tribal leaders agree to the proposal. “We shall remain here,” they declared; “we shall fight on.” But many of Ngati-Maniapoto were of like mind with Tupotahi, and voiced their anger at Raureti’s stubbornness. They stood by their chiefs, however, and all prepared to resist to the end

Rewi’s first order to his people, as early morning came, was to cook food. They roasted potatoes in the excavations on the inner side of the parapets, but the parched throats refused the food. There was not a drop of water in the redoubt. Rewi went from man to man of his tribe questioning him about the meal, and each one returned the same answer, “I cannot swallow the potatoes.” Rewi returned to his quarters in the centre of the pa. “We shall have to go,” he told his fellow-chiefs, “but we shall not go as Waikato did at Rangiriri [as prisoners]. We shall retreat fighting.” He strapped six cartouche-boxes about him—three in front and three at the back—and took two guns. Hone Teri te Paerata suggested that all the best men should be gathered to start the rush through the British lines. But now it was too late; it was clear daylight. The morning haze swept away from the battlefield, and the smoke of heavy musketry took its place.

Major W. G. Mair

Major W. G. Mair

Major William Gilbert Mair and his younger brother, Captain Gilbert Mair, N.Z.C., were two of the most distinguished colonial soldiers who fought in the Maori wars. William Mair, after Orakau, was Resident Magistrate and Government Native Agent in various districts. As an officer in command of Arawa and other Maori contingents he fought the Hauhaus in the Bay of Plenty and the Urewera country, 1865–69. One notable success was his capture of Te Teko pa, on the Rangitaiki River, by means of sap, which forced a surrender (described in Vol. II). For many years after the wars he was Judge of the Native Land Court.

The morning grew warm, and the sufferings of the thirst-racked garrison increased. The sappers had been at work all night, and early in the forenoon the trench had reached the post-and-rail fence and was within a few yards of the north-west outwork. Lieut.-Colonel Sir Henry Havelock, D.A.Q.M.G., came in from Pukerimu via Ohaupo, and with him came some of the Colonial Defence Force Cavalry, leading packhorses loaded with hand-grenades. The sap was now close enough to the outwork for the grenades to be thrown over the parapet, and this service was carried out by Sergeant MacKay, R.A., under a hot fire. Two colonial officers distinguished themselves by their gallantry at the head of the sap—Captain Herford, of the Waikato Militia, and Lieutenant Harrison, of the same corps, both of whom fought at the head of the sap, keeping down the fire of the Maoris with their rifles. Captain Herford, in attempting to cut down a post of the fence later in the day, was shot in the head and lost an eye. The bullet remained in the back of his head, and caused his death some time afterwards at Otahuhu. Captain Jackson, of the Forest Rangers, who was a very good shot, also assisted with his carbine in covering the workers at the head of the sap.

In a short kokiri or rush out of the pa in the morning two old men were killed; one was Te Waro, the warrior-tohunga who had predicted misfortune after the chiefs prevented him from cutting out the heart of the first soldier killed.

At noon General Cameron and his staff arrived from Pukerimu with an escort of the Colonial Defence Force Cavalry. There were now eighteen hundred British and colonial troops surrounding the pa. One of the 6-pounder Armstrong guns was taken into the sap near the head, and opened fire on the outwork, making a breach in the defences. Under the storm of shells, hand-grenades, and rifle-bullets, the garrison now suffered many casualties. Dead and wounded were lying in every trench, but the desperately pressed men and women still held the fort. By noon some of them were quite out of ammunition, but most were reserving one or two cartridges for the last rush. Pou-patate, who was one of the few armed with rifles, was sparing of his ammunition, which could not be replaced. In the first day’s fighting, he says, he expended twenty cartridges—a pouchful. On the last day he had ten cartridges left at the close of the fighting; he was reserving them in case the British pursuit was continued. One of the Urewera survivors, Paitini, says that he fired during the siege thirty-six rounds, the contents of two holders, or hamanu. The British, man for man, fired a far greater amount of lead than the Maoris.

The defenders hurriedly buried their dead in shallow graves scooped in the pits and trenches. One man, Matiaha, of Ngati-Tamatea and Ngati-Ruapani (grandfather of Hurae Puketapu, of Waikaremoana), was blown to pieces by the explosion of a shell. The casualties included several of the women.

