Project Canterbury

Church in the Colonies, No. XII.

New Zealand, Part IV

A Letter from the Bishop of New Zealand,
To the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel;
Containing an Account of the Affray between the Settlers and the Natives at Kororareka.

London: The Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, 1847.

H. M. COLONIAL BRIG, Victoria,
Bay of Plenty, Easter Eve, 1845.


I HAVE received the very kind and satisfactory letter of the Committee, dated 25th Sept. 1844, for which I beg you to express my most heartfelt thanks. The continued support and confidence of the Society has been one of the greatest of the many earthly comforts which have been granted to me during the troubles and anxieties which I am now about to relate.

Before I enter on the engrossing subject which will occupy the chief part of my letter, I may as well clear off the details of business to which the letter of the Committee refers.

The letters which have been printed as my Visitation Journal, were written simply for the amusement of my mother, without the least idea of their appearing in print. There are many things which I should have omitted, and added, if I had prepared them for publication in the form in which they have appeared. The Visitation which they describe, was, in fact, only a hasty visit to the Missionaries, during which I performed very few specifically Episcopal acts; my chief object being to obtain a general acquaintance with the members of the Mission, with the language and habits of the natives, and with the nature of the country. The letters seem to be merely such as any ordinary traveller might have written. However, if, by the clemency of the public, they have been permitted to be of any service to the Society, I must rejoice in having been made the means of adding anything to the resources or influence of a body to whom I owe so much.

The first indication of disaffection to the British Government which I observed, was in March, 1843, from the same John Heké who has since made himself so conspicuous in his opposition to our Government. Being engaged in taking a census of the native population of the Waimate district, I went to his place, a village named Kaikoke, and asked the names of himself and several other chiefs, with whom he was sitting; upon which they all rose, and left me sitting by myself. I found, on inquiry, that they suspected me of an intention of sending their names to the Queen. For a long time my residence at the Waimate was supposed to have some connexion with the general scheme for taking forcible possession of the country. These suspicions were studiously favoured by travelling dealers, who abused their small knowledge of the native language to misrepresent the Government and slander the Missionaries.

About the middle of the year 1844, the flagstaff on the hill above Kororareka, began to be talked of as a sign of the assumption of New Zealand by the British Government. The decline of the prices of native produce, which had taken place since the removal of Governor Hobson to Auckland, was attributed to signals made on the staff to keep vessels of other nations from entering the port. The Queen's flag flying upon it was considered a proof that the sovereignty of the native chiefs was at an end. Meetings began to be held, at which John Heké was the chief speaker, the subject of discussion being the cutting down of the flagstaff. In the month of August, 1844, Heké assembled a party of armed men, and proceeded to Kororareka, where he spent Saturday, and part of Sunday, in alarming the inhabitants, and early on Monday morning mounted the hill and cut down the staff. I was at Paihia at the time, engaged in the native school, at the close of which, the first words which I heard were "kua hinga te kara;" "the colour has fallen." I shuddered at the thought of this beginning of hostilities, so full of presage of evil for the future. Heké then crossed to Paihia, and with his party danced the war-dance in my face; after which, many violent speeches were made, and they then returned to Kaikoke.

The Governor, on hearing of this, despatched a vessel to Sydney for troops, which returned to the Bay of Islands, in three weeks, with 200 men. The Governor had gone in the mean time in the Hazard sloop of war, to settle a disturbance with the natives at Taranaki; whither I travelled by land and met him, and we returned together, by sea, to the Bay of Islands, soon after the arrival of the troops. The whole force, naval and military, was collected at the Kerikeri, ready to debark and march into the interior; but at the urgent request of the friendly natives the Governor went to the Waimate, attended only by Colonel Hulme, of the 96th regiment, and Captain Robertson, of the Hazard sloop.

We received his Excellency with such collegiate hospitality as we could provide, and assisted at a great meeting, at which he explained to the natives, clearly and fully, the intentions of the British Government, and assured them that he had no desire to take any violent means to vindicate the honour of the Crown, but should demand ten guns to be given up as an acknowledgment of the insult. A general cry of "Here they are!" was immediately raised; and some of the principal chiefs of the place brought them and laid them at his feet. The whole manner of the chiefs on the occasion was very pleasing and impressive; but Heké stood aloof, and would not come to the meeting. The next day, when the Governor had gone, he came to hear the particulars of the meeting, and to ascertain the reasons of my leaving the Waimate, which I assured him had no connexion whatever with the disturbed state of the country, but that letters which I had received from England had determined me to remove to Auckland. Accordingly, in the middle of November, we embarked on board the Victoria and sailed to Auckland, where Mr. Cotton settled at the college ground on the Tamaki, and Mrs. Selwyn in a house hired for her near the town.

