RANGIRIRI, BATTLE OF
After the fall of Meremere in mid-November 1863 the Maori “King's” forces retreated up the Waikato River and took up new positions at Rangiriri. On 18 November General Cameron reconnoitred these in order to plan his attack. The defence works consisted of a main line of entrenchments across the narrow isthmus dividing Lake Waikare from the Waikato River. This line had a double ditch backed by an earth parapet 21 ft high. At the centre it was strengthened by a formidable redoubt. Behind the main line and at right angles to it, a series of rifle pits faced the river. Cameron decided to land part of his force on the peninsula to the rear of the main work and to strike from this direction at the same time as his main body of troops attacked from the landward side. On the morning of 20 November Cameron moved his force of 861 officers and men from Meremere up the right bank of the river. Following a heavy artillery bombardment, his force attacked and occupied the rifle pits on the landward side, but owing to the tricky currents the river landing was delayed. The Maoris fought desperately and by nightfall were cut off in the central redoubt. At dawn on 21 November they surrendered unconditionally to Cameron. Shortly after this a party of 400 Maoris under Wiremu Tamihana Te Waharoa approached Rangiriri from the east. Tamihana wished to surrender to Cameron, but his people forbade him. Cameron's losses in the engagement were 38 killed and 92 wounded. The Maoris lost 36 killed and 183 prisoners. Many more were drowned when they tried to swim across the lake to safety.
Although Rangiriri did not have much military significance, it was very important from the point of view of the chiefs taking part. Wiremu Kingi Te Rangitake was present until the riverboats appeared, and Tawhiao escaped through the swamps by night. Rewi Maniapoto was not in Rangiriri, but was entrenched on a hill nearby. Te Heuheu Horonuku was on his way to the scene with reinforcements, but went home when he heard of the defeat.
by Bernard John Foster, M.A., Research Officer, Department of Internal Affairs, Wellington.
- Appendices to the Journals of the House of Representatives, 1863, E. 5A, E. 5D
- The New Zealand Wars, Cowan, J. (1955).