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Worlds collide

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Flintlock musket, circa 1820, Ketland & Company, England. Purchased 2000 with New Zealand Lottery Grants Board funds. Te Papa

 
  • Explosive relations
  • 'Ship buster'
  • Broken relations
  • Flagging authority
  • Fighting figure
  • Double barrel, dual purpose
  • Mixed victory
  • Guns for decoration
  • Details of war
  • Weaving peace

Mixed victory

This musket was taken by British forces from Ruapekapeka Pā, Bay of Islands, at the end of New Zealand’s Northern War in January 1846. The war had begun after Ngāpuhi chief Hone Heke (about 1807/8–1850) repeatedly cut down a flagstaff at Kororāreka (now Russell), challenging British authority.

Ruapekapeka – ‘the bat’s nest’ – was an elaborate fortification where chiefs Heke and Te Ruki Kawiti (1770s–1854) had gathered forces. But when the British attacked it, supported by allied Ngāpuhi, they found it virtually empty.

The pā’s abandonment may have been a strategy to lure the British into the bush. There the fighting continued, with casualties on both sides. The British claimed victory, but Heke and Kawiti also made gains, escaping with intact forces and increased mana (prestige).