In the beginning of December I set out on my tour of confirmations through the districts of Manukau, Waikato, Waipa, Taupo, and Whanganui. At Whanganui I found a "taua," or fighting party of 170 natives headed by Te Heuheu, the old chief of Taupo, who had come to avenge the manes of some relations who had fallen in battle at Te Ihupuku, a Pa about twenty miles to the northward of the Whanganui River. The Taua encamped at the English settlement, and alarmed the inhabitants so much that an express was sent to Wellington for assistance. Accordingly, the day after my arrival, the Hazard came from Wellington, with Major Richmond, the superintendent of the southern division, on board. Major Richmond, Captain Robertson, and Messrs. M'Lean and Forsaith, Native Protectors, went immediately to the party, and insisted upon their behaving properly to the settlers, upon pain of being considered the Queen's enemies, and left to the discretion of Captain Robertson and the force under his command. The threat was scarcely out of the Superintendent's mouth when the Hazard was blown out to sea, and she did not return for a week. That night we watched with some anxiety in Mr. Taylor's house, on the opposite side of the river, where Major Richmond and Captain Robertson were lodged, in fear lest the Taua, resenting the threat which had been held out, should attack and plunder the English town, and then paddle in their canoes up the Whanganui River, which flows in a great chasm between wooded precipices, through a country covered with a dense forest, into which no English force could follow them without being cut off to a man. We had a party of 300 Christian natives assembled for Confirmation, who had been already much exasperated by seeing their cultivations plundered by the strangers, and were well inclined to protect us. It was arranged that in the event of an attack upon the English town, they should be ready to row to an appointed place, where the inhabitants were to form a hollow square on the beach for the protection of the women and children, till they could be embarked on board the canoes, and ferried to the opposite shore. The night, however, passed away without any alarm; and the threat, unsupported by any physical force, was sufficient to stop the petty pilferings which had been committed nightly before the arrival of the Hazard. The principal chiefs, especially Te Heuheu, exerted themselves to repress these irregularities among their followers.

After a few days of negotiation, conducted chiefly by Mr. M'Lean, the Protector, during which I had the more agreeable duty of examining and admitting to Confirmation more than 300 native converts, it was agreed that the war-party should go within sight of their enemies, fire off their guns, and dance their war-dance, in order to "whakapata te aitua," i. e. "to let out the ill-omen," (as a cenotaph would let out the "aitua" of leaving a relative unburied,) and then to return peaceably to their own place.

All these communications were conducted in the most friendly manner, with the single exception of one chief, who took occasion of offence at an allusion which I made to his ear being stopped, when he refused to listen to me unless I would give him some tobacco. The ear, and the whole of the head of a chief, is considered sacred by the heathens, and may not be trespassed upon even by word of mouth. Of course I tendered an apology, which was not accepted.

The principal chief, Te Heuheu, claimed acquaintance with Mr. Taylor and me, as having received us hospitably at Taupo in the previous year; a hint which we understood to mean that he wished for a present.

In the hope of making peace between the two parties, Major Richmond and I walked to Te Ihupuku, where Mr. M'Lean, Mr. Bolland, and Messrs. Skevington and Turton, Wesleyan Missionaries, were engaged in communicating with the Taranaki natives on the same point. About midway we found a present of food, and a letter addressed to Te Heuheu. The letter was friendly, but the food so scanty that it was considered by the Taua as an intentional insult, as they were not willing to consider that a force of 1,000 men, assembled at one point for several weeks, must have exhausted the provisions of the neighbourhood. As soon as Iwikau, the second in command to Te Heuheu, arrived at the spot and saw the present, he affected to fall into a violent passion, and acted to the life all the gestures of an infuriated savage; declaring that it was an intentional insult, and that we were the authors of it. We, of course, said nothing; and in a few minutes he changed his tone, and conversed with us as usual in a friendly manner. An old priest then approached the pile of food, circling round it at first at a cautious distance, but approaching nearer and nearer at each turn, and mumbling his prayers as he moved slowly along. When his "karakia" (charm) was completed, the suspected food was ordered to be burnt.