The first of the hand-grenades (rakete, or “rockets,” the Maoris call them) thrown into the pa from the head of the sap had long fuses, and some daring fellows snatched out the burning fuses (wiki, or “wicks”) and poured the powder out for their own cartridges. Others they threw back into the sap before they had time to explode, and they burst among the men who had  hurled them. One of the warriors who returned the grenades in this way was Hoani Paruparu, of Ngati-Maniapoto; he had become familiar with the action of shells in the Taranaki War. But the Royal Artillery men shortened the fuses, and when Hoani attempted to repeat his performance he was killed by the explosion of one of the bombs.*

Early in the afternoon General Cameron, impressed by the Maoris’ courage, decided to give the garrison an opportunity of making surrender. The buglers sounded the “Cease fire,” and two interpreters of the staff, Mr. William G. Mair (afterwards Major Mair), then an ensign in the Colonial Defence Force Cavalry, and Mr. Mainwaring were sent into the sap with a white flag to invite the natives to capitulate. The din of musketry was stilled, and the Maoris crowded the walls as the interpreters approached the head of the sap, now within a few yards of the north-west outwork. Many of them were suspicious of the flag of truce; the Urewera at first imagined it a piece of deceit on the part of the British. Controversy has raged over the details of this historic interview; many a picturesque fiction has been printed, and artists have depicted Rewi Maniapoto posed in a heroic attitude on the parapets hurling defiance at the troops. The bare facts are sufficiently thrilling and inspiring without the decorations of fiction. The British and Maori versions of the “challenge scene” differ in some details, as will be shown, but the essential facts remain. The men and women of Orakau chose death on the battlefield rather than submission. Another fact which emerges from the many narratives gathered is that Rewi Maniapoto did not personally confront the General’s messenger, but remained with the council of chiefs, delegating the delivery of the ultimatum to others.

An account of the interview with the garrison given to the

* At Ohaeawai in 1845 many of the shells thrown into Pene Taui’s pa by Colonel Despard’s artillery proved harmless, as the fuses were defective and the shells did not explode. A good deal of powder was thereby furnished to the Maoris, who poured the powder out of the shells to make their cartridges.

An incident curiously resembling the episode of the hand-grenades at Orakau occurred in 1844 in the French-Tahitian war, when the natives of the Society Islands resisted the aggression of Admiral Du Petit Thouars and Commandant D’Aubigny, and when Queen Pomare took refuge in a mountain-camp on the island of Raiatea. In a fight in rear of the present town of Papeete the natives lost about seventy and the French twenty-five killed. Being in want of gunpowder, and discovering the secret of the explosion of the shells fired by the French artillery, the Tahiti warriors watched for the alighting of the projectiles, when they fearlessly seized them and removed the fuses on the instant before they had time to explode. From each shell or bomb they obtained powder for many musket-charges. The emptied shells they converted into drinking-cups.

writen in 1906 by Major Mair, the interpreter who spoke to the Maoris, is of first importance, as it preserves the actual phrases used in demanding the surrender, and the words of the Maori reply. Mair wrote the account in the form of a letter to a relative shortly after the capture of the pa:— “I got up on the edge of the sap and looked through a gap in the gabions made for the field-piece. The outwork in front of me was a sort of double rifle-pit, with the pa or redoubt behind it. The Maoris were in rows, the nearest row only a few yards away from me. I cannot forget the dust-stained faces, bloodshot eyes, and shaggy heads. The muzzles of their guns rested on the edge of the ditch in front of them. One man aimed steadily at me all the time—his name was Wereta. “Then I said, ‘E hoa ma, whakarongo! Ko te kupu tenei a te Tienara: ka nui tona miharo ki to koutou maia, kati me mutu te riri, puta mai kia matou, kia ora o koutou tinana.’ (‘Friends, listen! This is the word of the General: Great is his admiration of your bravery. Stop! Let the fighting cease; come out to us that your bodies may be saved’). “I could see the Maoris inclining their heads towards each other in consultation, and in a few minutes came the answer in a clear, firm tone:— “‘E hoa, ka whawhai tonu ahau ki a koe, ake, ake!’ (‘Friend, I shall fight against you for ever, for ever!’)* “Then I said, ‘E pai ana tena mo koutou tangata, engari kahore e tika kia mate nga wahine me nga tamariki. Tukuna mai era’ (‘That is well for you men, but it is not right that the women and children should die. Let them come out’). “Some one asked, ‘Na te aha koe i mohio he wahine kei konei?’ (‘How did you know there were women here?’) “I answered, ‘I rongo ahau ki te tangi tupapaku i te po’ (‘I heard the lamentations for the dead in the night’). “There was a short deliberation, and another voice made answer:— “‘Ki te mate nga tane, me mate ano nga wahine me nga tamariki’ (‘If the men die, the women and children must die also’). “I knew it was over, for there was no disposition on the part of the Maoris to parley; so I said, ‘E pai ana, kua mutu te kupu’ (‘It is well; the word is ended’), and dropped quickly into the sap. “Wereta, the man who had been aiming at me, was determined to have the last say in the matter, and he fired at me. His bullet just tipped my right shoulder, cutting my revolver-strap and tearing a hole in my tunic. Wereta did not long survive his treachery, for he was killed by a hand-grenade soon after. “The people in this outwork were Ngati-te-Kohera, of Taupo, under their chief Te Paerata, whose sons, Hone Teri and Hitiri, and his daughter, Ahumai (wife of Wereta), were with him in the trench. There were also some of the Urewera under Piripi te Heuheu. Very few of them escaped.”

Mair reported the interview to General Cameron, who was greatly impressed with the stubborn devotion of the Maoris.

