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Encyclopedia > Second Taranaki War

The Second Taranaki War is the name of a series of conflicts between the Maori and European settlers in the Taranaki province of New Zealand between 1864 and 1866. Some historians feel that the these conflicts should not be described as a war as they cannot be separated from other incidents happening in the North Island at around the same time. Te Puni, Māori Chief Māori is the name of the indigenous people of New Zealand, and their language. ... Taranaki is a region in New Zealands North Island and the name of the mountain which is the regions main feature, Geography and people Taranaki is situated on a peninsula on the west coast of the North Island, surrounding the volcanic peak. ... 1864 was a leap year starting on Friday (see link for calendar). ... 1866 is a common year starting on Monday. ... The North Island is one of the two main islands of New Zealand, the other being the South Island. ...

The Pakeha Invasion of the Waikato in 1863 lead almost inevitably to the Tauranga Campaign. Neither of these conflicts finished cleanly but in their turn also sparked a series of Pakeha/Maori incidents in other parts of the island. However the conflict in Taranaki also had its roots in the First Taranaki War. This war had ended in an uneasy truce when the two sides had fought each other to a standstill and neither side could see any point in continuing to fight. However neither side bothered to fulfill any of the terms of the truce; many of the issues were left unresolved, and, almost inevitably, the scene was set for another round of fighting. Pakeha is a New Zealand English word for European New Zealanders, that is, New Zealanders of predominantly European descent. ... The Invasion of the Waikato was an invasion during the Maori Wars fought in the North Island of New Zealand from July 1863 to April 1864 between the military forces of the Colonial Government and a federation of Maori tribes known as the King Movement (Kiingitanga). ... 1863 is a common year starting on Thursday. ... The Tauranga Campaign took place in New Zealand, from January 21, 1864 to June 21 1864, during the Maori Wars. ... The Taranaki War is a conflict that took place between Maori and Pakeha in New Zealand from March 1860 to March 1861. ...

In fact the truce that ended the first war did no more than reduce the scale of fighting. The Maori continued to attack and kill settlers while the Army and the Settler Militia continued their raids on Maori villages and Pa. Pa, Maori word meaning a fortified village or redoubt, described at length in Maori Wars. ...

However from about 1862 a new factor entered the equation; the growth of the Pai Mariri or Hau Hau Movement. The Pai Marire began as a religious movement, a combination of traditional Maori beliefs with Christianity; originally pacifist in outlook it was mutated by the times and when, in 1864, it reached Southern Taranaki it had become both violent and vehemently anti-Pakeha.

The Colonial Government did a lot to provoke this mutation. The relative success of the Waikato War had given them the strength to confiscate vast area of Maori land, not merely from the belligerent tribe but also from neutral and even friendly tribes. Naturally, this stirred up enormous antagonism and contributed directly to another eight years of intermittent conflict.



April 6, 1864, a few kilometres south of New Plymouth. A party of militia and settlers had spent the morning destroying Maori crops, as part of a scorched-earth policy to force the Maori to retreat by denying them food. While they were resting from their labours, apparently without lookouts, the owners of the crops crept up behind them and opened fire, killing seven and wounding twelve. April 6 is the 96th day of the year in the Gregorian calendar (97th in leap years). ... 1864 was a leap year starting on Friday (see link for calendar). ... New Plymouth is the port and main city in the Taranaki region on the west coast of the North Island of New Zealand. ...

Sentry Hill

April 30, 1864 Pay back time. This battle was in many ways a complete reversal of the usual scenario in British-Maori warfare. The British and Settler troops seventy of them, were secure in a well built redoubt; the Maori were attacking across open country into the killing ground. They even fired their guns in advance to give any neutral Maori a chance to get out of the way but it also warned the British defenders. In a few moments fifty Maori were killed and as many wounded. The British lost one soldier killed and no other casualties. April 30 is the 120th day of the year in the Gregorian calendar (121st in leap years), with 245 days remaining, as the last day in April. ...