The war-party slept that night at Kai Iwi, halfway between Whanganui and the Waitotara River, on which Te Ihupuku stands. Major Richmond, Mr. Forsaith, and myself proceeded to the Pa, which we approached at sunset, just as the chapel bell was ringing for evening prayers. The Pa was much changed in appearance since my last visit, extensive fortifications having been added, after the native fashion, formed of rows of upright stakes crossed by longitudinal bars of wood, the whole bound firmly together with native flax, and supple-jack. We were welcomed with the greatest cordiality by the natives; and immediately invited to a general meeting, at which from 800 to 1,000 armed men of the Ngatiruanui and Ngatirnaru tribes were present. The principal chief opened the proceedings by a recommendation little attended to in civilized assemblies, requesting the orators to make short speeches. Mr. Forsaith, the Protector of Aborigines, then gave an account of all that had taken place, of the arrival of the war-party from Taupo, of the negotiations between us, and of our desire to make peace between the hostile tribes; and inquired whether they were willing that the war-party should come to the opposite side of the River Waitotara, which flows at the foot of the hill, on which the Pa is built, to agree upon the conditions. A general assent seemed to be given to this proposition; but on the following morning we were informed that a small body of the natives were intending to rush out upon their enemies and attack them, which must have brought on a general engagement, though the great majority were peaceably inclined. Major Richmond and I, therefore, returned to meet the Taupo party, to let them know that if they advanced to the Pa we could not be answerable for the consequences. We met them on an open sandhill, about four miles from the place, all crouching in the manner of a native force waiting for the signal to attack. Mr. Forsaith made a short speech, explaining the reasons of our return; upon which the old chief, Te Heuheu, rose and said, "I hoki, rangatira, mai koutou," (you have acted like gentlemen in coming back,) and then called upon his men to do honour to the Pakeha. The whole body rose, fired a salute, and danced their war-dance; and in a few minutes were in full retreat along the beach to Whanganui, and I thanked God that all danger of bloodshed was at an end. The rapidity of the retreat made us suspect that some of the young men intended to plunder the English settlement, the custom of all fighting parties on their return being to lay hands on everything that comes within their way. Major Richmond and I therefore walked as fast as we could after them, but without much probability of overtaking them. On coming up with Te Heuheu, who had stopped to rest on the road, we found that he agreed with us in our suspicion; and the old chief accordingly despatched a special messenger to run before to warn the English settlers of their return.

Finding everything quiet at Whanganui after the return of the Taupo chiefs, I took leave of the friendly party of more than 300 natives, whom I had examined and confirmed, and embarked with Major Richmond on board H. M.'s sloop Hazard, on 22d January.

The little settlement of Whanganui has now about 200 inhabitants. A small wooden church, with a tower, has been built, partly by subscription of the inhabitants, and partly by grant from the Church Fund. Divine service is regularly performed by the Rev. R. Taylor, whenever he is not engaged in visiting the native settlements. A daily school has been opened, under the direction of Mr. Davy, late catechist at Wellington, but the attendance is not numerous. A Sunday-school, conducted by Mrs. Taylor, is better attended.

We arrived at Nelson on the 24th January, and found that an express had been sent to Wellington for assistance, in apprehension of an attack from the natives, some of whom had burnt the house of a settler, and committed other depredations. The question was found to relate to a disputed boundary line between the native land and that sold to the settlers, and was speedily adjusted by Major Richmond going to the ground, and fixing the boundary according to the surveyor's plan, which had been agreed upon by all parties.

The chief improvement in Nelson since my last visit, was a handsome brick school-house, built, as usual, partly by subscription and partly by grant, under the direction of Mr. Reay. Here I had the great pleasure of seeing eighty children assembled, including the scholars of the grammar-school, who are under the instruction of the Rev. H. Butt, and whom I examined, and was well pleased with their progress. Nelson is the only place at which I have been able as yet to carry out the plan of education, which will, I hope, in time be generally adopted; viz. the placing the whole education of the young under the charge of a deacon, with proper assistants under him for the mechanical routine of the schools. The religious instruction will be entirely in his hands. The subordinate departments will, I hope, be generally filled by candidates for deacon's orders, so that there will be, if possible, no distinct order of Schoolmasters; and no one will have to look forward to continuing beyond a certain time in the more irksome duties of the school. The scriptural knowledge of the boys in the Nelson school gave me good hopes that this system may be the means of correcting that want of feeling and irreverence which are complained of in English national schools, and which seem to arise from the manner in which religious instruction is confounded with the most ordinary branches of school education. The points required to be attended to seem to be, feeling in the teacher, reverence in the tone in which the instruction is given, and separation of that from all the other studies of the school. This can scarcely be accomplished in any other way than by making the clergyman, not the mere occasional visitor and examiner, but the actual teacher of religion.

The population of the town of Nelson has decreased, but numerous villages are being formed in the neighbourhood; in one of which, Waimea, a neat wooden church has been built and opened, and I have received applications from several others for assistance in building chapels and schools. I purpose, God willing, to visit all these hamlets during my present stay in the south, and, if possible, to make arrangements for the parochial subdivision of the whole district. But it is impossible at present to say how far the disasters which I have to relate may affect in future the tranquillity of these parts of the diocese.