* The Maori accounts differ somewhat from Major Mair’s in regard to the answers given by the chiefs. A current version of the defenders’ reply to the demand to surrender gives it in these words: “Ka whawhai tonu matou, ake, ake, ake!” (“We shall fight on, for ever, and ever, and ever!”) The actual phrase of defiance used by Rewi and repeated by the people, according to Ngati-Maniapoto, was “Kore e mau te rongo—ake, ake!” (“Peace shall never be made—never, never!”)

“He certainly does not like killing them,” wrote Mair. “Colonel Sir Henry Havelock said, in his jerky way, ‘Rare plucked ‘uns, rare plucked ‘uns!’”

Raureti Paiaka, the Ngati-Maniapoto survivors state, was the principal intermediary between the council of chiefs, headed by Rewi, and the General’s interpreter. A Ngati-te-Kohera account, obtained at Taupo, states that Hauraki Tonganui replied to the first demand for surrender by a refusal, and added, “Hokihoki koutou katoa ki Kihikihi, ka hoki matou ki to matou kainga, me waiho atu Orakau nei” (“Let all of you return to Kihikihi, and we will go to our homes and abandon Orakau”). Te Huia Raureti, son of Raureti te Paiaka, agrees that such a reply was given to the first demand, but says it was uttered by his father, and that it voiced the opinion of Rewi and most of the chiefs. Rewi was at that time sitting inside the parapets, near the north end of the pa. The first message was taken to him by Te Paetai, a man of Ngati-Maniapoto. Rewi himself did not see the interpreter at that time. Some of the chiefs in council proposed to accept the offer of peace, but Rewi and others dissented (they had Rangiriri in their minds), and they proposed that the troops should leave the battlefield, and that the Maoris on their part should evacuate the pa. After discussion it was decided to refuse the General’s offer and to continue the defence. Rewi cried, “Kaore e mau te rongo—ake, ake!” (“Peace shall never be made—never, never!”). Raureti returned to the outer parapet, stood up on the firing-step a few yards from Mair, and delivered this decision, and all the people shouted with one voice, “Kaore e mau te rongo—ake, ake, ake!” Rewi came out to the north-west angle when the final decision had been made, and stood in the trench a few yards in rear of Raureti. “As to the reported words, ‘Ka whawhai tonu matou, ake, ake, ake!’” says Te Huia, “I did not hear them uttered.”

That is the version of Ngati-Maniapoto. But a different story is given by some of the Ngati-te-Kohera and Ngati-Tuwharetoa. Moetu te Mahia (died 1921), whose home was at Kauriki, near Manunui, on the Main Trunk Railway, declared that it was Hauraki Tonganui who delivered Rewi’s reply to Mr. Mair. Moetu fought at Orakau; he was then about twenty years old. He and Hauraki were both of Ngati-Tuwharetoa and Ngati-te-Kohera, and were first cousins. Rewi Maniapoto was a cousin of theirs several times removed. Hauraki was a man with a very powerful voice, and Rewi kept him with him throughout the siege to act as his spokesman. Hauraki’s voice, according to Moetu, could be heard at times above the din of battle. Apparently Hauraki was used as a kind of crier or human megaphone for Rewi, and no doubt it was he who called route directions to the

Hitiri Te Paerata (Ngati-Raukawa and Ngati-te-Kohera, West Taupo)

Hitiri Te Paerata
(Ngati-Raukawa and Ngati-te-Kohera, West Taupo)

Hitiri and his sister Ahumai were the only survivors of their family at Orakau. Their father, the old chief Te Paerata, was killed in the retreat on the 2nd April, 1864.

reinforcements in the distance during the siege. If he replied to Mair on behalf of Rewi—and this Ngati-Maniapoto, in their Highlander-like clan jealousy, will not admit—he apparently did not use his leader’s exact words, but improved upon them with the phrase reported by the interpreter, “E hoa, ka whawhai tonu ahau ki a koe, ake, ake!”

The request to send the women and children out of the pa was taken to Rewi, Te Huia Raureti believes, by a Tuhoe man; this probably was Hapurona. But the women did not wait for the decision of the chiefs. Ahumai, a tall handsome young woman, daughter of the old West Taupo chief Te Paerata, stood up and made heroic reply, “If the men are to die, the women and children must die also.” It was her husband, Wereta, who all the time had his gun steadily aimed at Mair.

“Wereta,” says Te Huia, “was standing beside me in the trench while my father, standing on the earthwork a little above me, was speaking to the General’s messenger. He was a tattooed man, of the Ngati-te-Kohera. He loaded his gun in a furious hurry and, resting it on the parapet, aimed at the pakeha. As the last words were spoken I saw that Wereta was on the point of firing, and I caught hold of him and tried to pull him back, but he pressed the trigger just as I caught him. His aim, however, was bad through his excitement, or else I diverted it, for the bullet only grazed the pakeha, though the range was so close.” It was Te Huia, therefore, who saved Mair’s life that day.*

Now the firing recommenced hotter than ever. The hand-grenades hurled in from the sap-head killed and wounded many. Te Huia says the casualties through the explosion of these bombs numbered scores. The artillery-fire at short range also inflicted losses, besides battering the works. Two attempts to rush the north-west outwork were made by the Waikato Militia and other men, but were repulsed with loss. It was now 4 o’clock in the afternoon. The sap was within a few feet of the outwork. The end was near.

