Following the British defeat of Meremere in November 1863, the Māori retreated south to Rangiriri. In Rangiriri Te Wharepu designed a line of fortifications, stretching from the Waikato River to Lake Waikare, in preparation for a British attack.
On November 20, 1863 the colonial forces, led by General Duncan Alexander Cameron, attacked the fortifications on two fronts. Gunboats on the river attacked the southern ridge, while land troops, who had marched south from Meremere, attacked the main Māori position. The gunboat attack, at a range of about 700 yards, lasted for about two hours.
The land troops, consisting of four companies of the 65th Regiment, a detachment of Royal Engineers and the 14th Regiment, attacked the first line of defences and forced the Māori back. The Māori fiercely fought back, but by nightfall their fortifications were surrounded.
The Battle of Rangiriri resulted in defeat for the Māori. Thirty-six Māori were killed and 183 were taken prisoner. The British losses were 38 killed and 92 wounded. General Cameron later felt that the battle had been unjust, and fought only for the benefit of settlers hungry for fertile land. He resigned in 1865.