On June 21, 1864, about 530 well-armed British troops; dragging with them a 6-pounder Armstrong gun, left Camp Te Papa and set out for Te Ranga – a piece of flat ground that today is bisected by SH36 or Pyes Pa Rd, roughly 6km from Pukehinahina-Gate Pa.
The soldiers arrived about mid-morning and immediately engaged with Māori in their trenches that were still under construction while they called up reserves and more cannons.
It seems the Māori force had been discovered at work earlier and the arrival of the fighting column meant that their defences could not be completed. What followed was a massacre.
Keen to avenge their dead at the Battle of Pukehinahina-Gate Pa two months earlier, troops from the two experienced regiments - the 43rd Durham and the 68th Monmouth Infantry - charged across the flat intervening space and made short work of the defenders in their unfinished trenches.
It was later found that many of the dead had been bayoneted.
The Māori killed numbered 108 with another 43 taken prisoner, of whom 15 later died from their wounds. The British lost 13.
Among the Māori dead was the gallant Ngaiterangi chief Rawiri Puhirake who had led the defence at Pukehinahina and the young Christian convert Henare Taratoa, the man generally credited with being the instigator of the humane Code of Conduct under which Māori had fought at Pukehinahina.
Taratoa died with the code and the Bible verse from the book of Romans which commands the giving of food and drink to the enemy.
My Ngai Tamarawaho chiefly ancestor, Paraone Koikoi, who took the name Paraone or Brown after the Tauranga CMS missionary Archdeacon Alfred Brown, was also killed at Te Ranga.
The defence of Te Ranga is characterised by the number of women who were present in the half-built pa, many of whom were lucky to escape into the surrounding bush and therefore avoid being ridden down by the British cavalry.
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Our hapū has a tradition of some of the fighting men, being out of ammunition and knowing that running was useless, standing with bowed heads stoically awaiting their fate.
Most people using the busy Tauranga–Rotorua "back road" whizz past the Te Ranga site without a thought for the events that took place there, and who can blame them?
As a war memorial it is poorly served but a more fitting and informative monument will come in time.
The value of the reserve will be for other reasons. Working with local councils and with generous assistance from locals, it is the hapū's desire to make the Te Ranga reserve a green refuge.
Hapū working bees to plant native trees have already been held on the bottom flat land. The next stage is to plant the steep escarpment on the eastern side of the reserve.
The possibility of adding the adjacent wetlands to the reserve is also under discussion with the council.
The wetlands would provide habitat that could then extend the range of native plants within the reserve.
For Tauranga Moana iwi and my hapū this is a holy place.
It is where our ancestors laid down their lives in a doomed attempt to hold back an invading wave of people who came with a different set of values and an insatiable hunger for land.
The protagonists came from two different worlds; while Māori were fighting for their way of life and the right to enjoy that life undisturbed; the soldiers were fighting in the service of a philosophical idea that mere natives should not be an impediment to the advance of colonist ambition.
Would that in 1864 we had one man or woman, on either side, with the foresight to stand up and ask; "Why don't we talk about this first?"
I've concluded that this was a civil war for, in 1864, weren't we one nation under the Treaty of Waitangi? But here we had one group of citizens fighting against troops representing another group of citizens.
Almost at the same time as Te Ranga – a great conflagration, the Civil War, was ending in the United States of America.
I have often thought how fitting the famous words of President Lincoln's at Gettysburg fit out situation. Lincoln said:
"It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us - that from these honoured dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion - that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain - that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom - and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."
To which I can only add, amen.
* Buddy Mikaere is an historian, environmentalist, resource consents consultant and Tauranga Moana iwi representative with a wide variety of interests across the Mount Maunganui and Tauranga community. He serves on various council committees.