The Hazard being required to return immediately to Auckland, to carry to the Governor despatches, which arrived by the Slains Castle, I bade farewell to my friends, Rev. Messrs. Reay and Butt, and sailed to Wellington, where I arrived on the 29th January.

A large wooden chapel had been completed since my last visit, and was now in use. The interior fittings are very neat, and the accommodation sufficient for the present congregation. The site, which is part of the land reserved for the residence of the superintendent of the southern division, is particularly good. Here also, as at every settlement which I have visited, there were rumours of wars with the natives. The Governor, a few months ago, completed, as he believed, the purchase of the valley of the Heritaonga, or Hutt River, from the chiefs, Te Rauparaha and Rangihaeta, and paid the purchase money, on condition that the land should be vacated at the end of February, 1845. Within a month of the expiration of the term assigned for the occupation of the natives, a lawless body of stragglers, recognizing the authority of no chief, settled themselves on the land, defied the authority of Major Richmond, and brought in canoe loads of seed potatoes, with the evident intention of retaining possession. The month of March was the time fixed for employing active measures to put the English settlers upon their land, and I determined accordingly to return to Wellington, with the view of residing at the mission station at Waikanae, to prevent, if possible, the old chief, Te Rauparaha, and his people, from taking any part in the expected affray. My present voyage is the result of this determination, to which I have been forced by the mortal illness of my dear friend Mr. Hadfield, who is now lying at Wellington, (if indeed he be yet alive,) "with but a step between him and death." It has pleased God, in this season of peculiar trial, to take from us some of the youngest and best beloved and most influential of our brethren, as if to try our faith in the wisdom and goodness of His Providence, and in Christ's assurance, that though we know not now what he doeth, we shall know hereafter. His station is the key to the tranquillity of this district, containing among its population some of the best and some of the worst of the native race. Among the former, I may reckon Te Rauparaha's son Thomson, and his cousin Martin, two young men of singular stedfastness of purpose.

When the Gospel was first preached among their people, by some natives who had received instruction at the mission stations in the north, they readily received it, and determined to go to the Bay of Islands, to ask for an English teacher to be stationed among them. The old chiefs objected to their plan, on the ground of some hereditary feud with the northern tribes--some death as yet unexpiated, which might be visited upon the young men. Failing in obtaining the consent of their relations, they embarked by night on board of a whale ship, then anchored at Kapiti, and sailed to the Bay of Islands. About that time an order had been issued by the Church Missionary Society to concentrate the mission in the northern district, in consequence of the wars which still continued in the south; and the application of the young chiefs for some time was unsuccessful. At last the urgency and evident sincerity of their appeal decided Mr. Hadfield to offer himself us their minister, and he went accordingly, accompanied by Mr. H. Williams, to form the new station at Waikanae, where his presence has since been acknowledged by all to have been the means, under God's blessing, of averting still more fatal consequences of the affray at Wairau.

To conclude the history of my friends Thomson and Martin. At the request of Mr. Hadfield, they undertook a missionary voyage to the Middle Island and Foveaux Straits, voyaging in an open boat more than a thousand miles, sometimes remaining on the sea nil night, with a compass, which had been given them, but the use of which they very imperfectly understood, and returned after an absence of fourteen months, having catechized and preached at every native settlement in the southern island and in Foveaux Straits. On my visit to those places last year I found that the natives uniformly ascribed their conversion to them. Thomson accompanied me on my journey to the south; and I have already remarked upon the pleasing contrast, that while the father was the terror of the settlers of Port Nicholson, the son was engaged with me in evangelizing the heathen.

From Wellington I returned to Auckland in the Hazard, encountering off the East Cape a most fearful storm, in which seven of the ship's guns were obliged to be thrown overboard. I am most thankful that my little schooner, Flying Full, was still on the western coast, having been detained to bring on a mail which had been left behind. It has happened to me, by God's gracious Providence, that in the many voyages which I have been obliged to make, I have never met with any tempestuous weather, except in this case, where we had all the appliances of human skill and strength of material to withstand the storm.

On Sunday, Feb. 9, I returned thanks on board the Hazard, together with the officers and ship's company, on arriving at Auckland.

