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A REMINISCENCE OF MAORI CHIVALRY., Issue 7970, 27 July 1889, Supplement
A REMINISCENCE OF MAORI CHIVALRY.
With wild, untutored chivalry, the rebels scorned disgrace ; Oil, never in tho annals of the most heroic raco Was bravery reoorded, moro noble or more hijrh, Than that dfap'aved at Orakau in Ri-wi's fierce reply— Ka whawhai tonu! ale ! like! ttb'! —I'IIOMAS BRACKBS.
On tho twenty-fifth anniversary of the siege and capture of Orakau, I found myself standing on the site of the memorable entrenchment the heroic defence of whicli has added lustre to the Maori name and rendered the chief Manga Rewi Maniopoto and his tribes for ever famous in the annals of their country. Although its stirring story has often been told in a fragmentary way—the story of a few devoted Maori warriors holding their own for three days and two nights against an English army of overwhelming odds—l was amazed at the small number of colonists whom I met in the North Island who were at all aware that a Maori chief named Rewi had any existence ; and their want of knowledge even as to the locality of Orakau is only equalled by that of the English statesman who asked, when the district of Tauranga was mentioned in a debate on the Maori war: " Who i 3 this fellow Tauranga ? I never heard of him before." The historian and the poet have handed down an imperishable record of the deeds and heroic expressions of the Greeks at the Pass of Thermopyho, and of the dauntless Roman three who kept the bridge, in the "brave days of old," whilst the luminous cleedsofourowngaliant countrymen on many a hard-fought field are engraven on every English-speaking tongue. Not very long ago the world rang from end to end with the fame of the almost superhuman defence of Rorkes Drift, and Rorkes Drift in many particulars resembles the famous pah of Orakau, which held behind its sod walls as fearless a baud of heroes as ever had the hardihood to defy an English army. Incidents occurred at thi3 siege which deserve to be more generally known, and, having this object in view and a strong desire to assist in perpetuating the history and chivalrous exploits of an intellectual but decaying race, I am induced to make the feeble effort of telling to my brother savages the story of Orakau. The day was far advanced as I stood upon its crumbling rifle pits, tracing with unprofessional but interested eye the ruins of parapet, ditch, and sap. Around me the breeze stirred the tall titri, flax, and fern, which have now overgrown the historic peach grove of bygone days. The sun threw its warm glow on the surrounding landscape, mapped out with fence, cottage, aud cultivated fields—everything proclaiming peace and prosperity. How different, I thought, the quiet aspect of the place now compared with the tragic episodes which took place on this very spot just twenty-five years ago. It will be necessary to give you a brief explanation of Borne of the events which first led up to the conflict between the two races. As tho King movement gradually tool: possession of the Native mind, having for its main object the permanent retention of unsold Native lands, which were to be parted with no more for tho finh-hooks, sheep-wash tobacco, and flintlock guns of the guileless pakeha, the Maoris were taught to believe, and did believe, that under the beneficent rule of Te Wherowhero fjtatau, the King, the sacred mana (prestige or power) of their chiefs would again exert its influence in the laud, and in return for these prospective blessings the tribes were called upon to give their loyalty and adherence to thi3 patriotic scheme, entrusting their bodies and their lands to tho safe keeping of His Majesty Te Wherowhero. The Native. Warwick who succeeded in creating this king, aud the prime mover in establishing the'Anti-Land Selling League, was the famous Wiremu Tamihana (Anyl-ici, William Thompson), a man skilful alike in Native politics and in war. To a race whose eyes were ever open to the beauty of their surroundings who have left fcircely a mountaiu, a creek, a bird, or blade of vegetation unnamed; who fondly loved the soil that gave them birth, and who ever remembered with pride the patriotic motto of their ancestors : "The death of the warrior is to die for the land "—the King movement was received with the utmost enthusiasm. Disallection spread through the country, followed by armed resistance to pakeha rule. Taranaki, Waikato, and the en?t coast were soon in a blaze, ana 10,000 Imperial troops, supplemented by 5,000 or 0,000 hardy colonial militia, were called into requisition to crush aud stamp out the absurd pretensions of these brown-skinned patriots. As tho invaders swarmed into the Waikato, a conference of Native chiefs, including Rewi, was hurriedly held, and their hearts grew dark and stormy with grief and revenge as they discussed the untimely fate of their brave warriors and kinsmen