Writing Lines 1

Letters, Scraps of Diary &c beginning about six months after the first Maori War commenced in Taranaki

September 10th 1860

Today an Expedition went to the Waitara with the intention of destroying Wiremu Kingi’s pa in the bush. They started from the town at 12 o’clock, upwards of a thousand men (1400) besides a large party of Volunteers and the mounted Escort. There were nearly fifty carts with luggage and four cannon. I saw them all pass, not all in one body, two strong detachments went first then the carts then another strong body and lastly the Volunteers who are mostly young men and seemed in good spirits. God grant that they may all return again in safety.

General Pratt went to take command of the force, with his evil genius Col. Carey. I think they had better have remained here and entrusted it to Major Nelson.

Sept 11th A poor woman, Mrs Miles, died of fever (another victim of this ill-fated war). Mr Leech was buried this afternoon, how very depressing so many deaths.

About six o’clock hearing an unusual stir in the street I looked out of the window and to my surprise found that the mounted Escort had returned. The troops are to return tomorrow covered with laurels from having achieved the glorious feat of attacking and destroying an empty pa. They were fired upon by Natives in ambush, one of the 40th soldiers was killed and five wounded. The fire was warmly returned and the Maories [Māori] dispersed. So tomorrow General Pratt returns in order to celebrate this important victory and to allow his men some repose after their long campaign. I must scribble a few lines in anticipation.

     Come cast all gloomy cares away
Wear nought but smiles this festive day
Let garlands gay adorn the street
And loud acclaim the soldiers greet
             Quick beat the drums,
Behold the conquering hero comes
Another such a victory won
Another such achievement done
And we may to our homes return
And empty pas for pastime burn.

Sept 12th Very wet. The soldiers returned in pretty much the same order in which they went except that they gave a loud hurra as they entered the town and some sang snatches of warlike songs, a great deal they have to be proud of, it is even asserted that some ran away; at any rate they left the dead body of their comrade to be mutilated by the Natives.

MS copy of diary entries 10-12 Sept 1860. Copying date unknown. Puke Ariki. ARC2002-190. Fascicle 1, pp. [1]-[2].

Emily Cumming Harris (1837-1925) was born in Plymouth, England, and buried in Wakapuaka Cemetery, Nelson, NZ. She was an artist, writer and teacher.
Nelson Evening Mail 7 August 1925: 4. Miss Emily Cumming Harris. The death has occurred of Miss Emily Cumming Harris, of Nile street, a very old and respected resident of Nelson. The late Miss Harris was born at Plymouth, England, and was a daughter of the late Mr Edwin Harris, one of the first surveyors of Taranaki. He was a civil engineer and came out to New Zealand for the Plymouth Coy, in 1841. The late Miss Harris was educated in New Plymouth. Later she left for Hobart and Melbourne, rejoining her parents some years afterwards at Nelson, where she had resided ever since.

Miss Harris studied drawing in Hobart and learned painting from her father, who was one of the first drawing masters at the Bishop’s School and Nelson Boys’ College. To his careful instruction Miss Harris owed much of her skill. Miss Harris exhibited a great deal in different centres of New Zealand and at the International and Colonial Exhibition at London and received both bronze and silver medals for her work. In conjunction with the late Mr Jackson, of Nelson, Miss Harris published a very useful and interesting book entitled ‘New Zealand Flowers, Berries and Ferns’. Only recently the New Zealand Government secured from Miss Harris a collection of her studies of New Zealand flowers. Included were a number of very rare varieties.

The late Miss Harris leaves a sister, Mrs Weyergang, who has been residing in Nelson for some years.