* Neither Mair nor his comrades then knew any of the Maoris; but long after the war the Major, then Judge of the Native Land Court, met the aged Hauraki Tonganui, of Ngati-te-Kohera and Ngati-Tuwharetoa, who reminded him of the day they confronted each other at Orakau. Mair then, after inquiry, came to the conclusion that it was Hauraki who spoke to him from the parapet and delivered the Maori reply to the demand for surrender. No doubt more than one man spoke to Mair. One thing is certain, that Rewi himself did not appear on the ramparts or speak to the interpreter.

The following note is made for the guidance of artists who may essay some day to paint the historic scene at Orakau:—

Te Huia Raureti said (31st May, 1920): “My father, Raureti Paiaka, who delivered the final reply of Rewi and his fellow-chiefs to the British General’s demand for their surrender, wore this costume: Shirt and waistcoat, rapaki (waist-garment) of white calico, and a piece of red calico worn like a shawl over the left shoulder, where it was tied, and under the right arm. He wore three hamanu, or cartridge-belts—two round the waist and one over the left shoulder. These were leather belts with wooden boxes each bored for about eighteen cartridges; one of these ammunition-holders came across the breast, one was in front of the waist, and one at the back. Raureti Paiaka was a partly tattooed man with a short greyish beard. He was about the same age as his cousin Rewi.”

Tupotahi described Rewi Maniapoto‘s war-dress, an historical detail which may also be of use to our artists when the incidents of Orakau come to be painted. “Rewi wore,” he said, “a short parawai, a mat of soft flax, about his waist; over that he had a flax piupiu kilt; he also wore a shirt and waistcoat. In his girdle was a whalebone mere, or patu-paraoa.” Many Maoris wore pakeha waistcoats when fighting, for the reason that the pockets were very convenient for holding percussion caps.

The story of the last day in Orakau imperishably remains as an inspiration to deeds of courage and fortitude. Nowhere in history did the spirit of pure patriotism blaze up more brightly than in that little earthwork redoubt, torn by gun-fire and strewn with dead and dying. The records of our land are rich in episodes of gallant resistance to overwhelming force, but they hold no parallel to Orakau. Suffering the tortures of thirst, half-blinded with dust and powder-smoke, many bleeding from wounds which there was no time to stanch, ringed by a blaze of rifle-fire, with big-gun shells and grenades exploding among them, the grim band of heroes held their crumbling fort till this hour against six times their number of well-armed, well-fed foes. Now they must retreat, but they would go as free men.

Rewi and the chiefs sent round the word. Those who still had cartridges loaded their guns for the last time; others gripped long-handled tomahawks. The sap had been connected with the trench of the outwork, and Ngati-te-Kohera fell back into the main work. The women and children were placed in the middle of the massed warriors, and with the best men in advance to fight a way through they broke down a part of the earthwork on the south-east angle of the pa and rushed out. Only one unwounded man remained in the pa. This was the lay reader, Wi Karamoa Tumanako, of Ngati-Apakura, who stayed to surrender, holding up a stick with a white cloth.*

“Haere! Haere!” shouted Rewi when he ran out from the pa. It was the Maori “Sauve qui peut.” But the people preserved a solid formation for some distance, going at a steady trot, as a survivor narrates, and there was some firing from both flanks. By this time the soldiers in the sap-head had rushed into the pa, and some were firing at the retreating Maoris from the parapets. The last to leave the fort encountered the bayonet, and the troops on either side closed in towards the natives; but here the hesitation to fire for fear of hitting each other was the salvation of many of the Maoris.

* Wi Karamoa was the only man who advocated acceptance of the General’s offer. When the council of chiefs resolved to continue the defence of the pa he stood up and declared that he would make peace. Rewi and his fellow-chiefs told him that they would not suffer their people to be made prisoners. “Wait until we have left the pa,” said Rewi, “then you can make your own peace.”

“At 3.30 the enemy suddenly came out of their entrenchments into the open, and in a silent and compact body moved without precipitation. There was something mysterious in their appearance as they advanced towards the cordon of troops, without fear, without firing a shot, or a single cry being heard even from the women, of whom there were several among them.”—(Journals of Lieut.-Colonel D. J. Gamble, D.Q.M.G., published by the War Office.)

The main body of the fugitives made for the dip in the lower end of the ridge, just to the east of the hill on which the Orakau blockhouse was afterwards built. Here there was a steep fall of 20 or 30 feet to the fern flat at the edge of the manuka swamp. Along the lower face of the ridge there was a scarped bank with a ditch, made by the Maoris to keep the wild pigs out of the cultivations. Immediately below this was a thin cordon of soldiers, men of the 40th Regiment, under Colonel Leslie; others were employed at the edge of the swamp cutting manuka for sap-gabions. Before the leading men had reached the edge of the dip the close body of fugitives had been broken up into groups and the pace became a run.