who had perished in the defence of their numerous strongholds, now captured and garrisoned or destrcj-ed by the English troops and colonial forces. Day after day the wailing sound of the iangi had been heard in the land for the brave fellows who had fallen, contesting step ny step tlie invasion of their country, and numbers of whom now slept silently in tho swamps, or lay buried in rifle pits far from the hallowed \ w.ti tapu of their native kahvja. Every advantage was grasped by the aggressive pakeha. His gunboats swept tiie coasts and navigable rivers of tho country, and from the great wvterway of the majestic Waikato and its tributaries they passed unchecked the stronghold of Ngarnawahia, and now they were knocking at the last door of Maori refuge and defence—the northern end of the prolific Waikato Valley. The white lines of their tents were visible on the base of Maungatautari, from whence could be seen many a fair and fertile district, soon to bo partitioned by the military settlers—districts whicli at this time boasted (thanks to the efforts of the missionaries) the possession of a elo/.en flourmills belonging to tho Natives, and had been for many years the very centre of Native production and cultivation. Impatient and thirsting to avenge the deatli of those who fell at Bangiriri (the latest pakeha victory), the chiefs in confereuce decided (Rewi alone dissenting) to make a final stand within the district and to build a fighting pah at Orakau. The prophet, or tohunga, had prophesied that on this spot the usurpers would be beaten, and the land remain for ever in possession of the Maoris. Rewi, although a firm believer in Christianity, believed at the same time (with Cromwell) that it was necessary to keep his powder dry. As a fighting chief of great experience he saw that this was not being done, and he said : "I have no faith in what that prophet says. 1 know that he is wrong, and if you persist in fighting here not one of us will escape." The chief Te Whenuanua, commanding for the time the turbulent contingents from the pumice shores of Taupo, proposed that a collection should be made and given to the prophet as a sacrifice, in order that his predictions might come true, Rewi once more warned them not to try conclusions at Orakau, but at the same time he could not forget that he was still a New Zealand chief, and, not wishing to hurt the feelings of his countrymen, he subscribed 10s, which he threw upon the ground and at once returned to his home, and that night told his people what had taken place, stating that had the matters in dispute been submitted to and decided on by the clear-headed Wiremu Tamihana, whatever that decision might have been, it would have met with his support. He then repeated a dream which he had recently had. " I was standing outside the church at Orakau, and was flying a kite. It went upwards strongly, and was hidden beyond the clouds. It then sailed downwards as if nothing was guiding it, and when it reached the ground it was all in pieces." " From that dream," said he, " I know we shall be defeated at Orakau."
His brother Raureti came to his house that night taunting and jeering him with not having fought at the recent engagements of Rongiriri, Hairini, and Rangiawhia. Smarting under these scornful icers, his decision at last wavered ; and blood being thicker than water, he called out: "Enough, my brother, I Bhall now be one to let the people get killed." Accordingly, next morning they all repaired to Orakau, and selected a site to build the pah —a site condemned by Rewi as unsuitable, on the ground that it afforded no means of retreat in case of defeat. It consisted of a tongue of land running into a deep swamp, and there they began to build the pah, intending to remain concealed till the defences were
bloods, whose valor outran their discretion, strayed away without orders, and got shot at Rangiawhia. This event led to the discovery of the pah operations, and intelligence was quickly conveyed to the English commander, Brigadier-general Carey (late 18th Royal Irish), who at once made preparations to attack them. lie marched all night, and took up his position about a mile from v.here the Natives were at work, and waited there for his reinforcements to arrive. And when the morning of the 31st March, 18G4, bvoke the order was given to advance and surround the pah, consisting of an oblong redoubt built entirely of sods, about a chain and a-half Jong and a chain wide, with outlying connected rifle-pits, the whole being enclosed by a strong post-and-rail fence, and built in the middle of a peach grove. Although the Maoris had worked hard all night, the works were very far from complete, and the advance ol the troops took them somewhat by surprise. The service of prayer conducted by the devout chief Te Ikarau, commending his little band of followers to the Divine protection, hadjust closed when the British, numbering six to one, moved