Ngāpuhi chief Hongi Hika’s name is almost synonymous with the musket wars. His people had some muskets in the early 1800s. In 1807–8 they fought against Ngāti Whātua of Kaipara, led by Murupaenga, but were defeated despite having firearms. During the battle, two of Hongi's brothers were killed. In 1819, despite access to muskets, an internal tribal battle involving northern Ngāpuhi led by Hongi and southern Ngāpuhi led by Te Morenga was fought using traditional weapons due to the close kin ties, in order to avoid large numbers of deaths.
Ngāpuhi launches attacks
By around 1818 Ngāpuhi had acquired significant numbers of muskets, and Hongi Hika and Te Morenga led a successful raid into the Bay of Plenty. In 1821 Hongi returned from Sydney with a shipment of hundreds of muskets. That year he attacked Ngāti Pāoa at Mauinaina in Auckland. The following year he attacked Ngāti Maru in Thames and Waikato tribes at Mātakitaki, heavily defeating them all. In 1823 Hongi attacked and defeated Te Arawa on Mokoia Island in Lake Rotorua.
In 1825 Hongi defeated Ngāti Whātua at Te Ika-a-ranganui, Kaipara. He pursued the survivors into Waikato territory, fighting them at Nohoawatea. By the following year, Ngāpuhi had gained revenge for their 1807–8 defeat by Ngāti Whātua at Moremonui in 1807–8. Ngāti Whātua were defeated in battle and their famous fighting chief, Murupaenga, was killed. In 1827 Hongi Hika was shot in a battle in northern Hokianga. He survived into the next year, but eventually died from his wound.
Pomare and Te Wera
Ngāpuhi chiefs Pōmare and Te Wera Hauraki fought a number of battles on the East Coast and in Hawke’s Bay and the Bay of Plenty. Their first battle was in 1820 where they fought iwi at Māhia. Pōmare was best known for attacking and defeating Ngāti Porou at Te Whetūmatarau pā at Te Araroa in 1820. In 1822 he attacked Tūhua (Mayor Island).
Te Wera later made peace with Ngāti Kahungunu and lived at Māhia, helping to defend Kahungunu against tribal attacks. In 1834 Te Wera allied with Ngāti Porou to fight Te Whānau-ā-Apanui in the battle of Toka-a-kuku.
End of the battle
After the death of Hongi Hika, Ngāpuhi had less impact. They could no longer raise the large numbers of warriors that Hongi had been able to inspire. In 1830 an inter-hapū war within Ngāpuhi in the Bay of Islands became known as the girls’ war because it was sparked by conflict among some women. In 1832 a Ngāpuhi group that invaded Waikato was repulsed. The early 1830s largely saw the end of significant Ngāpuhi involvement in the musket wars.