Yelling and shouting in pursuit came the soldiers, the various corps all mixed up, eager for a final shot at their enemies. Down over the gully-rim poured the fugitives. The surprised 40th were unable to stay the rush, although they shot or bayoneted some of the leaders. A man named Puhipi was killed in penetrating the line, and the foremost men momentarily hesitated; but Raureti Paiaka and his comrade Te Makaka dashed at the nearest soldiers and broke through, and the rest of the fugitives followed them. As the leaders leaped down over the scarped bank Raureti shot two soldiers, one with each barrel, close to the ditch. He received a slight wound in this dash for freedom. Another man who distinguished himself was the half-caste Pou-patate, a tall, athletic young man (his figure is stalwart to day, but he is quite blind). “Pou-patate was a hero that day,” says Te Huia. “He was a very quick, active man in breaking through the line of troops.” Another warrior, Te Kohika, uncle to Te Huia, was armed with a gun, but his ammunition was all expended. Glancing back as he rushed through the cordon for the swamp, he saw a Maori fall, shot dead, and thinking it might be his brother he stopped and turned back. He was surrounded by a group of soldiers, who tore his gun from him and tried to bayonet him, but, leaping aside, he escaped. His knee was badly hurt by a blow with the butt of a rifle. A shot at very close quarters missed him, but so narrowly that the powder scorched his bare shoulder. He reached the swamp, where he lay concealed in the manuka until night, and then he hobbled along to the Puniu, suffering great pain from his injured knee, and joined the survivors on the south side of the river. As for Rewi, his retreat through the swamp of death was safeguarded by a devoted body-guard consisting of twelve of his kinsmen, including Raureti Paiaka and his son Te Huia, Pou-patate, Matena te Paetai, Rangi-toheriri, and Tamehana.

Pou-patate, describing the flight, gave a dramatic narrative of his retreat with Rewi to the gully and through the swamp from which the Manga-ngarara Stream flows to the Puniu. “The bullets,” he said, “were flying all around us; they whistled whi-u! whi-u! about my ears. When we were in the manuka the tops of the bushes were cut off by the bullets, swishing like a storm through the swamp. Yet not one touched me. I saw Hepi Kahotea shot dead there. The soldiers were massed all along the Karaponia ridge, firing down into the manuka and raupo. There were hundreds of rifles blazing into us. Then, on the other side of the swamp were more foot soldiers and some mounted men hurrying round to cut us off.”

Rewi escaped unwounded. He and his tribe suffered less than the Urewera and the Ngati-te-Kohera, whom he had vainly tried to dissuade from the building of the challenge fort at Orakau. Many years after the war, standing on the sacred soil of Orakau pa, he gave a narrative of the siege. His story of the last day and the flight to the Puniu reveals the curious mingling of ancient and modern religious beliefs in the Maori mind, and the reversion to the ancient faith in hours of peril when the soul of man is laid bare.

“When we rushed out of the pa,” said Rewi, “I prayed to God. The words of my prayer were, ‘E Ihowa, tohungia ahau, kaua e whakaekea tenei hara ki runga i a au’ (‘O Lord, save me, and visit not this sin upon me’). Just then I stumbled and fell down, which made me very dark in my heart, for it was an evil omen. I rose and started on again, but had only gone a short distance when I stumbled and fell once more. When I rose the second time I recited this prayer:—

“Wetea mai te whiwhi,
Wetea mai te hara,
Wetea mai te tawhito,
Wetea kia mataratara,
Tawhito te rangi, ta taea.”

[In this karakia Rewi besought his Maori gods to remove from him all sins or transgressions of which he or his male relatives might have been guilty.]

“Then I slapped my thighs, and I cried out—

“Tupe runga, tupe raro, tupe haha,
Kei kona koe tu mai ai,
Ki konei au rere ake ai,
Rere huruhuru, rere a newa a te rangi.”

[This karakia was used by the Maoris when after a battle the defeated warriors were being pursued by the victors. A chief singled out one of the enemy for pursuit, and this charm had the effect of causing the pursued one to fall or stop to be captured. Rewi used it here with the object of stopping the pursuit by the soldiers. The translation of the expression beginning “Kei kona koe tu mai ai” is “Remain there where you are. I will flee on from here, fly like a bird, rising high towards the heavens.”]