forward in front of the Maori position, skilfully extending their lines so as to completely enwrap the Maori entrenchment—a movement which served the double purpose of preventing escape from within and bu filing succor from without. The number of the defenders did not exceed 300 (including men, women, and children), armed with obsolete weapons, short of food, water, and ammunition, and everything else that could serve to place them on an equality with the soldiers save a dauntless determination to fight the invaders to the bitter end. The order was given to carry the place by assault, and four divisions were thrown forward to carry out the instructions. Three divisions were hurled against tho western side and one against the south, whilst the eastern side was threatened by a strong reserve. On went the assailants unaware of the destruction which awaited them from the carefully masked rifle pits. No impression was made upon the works, the troops retiring broken and disordered after the first fire, leaving their dead and wounded behind thorn, having reached no farther than the outer fence, where died with many others tho cheery and intrepid Captain Ring at the head of his division. Captain Ring now sleeps side by side with his fellow-heroes and countrymen in the Auckland cemetery. Once more our men were led back to the assault, and once more they had to retire withered by the storm of fire which met them from parapetand ditch, llowi's defences were strongly aud skilfully constructed, and his dispositions appear to have been carefully made, and his orders were obeyed to the very letter. His instructions were : "Don't fire when the pakehas are at a distance, but wait till they reach the outer fence. Fire one barrel lying down; then jump up and fire tho other barrel standing." The disastrous results of the unsuccessful assaults upon the redoubt convinced General Carey of thestrength of therebel position, and seeiDg that any further attempt meant the unnecessary destruction of his men, he wisely determined to desist, and effect by means of the spade and shovel of his engineers what his bayonets had failed to accomplish. _ The night closed in on besiegers and besieged, and the troops, armed with 40,000 rounds of Enfield ammunition, lit up the darkness of the night with the flashes oi' their volleys, aud the ground shook and vibrated with the concussions of their artillery. At this juncture the pious lohunrja, anxious to pieserve his reputation as a prophet, proposed to tear out the heart of a dead soldier lying within the fence, so that they might not be deserted by their Maori gods. Rewi once more rebuked this theologic fraud, saying : "I forbid you to mutilate the bodies of the dead. I care not for your Maori gods. We are fighting in Christian times." Sleepless, worn, and haggard, reduced in numbers but still undismayed, the devoted and harassed garrison, buried their dead, repaired the breaches in the walls, and waited anxiously lor the dawn of morning. An unforeseen but new danger now threatened their precarious position. Tho word was silently passed round that the bullets were running short, owing to a Native chief having leit a bagful buried in the ground at the village of Kihikihi, and when a Native stole through our lines that night to bring it into the ]>ah, much to hia astonishment ho found an English soldier walking sentry over the spot. Little did that sentinel dream, as he paced audrepaced over the ground, of the important duty he was performing as custodian of the Jives of his fellow countrymen. Rewi rated his followers soundly for their folly and want of precaution, and, under dilliculties of no ordinary kind, proved himself _ a man of rare expediency and original resource. It struck him that wooden bullets might be used as a substitute for lead ones, aud after trying and discarding peach tree branches and titri chopped iuto small pieces, he at last found that the wood of the apple tree suited his purpose best; and these he ordered to be fired during the night, and when the daylight appeared to revert to the use of the others. O-.ice more the weird cry of the kaka ushered in tho first faint streaks of daylight—the signal for renewed aud intensified hostility on both sides. A chief within the walls recited the deeds of their ancestors. Inflaming his followers to a pitch of emulation lie called for volunteers to support him in a sortie on the besiegers, and twenty-five Natives stood forth as a forlorn hope to assist the hazardous enterprise; ten to act as sharpshooters and fifteen to charge the enemy. Nothing in bravery could exceed their desperate onslaught, aud many men were killed on our side and on theirs. When beaten back behind the shelter of their works. Rewi cut short tho speech of the boastful chief who had led them, and who was vaunting of his exploits, saying "Speak not of your bravery, but say at once how many of your number were slain."
