Sunday, February 7, 2016

The Fate of George Goodrum Private of the 58th Regiment: The Battle of Ohaeawai July 1 1845

Today, February 8th, is the observed public holiday for Waitangi Day. The day that the Treaty of Waitangi was signed between the Crown and Maori Chiefs.
Peace was not on the horizon though for New Zealand and a period of war was to develop between Britain and some of the Maori chiefs within the next few years.

I thought today would be a good day to research and record the history surrounding one of the Goodrum brothers. George Goodrum ( 1819- 1845)would be my 4th Great Uncle, brother of my 3x Great Grandfather Henry Goodrum aka William Henry Goodwin, and one of 4 Goodrum brothers who fought in the Northern Maori Wars.

We know from a letter from Charles Goodrum to the Government in 1893, that there were 4 Goodrum brothers who were members of the 58th Regiment of Foot. I have identified 3 of them. Charles, Henry, and George who was the eldest of those in the regiment according to Charles letter.
Charles and Henry both discharged in New Zealand and became residents here. The identity of the 4th brother is as yet unknown ( George and Charles appear to be the only two who carry the Goodrum surname. Henry appears variously as Goodram, Gooderham and of course later as Goodwin.)
I have neither found a birth, death, nor attestation or discharge for the 4th brother.
George Goodrum is a name relatively unknown in history, but he was part of one of the most important events in New Zealand's history. George was a casualty of the war between the British and the Maori in the early days of the Northern War- also known as the Flagstaff War which was instigated partly by Hone Heke chopping down the British Flagpole at Russell in 1845.
here were in fact several  attacks on the Flagpole in Russell, after the last by Hone Heke in March 1845, there was a further incident on 11 March, a force of about 600 Māori armed with muskets, double-barrelled guns and tomahawks including Hone Heke's men, attacked the guard post, killing all the defenders and cutting down the flagstaff for the fourth time. At the same time, possibly as a diversion, Te Ruki Kawiti and his men attacked the town of Russell.
The colonial government attempted to re-establish its authority in the Bay of Islands on 28 March 1845 with the arrival of troops from the 58th, 96th and 99th Regiments, including the Goodrum men of the 58th regiment. Hone Heke and his  allied Maori  chiefs had built a fortified pa at Ohaewai. The British  Troops were now under the control of Lt Col Henry Despard, a soldier of whom it is said did very little to inspire the confidence in his troops. Although it was now the middle of the southern winter,Despard insisted on resuming the campaign immediately with with troops from the 58th and 99th Regiments, Royal Marines and a detachment of artillery .
They sailed across the bay to the mouth of the Kerikeri River and began to march inland to Ohaeawai where the chief Kawhiti hadbuilt formidable defences   around the Pā. The inner palisade, 3 metres  high, was built using Puriri logs. In front of the inner palisade was a ditch in which the warriors could shelter and reload their muskets then fire through gaps in the two outer palisades and were protected by sheets of woven flax. On the morning of the 23rd June the force marched from Waimate for Ohaeawai, seven miles away. This stage of the march was much impeded by the bad roads (or, rather, bullock-tracks), the unbridged creeks, and a deep swamp.
The first British battery, was placed about 100 yards in front of Despard's camp, on gently rising ground, and the first gun was fired at 8 a.m. on the 24th June. The fire was kept up from the four guns during the greater part of the day, but with little effect upon the  double defensive stockade which was protected in multiple ways not least of which was a flax matting that repelled bullets and even when the 32-pounder arrived from the frigate “Hazard” its projectiles failed to breach the stockade
The British even tried  the first and only instance of the use of poison-gas in New Zealand, was attended with no better success than the other means adopted for the capture of the pa. The composition of the “stench-balls” remains a mystery; unknown also is the number of these shells delivered to the Maoris by vertical fire. The expectation was that the mortars, with their 45° angle of fire, would land the poison-shells within the trenches or the dugouts, where their explosion would produce stupefaction as well as consternation. Wherever they exploded, they failed to produce any noticeable ill effect upon the Maoris.
After two days of bombardment without effecting a breach, Despard ordered a frontal assault. He was, with difficulty, persuaded to postpone this pending the arrival of a 32-pound naval gun which came the next day, 1 July.  In the mean time a group of Maori from the Pa had attacked a group of friendly Maori and soldiers, stealing their flags. The Union Jack was hoisted on the Pa flagpole upside down under a Maori cloak.  This insulting display of the Union Jack was the cause of the disaster which ensued. Despite the obvious  futility Despard ordered an immediate attack . The attack was directed to the section of the pā where the angle of the palisade allowed a double flank from which the defenders of the pā could fire  at the attackers; the attack was a reckless endeavour.  The British persisted in their attempts to storm the unbreached palisades however within  just  five to seven minutes one third of the storming party were dead including
Captain Grant of the 58th Regiment and Lieutenant Phillpotts of HMS Hazard and Private George Goodrum of the 58th Regiment.
Described in Despard’s own words , “When the advance was sounded, they rushed forward in the most gallant and daring manner, and every endeavour was made to pull the stockade down. They partially succeeded in opening the outer one, but the inward one resisted ail their efforts, and being lined with men firing through loop-holes on a level with the ground, and from others half way up, our men were falling so fast, that notwithstanding the most daring acts of bravery, and the greatest perseverance,they were obliged to retire.”
Despards actions were proven so foolhardy  they led to the action being regarded as the New Zealand equivalent of the Crimean War Charge of the Light Brigade. In the 1859 published history The story of New Zealand it is said it was rumoured in London military clubs that after the Duke of Wellington read the dispatches he was so annoyed as to remark that had NZ not been so far away he would have ordered Despard face a court-martial!

No comments:

Post a Comment