By 1649, some seven years after the discovery of Nova Zeelandia by Tasman, the Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie (VOC) were well ensconced on the islands, due to the discovery of gold. During the initial contact with the Southlanders had been generally amiable. However, most recently the relations with the natives had deteriorated to a new low. As a result the militia was mustered and further bolstered by a an influx of regular troops.
I promise you today, a certain victory…Jesus and No Quarter
Following the most recent raid on VOC outposts by the the Southlanders, also known as Maori, the Captain General Piet Banckert marched his army out to instruct the Southlanders in the art of European warfare.
Above, Maori drawn up blocking the path of the VOC with a deep swamp in the foreground. While below more Maori extending their line from an unfortified village.
The VOC expedition comprised, soldiers, sailors, and militia and numbered 2400 shot and 1200 pikemen, one of the largest deployments of VOC troops in some years.
Banckert drew up his army on the 13th December opposite a vast assembly of Maori near one of their unfortified villages. Banckert deployed in three commands and commanded the centre himself, his left was commanded by Moses Henriques and the right by Henrick De With. Both his subordinates joined the pike of each wing while Banckert remained mounted with a small single troop of horse. As Banckert’s deployment was restricted by two deep swamps he massed his musketeers forward while holding his pike in reserve. A few light gunnes were placed on the right and three large gunnes were placed on the left. Below, a portion of the VOC centre with heavy gunnes of the left.
Banckert’s plan was simple. He would open the battle with a bombardment from his large gunnes which would cause panic among the Maori. Then, having provoked them to attack, he would meet them with massed and concentrated musket fire before falling on them with clubbed musket and pike. Indeed Banckert told his commanders “I promise you today, a certain victory…Jesus and No Quarter”.
Alas, having completed his deployment the weather changed and the rain pelted European and native alike. The impact was most significant to the VOC whose musketeers now struggled to keep their powder and match dry. Perhaps the victory may be somewhat harder to achieve than first thought…
While the soldiers of the VOC struggled with the sudden downpour the Maori opposite moved quickly forward. As well as the massed warriors a number of scouts advanced in front taunting the Europeans and challenging them with mixtures of aggressive dancing and thrusting with weapons. Below, the Maori move forward.
Soon the combatants came within musket range and the VOC musketeers spluttered smoke and lead along the line. The fire was most effective on the wings where the swamps slowed the Maori down and allowed a degree of concentrated fire. In the centre however, the Maori pressed forward seemingly undeterred by the musket fire. To counter what was clearly a major threat to his centre Banckert moved all his pike behind those musketeers in the centre.
Below, the VOC centre with massed pike seen manoeuvring in support. Light cannon can be seen in the foreground and larger cannon in the background. Swamps protecting the VOC left and right are clearly visible.
Then almost as the first Maori fell on the centre of the VOC lines the rain ceased. The focus on keeping the match and powder dry looked likely to bring results and a final volley was given before the Maori hit the centre. Alas, the volley was ineffective and in the ensuing melee many European musketeers fell to the agile natives. With a break through immenent Banckert ordered forward the massed pike in an attempt to first block any breakthrough and then counterattack.
It was not all desperate news however. The Maori attack against the VOC right had stalled, a result of the effective fire of the VOC musketeers combined with the impact of the swamps that slowed the Maori advance. Indeed, the Maori casualties were so high the natives here fell back. Meanwhile, on the Dutch left, the Maori opposite seemed less inclined to press on through another swamp at all.
However, it was in the centre that the battle would be decided. As the musketeers were cut-down the pike armed soldiers, many of them sailors, advanced in a deep massed formation while gunnes belched fire at the Maori in support.
Initially some headway was gained by the VOC pike but alas, this attack was insufficient. As the Maori overlapped the pike, and broke in, disorder swept the previously ordered pikemen. Suddenly the VOC centre collapsed. With the loss of the centre, Banckert had no choice but to quit the field and the retreat was sounded.
The natives however, seemed unwilling to pursue and the soldiers of the VOC retired from the field in good order. Clearly, new tactics will be needed to defeat these warlike Southlanders but the lure of gold would surely galvanise the VOC to even greater endeavours.
While clearly this engagement was fictional the VOC exploration and discovery of New Zealand was part of their plans to find the great Southernland, or alternately another route to the Americas and Spanish gold. In addition the VOC had been searching for two treasure islands which remained elusive. One of these islands was, supposedly, rich in silver while the other was rich in gold.
Our game used the DBR rules and 15mm figures on a table measuring 1.2m by 0.9m. The Maori were commanded by Alastair while I commanded the ill-fated VOC. For this encounter the VOC ships, compulsory in the Dutch Colonial list, were assumed to be away from the area of the battle. The sudden downpour of rain caused a significant deterioration of the VOC musket fire while the equally sudden improvement in the weather gave them a chance at halting the Maori onslaught, at least until the Maori hit in the centre. The weather rules in DBR, while actually simple, add much to the game.