1869 lithograph of Ngātapa

This 1869 lithograph of Ngātapa from the east drawn by Native Minister J.C. Richmond shows the hilltop pā held by Te Kooti and attacked by government forces in late 1868.

Rāpata Wahawaha led the initial assault that began on 5 December 1868. The outer defences were captured before members of this force retired due to a shortage of ammunition. Rāpata then returned to Waiapu to recruit a new Ngāti Porou force. Whitmore and a combined force of Te Arawa and Armed Constabulary waited for his return before resuming the assault on Ngātapa on New Year’s Eve. Whitmore now had around 700 men at his disposal.

On 4 January 1869 Ngātapa’s outer defences were captured for a second time. But in the early hours of the following morning Te Kooti and most of the defenders lowered themselves by vines over the steep northern cliffs which Whitmore had considered an impracticable escape route. While Te Kooti once more eluded capture, approximately 270 of his group did not. Between 86 and 128 of these prisoners were shot by Rāpata and his men – an action that was sanctioned by Whitmore.

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