“I went on across the fern slope towards the swamp,” continued Rewi. “I was not yet clear of the soldiers. There were three parties of them. My only weapon was a short-handled tomahawk. I had dropped my two guns when I fell down; my younger brother took them. I called out to some of my people who were a little ahead of me and who had guns, ‘Come here; one of you fire there’; to another, ‘Fire over there’; to one who was standing close to me I said, ‘You fire right in here.’ We descended the hill and jumped down over the bank. We were fired upon here, but although the soldiers were close they did not hit us, as we were over them and they had to fire upwards. At my call one of my companions shot a soldier who had fired at me. The soldiers gave way before us, and we rushed down into the swamp. My comrades kept firing as we went on. The troops were on either side of us, on the high ground, firing across at us as we fled through the manuka. Now I prayed again. I uttered the words, ‘Matiti, matata!’ That was all my prayers.*

“Continuing our retreat through the swamp we overtook an elderly relative of mine named Mau-pakanga. He had two guns. I took one of them. Mau-pakanga soon was shot by some of the soldiers who were firing at us from the hills. Next we overtook Hone Teri. I said to him, ‘Don’t run; go easily.’ A short distance farther on a soldier took aim at Hone Teri and shot him dead. I went up to him to take his gun (he was shot in the head, and his gun was lying under him), and cried a farewell to him and his parents. Then we continued our flight to the Puniu River, some of us returning the fire of our pursuers. Raureti and his companions shot two troopers out of their saddles. A soldier on the Ngamako spurs rode in chase of a native named Ngata.

* “Split up! Open up!” is the meaning of this magic formula, which is used only in the last extremity. In Maori mythology it was the charm uttered by the Arawa hero Hatupatu when making his escape from the clutches of the witch-goddess Kura-ngaituku—“Kura-of-the-claws.” The ogress was about to seize him when he came to a great rock—it is identified to-day with a curious volcanic rock by the roadside at Ngatuku Hill, near Atiamuri—and exclaiming, “Matiti, matata!” the rock opened to receive him, and closed after him. To the Maori the expression carries the significance of the Christian hymn “Rock of Ages, cleft for me.” Fortunately for Rewi, this “open sesame” proved as successful as in Hatupatu’s case; at any rate, he escaped unscathed when his comrades were falling all round him.

I called to Te Whakatapu, who was reloading as he ran, to stand. The cavalryman jumped off and got behind his horse to avoid being shot by Te Whakatapu; but Ngata had by this time taken cover in the swamp, and having a good view of the soldier he shot him. Hurrying on, we forded the Puniu, and on the south side rested ourselves and collected the survivors; there were sixty of us there. Others came in later.”

The Forest Rangers and the Colonial Defence Force Cavalry with some of Rait’s Royal Artillery troopers had pushed on along the line of steep-faced hills on the south-eastern side of the long swamp in order to cut off the retreat. Von Tempsky was at his post in the valley on the eastern side of the pa when the loud cheering from the hill and the intensified volume of rifle-fire told him that at last the Maoris had broken cover. The pa ridge was thickly veiled in gunpowder-smoke, and the heavy rattle of musketry was uninterrupted. The Rangers, led by Von Tempsky and Lieutenant Roberts, dashed off southward along the Ngamako ridge, crossing small gullies and swamps, and came within shot of the fugitives as their foremost men ascended a sharp spur of fern land called Ti-kiore. The Armstrong gun on the Karaponia ridge threw some shells into the body of fugitives. The cavalry headed the Maori leaders off into the swamps again by a rough cross-country gallop, but as the first of the troopers, Rait’s men, to come up with the natives had only revolvers besides their swords, they were compelled to stand off when the fugitives turned on them with their double-barrel guns, killing one or two horses and wounding some men. The Rangers by this time, having taken a short-cut across the broken ground, began to drop Maori after Maori with their accurate carbine-fire. Many warriors were shot down after delivering their last barrel. The troopers were out-distanced by the strong runners of Von Tempsky’s and Jackson’s corps. “There was Roberts ahead of us all,” wrote Von Tempsky in his journal, “with Thorpe, of Jackson’s company, and two or three others, the fleetest of the corps. That day I christened Roberts ‘Deerfoot’ as I panted behind him, bellowing my lungs out in shouting to the men and directing the pursuit.” The Rangers followed their game for several miles; some of them crossed to the south side of the Puniu in the eagerness of the chase. About a hundred men of various regiments who had followed the escaping garrison through the swamp, using their Enfields, joined in the pursuit along the ridges to the Puniu, but they could not keep up with the Rangers, who could load their breech-loading carbines as they ran. It was dusk when the pursuit ended, at the sound of the distant bugles, and the Rangers, on recrossing the Puniu, met Colonel Havelock collecting the troops for the return to camp.

As the straggling pursuers marched back across the broken country they found several of their victims. One mortally wounded Maori, raving with thirst and fear, they tended and carried along till he died. Another was borne campward till he, too, expired from his terrible wounds. Some of the 3rd Waikato Militia were also succouring the wounded, and they and the Rangers carried into Orakau a warrior with a broken thigh.

