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TARANAKI., Otago Witness, Issue 457, 1 September 1860
(From the Lyttelton Times Correspondent.) I was very much sm prised in common with all my fellow- voyagers on aniving heie to find that not a stroke lias been struck tinee the engagement at the Waitara, the unpleasant news of which was taken down to you by the Airedale on her last southern tiip. The forces in camp at the "WaiUva have been quiet except the throwing a shell now and then into the enemy's pah. The troops in town too have been quiet, engaged in the innocent pastime of entrenching the inhabited quarter of the village. In so doing a laTge number of houses are left outside the entrenchments, so that their inhabitants will not on?y not have the benefit of the protection of the lines, but will be in the unpleasant position of receiving the enemy's attack from without and the fire from within simultaneously. The town appears to be in a disorganized state. Men, women, and children unemployed and going about disorderly, giving New Plymouth the appearance of a town in a state of siege i atlier than one garrisoned by troops in full activity. Procla-.
mations have been issued almost in so many words ordering the removal of all inhabitants unfit for service in the field. As there is still a great superabundance of women and children—threefourths of the whole — this course may be founded on necessity, but it will assuredly be accepted as a hardship by the people, who one and all seem willing rather to stay to fight or die in Taranaki than to remove to the most prosperous fortune elsewhere. The ladies of the place are full of coinage : they seem not to know that there is anything to fear ; and should the righting come to close quarters, I have no doubt that they will be found loading the guns for their kinsmen to fire. Major-General Pratt supersedes Colonel Gold in the command after which event the latter will be forgotten, and may be forgiven. With the new commander and the ample force at command, some chance will exist that tbe appeal to arms will not be utterly unsuccessful on our side. Tlie forces in Taranaki muster close upon 2800 eflicent men ; regulars, militia, volunteers, and naval brigade, with gallant Commodore Loring at their head, being quaitered round the base of the flagstaff, which it is the main object of the insurgent.") to capture and cut down. It would be a sight worth seeing, the handling they will get from the Jack Tars if they venture upon their wood-cutting operations while the Naval brigade stays where it is. Meanwhile canvaa tents afford cold quarters, especially for the men arrived from Sydney and Melbourne, for the cold just now is intense ; the frost bites deep into the ground, and Mount Egmont is grandly beautiful with the snow sheeting its sloping sides down to the base, and causing it to appear as the parent of all tha tents which have sprung up upon the plain at its feet. The affair of the Waitara Is still the common subject of conversation, and many anecdote* are told of the events of the day. An observer of the scene assvred me that on the following day the Mnories were seen from tbe camp going about with spades to bury the dead, they being masters of the field from which our troops weie unable to bring off their wounded. A soldier, lying on the ground within sight of the camp, but not dead, started up as the Maori approached him, proved his vitality by wrenching away from the latter his spade and striking him a blow with it. The Maori ran back to the pah, fetched a musket and deliberately shot the man through tbe body as he lay on the ground, and then proceeded to bury him. How miserably weak, though no fault of theirs, the gallant fellows in camp must have felt themselves whou they were obliged to witness submissively scenes like this ! It was not W. Kingi's men who fought so furiously the other day. The N(*atia\vas are too polished to try such close and bloody fighting. Kingi gave up his land to Potitau, and tbe contest is not now carried on for the former by the men of bis tribe, but by all the tribes aud parts of tribes in that locality on behalf of .he king of New Zealand. The fighting at Waitara was done chiefly by the Ngatimaniapoto men who are esteemed the most rude and rough dealing of all in this island. They are very intimately related to tbe Waikatos, and the loss of some of their men v. ill very probably bring down a number of tbeii relatives to seek revenge. These are the men who came down fiom Mok.ui and Kdwhia after plundering the latter place. The news of the action reached the natives nenr i Wellington ovearland befoic the Europeans theie hoard of it by steamer : and it is a curiou3 fact that they believed that they had sustained a very severe defeat. Instead of being more elated and saucy ' than before, tliey were downcast and mournful: so much so that white men, noticing their appearance, were pen>uadad that the English bad gained a decided victory at Taranaki. The natives, however, vouchsafed no particular ; and when they learned from the whites the real state of affairs according to the report on our side, they changed their note'at once, and declared that only 3 Maories had been killed, but that upwards of 200 English han fallen. As to this pomt — how many of the natives were killed in the action — I have been able to obtain some reliable