During the afternoon a considerable reinforcement of Natives appeared in sight, and advanced to the rear of our outposts with the evident intention of assisting their compatriots cooped up at Orakau. But when they saw the place surrounded by a wall of troops, and heard the booming of the big guns, they saw the impossibility of gu'lng effective succor, and sullenly withdrew beyond the range of the investing guns, lingering by the margin of the bush on the side of an adjacent hill, weepiDg, as the eloquent Hitiri beautifully expressed it, "their Ead farewells for those they might never see again." A little before daylight on the iTiorning of the third day Kewi, UDmindful of self, but ever anxious for the welfare of his people, made his last roimd of the pah, and gave orders to prepare the small remnant of food left—a few potatoes ; the dried tawa beiries, Indian corn, and other Native preparations having long since disappeared. When first surprised by the troops the opportunity had been lost of supplying the place with water, and not a drop had crossed their lips since the morning of the 3lst. The potatoes were roasted, but their dry, parched throats, were unable to swallow. Like Macbeth'a "Amen," the food stuck in their throats. Going to each man separately and inquiring how he got on with his meal, and finding that the invariable answer was that they could not eat for want of water, his resolve was at once taken, and he said: " We shall now have to leave the pah, but not as the Waikato left at Rangiriri (that is, as prisoners). We shall go from here as free men, or leave our bodies on the land." Within the walls the extremity of danger, suffering, and endurance had been reached. In the midst of women and children supplicating and crying in piteous accents for food and water, one man only spoke of surrender, and by the stem, uncompromising Rewi's order the craven was put to death. The commander-in-chief now appeared upon the scene, accompanied by reinforcements from Pukerimu. General Sir Duncan Cameron—an approved old soldier, whoso hair had become silvery while in the campaigns of his country—he who had led, some few short years before, under the brave Sir Colin's eye, the impetuous bare-kneed 42nd up the steep spurs of the Alma—now aat and watched the uncongenial scene. His experienced glance foresaw the short term of Maori resistance, and from the field he at once despatched a courier to Auckland conveying the triumphant intelligence to the Governor, Sir George Grey: "The rebels are within our grasp, and not a man can possibly escape." Suddenly the bugles I sounded the order to cease firing, and Major Mair (called by his brother officers 1 " Juliuß Plaoidus," from his cool contempt
of danger—an officer who spoke the Maori tongue like a Native) was sent forward by the general with a flag of truco to summon them to surrender. He rode forward to within a few paces of the Maoris, who kept him covered with their guns. He said: "Let the righting cease, because you are surrounded. Your position is hopeless. If you persist in fighting you will all be killed, and your women and your children will die with you." The words were sent round, and thu chiefs and people took counsel on the general's message. Hapurona, the garrulous and boastful leader of the wild Uriwcra tribe, proposed that a white flag should be hoisted as a token of surrender, and when the troops came close up to the pah to fire a tremendoua voUey at them, and in the confusion of the act to charge through them and escape. The chivalrous Rewi at onco overruled this suggestion, stigmatising the proposal as a piece of treachery unbecoming rawjulirafi (or chiefs). It was ultimately arranged that the only proposal they would agree to was that the troops should go away with all their dead and wounded, and that the Maoris should do the same. This ultimatum was conveyed to General Cameron, who admired their heroism, but whose heart was touched with pity at their inevitable fate. He again despatched Major Mair to inform them that he would accept nothing hut unconditional surrender; but that Englishmen made not war on women and on children, aud advising them to send thete outside the walls, and the troops would protect them so that they might not die.
Then uprose Ahumat, sister of the chief Hitiri, who said : " If our husbands and our brothers are, to die. of what profit is it to us that we should live ? No ; let us die with the men." Language and resolve worthy of ancient Sparta. Hearing that the women were all of one mind, the chiefs Rewi, Hapurona, and Hitiri defiantly uttered those memorable words : "Ka vihaiehai tonu, ah, ah, ah!" (" Tell your general we shall nob surrender; we shall fight en for ever and ever aud ever !") Their followers caught up the heroic words of defiance, and repeated them with a loud shout. At this moment a Maori treacherously fired at Major Mair, hitting him on the shoulder. This of course ended the negotiations, and firing recommenced on both sides more furiously than ever. Inside the pah the last charge of lead bullets but one had been fired. Once more (he riflemen rained an unceasing storm of bullets on the heads of the defenders; the artillery, at a range of a few yards, crashed their shot into the sod ramparts ; handgrenades were simultaneously thrown over the parapets, many of which were fearlessly picked up and thrown back again. The hand-grenades were thrown by a sergeant of the Royal Artillery— Sergeant- major M'Kay, now e>f Dunedin—who in two separate paragraphs of the same despatch was highly praised by the general for his precision, coolness, and gallantry in the sap. A (storming party, led by the heroic Captain Hurford, threw themselves upon the breach, now low enough to warrant another assault; but again the assailants were beaten back, leaving their brave leader dangerously wounded within the breach. Stung to fury and revenge by the death of his comrades, a private soldier in the sap, with the devil-may-care courage of his race, threw his cap over the partially-breached wall and leapt after it. Twenty of the defence force followed, only to be driven back repulsed, with the loss of half their party from the galling fire of the uncompromising Maoris. The Maoris had now striven, as one of their chiefs ssid, describing the prowess of the British, "against the offspring of Tiki, the heaven-born sous of giants"; and although death was their companion, and stared them in tho face, hemmed in and fenced off as they were from liberty and safety by iron walls of troop 3, that night they determined to strike a blow for both. Heedless of the bullets spattering around him, Rewi sprang to the top of the earthen walls and stood therewith both arms widely extended, aud shouted at the pitch of his voice: "Let the fire or your big guns be directed at me." This was not done out of mere bravado, but in accordance villi Maori ciutom, to determine their chances of ercape. Four times the artillery complied with his odd request, and four times their pre-jectiles flew wide of the human mark. He then jumped down, exclaiming to his followers: "We are safe ; it is a good omen."
