Rangiaowhia By 1864 Rangiaowhia (often spelt ‘Rangiaohia’) was a thriving Maori community where Ngati Hinetu and Ngati Apakura cultivated hundreds of acres of wheat, maize and potatoes for the Auckland market; a source of Maori pride and European envy. The settlement, between two churches - one Roman Catholic, the other CMS (Anglican), extended for 3km along the low ridge marked today by Rangiaowhia Road. Flourmills, stores, schools, thatched whares, timbered houses, and a racecourse set among peach orchards were features.

You pass one of the flour mill sites on the road into Rangiaowhia. The tranquil scene soon faced destruction, however. On 21 February 1864, Colonel Nixon’s cavalry galloped into Rangiaowhia, surprising the remaining inhabitants. Most of the men still manned the Paterangi defences, unaware that the British had outflanked them. Men, women, and children ran to escape the galloping horsemen. Some took refuge in the churches, while others dashed into whares and opened fire on the soldiers. This led to one of the saddest incidents of the war.

After several soldiers met death trying to rush a defended whare, either a deliberate match or musket fire caused the thatch to ignite and set the whare ablaze. When heat and smoke drove out three Maori they were summarily gunned down by ‘the concentrated volleys of the soldiers’. Seven more charred bodies were found inside. Twelve Maori died that morning, a further 12 taken prisoner, and 33 women and children detained. Colonel Nixon was also killed during the engagement. The former Rangiowahia Catholic Church which, with the extant St Paul's (Anglican), dominated the 1860s skyline. Te Waru erected its spire in 1858. The N.Z. Historic Places Trust rates it as ‘nationally significant’. A Trust noticeboard in the churchyard tells of the events. Make sure you walk round to the back and see the historic stained glass windows obtained by Bishop Selwyn while visiting England in 1854-55. After the actions at Rangiaowhia in 1864 the British erected a redoubt. The site of the redoubt, behind the Rangiaowhia hall, is a good place from which to view the Rangiaowhia ridge and imagine the picturesque productive Maori settlement that once existed there. The ‘burning of the whare’ incident mentioned above took place in the gully to the east of the redoubt site. After the engagement, laden with food and loot, Cameron’s forces withdrew to Te Awamutu. But the battle for Rangiaowhia was not yet over.

From: What if General Cameron had Obeyed Orders? The Paterangi Line and Kingite Autonomy by Ryan Wood.

Unlike other areas in New Zealand, the Waikato region has the distinction of being settled almost entirely as the result of war. Of New Zealand’s largest cities today, Hamilton is the only one built entirely on confiscated land. The war that gave rise to Hamilton and its satellite towns has been called ‘the largest and most important of the New Zealand Wars’ by James Belich.1 Its importance lies mostly in the fact that the outcome of the war was the removal of the best chance Māori ever had at self-determination. However, as with all history, nothing is ever a sure thing. There was one moment in the war in which the Kingites almost secured victory, had it not been for one stubborn Scottish general … * * * By January 1864, the fortunes of the Kingites fighting against the government in the Waikato were beginning to fade. After four months of light skirmishing, the first proper battle of the Waikato campaign was fought in November at Rangiriri. Despite repulsing British assaults on their trenches, the Kingites were nonetheless defeated when, ‘during an attempt to negotiate’, they were ‘humbugged’, as James Belich puts it, and compelled to surrender after being peacefully overrun by British troops.2 Although both sides suffered similar numbers of dead – around 40 – the Kingites lost more fighting men when 183 of their defenders became prisoners, taking Kingite losses, from a strategic perspective, to beyond 220.3 Following this defeat and the subsequent occupation of the Kingite capital Ngaruawahia, Governor George Grey communicated confidently to London that ‘the neck of this unhappy rebellion is now broken.’4 While some Kingite chiefs, such as Wiremu Tamihana, may have felt this way, others like Rewi Maniapoto – whose lands lay further to south and remained unmolested – continued to defy the government. He and his fellow Kingites established at Pikopiko and Paterangi ‘the most formidable systems of redoubts and