On the 12th Feb. Messrs. Ward and Dale arrived from Sydney, and on the following day I accompanied them to the College, where I found the whole party encamped in the sheltered valley, on the banks of the salt-water creek, which forms our communication with the harbour of Waitemata. A large wooden building, intended for temporary use as the English schools, but ultimately to be the College barn, was in rapid progress. The large tent, presented to me by W. Cotton, Esq., contained the native Boys' School, seventeen in number, who had come with us from the Waimate, and greeted me with smiling faces, and a hearty shake of the hand. The students were living in tents, arranged on either side of a street; at the head of which one of larger dimensions had been pitched for the use of my excellent friend and chaplain, Mr. Cotton; the whole sheltered by a copse of native trees from the prevailing winds, leaving, however, one side open to the periodical invasion of the easterly gales, which, once in a fortnight, almost overthrew the tents, and drenched the inmates and their bedding and clothes.

The whole party are now lodged in framed houses, covered with the reeds of the country, which were almost completed at the time of my arrival. The stone building on the hill was proceeding slowly, and will not be habitable for more than a year. The church on the Tamaki river had been opened during my absence, and was well attended by nearly all the settlers in the district. It is substantially built of stone, and is intended as the chancel of a larger church, which, I hope, will soon be required, as the inhabitants, with the College, almost fill the present building. Mr. Cotton performs Divine Service twice every Sunday.

During my stay at Auckland I had a most pleasing proof of the confidence of the natives. My little schooner, Flying Fish, arrived from Kapiti, bringing four scholars for the native school, the children of Christian parents at Otaki, one of Mr. Hadfield's stations. The eldest was about twelve years of age. These little lads had sailed from Otaki to Nelson, 80 miles; from Nelson to Wellington, 140; from Wellington to Auckland, 500; in all more than 700 miles, to come to our school; and I learned from them that several more were ready and wishing to come. In the midst of great discouragements and anxieties these are the signs which comfort and support us.

On the 6th March the news arrived at Auckland of a collision between the natives and the Hazard's pinnace. The flagstaff had been replaced on the hill over Kororareka, and again cut down by John Heké. A new one was placed, and protected by a block-house of thick planks, guarded by a body of twenty soldiers. A second block-house, half way down between the flagstaff and the beach, was also erected, and two guns mounted in front of it. A large house on the beach belonging to Mr. Polack, was stockaded as a place of refuge for the women and children, in the event of an attack upon the town. Another gun, placed on a height above the church, commanded Matavai Bay--a sheltered bay, communicating with the town by a hollow valley a few hundred yards in length.

Hostilities began on the 1st or 2d of March, by an attack of a plundering party upon the house of a settler, residing near the Kawakawa. The Hazard's pinnace, armed with a gun in the bow, pursued the party, and drove them ashore; from whence a fire was opened upon the pinnace, by parties concealed in the brushwood. The fire was returned, but without effect, and the pinnace returned to the ship.

For several days after this the natives were evidently gathering their forces round Kororareka, and desultory skirmishing began to take place, without loss of life on either side. Lieutenant Phillpotts, of the Hazard, riding out to reconnoitre, with Mr. Parrot, a midshipman of the ship, were surprised by a party of natives, who seized them, and flourished their hatchets over their heads, and then allowed them to return.

The report which reached Auckland of the first shot having been fired, which we had always looked upon as the beginning of evils, made me very uneasy for the safety of the northern Missions; and finding this feeling increase upon me, on the departure of the Government brig with a reinforcement of soldiers, I sailed in the Flying Fish, on the 8th of March, and arrived at the mouth of the Bay of Islands early on the morning of Sunday, the 9th. Here I was becalmed the whole day, and occupied myself in morning and evening prayers, with my native crew, and with the one Englishman who manages the vessel. In the evening a light breeze sprang up, which carried us in at midnight to the anchorage at Kororareka, amidst such a solemn stillness, that every ripple upon the rocks was distinctly heard. A single light from the watch-tower on the hill alone gave sign of any hostile preparation. On approaching the Hazard, however, we found her anchored head and stern, with her broadside to the beach, and all the small coasting vessels, which usually lie close to the shore, moored by themselves off the further end of the town. We had just anchored when one of the lieutenants of the Hazard came on board the Flying Fish, and informed me that they were in hourly expectation of an attack,-- that Heké had fixed that day (Monday, March 10th) for assaulting the flagstaff. That day, however, passed away without any alarm; but the natives were understood to have received a considerable accession of force. In the morning I received a visit from Archdeacons Williams and Brown, and Rev. Messrs. Burrows and Dudley, and returned with them to Paihia, to consult on the prospects of the Mission; and at night came back to the Flying Fish to sleep.

