Moturoa battle plan

A map of the battlefield of Moturoa (1868) drawn by James Cowan in 1921. The map 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.’ Belich believed that the focus on this aspect of Tītokowaru’s war served to deflect attention from his military achievements.

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

Whitmore divided his force into three for the assault on Moturoa. Keepa and his men were to take position at 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 position. They then moved into hidden rifle pits on the flanks of Whitmore’s position, maintaining a heavy fire that forced him to retreat. Hunter was one of 19 men who died in the failed attack; a further 20 were wounded. Tītokowaru lost only one man killed.

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