Pai Marire faith, or lack of it, was the reason for this fiasco. The Hau Hau warriors apparently believed that if their faith was strong enough the Pakeha bullets would be diverted harmlessly away from them.

Moutoa Island

May 14, 1864. May 14 is the 134th day of the year in the Gregorian Calendar (135th in leap years). ...

This battle involved two Maori tribes fighting each other but none the less was very much a part of the Maori-Pakeha Wars.

The town of Wanganui was by now a prosperous settlement which was essential to the economy of the Maori tribes living on the lower reaches of the Wanganui River around the town. When the tribes on the upper reaches of the river converted to Hau Hauism they decided to burn the town and drive the Pakeha into the sea. The tribes along the lower river made it clear they were not having this and would oppose the Hau Hau war party. Wanganui is an urban area and district on the west coast of the North Island of New Zealand. ... The Whanganui River is a major river of the North Island of New Zealand. ...

Interestingly they reverted to traditional Maori warfare practices, a formal battle at a pre-arranged place and time, Moutoa Island on the Wanganui River. One hundred of the defenders arrived first and took up position across the island. Then 120 Hau Hau warriors crossed and landed on the north end of the Island. The ceremonial haka, challenge and response, were then performed. Still believing they were invulnerable the Hau Hau then advanced onto the defenders guns. When the smoke cleared two thirds of them were dead or wounded including their prophet and the rest were in retreat.

Wanganui was saved and the grateful townsfolk erected a monument to the fifteen Maori who had been killed defending them. Wanganui is an urban area and district on the west coast of the North Island of New Zealand. ...

These incidents achieved very little but they made everyone realise that Taranaki was still a theatre of war. Early in 1865 the colonial government started moving troop into the Wanganui region with a view to pacifying the Southern Taranaki region. In the last week of January General Cameron and 1200 men marched some twenty km north from Wanganui and set up camp. Here they were attacked by a force of possibly 400 Maori on two successive days. Although the British defended themselves effectively they suffered almost sixty casualties. General Cameron was also disturbed by the apparent change in Maori tactics. He ordered a retreat to a more defensible situation and awaited the arrival of reinforcements.

Weraroa Pa

20-21 July 1865

This move forced wide open the differences between the Colonial Government led by Sir George Grey and the Imperial troops led by General Cameron. Grey ordered the army to advance and attack a major Maori Pa at Weraroa. After his experiences with Pateragi Pa (Invasion of the Waikato) and Gate Pa, (Tauranga Campaign) Cameron was not having this, he knew that such an attack would be extremely costly and also achieve very little in that he did not have the resources to prevent the majority of the Maori from escaping. In early February Cameron resigned, he took no further part in the fighting and returned to Auckland in August of that year. However his influence prevailed and the troops advanced extremely slowly, taking two months to cover sixty miles, (one hundred kilometers). They were attacked once more by a force of Hau Hau, at Te Ngaio, but were better prepared and inflicted heavy casualties. Despite this the Government was unable to persuade them to leave their base on the coast and attack the Maori inland. Statue of Sir George Grey in Albert Park, Auckland Sir George Edward Grey KCB (April 14, 1812 - September 19, 1898) was a soldier, explorer, Governor of South Australia, twice Governor of New Zealand, Governor of Cape Colony (South Africa), Premier of New Zealand and a writer. ... The Invasion of the Waikato was an invasion during the Maori Wars fought in the North Island of New Zealand from July 1863 to April 1864 between the military forces of the Colonial Government and a federation of Maori tribes known as the King Movement (Kiingitanga). ... The Tauranga Campaign took place in New Zealand, from January 21, 1864 to June 21 1864, during the Maori Wars. ...

In late July a group of colonial militia attacked and captured a small Maori village behind Weraroa Pa. Since it was by now obvious that the Imperial troops were not going to attack the Pa itself it had lost its strategic significance and the Maori abandoned it. Despite this it was reported as a great victory for Grey and the Colonial forces and this widened even further the rift between Grey and British Imperial Troops. Basically the troops were very reluctant to be used as the tools to confiscate Maori land. In this they were supported by the Imperial Government in London who maintained that the troops role was peace keeping not conquest.

