More than once they gained food and quarters for the night by taking them from their opponents. In a multitude of skirmishes in 1865 and 1866, they were almost uniformly victorious. Of the laurels gained in New Zealand warfare, a large share belongs to Ropata, to Kemp, and to Militia officers like Tuke, McDonnell and Fraser.
But Te Kooti himself escaped, and for the next two years he lived the life of a hunted animal, chased through the gloomy forests by the relentless Ropata. He fought many fights; his twenty Hau Hau followers were often near to death from starvation; but at length wearied out he threw himself on the mercy of the white men, was pardoned, sunk into obscurity, and died in peace.
A month later his turn came. Whitmore arrived. Joining their forces, he and Ropata invested Ngatapa closely, attacked it in front and rear, and took the lowest of the three lines of intrenchment. A final assault was to come next morning. The Hau Haus were short of food and water, and in a desperate plight.
The colonial troops under Colonel Whitmore, and bodies of friendly Maoris under Ropata, attacked him here. The work was very difficult, for after climbing those precipitous hills there were two palisades to be carried, one seven feet high and the other twelve. But science prevailed.
Volkner was seized, and, after some savage rites had been performed, was hanged on a willow tree as a victim. More fighting followed, in which a large share was taken by a Maori chief named Ropata, who, clad in European uniform and with the title of Major Ropata, fought stoutly against the Hau Haus, and captured several pahs.
They left thirty-seven dead behind, for Ropata gave no quarter, and had not his men loitered to plunder, Te Kooti, who, still lame, was carried off on a woman's back, must have been among their prizes. Pushing on to Ngatapa, Ropata found it a very formidable stronghold. The pa was on the summit of an abrupt hill, steep and scarped on two sides, narrowing to a razor-backed ridge in the rear.
Te Kooti, moreover, intercepted an ammunition train and captured eight kegs of gunpowder. Fortifying himself on a precipitous forest-clad hill named Ngatapa, he seemed likely to rally round him the disaffected of his race. But his red star was about to wane. Ropata with his Ngatiporou now came on the scene. A second attack on Makaretu sent the insurgents flying.
But in the morning they were chased, and for two days the fugitives were brought back to the pah in twos and threes. Ropata took it for granted that they were all concerned in the massacre at Poverty Bay. Each of the captives as he arrived was stripped, taken to the edge of the cliff, shot dead, and his body thrown over. About a hundred and twenty were thus slaughtered.
McDonnell, however, was at the heels of the Hau Haus, and in three encounters in the Taupo region Te Kooti was soundly beaten with a loss of 50 killed. He became a hunted fugitive. Ropata and Kemp chased him from district to district, backwards and forwards, across and about the island, for a high price had been put on his head. For three years the pursuit was urged or renewed.
Together they advanced against the stronghold of the insurgents, perched on a cliff among the Waiapu hills. By scaling a precipice with twenty picked men, Ropata and Biggs gained a crest above the pa, whence they could fire down into the midst of their astonished adversaries, over 400 of whom surrendered in terror to the daring handful. But the mischief had run down the coast.