information. They were left masters of tbe field, and having to bury the dead, were able to keep their facts to themselves. They have asserted, however, iv a manner to induce belief in tbe statement that they buried 89 corpses on the field. Th'l9 was said and repeated with an air of mystery, insinuating that all tbe 89 had been white men Taking this number as correct, and recollecting that 21 were missing from our side, it follows that C 8 of the rebels fell in tbe encounter,. The number of wounded would no doubt be pioportionately large, and the distress of the Welling- | ton natives will thus be fully accounted for. ! A singular circumstance presents itself in the piesent war, reminding us that we are engaged in a struggle with an enemy whose tactics are not those of Europe nor of a kind to which the drill and strategy of civilised armies are applicable. It is the custom of the natives in regular warfare to apprise each other of their intention to commence active operations, and even to send .1 sketch of the plan of an intended action before commencing- an assault. Infoimation of this kind, which a stranger would of course believe lo be sent with the view of misleading, is in truth bond fide ; many instances have occurred in the history of p.ist and present native disturbarccs in which the genuineness of the custom has been exhibited. When the two great chiefs of the Ngapuhi tribe, Tornati W.ika and Heki, declared one for the other ag-ainst the English prioi to i.he Bay of Islands business, Waka sent notice to^Heki of his intention to support the Governor and to do all that lay in his power against Heki. He added that, before the war began, -Heki should come round through his (JVaka's) tribe and obtain from it as many men as he could prevail upon to go with him, and that he himself would go round Heki's men and bring off as many as wished to support the Europeans. This amicable arrangement was carried out and the fight began. All through its continuance Waka was in possession of Ileki's intentions and plans, and communicated them to the Government. It is a plain matter of indisputable history that in every instance when commander of the forces followed Waka's advice he was successful, and that whenever he disregarded it — as any English commander would be sure to do very frequently the result was signal failure. And so it is now at Taranaki. I have reason to know that the English side were in possession of the Maori plan of the Waitara business some time before the action itself took place. That is to say, the natives had communicated their intention' to attack Major Nelson's foraging party with the view of enticing him to attack them in force, and the plan of the action was set out with wonderful sagacity in all its details almost exactly as it afterwards transpired, — with one remarkable exception, — Colonel Gold was to have been taken prisoner, but he judiciously took measures to disappoint their expectation in this respect. It should not be forgotten that there are on the English side not only friendly native* who come and go, receive and take intelligence between the belligerents, but other natives also — Ihaia for instance — with whom the Kingites consider themselves to be particularly at war, and whose lives are far more certain to bo sacrificed than those of any European, were they to fall into the hands of the enemy. To these, according to the scrupulously observed ctiquettee of the case, information is regularly bent. There are also white men held in extreme respect by the natives, conversant with the language, customs, and etiquette (there is no name better), and who are in a position to find out and state distinctly and decisively at any time the smallest and the largest facts- connected with the position and intentions of the rebel leaders. Now, with these facts before us, it will strike any one ss being a monitions absurdity on our side that we should maintain a number of friendly natives within the town and camp, and at the same time lay plans of attack whose successes depends upon the same secrecy being observed at isi usual in European strategy. One is tempted to say— Get rid of these pestilent friendly natives, friendly to both sides, and then a plan of. attack may be prepared with some hopes of astonishing the rebels. But I doubt whether this would be after all quite a whe policy. There would be great difficulty aad danger in carrying it out, and even then the result would be far from cortain. Would it not be better to adopt for the campaign the ptinciples of tho country it3elf, to tench our soldiers some of tbe indigenous modes ' of waifare, and the commanders something of na- ' tive strategy. We have a great deal to gain and ! very little to lose by pursuing this course. By maintaining communication between the camp and the pah, we avail ourselves of a means of knowing much of what we shoulfl otherwise be in total ignorance of; and from our side, with the immense reinforcements now arriving, having not only' a! superiority of weapons and of courage, but even of numbers at last, surely the information which will be taken to them will tend rather to dispirit and dißcourage them than to put power into their hands. Of course the mode of fighting nm3t be adapted to the" circumstances, and of a sui ety it will in such case contain at least as many elements of success as at present.