The last charge of ballets kept in reserve was rammed home into tho guns, and then this remnant band of heroes formed up in a solid body, women and children in the centre, and stepped outside the pah as quietly, says an eye-witness, as if they had been going to church. For a moment the voice of Rewi was heard commanding every man to take care of himself. They quickly separated into small bands, and nerved by the strength of despair they boldly faced the soldiery, who closed in on them from every side. ' The cavalry flew with uplifted weapons to head anil turn them as stockmen drive wild cattle to the yard. Hemmed in and driven to the swamp the fugitives stood at bay, and fell aud died in the pitiless massacre which took place—full ami died as became the hero and tho patriot, without sign of fear or oy for mercy. The heroic old Christian rebel chief, when he stepped outside the pah, prayed—prayed not to his enemies for mercy, but to his God for safety: "O God, save me, aud visit not this upon me." That prayer was heard. He seemed to bear a charmed life. He and a few followers fought their passage out, and in their flight, when hardly pressed, rallied from timo to time and confronted their pursuers, few of whom cared to engage that bleeding, desperate man. Even at this trying moment of clanger his natural magnetism as a leader failed not to attract the devotion of his warriors, one of whom interposed his body as a shield and received the death-blow intended for his chief. Baffling pursuit, he at last reached and struggled through the Puniu River, and escaped—escaped, a fugitive and an outlaw, and ultimately found refuge at Haugatikei, tho distant stronghold of his tribe. A civilised Government resorted to the stratagem of setting a paltry price upon his head, dead or alive a plan commonly employed in tho apprehension of the burglar or the thief, but in this caso an amount no greater than that often paid for the recovery of a laely's poodle. Unbefitting treatment for a bighearted and patriotic warrior, who fought us not as the fanatical Hauhaus of later times fought us—whose fingers were dripping with the blood of innocent women and children—but as the Greek met Greek, anel as a foeman worthy of our steel.
The bitterness on both sidea has long since passed away. The unyielding, proudspirited, but withal simple-minded, old chief did not bend or kiss the rod, but, as Englishmen ever admire a man who has fought his way to their respect, enemy though he be, the rebellious acts of the old chief were condoned. He received an unconditional pardon, and the nation that once wounded him with their bayonets afterwards gave him a pension, which I believe he still receives. Although the Government built hiin a mansion at Kihikihi, he seldom stays there, preferring to live as his forefathers lived—in his own raupo wharc. It was dark when I left the field of Orakau and inquired as to the whereabouts of the chief. I was told by his son that be wason hi 3 way to the Land Court, and was camped about five miles out. The son kindly offered me a horse and his company as guide and interpreter, which I readily accepted. We found Rewi camped on the bank of the Puniu surrounded by his wife and family, who received ub with expressions and demeanor of the utmost kindness. Tho boy told him that I had been looking at Orakau, and now came to see him. His old brown eyes sparkled and the grasp of his hand tightened on my own when I referred to his eventful history. He invited mo to sit down beside him, which I did, and stayed with him for some considerable time, when he told me many of the facts which I hare narrated. With sincere regret I rose to part from him as time compelled my return. And when I had splaßhed through the ford of the Puniu—that same river which Rewi had breasted on the dark day of his adversity—l turned to look once more on that remarkable old man. There he sat enjoying the sunset of life after the storms of his earlier years, the glow of the camp fire lighting up his fine old tattooed face. And as I pursued my journey homewards I thought or said " Farewell, brother savage, Rewi Maniopoto ; may your mana and your shadow never grow less. I shall often think
of you when surrounded by other savages in the Island of Te Wai Poenamu—think of you as the grand old man who animated and inspired your followers to deeds worthy of the classietimes. I shall always remember with pleasure the hour I enjoyed your hospitality, sitting on your mat by the door of your raupo whare, sitting smoking the pipe of peace, when you entertained me like a real old Maori rangatira, relic of a noble race, whose early feelings towards the missionary, the traveller, and the settler were those of kindness and hospitality." Savage. Dunedin, July 24, 1889.
A REMINISCENCE OF MAORI CHIVALRY., Issue 7970, 27 July 1889, Supplement
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