Tuesday, March 11th.--The disposition of the English force, in anticipation of an attack, may be understood by the plan of the town. Twenty soldiers of the 96th regiment guarded the blockhouse at the flagstaff A--a lofty hill, from which several paths led to the beach, along narrow ridges, converging at the summit, and intersected by deep hollows, from which the brushwood had been very imperfectly cleared. A body of militia guarded the block-house 13, half-way down the descent of the hill from the flagstaff to the beach. The main body of soldiers and marines, fifty in number, with the militia of the town, in all about 120 men, garrisoned the stockade-house C, on the level of the beach; to which the women and children, and the most valuable property of the inhabitants had been conveyed. A gun, placed on a height at D, commanded the hollow valley EE, leading to Matavia Bay, through which the main attack was expected to be made, as it lay in the direct line from the Maori camp. Before daylight, on the morning of the 11th, Capt. Robertson, with the small-arm men of the Hazard, and some of the marines, went forward to reconnoitre this valley, and met a large body of natives advancing to the attack. A sharp engagement immediately began, in which the natives were repulsed; but a portion of the body which had been lying in ambush near the church, cut off Captain Robertson from the main body of his men; and a native, coming within a few paces of him, fired a shot, which shattered his thigh. At this time he was surrounded by the natives, but his men rallied and rescued him, and he was carried off to the ship. The Serjeant of marines also fell, with four others. The gun on the height was found to be exposed to a continual fire from the brushwood, and was ordered to be abandoned. The brave seaman who was ordered to spike it discharged his duty amidst a constant fire of musquetry, and at last fell dead by the side of his gun. The repulse which the natives sustained at this point was so severe, that no serious attack was made from that quarter during the remainder of the engagement.

A little before sunrise, while I was viewing the movements on shore with my telescope, my native crew called my attention to a party of natives mounting the hill to the flagstaff, and, almost before I could direct my glass to the point, they said "They have gained it." A few musket shots were fired, and a body of soldiers appeared retreating down the ridge leading to the middle block-house, into which they entered and disappeared. A loud voice called out from the height, "They have got possession of the flagstaff." The whole object of the native attack was gained in a moment. I have been informed that the officer in command had drawn off the men to some distance, to strengthen the entrenchments; and that the party which we had seen ascending the hill had taken them by surprise and cut off their retreat to the block-house. They then killed the sentinels, and, rushing into the house, killed a poor little half-caste girl, who had hidden herself under some blankets; no doubt supposing her to be one of the soldiers. The keeper of the signals was severely wounded, and his wife and daughter taken prisoners, and conducted to Heké, who sent them down with a flag of truce to our nearest post; the party of natives who conducted them remaining within gunshot of the fort, till they saw the woman and child safely lodged under shelter. At this time there seemed to be a disposition to treat, and a young man acquainted with the native language was sent up to hold communication with Heké:--but he returned without accomplishing anything; but a white flag still continued flying on the summit of the hill near the flagstaff.

After a short interval the firing recommenced, and the natives, Laving now the command of the heights, were able to pour down bodies of sharpshooters into the brushwood which had been left in the hollows between the ridges; from whence they kept up a continual fire upon the middle block-house (B); by which several men were dangerously wounded, and two killed. The Hazard then opened a fire of shells upon the block-house on the hill, where a body of natives were assembled; but though three fell on the same spot, not more than a few feet from the walls of the house, no effect was produced. Between the fires, a clear native voice called out so as to be heard on board the ships, "Kia tupato ki te pu huriwhenua!" ("Beware of the earthquake gun!") In the mean time the main body in the stockaded house (C) had remained unengaged, but it was to be apprehended that the natives, having possession of both ends of the town, and the command of all the paths along the hills, would collect their forces, and make a simultaneous attack upon the points still remaining in the possession of the English. It became necessary, therefore, to remove the women and children from the fortified house, which was accomplished, by the boats belonging to the vessels in the harbour, which conveyed them, together with the wounded, on board the ships, the natives offering no opposition. One woman alone remained, by her own desire, to attend to those who might be wounded. About two hours afterwards the powder magazine exploded, shattering the house to pieces, and causing a fire, by which, the whole was totally consumed. Two men were carried, in a frightful state of suffering, on board the Hazard, where they died. The brave woman whom I have mentioned fell under the ruins, and was removed to the ship with a dangerous fracture. Four corpses which had been borne into the house from the battle-field, were found scorched and blackened among the ruins.

The order was then issued for all the force to retreat on board the Hazard, which was done without molestation from the enemy. About the same time, the Matilda, whale-ship, sailed into the harbour. Her commander, Captain Bliss, most promptly and humanely offered every assistance to the settlers, and received on board as many as could be accommodated. All the other vessels received their share. The complement of the Flying Fish amounted to four mothers and ten children. One gallant lad, of fourteen, to whom I offered an asylum with his mother and sisters, answered me, "Thank you, sir; but I should like to stay with my father." I could only say, "God bless you, my boy, I can say nothing against it;" and away he went to rejoin his father in the hottest part of the fire. Happily he escaped unhurt, and is now at St. John's College. The Flying Fish, with her infant freight, then shifted her station, and came to an anchor off the Mission settlement of Paihia.

