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Volume 42, 1909
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Art. XII.—The Waterloo of the Waikato, fought in 1830, and its Effects on the After-enacted Land Laws of that Part of the North Island.

[Read before the Manawatu Philosophical Society, 29th April, 1909.]

The Battle of Taumatawiwi, fought in 1830, may well be termed the Waterloo of the Waikato. A few words will explain the importance of the battle.

The Maori tribes north of Auckland, collectively known as Ngapuhi, were the first to obtain firearms in quantity. With the new weapon these tribes overran the North Island, slaughtering and capturing prisoners almost with impunity. Their incursions into the Waikato culminated in the storm and massacre of Matakitaki Pa in 1822.

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Ngapuhi, however, formed no permanent settlements south of Auckland; they only depopulated the Waikato and Waipa districts.

The tribes collectively called Ngatimaru and Ngatipaoa, of the lower Thames and south coast of Hauraki Gulf, were also by this time (1822) becoming well supplied with firearms, and they invaded, with intention of permanent settlement, the almost wholly depopulated great triangle formed on the west and east by the Waipa and Waikato Rivers, and by the Maungatautari Mountain and Range in the south.

Between the years 1814 and 1822, Ngatihaua, under their politic and warrior chief Te Waharoa, driven from their proper homes on the Waikato, maintained by sheer talent and bravery their tribal individuality and independence in the inland country north of Rotorua and between the Waikato and Thames Rivers. They established friendly relations with the Tauranga

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Battle of Taumatawiwi.

tribes, collectively known as Ngaiterangi. Through these latter tribes Te Waharoa contrived to obtain a considerable number of firearms, and had greatly distinguished himself on behalf of Ngaiterangi against the Arawa and Rotorua Tribes.

Up to this time, however (1830), he had been quite unable to make any attempt to recover the ancestral lands of Ngatihaua in the Waikato; but now (1830) he learned that the other remnants of Waikato tribes, having obtained firearms through the ports of Manukau, Kawhia, and Mokau, were forming plans to attack the Ngatimaru and Ngatipaoa, who had taken permanent possession of the triangular district above mentioned. Now, it would, according to Maori custom, be very derogatory to the prestige (mana) of Ngatihaua and their chief Te Waharoa if that district was reconquered by any one other than themselves, for, although, supposing the Waikato

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tribes were successful in expelling Ngatimaru and Ngatipaoa, Ngatihaua would certainly be allowed to return to their ancestral possessions, yet they would under such circumstances do so in a subordinate position.

Ngatihaua at this time mustered three hundred first-class warriors, ninety per cent. of whom had a firearm of some kind, and they had been disciplined by Te Waharoa, who for the previous eight years had taught every man of them to look forward to the time when they could burst into the Waikato, and by sheer valour recover their ancestral homes from the numerous enemy in possession.

News now came that the Waikato tribes had got together eight hundred well-armed men in the Hunua and Manukau Ranges. These now, under several chiefs, proposed to proceed up the Waikato and Waipa Rivers, while other parties were preparing to join them from the Pirongia Range on the west and Mokau on the south. It was time, therefore, for Ngatihaua to act, or leave to others the recovery of the land.

In this emergency Te Waharoa appealed to his friends (Ngaiterangi, of Tauranga) to lend him a thousand men, not to be exposed to imminent risk, but merely to make a show of force. Ngaiterangi consented. Te Waharoa got the thousand show allies, and the sketch on the preceding page will, I hope, illustrate the great battle that ensued while the Waikato war-parties were still several days distant.

The address of Te Waharoa to his people before leaving the Thames hills was short, and altogether to the point. “Our women and children,” he said, “go with us, for we go to stay. If we cannot conquer, we can die. And our women and children shall be with us in either case. Any of you who have had ‘omens’ can remain here and join Ngaiterangi. At dawn of day we march. The women and children will follow. Enough! You are each as good a man as I, and it is my fixed intention to conquer before the Waikato tribes come up.” There were no bad omens, and not a soul of Ngatihaua remained behind. In the afternoon of the following day they junctioned with their Ngaiterangi allies, and together they crossed the Waikato River a little above where the Town of Cambridge now stands.

