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Siege of Orakau


In late March 1864, a few months after the victory at Rangiriri, Lieutenant General Duncan Cameron and his Imperial troops arrived at Orakau pa. The battle that followed was seen as a last stand for the Waikato people and their allies and became the iconic battle of the New Zealand wars.

Orakau pa was still unfinished when it was attacked by the 1,100 British troops. Over 300 defenders resisted for from 30 March - 2 April, led by the charismatic Rewi Maniapoto.

After three days of fighting and with little food or ammunition left, the defenders were in trouble. Cameron gave them the chance to surrender but the defenders were defiant and resorted to using peach stones as bullets.

On the third day Cameron gathered reinforcements. The defenders were desperate and decided to run to the river. It was at this point they suffered their highest casualties. In the cavalry charge that followed around 80 Maori were killed but many of the defenders, including Rewi Maniapoto, managed to escape across the Puniu River.

In April 1864, only nine months after the start of the war in the Waikato, it was over. The whole of the Waikato was now under military occupation.

The Maori King and his followers retreated into Rewi's heartland, the heavily forested and impenetrable land that became known as the King Country. They set a new aukati and Pakeha were warned that if they crossed it, they would be killed.


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