The fight at Battle Hill

The fight at Battle Hill

This 1846 painting shows troops advancing up Battle Hill to attack Te Rangihaeata’s men. The pā depicted in this painting bears little resemblance to that described by James Cowan in his history of the New Zealand Wars.

The attack on Te Rangihaeata’s position at Battle Hill began on 6 August 1846 in freezing rain. An assault force of 250 British soldiers was joined by militia and armed police. About 150 Te Āti Awa led by Wiremu Kīngi Te Rangitāke and 100 Ngāti Toa also took part.

A frontal assault was considered but quickly dismissed. The terrain and vegetation prevented a flanking manoeuvre, and thousands of rounds of musket fire made little impression on the defences.

On 8 August two small mortars were dragged up to about 1 km from the fortification, at which about 80 shells were fired. Reluctant to advance and fearful of a counter-attack, the British decided to withdraw their regular troops.

On the 13th it was discovered that Te Rangihaeata had slipped away under cover of darkness and heavy rain.

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Posted: 20 Jan 2010

I recovered many mortar ball fragments and musket balls from the site in the early 1980's as a teenager, mostly from the north east face towards the peak. One of my most exciting moments using the metal detector was finding an intact mortar ball complete with gunpowder inside, which I still have. Apparently it was not uncommon for the fuses to fall out from the mortars when fired. The 2 mortars used were Kohorn's.