The Ngatimaru and Ngatipaoa were formed along the brow of the gully and terrace, their left resting on their strong pa, their right on the perpendicular cliff of the Waikato River. Their whole line formed nearly a right angle, but they neglected to occupy the mass of loose rocks in the angle formed by the river-cliff and the steep terrace. These rocks, or mass of separate boulders, lay a few yards from the foot of the terrace. Te Waharoa noticed this, and these rocks became a distinct feature in his dispositions. He first of all disposed his thousand Ngaiterangi allies along the gully, with orders merely to keep up as hot a fire as they could across the gully, but he neither asked nor professed to expect from them any actual charge or hand-to-hand conflict. He, however, placed twenty picked men of his own Ngatihaua on the extreme right of his allies, with orders, on a given signal, to charge across the gully regardless of the number opposed to them, and to incite by their example as many as possible of their allies to follow. He then divided the remaining Ngatihaua into two bodies of 140 men each. The left detachment had no leader, as it was extremely uncertain which of them would reach their destined point of attack; but every man of this 140 knew the orders—viz., that they were to creep through the fern to the edge of the chasm, and lower themselves by ropes to the bottom. Five women were detailed to creep after the column and let the ropes go when all the

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men had got to the bottom. The men were then, by means of notches cut in the papa cliff, to get at least one man and a rope to the top; then by means of the ropes they all could get up more speedily, taking cover in the little clump of trees until all were on the upper level; then at a given signal all were to run at best speed, and in the loosest possible order, to the rocks at the end of the level. There for a moment they were to halt and get together, and then charge with all their might on to the extreme end of the enemy's line.

While this operation was in progress, the right-hand 140 Ngatihaua advanced close to the waterfall, and kept up a hot fire on the angle formed by the terrace and the gully. Te Waharoa himself kept a little farther back, on the slope of Pukekura Hill, until he saw the attack from the rocks on the enemy's right taking effect. Then, shouting his battle-cry, he made the signal to his twenty men on the extreme right of his allies, and charged with the whole weight of his 140 men on the angle of the enemy's line, just over the waterfall. At the same moment the twenty Ngatihaua on his extreme right charged across the gully, and in the enthusiasm of the moment and the natural love of a Maori for battle many of the Ngaiterangi allies followed them.

About forty of the left column of Ngatihaua had fallen in the 500-yards race from the little clump of trees to the rocks, but the remaining hundred now came storming furiously and irresistibly along the enemy's long line. The determined charge of Te Waharoa, with his 140 men, on to the centre of the enemy kept them pretty well employed until the cry arose among the enemy that they were being cut off from their pa and their women by the desperate charge of the Ngatihaua twenty on the extreme right (left) of the enemy. This charge, too, was momentarily increasing in weight by parties of Ngaiterangi crossing the gully.

The left column of Ngatihaua from the rocks actually rolled up the enemy's line until the two parties of Ngatihaua met at the angle. Then the united columns, still holding the flank of the enemy, continued the charge, until the cry arose among the enemy that they were being cut off from their pa; then the fight became a rout.

The ten survivors of the right-flank Ngatihaua detachment stood as rocks, back to back, amid the deluge of the retreating enemy, until the last of these got within the pa. Ngatihaua and allies then immediately retired out of “Brown Bess” range—for there were no 1,000-yards rifles in those days.

Ngatihaua lost altogether seventy men killed and ninety wounded. The enemy lost 440 killed and about as many wounded. Those slightly wounded escaped to the pa. The enemy, however, had still considerably over two thousand men, and Te Waharoa could not implicity depend on his allies. The Ngatihaua dead were therefore carefully collected, and the bodies forthwith cremated, in case they might fall into the hands of the enemy. When the writer last saw the place, in 1880, a small flagstaff still marked the spot where the bodies were burned.

During the night after the battle negotiations were opened—at first between Te Waharoa's Ngaiterangi allies and the enemy in the pa. Next day the matter was referred to Te Waharoa, and that wise and politic chief readily agreed to cease hostilities, provided the Ngatimaru and Ngatipaoa retired at once, “bag and baggage,” from Waikato, and returned to their own proper district. This they accordingly did, escorted by Te Waharoa's Ngaiterangi allies and fifty Ngatihaua.

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Te Waharoa, with the remaining 180 Ngatihaua (half of them wounded), and the women and children, took possession of the enemy's pa, and remained there to receive the advancing Waikato parties from south-west and south.

The reason I have termed this battle the Waterloo of the Waikato is that in our time the Native Land Court has held that all that region was completely conquered and occupied by Ngatimaru and Ngatipaoa, and reconquered by Te Waharoa and Ngatihaua; consequently, all land titles in that region date from the Battle of Taumatawiwi.

[I am much indebted to Mr. A. McDonald, of Palmerston North, for his valuable assistance in getting the facts required for this paper.]