The Taranaki and Ngatiruanui tribes are now returning from the South, whither they retired after the battle of Waireka. These fallows are not purbu'mg a regular warfare, but plundering and burning. Of this, as it is undertaken simply for pleasure and profit, and not from a sense of duty or on principle, they do not mako it a practice to send any intimation to the Europeans beforehand. They are in truth a despicable race, and deserve no better character than the rest of the tribes universally give them, that of mean men and slaves, not to be fought with bat to be punished. Nevertheless thoy are doing their work now with great dignity. Having been saved from utter destruction under the W^ik.itos by the coming of the white man, baring been helped to pence, plenty, and prosperity, by the presence of the vrlntc man among them for twenty years, they take advantage of the present disturbances to come down in all their force upon our purchased lands at Tataraimaka, which are out of the reacli of the forces in town, burn and plunder to their hearth' content, and then build their own pahs upon the land, declaring that it is theirs by conquest. Let it be their 3so long as their conquest holds; by the same rule not only th;>( hnd will bp ours again but all their territory will lie ours and not theirs when w«> have given them their meed of punishment as, please God, may shortly be. Rj the v=-a>, it ii univers.iliy expected by the natives that if the English are victorious against the tribes now in arms against them, all the lands of those tribes need but be gone over by our forces to fall at once to the crown by right of conquest. Np one e<xn say that if the Gorernor should see fit to act thus when the time comes, he will be doing anything contrary to justice or even to the stricteit principles of consideration for the savage, urged by the most ardent of Maori sympathizers. Many well founded reports agree in declaring that f,he natives seriously mean to attack the town, particularly with the view of cutting down the flagstaff, and of course with the hope of gutting and plundering the houses. It is said that, as usual, the plats of operations has baen sent in to the English Commander. There is to be an attack at Waitara, and another to the Southward, as feints, to draw the soldiers out of the town. When the place is clear of troops, a reserve force of natives will march boldly en New Plymouth and perform their intentions with respect to the flagstaff. You will see that with this information _pr even under the possibility of such a scheme, Colonel Gold might be excused for declining to withdraw the bulk of his forces from the town for any purpose ; but if any apprehension existed in his mind, why did he mar civ- six miles towards the Waitara and spend the day there, leaving the town defenceless, without taking succour to Major Nelson ? THE IXTER-COLONIAL R.M. STEAM PACKET COMPANY'S SHIP "VICTOR. ITor some months past tlio announcement lias been made that the Victory, belonging to the Inter-colonial Jioyal Mail Company, would leave tiiis port for I\ew Zealand about tills time. When first we learnt the intention we did not hesit.ite to express our gratification that, thanks to the entei prising spirit of tbe firm of which our vorthy Mayor, Z. C. Pearson, Esq., is the head, Iluil was likely to make a direct acquaintance with i\ trade to tbe Australian colonies and New Zealand, which has done so much to enrich Liverpool. There did not then, -nor does there now, appear to us any reason why Hull should ncta share largely iv that trade, and ire were Siinßuine that the results of this venture would lend to further efforts in the same direction. We v ere mistaken, however. No passengers, and scatcely a halo of have offered from this p'mcc, and this (Wednesday) morning the Victory k'jives for London, where no doubt die will soon <ill. She is ti magnificent specimen of naval architect ui'p, built 'by Messrs. Denny, of Dumbarton. She is 215 feet long, with 27 feet breadth of beam, and 16 feet (3 inches depth of hold ; her builders' measurement being about 1000 tons. No expense has been spared in fitting up her cabins. She has three saloons aft ; one for general use, and two for ladies only. She can accommodate in these 46 passengers. The fittings and furnishings of the main saloon are superb. The seats are covered with rich crimson velvet, and the panels are decorated with oil paintings of no mean order. These are principally battle scenes, and represent some of the most stirring events in our national history. 'A hasty glance thi'ough tho cabins lends us to the conclusion that nothing which e:ui tend to the comfort of the traveller is wanting. Teh decorations have been carried out by Messrs. Wright and Dreyer, of this town, and they reflect the utmost credit on their taste and skill. All the officers' cabins are on deck, and fitted up most carefully, as are also the cabins forward for the second-class passengers. It is worth a long walk, to have a peep^nto the Victory's engine-room, where steeple engines, built by Denny, of 350 horse-power, and fitted with Hamilton's patent governor, are fixed. Every thing is as neat and orderly as possible, and one, can scarcely imagine those vast inert masses of' niotal ever exerting any influence in impelling the vessel. The steam is superheated by Partridge's pntent, ar>d a donkey-engine, which is fixed to work the machinery on deck, would alone impel the ship at the rate of one knot an hour in case the r rincipal engines broke down. Tho Victory is also fitted with a patent condensing apparatus for obtaining pure fresh water ; and, indeed, nothing teccms left undone to secure every comfijrt and convenience to those who go down to the sea in her. The kitchen, (galley as the sailor calls it) is a model of economy, cleanliness, and excellence. Altogether a finer steam ship never left Hull. She is under the command of Captain Toogood, and is to rc-inforce the Company's iicet in tbe Australian waters. As we have said, she leaves Hull llu's morning for London, We can onl} r express our regret that tha enterprising spirit of Messrs. Pearson, Coleman, and Co., lias not been better met here, and that, while Hull has the credit "of fitting out and sending forth so magnificent a ship as the Victory, she lias not the further credit of finding a full cargo for the vessel so sent. — -Hull Advertiser, May 9.
TARANAKI., Otago Witness, Issue 457, 1 September 1860
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