At the camp-fires were told some of the episodes in the first rushing of the pa. Dead and wounded lay about the pa. Among the wounded were several women, and even these did not escape the bayonets of the maddened Imperials. The colonial troops behaved better. In the flight to the Puniu a half-caste girl, shot through the arm, was on the point of being bayoneted by a soldier when a Forest Ranger saved her; and Von Tempsky’s favourite scout, Sergeant Southee, protected another. In the pa, however, there was a pitiful tragedy. Mr. Mair, rushing in with the stormers, found some Regulars about to bayonet a wounded woman who had scraped away the light layer of earth covering the body of her slain husband for a last look at him, weeping as she brushed the soil from his face. Mair tried to beat the men back with his carbine, and knocked one of them into the ditch; then he turned to attend to the poor woman. She was Hine-i-turama, a high chieftainess of the Arawa people, ninth in direct descent from Hinemoa, and celebrated as a composer of songs; she had been the wife of Hans Tapsel, the trader of Maketu, and on coming to Orakau to visit her daughter, the wife of Dr. Hooper, had been detained by the Kingites, and married another man, Ropata, who fell in the siege. Mr. Mair carried her to an angle, and then went to attend to another wounded woman; but when he returned Hine-i-turama had been bayoneted to death by some brutal soldiers in avengement of fallen comrades.*

The splendid devotion and fearlessness displayed by the Maori heroes of that retreat aroused the admiration of their enemies. Colonel Roberts, N.Z.C.—the “Deerfoot” of Von Tempsky’s journal—narrates one poignant episode of the Forest Rangers’ chase. “Most of the troops,” he says, “abandoned the pursuit at the Puniu River, but several of us Forest Rangers and two or three men of Rait’s Artillery crossed the river and went on in chase for a little distance. We caught up on one Maori, who repeatedly turned and deliberately knelt and levelled his single-barrel shot-gun (he was endeavouring to cover the retreat of some

* Major Mair said, “There was great indignation in camp at Te Awamutu over the bayoneting of the woman Hine-i-turama, and I went with Lieutenant Albert Jackson, of the 18th Regiment, through the tents of one regiment hoping to detect the men, but I could not identify them.”

(of the wounded). I and the Ranger who was near to me took cover among the wiwi rushes and scrub, fired, and were reloading as we lay there. The Maori retreated a few yards, then turned and presented his gun at us as before. Several shots were fired at him, but he did not reply. At last one of us shot him dead. We went up to the plucky fellow as he lay there in the rushes, and we found that his gun was empty; he had not a single cartridge left. On the middle fingers of the left hand he wore a little bag which held a few percussion caps. I was terribly grieved—we all were—to think that we had killed so brave a man. Of course we did not know he was pointing an unloaded gun at us; we had to save ourselves from being potted, as we thought. Had he dropped his useless gun, and stood up and shown that he was unarmed and helpless, we would have been only too glad to have spared him. But at that time none of us knew enough Maori to call upon him to surrender.*

The British casualties in the three days battle were seventeen killed or died from wounds and fifty-two wounded. The dead were buried in the English Mission Churchyard at Te Awamutu.

More than half the gallant Maoris lay dead when the sun went down that night of the 2nd April. Out of a very few more than three hundred, quite one hundred and sixty were killed, and of the survivors at least half were wounded. Of the twenty-six prisoners taken nearly all were wounded, and several died in the field hospital at Te Awamutu. Brigadier-General Carey reported 101 killed, besides eighteen to twenty stated by the Maoris to have been buried in the pa. The total killed was, however, heavier than this estimate. Forty were buried by the soldiers in the

* Captain Gilbert Mair, N.Z.C., narrates another incident of heroism in this retreat from Orakau. In the year 1888 he was interpreting an account given by Hitiri te Paerata in Parliament House, Wellington, describing the Battle of Orakau. Major Jackson, M.H.R. for Waipa, who at Orakau commanded No. 1 Company of the Forest Rangers, asked, “Who was the Maori in the white shirt whom I was chasing?” It was stated that this Maori was assisting a young woman who was wounded to escape. Hitiri remembered the incident. The young Maori warrior described succeeded in helping this girl, who was wounded in the thigh, through the cordon of soldiers, and through the swamp and scrub to the Puniu. He kept his pursuers in check by repeatedly turning, kneeling down, and aiming his gun at them, while the girl hobbled on towards the river and safety. At last the pair crossed the Puniu, and in the Maori country they came to a sheltered place where there was a grove of peach-trees. There they remained, resting, and living on the peaches, until the girl was able to travel to her people.

“Well, what happened?” Hitiri was asked.

“Oh, nothing happened; but what I was going to tell you was that the Maori’s gun was unloaded all the time. He had not a charge left when he knelt down and kept the troops off with his levelled tupara.”

Winitana Tupotahi

Winitana Tupotahi

Tupotahi, who was cousin to Rewi Maniapoto, was one of the leading men in the defence of Orakau, and was severely wounded in the retreat. His narrative is given in these chapters.

trenches on the northern side of the pa (the spot is just within the farm-fence on the north line of the present main road). As many more were buried on the edge of the swamp near the place where the fugitives broke through the lines of the 40th Regiment, and many were laid to rest on the spur on the opposite side of the swamp, near Ngamako, and further along the line of retreat to the Puniu. The dead at the pa were buried in their own trenches on a beautiful sunny morning, and so near the surface that one clenched hand rose above the surface, and a soldier trampled on it to press it under.

