Moturoa battle plan

Moturoa battle plan

This plan of the battlefield of Moturoa (1868), drawn by James Cowan in 1921, indicates that a soldier was eaten after this encounter. While there were few verified instances of cannibalism, the colonial press used this fear to portray Tītokowaru and his supporters as ‘fiends in human shape.’ James Belich argues that the focus on this aspect of Tītokowaru’s war deflects attention from his military achievements.

Although it appeared to be only half built, Moturoa’s palisades concealed its real strength. Tītokowaru’s men were able to conceal themselves in a two-level firing trench and three low towers made of packed earth.

Whitmore divided his force into three for the assault. Keepa and his men moved to the rear, while Whitmore and his party remained in front to cover an attack by Major W.M. Hunter from the left flank. Hunter was desperate to lay to rest allegations of cowardice at Tuturuturumōkai. His exposed party had little chance when Tītokowaru’s men opened fire from their concealed positions. They then moved into hidden rifle pits on Whitmore’s flanks, maintaining a heavy fire that forced him to retreat. Hunter was one of 19 men who died in the failed attack; 20 more were wounded. Tītokowaru lost only one man killed.

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