The firing having now ceased, Mr. Williams and I went on shore, to recover and bury the bodies of the dead, fearing lest the barbarous custom now almost extinct, should have been revived by that portion of the native force which was still in an unconverted and heathen state. We found the town in the possession of the natives, who were busily engaged in plundering the houses. Their behaviour to us, and to Mr. Philip King, of Tepuna, who accompanied us, was perfectly civil and unoffensive. Several immediately guided us to the spots where the bodies were lying, where we found them, with their clothes and accoutrements untouched, no indignity of any kind having been attempted. The corpses of those who fell near the church were laid, as we found them, in the burial-ground at Kororareka, together with the burnt remains which we found in the ruins of the stockaded house. I buried six in one grave just as the sun went down upon this day of sorrow. Mr. Williams collected five bodies on the flagstaff-hill, including the corpse of the little half-caste girl, which he carried in his boat to the Hazard, where another was added to the number during the night, by the death of one of those who were burned by the explosion. We interred the six bodies in the burial-ground at Paihia, on the following day; another of the sufferers by the explosion died at sea, on the voyage from the Bay of Islands to Auckland; and one or two more of the wounded men are not expected to recover. The whole loss by death will probably amount to fourteen or fifteen; and the wounded to about the same number.

The state of the town after the withdrawal of the troops was very characteristic. The natives carried on their work of plunder with perfect composure; neither quarrelling among themselves, nor resenting any attempt on the part of the English to recover portions of their property. Several of the people of the town landed in the midst of them, and were allowed to carry off such things as were not particularly desired by the spoilers. With sorrow I observed that many of the natives were wheeling off casks of spirits, but they listened patiently to my remonstrances, and, in one instance, they allowed me to turn the cock, and let the liquor run out upon the ground. Another assured me that he would drink very little of it. On ascending the hill to the flagstaff, we found the staff lying upon the ground, having been chopped through near the bottom. A few musket-shots had buried themselves in the walls of the block-house, but the building was otherwise uninjured. A large body of natives were resting in the valley below, and other large parties were filing off along the paths over the hills. Altogether there must have been about 500 men on the ground. As far as I have been able to ascertain, they lost about thirty-four men, killed; the number of the wounded I could not learn. By request of the postmaster, I went to his house, to ascertain whether he could safely go on shore to recover his papers. The house was being plundered; but when I asked the natives in possession to spare the written papers, one immediately answered, "I will save them." The private despatches of the police magistrate were brought off by Mr. Williams. When we left the beach, a little after sunset, many of the inhabitants were engaged in removing their property, and some of our countrymen, I fear, were taking part with the plunderers.

A distressing scene presented itself to me on my return to the Hazard--the captain's cabin full of wounded men, and Captain Robertson himself lying desperately wounded; the gun-room crowded with the families who had fled from the shore; and one side of the lower deck completely filled with the wounded. The surgeon of the American corvette St. Louis, and Dr. Ford, of the Bay of Islands, assisted the surgeon of the Hazard in dressing their wounds. The scarcely human appearance, and the frightful agonies, of those who had been burned by the explosion excited the compassion of all.

On Wednesday morning, March 12th, I crossed to Paihia, and interred the bodies of six of the slain in the burial-ground at that place, Archdeacon Brown and Rev. Mr. Dudley attending me at the service. In the afternoon, I procured a horse, and rode to the Waimate. On the way, one of those circumstances occurred, which mark, more than words can express, the confidence with which the old settlers live among the natives of the country. I had gone about half way to the Waimate, when I met a settler from Hokianga, riding quietly down to the Bay, with one native on horseback behind him, to learn the particulars of the engagement. He had come thirty miles through the country from which Heké's forces were drawn, and was going to the scene of action; and I afterwards met him returning by the same route without the slightest apprehension of danger. The truth is that there is something in the native character which disarms personal fears in those who live among them, and are acquainted with their manners. All suspicion of treachery seems to be at variance with the openness and publicity of all their proceedings. Heké published beforehand his determination to attack Kororareka, the day on which it was to be done, and even the particulars of his plan for the assault. As I reached the Waimate, the sky was lighted up with a lurid glare, which was soon discovered to be caused by the flames arising from the town of Kororareka. From a hill near the Waimate, the whole outline of the town could be seen, lighted up by the blaze of the burning houses. My approach to the station was greeted by a large body of Christian natives with a louder and heartier shout of welcome (Haere mai!) than I had ever heard before. They invited me to a general meeting, at which all the principal persons expressed their determination to defend the Missionaries and their families to the last, and begged me earnestly not to think of removing them. Their feeling was responded to by Mr. and Mrs. Burrows and Mr. and Mrs. Davis, the Missionaries of the Station, who had resolved to stand firm, in the assurance that the same Power which had guarded the Mission through thirty years of trial and anxiety would defend it to the end. The Native School, which I left with only thirty children, had thriven in the midst of the troubled times, and had risen to seventy. No sooner was it heard that I was in the house, than a stream of little children flowed down from the bed-rooms in the upper story, their black eyes and white teeth sparkling in the candlelight, as they crowded about me, with smiling faces, to shake me by the hand. As some of the Christian natives remarked, "though the heavens were black around us, this was the bright spot of blue sky, which gave hopes that the storm would soon pass away."