Wiremu Kingi’s pa in the bush.
Wiremu Kīngi Te Rangitāke (?-1882) was a Te Atiawa leader, thought to have been born in the last years of the eighteenth century, at Manukorihi pā, Waitara. He was of Ngāti Kura and Ngāti Mutunga descent, and is primarily identified with Te Atiawa. His father was Te Rere-tāwhangawhanga, who was one of the great Te Atiawa leaders of his time. His mother was Te Kehu (also known as Te Whetū-o-te-ao). Te Rangitāke, also known as Whiti, was baptised in the early 1840s, taking the name Wiremu Kīngi. His life was bound up with the great migrations on the west coast of the North Island which took place between the 1820s and 1840s. In 1848 he led a migration of nearly 600 Te Atiawa back to Waitara to settle on their ancestral lands. A dispute over government acquisition of land at Waitara led to open conflict between Te Rangitāke and British troops in March 1860 and signalled the outbreak of war in Taranaki. (Te Ara)

On 11 Sept 1860 British forces attacked Te Rangitāke’s pa at Huirangi, near Waitara, as part of reprisals for their defeat at the hands of Te Atiawa and its allies at Puketakauere 27 June.

General Pratt went to take command of the force, with his evil genius Col. Carey
Major General Thomas Simpson Pratt (1797-1879) was Commander of British troops in Australasian colonies. He arrived in Melbourne in January 1860 and assumed personal command of the Taranaki campaign after Puketakauere, arriving in New Plymouth with 40th Regiment reinforcements 3 August 1860. (Te Ara)

Lieutenant Colonel Robert Carey (1821-1883) was Deputy Adjutant General and Pratt’s second in command. He was much disliked by the civilian population of New Plymouth for carrying out Pratt’s orders to remove (by force if necessary) remaining women and children from the town in late August and early September 1860. Emily’s comment is echoed by a report on the deportations in an Auckland newspaper: ‘Colonel Carey, the General’s evil genius, is at the bottom of all this and he is detested accordingly. It is believed that he leads the old General by the nose. This person is insignificant and his manner offensive, but like many little men he has a very high opinion of himself. […] Of course it is not right to give nick-names, but even in spite of our grief we cannot help sometimes indulging in a little under-current of fun and humour, and it does us good, so I will tell you that we call Colonel Carey “Little Cock Robin” and “Robin Redbreast,” because he wears a flaming scarlet waistcoat and holds up his head with an air of self-satisfaction quite amusing, considering how much all dislike him.’ (Daily Southern Cross 21 Sept 1860: 5)

Carey is the subject of an anonymous poem in Taranaki Punch 5 Dec 1860: 6.

Nursery Rhyme

Little Robin Redbreast, he sat upon a rail,–
Wiggle waggle went his head, up went his tail;
Said little Robin Redbreast to little Jenny Wren,
“Jenny, you must hop the twig, and not come back again.”

Little Jenny winked her eye, and preened her little wing,
And said she wouldn’t hop the twig–she’d do just t’other thing;
Then little Robin snapped his beak, and flew into a pet,
And threatened little Jenny with the point of bag-o-net.

Then Jenny said to Robin “Why you noisy little bird,
To me your beak and bag-o-net look equally absurd.”
Oh, the rage of Robin Redbreast! He bolted then and there;
To have his beak alluded to,–was more than he could bear.

Now, all the owls and parrots, the mocking birds and crows
That congregate about the place where poor Cock Robin goes;
They hoot and shriek, and laugh and jeer, and every now and then
Cry “Who was it that was flouted by the little Jenny Wren.”

But Jenny (bless her little heart!) her own way having gained,
Says she “Cock Robin meant it well; I will not have him pained.”
She stop’t the row; they all agreed, when fighting is the word,
That little Robin Redbreast’s a jolly little bird.

I think they had better have remained here and entrusted it to Major Nelson
Major Thomas Nelson, 40th Regiment, was a veteran of the Indian and Afghan wars of the 1850s. He arrived in Taranaki in May 1860 and went to Waitara with a detachment to relieve the 65th Regiment garrison there. Nelson was in command of the 40th Regiment’s disastrous attack on Puketakauere 27 June 1860, in which 30 British soldiers died and 34 were wounded

Taranaki Herald 2 June 1860: 2. Continuation of Journal of Events. Major Nelson, 40th Regt., likewise proceeded to Waitara with a party of soldiers to take the command. The intention being to relieve the 65th stationed at Waitara since military occupation was taken of Teira’s land.