Ngati-te-Kohera and the Urewera suffered the heaviest casualties. Hitiri te Paerata and his sister Ahumai were the only survivors of a family. Their father, the old warrior Te Paerata, his son Hone Teri, and several others of the house fell in the retreat. Ahumai—she who declared that the women would remain in the pa and share the fate of the men—was wounded in four places. She was shot through the body, the

From a drawing, at Taupo, by Captain T. Ryan]Ahumai Te Paerata

From a drawing, at Taupo, by Captain T. Ryan]
Ahumai Te Paerata

Ahumai was the woman who made the heroic reply at Orakau that the women would die with the men. She was very severely wounded in the retreat. In the following year she saved the life of Lieutenant Meade, R.N., who was in danger of death at the hands of the Ngati-Raukawa Hauhaus, near Taupo.

bullet going in on her right side and coming out on the left, through the shoulder, and through the wrist, hand, and arm. Yet she survived that terrible flight and recovered from her wounds; she died at Mokai, near Taupo, in 1908. The Urewera lost thirty killed, and a great many were wounded; they sustained probably over 50 per cent. of casualties. Paitini te Whatu, who was badly wounded, and whose father was killed, gives the following list of the principal people of the contingent of Urewera and their kin who fell at Orakau; the killed, he states, included three out of the six women who were with the company: Piripi te Heuheu and his wife Mere, Te Kaho, Rakuraku, Te Parahi, Wiremu Tapeka (Paitini’s father), Paiheke, Te Teira, Penehio, Kaperiere, Hoera, Reweti te Whakahuru and his wife Marata Kopakopa; also Matiaha, of Ngati-Tamatea, and Raharuhi Tamatea, of Ngati-Kahungunu.

Paitini, describing his experience in the retreat, said: “I fired a shot and brought down a soldier as we descended the steep bank above the manuka swamp. In fact, I dropped down the bank on to the man I shot, and I could not recover my double-barrel gun. A soldier shot me in the left thigh, causing a very bad wound. I managed to reach the cover of the manuka and went slowly along toward the Puniu, bleeding very much and in great pain. Many of our wounded lay out in the swamp all that night and next day. My father was killed in the retreat, outside the pa. He was behind me; I did not see him fall. Our chief Piripi te Heuheu was killed in the pa. Paraki Wereta, now living at Te Umuroa, escaped from Orakau unwounded.”*

Peita Kotuku, who is part Ngati-Maniapoto and part Patuheuheu, was a member of the Urewera contingent. He narrates that a pora, a thick shaggy shoulder-cape of flax, which he was wearing deflected one or two bullets that struck him. Four of his mother’s people, the Patu-heuheu, were killed in the battle; one was his uncle Peita, whose name he took in memory. The old chief Paerau, of Tuhoe, escaped, and, like Peita, became a strong Hauhau partisan.

Ngati-Maniapoto did not suffer so severely as the other clans—at any rate, none of their leading chiefs was killed. Tupotahi had his collar-bone broken by a bullet when he was leaving the pa. The wiry old chief, a small-framed man like Rewi, narrated that the bullet went out at the back of his right shoulder, and the arm hung helpless. He picked up his gun in his felt hand, and ran on after his comrades, supporting his right arm by clenching the fingers between the teeth. At last he had to drop his gun and support his right hand and arm with his left, and so hurried on to the swamp. Men fell all around him, but he was not hit again. Half-dead with pain and loss of blood and tortured with thirst, he lay in the manuka for some time unable to move. At last, when it was dark, he rose and struggled on through the scrub to the Puniu. With many of the other wounded he was taken to the Otewa Village, on the Waipa, where his hurt was tended. Some of the survivors gathered at Korakonui and Wharepapa, a few miles south of the Puniu; others of Ngati-Maniapoto returned to Hangatiki.

The Urewera survivors collected at Ara-titaha and Waotu, and made their way home to their mountains, travelling slowly because of their many wounded. Harehare, of Ngati-Manawa,

* Statement by Paitini te Whatu, to the writer, at Omakoi, Urewera country, 23rd January, 1921.

From a photo by G. Bourne] After Fifty Years

From a photo by G. Bourne]
After Fifty Years

Ngati-Maniapoto survivors of the war, at the jubilee gathering on the battlefield of Orakau, 1st April, 1914. All but Hekiera shared in the defence of Orakau pa, and fought through to the Puniu River in the retreat.

says: “We who had remained at home at Tauaroa (on the Rangitaiki) waited anxiously for news of our relatives and friends. One of our old men had a premonition of disaster. He beheld a wairua—an apparition—which he interpreted as a message from the dead, and he told us that misfortune had befallen our people in the Waikato. A few days later the morehu—the survivors—began to arrive, among them my brother Takurua and his wife, both wounded, and then we found that the Battle of Orakau had been fought just about the time the vision appeared to our old seer.”

Title: The New Zealand Wars: A History of the Maori Campaigns and the Pioneering Period: Volume I: 1845–1864 Author: James Cowan, F.R.G.S. Publication details: R. E. Owen, 1955, Wellington Part of: New Zealand Wars (1845–1872)
License: Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 New Zealand Licence