Battle of Gate Pa, 1864

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Duncan Cameron versus Rawiri Puhirake: A British army under Cameron besieges a Maori army under Puhirake which is fortified in a dreaded pa. Cameron knows what to expect and takes all precautions so surely Puhirake cannot possibly surprise him, right? Also known as the Battle of Pukehinahina.

It did not occur often but whenever the British were defeated by an indigenous force, it always seemed like a disaster. This battle is no exception. While it is easy to think of battles like this as an anomaly in the inevitable conquest of indigenous peoples by the powerful European colonial empires of the era, the Haitian Revolution and defeat of Napoleonic France should make anyone reconsider that notion. The nature and scale of conquest is also an important factor, especially when looking at these colonial battles in a longer timeline to include the postcolonial era.
.It is difficult to judge Cameron too harshly for this defeat; he did make extensive preparations for a relatively difficult tactical problem. Gibson rightly criticizes Cameron for using elements of two different units for the assault force. He argues that

in the chaotic conditions of a breached pa, still being staunchly defended with hand-to-hand fighting and point blank fire, it would have made more tactical sense to employ one disciplined and cohesive force, such as the 68th [Light Infantry Regiment] who could have provided both the assault and supports under their own officers. It was perhaps attractive to have this large battalion carry out the task of rear cordon, but on balance, a second-best of different detachments could have been accepted as no British cordon had ever yet contained parties of Maori rebels filtering away on a dark wet night. (Gibson, 1974: 125)

While this change in tasks obviously would have helped the situation, any assault plan which fails to isolate the enemy force to be destroyed and calls for the assault force to walk straight into a kill zone with little chance of bashing through, is a fairly poor plan.
gate pa preview 2Notes
This battle took the least amount of time to make by far, in fact I think that is one of the reasons I chose it at the time. I had just animated Mukden, Ulm and Nagashino, all of which were difficult in their own right, and figured a simpler battle should be next. Despite this apparent laziness, Gate Pa is an intriguing battle that I think is effectively animated. It was one of the few times where I felt all the effects I chose to illustrate its events fit perfectly. I do not think I could animate a more unique battle than this one.
– Jonathan Webb
Works Consulted
Belich, James. The New Zealand Wars and the Victorian Interpretation of Racial Conflict. Auckland: Auckland University Press, 1986.
Gibson, Tom. The Maori Wars; the British Army in New Zealand, 1840-1872. London: L Cooper, 1974.

Mair, Gilbert. The Story of Gate Pa. Tauranga: Bay of Plenty Times, 1937. (accessed Aug. 11, 2007).

Mitchell, Peter. “Battle of Gate Pa.” (accessed Aug. 11, 2008)..


British artillery:

British infantry:

Duncan Cameron:

Maori infantry:…/Tawhiti-Museum.asp

Map of New Zealand:

Map of the world:



If you enjoyed the Gate Pa 1864 battle animation, you may also enjoy these other battle animations:

Battle of Ad Decimum 533, another battle featuring an ambush:

ad decimum preview 1

Siege of Tyre 332 BC, another battle featuring an assault on a fortified position:

tyre preview 1

Battle of Gallipoli 1915-1916, another battle involving New Zealand:

gallipoli preview 1

Thank you for visiting The Art of Battle: Animated Battle Maps.


Readers Comments (12)

  1. Ifind it very difficult to listen to your mispronounciation of Maori names (it’s Ngatirangi- Nah T Rahn GEE). You also have some facts wrong. They Pa was not surrounded, the 68th Durham Light Infantry were in rear and there were not enough men to stop retreat from the Pa at nightfall.

  2. Valiant attempt to explain the battle – but you have pronounced all the Maori names incorrectly.

  3. Gerry: For battles such as this where I do not explicitly designate each unit as a specific unit – such as the 68th Durham Light Infantry – I tend to exercise more freedom in where units are placed. I generally focus on the clearest way to visually show what happened. In this case, I try to illustrate that the British thought they had the pa surrounded and that the Maori would not escape.

    Gerry/Evan: Ah yes, I half expected this as sources for pronunciations are somewhat difficult. I will likely be redoing existing video animations in a better format – and with proper pronuniciations – so it’d be greatly appreciated for one of you to send the correct pronunciations to me? Thank you in advance.

  4. i find this very annoying, i am studing Gate Pa for a school, and i got most of my information off here, but i failed my test because its inncorrect.
    Maybe you should try gather the RIGHT information before you pusblish it.

    Not please.

  5. As I have stated numerous times already, accounts for battles differe greatly. For example, one observant forum member noticed that when reading accounts for the Battle of Waterloo from different nationalities, he could not even tell it was the same battle. Different nationalities in particular provide vastly different information regarding certain battles; any survey of the same battle on a few different wikipedia pages is a great indication of how the popular consensus varies between nationalities. The comments on my animation of the Battle of Yarmuk are another example.

    However, for this particular battle I did not encounter many inconsistencies in the sources I used; I provide the list of sources consulted at I have four sources from 1937, 1974, 1986 and 2008 although the 2008 sources was an internet sources. Unless there have been ground-breaking findings for this battle, I consider these sources sufficient.

    I am not suggesting that by all means my information is correct because there is no way to know for sure (I hear the voice of my teacher-advisor for my War in the West course telling me I can only argue rather than prove anything in the field of history). I encourage all researchers to consult any author’s sources to draw their own conclusions

  6. And the Fog of War continues rolling on in…

  7. cool!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  8. horseegal, youre a twit

  9. Just preparing a sermon and using this Battle for the hospitality offered to the British wounded during the night by the Maori before their retreat under the cover of darkness, and I found your dissitation.

    There are a few details missing but congratulations for finding a battle on the other side of the world from the US and talking about it.

    However please please please change the pronounciation. Tauranga is pronouned with silent “G” as in hang and sounds like Towel – wrong – a. Ngati also has a silent “G” infact you don’t use it it’s pronounced like Nartee – rungee. Its very grating on the ears hearing a hard G. I don’t know of any Maori word where the G is pronounced as a hard G but I could be wrong. Cheers Jeff

  10. Kiriwhakaahu May 9, 2014 @ 5:36 am

    whant is 4 ture of gate pa

  11. In your video your pronunciation wasn’t very good. You spelt Ngati Rangi wrong and mispronounced it. It is pronounced na-tee-rung-ee, rolling the r. Tauranga was also pronounced wrong. It is pronounced toe-rung-a, once again rolling the r. You can take this advice from me because I live in Tauranga and have friends that belong to the Ngati Rangi Iwi.

  12. And I have to say to this max person, it isn’t “cool”. The battle was a sad loss of life and no battle is “cool”.

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