entrenchments built in this campaign.’5 These connected pa sites formed what is popularly known as the Paterangi Line, which covered the main routes towards Rangiaowhia, the breadbasket of the Māori war effort. The value and importance of the area was recognised by the British, who acknowledged that ‘the country from which [the Kingites] had been expelled was of slight value compared to the fertile territory’ around Rangiaowhia.6 39 General Duncan Cameron moved slowly after capturing Ngaruawahia, giving himself time to establish supply lines, although this had the side effect of providing the Kīngitanga with breathing space. He arrived with his ‘striking force’ of 3000, facing Paterangi on 28 January 1864.7 Upon confronting the Paterangi Line, Cameron was reluctant to attack, aware that the casualties would be similar to, if not greater than, those incurred at Rangiriri. His hesitation drew the ire of some, however, as historian Richard Stowers writes: Governor Grey was much annoyed at what he considered unnecessary delay, and pressed Cameron to assault Paterangi immediately. Cameron refused. The Governor became more urgent and finally ordered Cameron to make the assault. Cameron bluntly told Grey to ‘go to hell’. According to witnesses present, these were the exact words.8 Cameron recognised the superiority of the Kingite position, and wisely retired to nearby Te Rore. He remained there well into February, and finally devised a plan which involved outflanking the Paterangi Line and capturing Rangiaowhia while it was undefended. This idea evidently placated Grey, who wrote to the Colonial Office: ‘If the natives continue to hold their ground until these movements are completed, it is possible General Cameron may succeed in striking so decisive a blow that it will bring this unhappy combat to a close.’9 ‘A Maori Ephialtes,’ Belich asserts, ‘was essential to this plan,’10 and once a native guide had been procured, Cameron was presented with an opportunity to slip past the Kingites undetected. He did so on the night of 20 February, outmanoeuvring the Kingites with a column of 1200 soldiers. Subsequently they occupied Rangiaowhia, killing a handful of Kingite sentries, before withdrawing to nearby Te Awamutu. There Cameron waited for the Kingite army to vacate Paterangi and reclaim Rangiaowhia, after which he would try to catch them in open ground. Predictably, the Kingites did scramble to reoccupy their village, and Cameron moved against them on 22 February, engaging the enemy at Hairini.11 Unable ‘to hold their embryonic trenches against the vigorous assault’,12 the Kingites retreated, leaving Rangiaowhia and the surrounding district – including the formidable Paterangi Line – in British hands. Belich provides the best summary of Cameron’s achievement: At a cost of less than thirty British casualties, the Maoris had been forced out of their strongest system of fortifications and consequently out of one of their richest economic centres. The loss of the Rangiaowhia district severely and permanently 40 weakened the King Movement, and the blow to Maori morale was considerable. Paterangi, though close to bloodless, was in reality the greatest British victory of the Waikato War.13 Although the British and colonial forces won every major engagement of the Waikato War, Paterangi was the most convincing – a tactical masterstroke. Yet events could have unfolded much differently. Rangiriri was not the last pa Cameron assaulted; he would go on to throw troops against the defences of Gate Pa in Tauranga in late April, and suffer the kind of defeat he had so feared at Paterangi. So he was not, at this stage in the war, entirely averse to the idea. What if he had obeyed his commander-in-chief and attacked the Paterangi Line? * * * Let us suppose that General Cameron caved into Governor Grey’s incessant demands and assaulted the Paterangi Line. The outcome would likely have been reminiscent of Rangiriri, with wave after wave of British soldiers being repulsed. The casualties would have been worse, though, and this time there would be no Kingite ‘surrender’. Such a devastating defeat would have impacted greatly on Cameron’s future strategy. Just as in reality ‘Gate Pa [29 April 1864] was the last completed modern pa he ever attacked’,14 so too would he not assault any more Māori defensive works following Paterangi. As in our history he would become so cautious he would earn the nickname ‘the lame seagull.’15 From the Kingite perspective, a victory at Paterangi would