A poor woman, Mrs Miles, died of fever
Mary Ann Miles died 11 Sept 1860, aged 30, and was buried in St Mary’s Churchyard. She was the wife of Alfred Miles, a settler living at Te Henui in 1860. (‘List of persons’)

Mr Leech was buried this afternoon
Taranaki Herald 8 Sept 1860: 2. DEATHS. On the 7th instant, William Leech, Esq., J.P., Sub-Treasurer and Collector of Customs, in his 83rd year.

Taranaki Herald 8 Sept 1860: 2. Our paper contains an announcement of the death of William Leech, Esq. Death has been so rife amongst us since the war broke out, and usually under such barbarous circumstances, that those who die from natural causes scarcely awaken the feelings with which we should regard the event in times of peace and quiet. In Mr Leech the Province has lost a friend, and the Government an efficient and valuable public servant. After residing many years in India from the age of 20, which country he left with a constitution impaired by the climate, Mr Leech came to New Zealand when Auckland was colonised, and after filling several situations of public trust there, was promoted by Governor Sir George Grey to New Plymouth where he received the appointments of Sub Treasurer and Collector of Customs, the duties of which he transacted to the day of his death. Mr Leech was an invalid from the time of his arrival.

Come cast all gloomy cares away
Emily Harris’s satire reflects the views held by many settlers about the competence of the military command in Taranaki. Nelson newspapers carried letters ostensibly by young women refugees Amelia Brady and Clara Fairly mocking the same campaign. Clara Fairly appended a poem to her letter in The Colonist of 28 Sept 1860 (p.3), saying: ‘I forward a suitable song as a contribution to the heroism of our champions in scarlet. Let the brave old General see both it and this letter.’

A Song for Our Redoubtable Soldiers (1860)

In September, on the tenth day,
In this famous year of story,
The sun shone bright o’er Waitara pahs:
To enkindle all with glory.

Our matchless general felt the flame,
And his heroes fifteen hundred;
So we marched against the savages,
Who hid themselves, and wondered.

We camped and dreamed of high exploits,
All resolving on the morrow,
Since we were surely ten to one,
To tatu dark rogues with sorrow.

Desperate at morn, we stormed the holds
Of the blanket warriors boasting:
We must have blown whole hosts away;
For our hunger smelt fresh roasting!

The fern redoubts, they roared and blazed,
To betoken our dread labors,—
Without a foe (the Lord be praised!)
To deride our shots or sabres.

The bush we deemed an ambuscade;
So we thundered at its kauris
Ten-thousand armed, until our feats
Quite provoked the scoffing Maories.

And then at us the cowards fired,
From their sneaking pits and bushes:
Their horrid vollies were too bad;
They alarmed our backs with blushes.

We fled our mighty cannons three,
And some hapless comrades bleeding;
Our tottering legs shook down our arms,
With adventurous speed receding,—

To rally soon, and thrice as stout—
If the braves of India aid us;
Then vacant pas again we’ll rout,
Should the rebels not invade us.

Yet should their dance of war rage near,
With its ridicule satanic,
Some fifty boys may volunteer
To enshield our nervous panic.

But ended now is this campaign,
And its toils and perils over;
Triumphantly we’ll feast amain,
And our gallantry recover.

We’ll quaff glad healths to all our chiefs, —
All in gala and smart dresses,
Who send away the girls lest they
Should despise our brave excesses.

Long live New Zealand’s golden isles,
And the soldiers who defend them!
And save, ye fates, their glorious fires,
Lest the Maori smoke should end them.

Oddfellows’ Hall, Nelson, September 21, 1860.