ARC2013_1419_11.jpg Proceedings of a Court of Inquiry held at the Militia Office, New Plymouth on the 29th day of May, 1863 (1863). Collection of Puke Ariki (ARC2013-1419).

It was a dark and misty night on the 24 May 1863, when Thomas Wolf and Joe Ward, two Taranaki Militiamen, were sent for sentry duty in a gully near Fort Carrington in New Plymouth. Most likely, both men would have been on edge, as earlier that month nine members of a British military party had been killed in an ambush near the Wairau and Waimoku Streams, Ōākura, sparking the Second Taranaki War. Wolf, with the urge to relieve himself, set off “leeward” from Ward, handing over his rifle and throwing his coat over a bush as he went. A short time later, Ward was startled by a noise and noticed a man coming towards him. He tried to alert Wolf, at the same time challenging the unknown man. There was no reply to his challenge, and with no options left, Ward fired at the dark figure. 

Unfortunately for both men, the dark figure was actually Wolf, who exclaimed, “By God Joe! You have shot me through the hand!” In what a Court of Inquiry described as an “accident… due to a singular & unfortunate combination of circumstances”, Ward had become confused as to where Wolf had gone to relieve himself, and had assumed Wolf’s coat was his fellow militiaman. Wolf, having initially startled Ward by snapping a leaf from a nearby bush, had kept quiet as he slowly advanced towards his mate, assuming Ward had spotted an attacker somewhere else. The bullet passed through Wolf's wrist and grazed his hip bone, severely injuring him. This manuscript is a transcription of proceedings from the Court of Inquiry.

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