Nukumaru battle (part 2)


Nukumaru battle, that started General Cameron's campaign into South Taranaki in early 1865


Video & Story Credits: Darren Ngawera,  A walk through old South Taranaki with a Maori Descendant

A walk through old South Taranaki with a Maori descendant is one persons research and collection from various sources, centered around the documentation of the Maori prisoners sent to Otago in 1869.

Nukumaru battle

Nukumaru battle (part 2) Its been about 6 months since I posted anything on here, been busy at mahi but thought I would share some info that has been shown to me recently and also a bit more drone footage of the area, so thanks to Glen Zehnder for sharing his research and the farmer LLoyd who allowed us on the property, this is part 2 of the Nukumaru battle, that started General Cameron's campaign into South Taranaki in early 1865.

There is a few new facts mentioned in the newspaper article that I have not seen before. The uru-paa or grave site that was there before the battle and must have been connected to Nukumaru paa. I knew the Maaori killed and buried here, which was recorded at around 11-12 were buried in the hills at the back of the camp somewhere in the hills and I have tried to mark this on a map althoughI am not exactly sure where it was but this is not the gravesite mentioned in the article with the white palings and slab at one end.

The strategy used by the taua that numbered less than half of the British armies 2000 men to attack a British army camp from different sides was most likely never aimed at defeating an army this size but to fight then retreat back to their fortified paa, with the hope this British army would be compelled to attack Weraroa paa only a few kilometers away.Anyway for those interested, it is still worth reading the first article I posted about Nukumaru before this one, this article is from the New Zealand Chronicle from 1865 and only a few weeks after the battle, the article is aimed at a Pakeha audience but still interesting reading. From reliable Maaori accounts they lost around 20 warriors at this battle, the Nukumaru redoubt was probably not built at this time but a short time after and all signs of it have disappeared but an old 1940's aerial photo is shown at the end of the video. The first video with the tractor shows where the first attack occurred on the picket that was near where the milking shed now stands, and the gulley was used by the warriors to escape.

A painting from this time shows some soldiers at one of these pickets and is included in the vid. The second and main attack by the Maori army was through the deserted village of Nukumaru and the Maaori got within 50yards of the British camp before retreating. I had not heard Te Kaokao was one of the main strategic chiefs but TuPatea mentions Te Ngohi Patohe so possibly a combined effort from these two chiefs and possibly leading the different groups. Te Kaokao is a well known Waikato/Ngati Maniapoto chief who opposed the Europeans throughout the NZ wars but before this article I had not known he was at Nukumaru. I have tried to add the locations of pickets, forts, attacking areas and camp based on the maps and other research, my skills are a bit amateur here but there is no markings or signs of these today. I am also working on the previous writings/videos for spelling and macrons so to those proficient Te Reo speakers apologies there, my go to Archie Hurunui is no longer with us but it is being worked on so this is my 2022 write up which may include the forts.

The following is from the New Zealand Chronicle 11th Feb 1865:THE WAR AT WANGANUI.ENGAGEMENT AT NUKAMARU.

From papers received yesterday we are able to give the following particulars of the engagement with the Maoris at Nukamaru. on the 25th January, a short notice of which we received by the previous mail from Wellington and which is printed in another part of our paper. The Wanganui Chronicle says that the attack on our troops was made under the directions of Te Kaokao, a Waikato chief, who has a great reputation for military skill, and thus describes the ground on which the engagement took place : —That our readers may better understand the nature of the engagement, the ground may be described on which it took place. 

Those who have visited the Waitotara block will at once recognize the position of the camp, when we mention that it is pitched close to a Maori grave surrounded by a white paling, and having a high slab at its end, on the top of a rising ground near the Paetaia Lake. All who have visited the country within the last five or six years must have seen the grave, which occupies a prominent position, and they will no doubt remember the landward side of it. For the benefit of others it may be mentioned that along the sea coast there run ridges of sand hills, which have been formed by the wind blowing the sand from the sea shore ; those ridges, at some distance from the sea, being covered with fern. 

At this point the most inland of these ridges is about three miles from the sea, and runs to almost a straight line parallel with the coast. It is closed with fern, and rises about fifty feet above the ground immediately inland. On the top of this ridge stands the white paling of the grave already mentioned, a person standing at this grave, and looking inland, has the whole of the field of battle spread out before him. Immediately in front, about fifty feet below him, and within fifty feet horizontally of his position, stand the tents occupied by the soldiers. 

