Plan of Ōhaeawai pa

Thomas Hutton, Owhaiawai [sic]. Pa of Hone Heke [sic], copied from a drawing taken by Mr Symonds of the 99th Regt [1845].

With the superior firepower at his disposal, British commander Henry Despard was confident his assault party would carry the day.

Whereas a steady stream of intelligence had been received before the battle of Puketutu, Despard knew little about the nature and extent of the defences at Ōhaeawai. The decisions he made that day were based on what he could observe – and the flax matting hung over the outer fence (pekerangi) blocked his view.

The Māori defenders could fire and reload in relative safety. The design also allowed them to fire from a variety of angles to inflict maximum damage. Ōhaeawai’s 3-m-high inner palisade was built of strong puriri logs which didn’t splinter easily. The smaller cannon made little impact on it, and insufficient 32-pounder balls were fired to cause significant damage.

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