November 28th. 1868.
My dear Sir,
As the ''Ahuriri'' is expected in the morning, and to-morrow is my busy day, I must get a few lines written to you this evening.
When I wrote yesterday, I had only just heard of the serious disaster (for such it really is) which I mentioned in my letter; and I was not aware then how serious it was. Even now it is very difficult indeed to ascertain what quantity of ammunition has fallen into the enemy's hands. But the best estimate I can obtain from those who had to do with it, puts it at 20 or 21 kegs. Some say even a good deal more, and there are some who say less. It was certainly a daring move on the part of the Hau Haus. There appear to have been about 30 or 40 of them at the most, and all were well mounted. We suppose that they must have gone down the Wharekopae, and crossed the ranges into the Okahuatiu valley, entering it at a point considerably higher up than the ordinary track from Te Karetu would do. The first who saw them were two half-caste lads, who were driving some bullocks to the front for food for our force. These two thought at first that they
were Friendlies, but they were soon undeceived, and rode down the valley towards Patutahi, meeting and turning back with them, some white men who were going up with packs. When they reached the depot about one and a quarter miles from Patutahi, there were a number of Maoris there preparing to start for the front with loads of provisions or ammunition. These all fled, as they heard of danger. Sergeant Butler, and, I think, four others, tried to make a stand, but as they were left to themselves, of course they could do nothing, and were soon obliged to follow the rest.
The Hauhaus then had everything their own way, and seem to have emptied the ammunition kegs and taken a quantity of provisions, and to have gone back the way they came, after setting fire to the empty kegs and biscuit boxes, and anything else which they did not take away with them, One of our scouts, named Blackstock, came in about 5 o'clock in the evening, having come all the way from the front. He found bread, biscuit, etc. dropped along the road, as he came down Okahuatiu, but saw nothing of the Hauhaus; and when he reached the depot, everything was burning, or burnt. Two other men also, who started before him, found things in the same state, but they came in later;
as they supposed that the Hauhaus must be about; and they therefore came on by a circuitous route. There appears to have been no protection on the spot, for the stores which were left there, nor anything behind which any guard could have had shelter, while firing at their assailants, and if those who were engaged in the transport had all started, there would have been only two or three men left in the place. The Hauhaus must, by some means or other, have had a notion that the material was there, and so inefficiently guarded; or they would hardly have ventured on so daring an enterprise, even though severely pressed by the want of ammunition. Be this as it may, they have made the attempt, and have accomplished it successfully.
A force of 90 men (50 Europeans and 40 Maoris) has gone up to Patutahi to-day, in order to make sure of keeping open the communication with the front. Capt. Fox has also gone with the great gun, but I do not know whether the gun will be much use there, as it will be almost impossible to get it to the scene of operations and indeed I believe it is not contemplated that it should be taken there.
There have been no tidings from them as yet, as far as I know, and it is now nine o'clock.
I should mention that two men had undertaken to make their way to the front last night, with despatches, and when they reached the depot they were challenged by four men. One of the two fired upon them, and they returned the fire; whereupon the two men turned back again.
I hope the people at the front will not take fright when they find out that communication has been cut off. If they should do so, this affair will be another victory for the Hauhaus, and matters will be in a worse position than ever; and the effect of such a thing will be felt far beyond the boundaries of this district.