There may be about 150 of these on the ground. Picketed in long lines on both sides of the camp, are the horses "of the Transport Corps and Military Train", amounting, apparently, to between three and four hundred. The camp is on a flat piece of ground, between two lakes which lie close to the ridge of sand-hills, at a distance of about three-quarters of a mile from each other. The camp is a very few feet above the level of the lakes, is almost on the bank of the one to the left — the Paetaia — and about half-a-mile from the one to the right, which is named the Waikato. From the camp, the ground right in front rises in a gentle slope for about a quarter of a mile, when the slope upwards becomes more abrupt. It is covered with fern and toi toi (now burned) and the view is shut in by the bush in the distance. Almost opposite the spectator, and about half a mile from him, the ground is broken by a deep hollow, covered with scrub. Carrying his eye toward the left he sees open ground between the hollow and another bush standing on irregular ground and much larger. 

On the brow of this slope a few whares are seen, being part of the Nukunmaru pah. To the left of these lies the Nukumaru bush. Near the pah a stream runs in a deep gully, which is continued to the Paetaia Lake. It will thus be understood that the camp lies on a flat piece of ground in a large hollow, the rising on the side toward the sea being abrupt and about fifty feet high, while inland the rise is gradual, not exceeding fifty feet in half a-mile. The enemy, supposed to number (300, and said by the prisoners to be 800, were posted in three divisions — one on the extreme left, occupying the rising ground on that side of the Nukamaru gully ; the middle division posted between the Nukumaru bush and the patch of scrub in the hollow ; and the left wing on the open ground on the other side of this hollow. It will be understood that the left of the enemy is to the right of the supposed spectator, and that what we call open ground was covered with long fern, four or five feet high, and toi-toi. 

From the same authority we give an account of the engagement : — On Wednesday afternoon, at one o'clock, a gun was fired, and the supposed spectator, on looking at the place whence the sounds proceed, sees little volumes of smoke rising from the burning fern, which some of the soldiers have set on fire. Presently he hears a volley, and learns that, under cover of the smoke, the picket of the 50th, on the other side of the gulley to the left, has been attacked by a number of natives, who, firing a volley, have rushed in upon them with their tomahawks, and compelled them to retire, leaving six of their number dead, and with their commanding officer, Ensign Grant, dangerously wounded. Immediately the camp is alive, and reinforcements from the 50th are sent forward to the left, which meet the advancing foe, and, after considerable firing, drive them back. The gully is crossed by the gallant men of the Queen's Own, and the enemy is pressed back to the edge of the bush, to which they are pursued by our men. A few shells are thrown in from the six-pounder Armstrong guns, but the soldiers find it impossible to advance further. Some of them follow for some distance those Maoris who retreat up the gulley ; and the whole of the enemy's right division is thrown back in disorder and beaten. 

The firing has lasted for upwards of half an hour in that direction. But meanwhile the spectator's attention has been distracted by what has been passing on his right. Almost immediately after the commencement of the first attack a large number of dusky warriors have rushed down from the slopes to the front and right. The object has clearly been to engage the majority of the soldiers on the left of the camp and then to rush it on the right. Protected by the toi-toi these men advance in skirmishing order to within 50 yards of the camp. The bullets are whistling among the tents and a close fight takes place almost in front and a little to the right of the spectator. The firing is close and continuous. Under the command of Major Greaves the 18th advance from the camp and drive back the daring enemy. They rise from the ground as thick as a covey of partridges. 

A number of mounted troopers are sent to the extreme right, but get entangled in a toi-toi flat, and are somewhat late in making there, but, when they do, come charge in among them. The two Armstrong guns throw a few shots in among them, and complete their confusion —they are driven back. Then Major Greaves has managed to hem in about fifty of them in the corner of a small gully, but in front there is a strong and high palisading, and the men do not care to scale it so close to the foe, who then effect their escape. It is now four o'clock, and the engagement has lasted for about three hours. The whole has passed before the view with the vividness and distinctness of a panorama. 

At first the General and staff were on the same ridge as the supposed spectator, but to the left, by this time they have advanced to the Nukamaru bush, and there they emerge into the open ground before the whares, while the Maoris, driven in from the left, are joining their defeated friends on the right, and in a long line disappear into the bush behind. The number of Maori killed and wounded is not known. Twelve dead bodies have been found, and it is supposed, from the care with which the Maoris look after their dead and wounded, and from the nature of the contest, that there must have been about a hundred killed and disabled. This, however, we should suppose a very extreme number. 

Of the dead, three are said to have been three Ngatiruanui, and the rest Ngatimaniapoto and Waikato. There were taken prisoners two men who had been wounded. One of them has a ball through the back of his head, behind the ear, but shows strong symptoms of vitality, having made an effort to escape during the night. A wounded Maori was making his escape from the field of battle, when a boy ten or twelves years of age with the 50th, knocked him down and killed him with a piece of stick. He was rewarded by a gift of 20s from one officer, and 10s from another. On our side there were twelve killed, and twenty-six wounded. Many of those killed were much mutilated by tomahawks.

Kuranui Paa
Kanihi Pā

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