The attack on Weraroa Pa is quite significant in terms of New Zealand history. The initiative for the attack came from members of the Ngatihau tribe, (not to be confused with the Hau Hau Movement). Ngatihau were the tribe who had successfully defended Wanganui from a Hau Hau war party the previous year. The Hau Hau Pa at Weraroa was seen as an encroachment upon their territory and mana. They wanted to destroy it. Governor Grey said no but they went ahead anyway. Grey hurried down to Wanganui and did everything he could to organize and ensure the success of the attack. A combined force of Maori and Pakeha were assembled, 450 men fighting as allies. Major Rookes was in overall command but the effective leadership was provided by Captain Thomas McDonnell and Kepa Te Rangihiwinui. Due to a combination of circumstances complete surprise was achieved and the village was captured without any casualties. The Hau Hau then abandoned the Pa without a fight. Mana refers to a supernatural force said to exist within all things, sometimes associated with maternal or lunar magic in mythology. ... Kepa Te Rangihiwinui (early 1820s - April 15, 1898) was Maori military commander and noted ally of the govenrment forces during the Maori Wars. ...

This successful cooperation between friendly Maori and Colonial Militia, sometimes as allies, sometimes as an integrated force and sometimes independently continued and developed during the remaining years of the conflict. At the time they were sometimes called Kupapa, a term meaning “to be neutral in a quarrel” but the word is seldom used these days. Unfortunately in contemporary history the important role of the Maori allies in securing the supremacy of the colonial government is often ignored.

Thomas McDonnell and Kepa te Rangihiwinui, later known as Major Kepa for that is the rank he achieved in the Armed Constabulary were to prove a formidable combination. McDonnell had originally been a sheep farmer in Hawkes Bay while Kepa was the fighting chief, warlord, of the Wanganui Maori. For the next five years they fought together in almost every theatre of the New Zealand Wars. Shortly after the events being described here they were together shipped off to the other side of the country to deal with the insurgency following the Volkner Incident During Te Kooti's War McDonnell was at one stage appointed commander of all the New Zealand forces in the field. Even with overwhelming superiority he refused to start fighting until Kepa had arrived with his men. The Volkner Incident describes the murder of the missionary, Karl Volkner, in New Zealand in 1865 and the consequent reaction of the Government of New Zealand in the midst of the Maori Wars. ... Te Kootis War was one of the Maori Wars, the series of conflicts fought between 1845 and 1872 between the Maori and the colonizing British Settlers, often referred to as Pakeha. ...

The Siege of Paparika.

19 – 30 July 1865.

Meanwhile on the other side of Wanganui a force of about 1000 Hau Hau warriors were attacking a force of 200 colonial militia led by Captain Brassey at Pipiriki. This was a very strange affair as the attacking Hau Hau appeared to have lost or abandoned all their military skill and wisdom. The defenders were spread between three redoubts, they were short of ammunition, and they had no internal water supply. The Hau Hau quickly captured a hill top overlooking the principal redoubt from which they could accurately fire down upon the defenders. However they were easily driven from the hill top, after which they established a perimeter surrounding the four positions, at a range of about five hundred meters, allowing the defenders access to water, and the ability to move men between the different positions as needed. After eleven days, when relief forces arrived, the defenders were short of food but otherwise in good spirits. They had suffered only two wounded and no deaths.

The potential had been there for a major defeat for the Colonial forces. However to quote Maxwell:

“At Pipiriki, Hau Hauism revealed itself for what it had become – a regressive cult, dysfunctional and malevolent. The cult inspired its devotees to pray for results its leaders made no rational plans to achieve”

The Hau Hau leadership was not always so ineffective, however.

Search and Destroy,

There was a lull in the fighting for a few months. During this time, Major General Chute took command of the British forces, and they once more began to play an active role in the conflict. On 3 January, 1866 a combined force of Imperial Troops, Colonial Militia and Maori Allies marched out of Wanganui following the route taken by Cameron a year earlier but much more aggressively. By 15 January they had destroyed three Hau Hau settlements. As they continued their march through southern Taranaki they burnt every Maori village they came to, destroyed the crops and killed anyone who resisted.