At two in the morning of Thursday, 13th March, I left the Waimate, to be in time for the tide at a creek on the way to Paihia. A short time before sunrise I reached the summit of the last hill which overlooks the entrance of the Bay of Islands, and the town and anchorage of Kororareka. The whole surface of the bay was calm and glassy, reflecting the dark outline of the hills, and the bright straw-coloured light of the eastern sky above them. The Hazard and Matilda lay motionless in middle channel, between Paihia and Kororareka. In the bosom of the dark hills the smoke of the town "went up like the smoke of a furnace." All that had been devoted to Mammon was gone, but heathen vengeance had spared the patrimony of God. The two chapels and the houses of the Clergy remained undestroyed.

A curious circumstance is related with every evidence of truth. An inhabitant of Kororareka, residing near the house of Bishop Pompallier, had concealed a store of specie in the pannell of his house, amounting, it is said, to two thousand pounds.

The natives engaged in destroying the town, fearing that if they burned this house the flames would communicate to the Bishop's, preferred pulling it down, and in so doing discovered the treasure. A good lesson for the rioters of Bristol.

On my return to the bay, I found all the ships preparing to sail for Auckland, with the whole population of Kororareka on board. The work of destruction was still going on. A lofty pillar of smoke arose from the block-house on the hill. All the houses which had remained in the morning were successively fired, except the quarter occupied by the Clergy. The town of Kororareka was no more Captain McKeever, of the American corvette St. Louis, most kindly offered to take any passengers whom I might recommend; an offer which I gladly accepted for Mr. and Mrs. Dudley and the families whom I had received on board the Flying Fish. The St. Louis carried down in all 120 persons. The Hazard, being crowded with the wounded and soldiers, had not accommodation for many passengers; but the Matilda, whale ship, brought away the remainder. The whole number of refugees cannot have been less than 300. Under other circumstances, it would have been a noble and gratifying sight to see the three large ships beating up to the harbour of Auckland, on as fine a day as ever shone even in this admirable climate. After a pleasant voyage of two days, the four vessels, the Hazard, the St. Louis, the Matilda, and, last and least, the Flying Fish, all arrived at Auckland within an hour of one another, about midnight on Saturday, March 15th.

On Sunday, the 16th, I brought the state of the distressed settlers of Kororareka before the notice of the congregation of St. Paul's Church; and the appeal was so cheerfully met, that Mr. and Mrs. Dudley were enabled in the following week to distribute necessary clothing to all that were in need. Most of them had lost everything, all the most valuable property having been consumed in the stockaded house.

Our chief subject of anxiety now is, the effect which this disaster will have upon the other tribes among whom the English settlements are placed. The Waikato race, in the neighbourhood of Auckland, have hastened to offer to the Governor their renewed assurances of friendship and allegiance. We are not so sure of the Ngatiraukawa and Ngatiawa, near Wellington: and Mr. Hadfield's mortal illness weakens our position in those parts to an incalculable extent. Weighing these considerations, I have felt my post of duty to be for the present at Wellington and Waikanae (Kapiti), and I therefore sailed on the 20th March in the Victoria brig, with Mrs. Selwyn and one of my children, and we are now, I thank God, within sight of Cape Palliser, the last headland to be passed before we reach the heads of Port Nicholson.

You will have gathered from this letter, how much we need your prayers, the assurance of the continuance of which on our behalf is one of the many comforts which God has granted to us in our distress.

Commending you and all our kind friends to the blessing of the Almighty,
I remain,
Your affectionate and faithful Friend and Brother,


The Rev. Ernest Hawkins.

Project Canterbury