have been not only a strategic success, but also a reaffirmation of the Kīngitanga’s mana (prestige, authority) and viability as an indigenous alternative to British sovereignty. Belich writes that ‘it is … clear that the breadth of Kingite support has been grossly underrated.’16 Several tribes supported the Kīngitanga, and it is likely that this support would have remained steady following a Kingite victory. In reality the Kingites did not win a single major engagement in the Waikato, and this impacted on inter-iwi support for them. It may also have contributed to the rise of Pai Marire/Hauhauism, the Māori religious movement that spread war across the North Island and gave rise to rebel leaders such as Titokowaru and Te Kooti. A Kingite victory at Paterangi would have blunted the growing mana of the new, radical religion, thus sparing the country from years of more bloodshed. Titokowaru may have become little more than a pro- 41 Kingite proxy in Taranaki; Te Kooti would certainly have remained an uninvolved civilian in Gisborne. Following their defeat at Paterangi, the British forces would have meandered about the North Island, perhaps suppressing some pro-Kingite uprisings rather than the nascent Hauhau ones, as they did in reality. They would certainly have departed, however, in the mid- 1860s, leaving New Zealand’s internal defence to their own colonial forces, such as the Armed Constabulary. Throughout the late 1860s and 1870s the New Zealand government would have left the Kīngitanga alone, much as they did in reality. If they did choose to take another crack at the Paterangi Line, their inexperienced colonial troops would certainly have fared worse than their British counterparts in 1864. The development of the colony would have had little choice but to work around the Kīngitanga. The Main Trunk Line, rather than running through Te Awamutu and Te Kuiti, would have been forced to skirt around Lake Taupo, leaving Kingite autonomy intact. Yet would a victory at Paterangi – and the retention of the fertile lands around Rangiaowhia – have been enough to preserve the autonomy of the Kīngitanga? Perhaps; it may have ensured a stronger economic independence than they in truth enjoyed. Ultimately the question of a Māori state-within-a-state would have to be resolved, much like the issue of the Confederacy and the Union in American Civil War. Either an international power, such as Britain, would need to intervene and confirm the Kīngitanga’s sovereignty, or else the wouldbe nation, bereft of allies, would be invaded and annexed, much like the Confederacy was. * * * All of this was avoided, however, through the fortitude and ability of General Duncan Cameron. Even Belich agrees that it ‘it was Duncan Cameron at Paterangi, not William Hobson at Waitangi, who sounded the death-knell of Māori independence.’17 The settlements in the district of Rangiaowhia, such as Te Awamutu and Pirongia, became frontier towns, watching the border of a nation whose hopes of sovereignty had long since vanished. 42 Notes 1 James Belich, The New Zealand Wars and the Victorian Interpretation of Racial Conflict (Auckland: Auckland University Press, 1986), p. 119. 2 Belich, The New Zealand Wars, p. 153. 3 James Cowan, The New Zealand Wars, Volume I: 1845-64 (Wellington: Government Printer, 1983), p. 332. 4 ‘Further Papers Relative to the Native Insurrection’, Appendix to the Journals of the House of Representatives, 1864 Session I, E-03, p. 9. 5 Cowan, p. 337. 6 Belich, The New Zealand Wars, p. 160. 7 Ibid., p. 161. 8 Richard Stowers, Forest Rangers (Hamilton: Richard Stowers, 1996), p. 53. 9 ‘Further Papers Relative to the Native Insurrection’, p. 18. 10 Belich, p. 162. Ephialtes betrayed his fellow Spartans during the Battle of Thermopylae, allowing the enemy Persians to outflank them. Up until that point the outnumbered Spartans seemed to have a chance at defeating the Persians, which makes Belich’s comment all the more prescient when applied to Paterangi. 11 Belich, The New Zealand Wars, p. 163. 12 Ibid., p. 163. 13 Ibid., p. 165. 14 Ibid., p. 189. 15 James Belich, ‘Cameron, Duncan Alexander’, Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, Te Ara: The Encyclopaedia of New Zealand, 30 October 2012, [accessed 3 August 2013]. The sobriquet was allegedly applied to Cameron by Māori in reference to his cautiousness, as he was reluctant to engage Māori after Gate Pa. 16 Belich, The New Zealand Wars, p. 128. 17 Belich, ‘Cameron, Duncan Alexander’ [accessed 3 August 2013].