The expedition then took a bizarre turn. Taranaki Province is shaped like a large triangle sticking westwards from the body of the North Island. New Plymouth is at the northern end of the base of the triangle and Wanganui at the southern end. Most of the area of this triangle is filled with a bloody great mountain, Mt Taranaki, or Egmont. Until this time all travel between the two settlements had been by sea. No Pakeha had ever traversed the base of the triangle.

This is what Chute set out to do: force a way across country from Southern Taranaki to the New Plymouth area. The weather was good, the distance was known to be only about sixty miles (100 km), and they were well equipped. Even their food supplies, enough for two and half days, seemed adequate. It wasn't. The weather turned bad and the country turned out to be extremely difficult, with steep slippery gullies and thick bush. The force ate their horses and then starved, until a relief expedition from New Plymouth met them with supplies. General Chute very nearly became one of the few army commanders who managed to lose an army without any assistance from the enemy.

Nonetheless, this was hailed as a great triumph, largely because of the contrast with General Cameron's caution the previous year. In truth the experience tended to vindicate Cameron: a large army was unlikely to operate successfully in the New Zealand bush.

This was the last active role the Imperial Army played in the New Zealand Wars. Within a few months the regiments had been withdrawn. However, many of the men chose to take their discharge in New Zealand and become settlers, or members of the Colonial Militia, the new New Zealand Army.

More Search and Destroy

June to November 1866

Major McDonnell was placed in command of the New Zealand forces in the area, both Maori and Pakeha. They reoccupied the redoubts built by Cameron the previous year, and from these bases began systematically scouring the bush. This meant approaching Hau Hau villages, staging surprise attacks, killing of everyone who resisted, burning the houses and destroying the food supplies. The tribes either surrendered or withdrew towards the mountain. By October the men were sick of their task and McDonnell was being called to account for some of the atrocities committed. The fighting officially ended in November although it was hard to describe what replaced it as peace.

This was the end of the Second Taranaki War. The Third Taranaki War began two years later, and is generally known as Titokowaru's War Titokowarus War is a conflict that took place in the Taranaki Region of the North Island of New Zealand between Wanganui and Mount Taranaki from June 1868 to March 1869. ...

A Twenty First Century Postscript

The outcome of these conflicts was series of profound injstices to the hostile Maori tribes, particularly the confiscation of huge areas of land. This has been the subject of much debate and litigation in present times. As the above article was being written, 3 June 2003, it was announced that the Government of New Zealand had agreed to pay one of the tribes involved $NZ41 million as reparations for the land they lost. The Government also made a full apology for the actions of the government of that day.

Further reading

  • Belich, James (1988). The New Zealand wars. Penguin.
  • Belich, James (1996) Making peoples. Penguin Press.
  • Binney, Judith (1995). Redemption songs: A life of Te Kooti Arikirangi Te Turuki. Auckland: Auckland University Press.
  • Cowan, J., & Hasselberg, P. D. (1983) The New Zealand wars. New Zealand Government Printer. (Originally published 1922)
  • Maxwell, Peter (2000). Frontier, the battle for the North Island of New Zealand. Celebrity Books.
  • Simpson, Tony (1979). Te Riri Pakeha. Hodder and Stoughton.
  • Sinclair, Keith (ed.) (1996). The Oxford illustrated history of New Zealand (2nd ed.) Wellington: Oxford University Press.
  • Stowers, Richard (1996). Forest rangers. Richard Stowers.
  • Vaggioli, Dom Felici (2000). History of New Zealand and its inhabitants, Trans. J. Crockett. Dunedin: University of Otago Press. Original Italian publication, 1896.
  • "The people of many peaks: The Māori biographies". (1990). From The dictionary of New Zealand biographies, Vol. 1, 1769-1869. Bridget Williams Books and Department of Internal Affairs, New Zealand.



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