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THE GARDEN ISLAND, TUESDAY, JANUARY 5, 19l4. '
WHEN UAH'S ARMY
TRIED 10 CONQUER KAUAI
By E. A. Knudsen.
The following article, of historical value, was written by Hon. K
A. Kundsen for Thrum's Annual:
In the ordinary history of the 1 lawaiian Islands the return of Kame-
h unrha s lle-et ot war canoes to Oahu m 196 is jjivcn as due to havin
nut a jjale of wind in the channel when they attempted to cross over to
the Island of Kauai, the only island tnat Kamehanicha did not conquer
bv force of arms. However, in the tradition of Kauai the story run
very much to the contrary, and the l each at Mahaulepu, where the
battle took nlace, still shows human bones piled over a large area
mica red for and slowlv disinlefrratimr into their elements. These are
the bones of Kamehameha's warriors, slain on that fatal night. Th
Hawaii leirend runs to the effect that three canoes landed and after th
fiy;ht made their escape, but the bones of thousands of warriors would
indicate that manv more than three canoes had landed there. Accord
hit; to one account, the fleet that left Waianae, on Oahu, consisted of
eighty double war canoes, and as many of these were fifty feet long, of
course lliev carried quite a contingent of warriors beside the paddlers
Each paddlcr was also a warrior. Naturally, the men of Hawaii have
done their best to belittle this defeat. Let us proceed, however, with
the account as given by some of the old men of Kauai who werejioys
at the time of the battle.
Kainnualii was king, though he was still a boy in his teens, bfcit
surrounded bv wise and able counsellors and chiefs. At the time of
the battle my authority, l'uako. was a boy of twelve, and had already
received the first rites under the Tabu that entitled him to bear arm
and to wear the dress imalo) of a man. He. was then under the strict
obedience of the Tabu and was in training for the keeping of tin
records, this training lie showed to a remarkable extent. Having an
unfailing memory. In 1854 he became overseer for Mr. Yaldemai
Kuudsen. and continued in that office for some twenty-five years, aw;
it was in an attempt to collect some anthropological specimens for the
Smitnsoiuan Institute, m Washington, D. C. that the occasion arose foi
hiiii t narrate what lie knew of the battle.
There are always skulls and bones of human beings uncovered by
the wind mi the sand plains of Mana. where the lazy Hawaiian found
it easiest to oig a shallow grave to bury those for whom he had little
aftcctti n. Hut when Mr. Knudsen endeavored to collect these there
va.' gieat opposition on the part of the natives, because these were the
bones if their ancestors, people of tlu'ir own villages, and they looked
upon k as a great sacrilege. Lvcn when the explanation was that the
white men wanted to study the crania of the aboriginal Hawaiian, the
could see no use in it. "Why do you not go to Mahaulepu and take
the bones of the Hawaii men there?" says one, a village head man.
"What is that?" asks my father. Says he, "The beach is strewn witli
thousands upon thousands of skulls and bones, but as the warriors are
slain in battle, we have no care for them. They have lain there since
the defeat of Kamehameha's army." And so Mr. Knudsen made tin
journey, visited the beach, collected five or six boxes of skulls and
shipped them to Washington, and then asked the old man for the story,
and this is the account of that battle as 1 got it from my father as a boy.
Hut in 18'3 I had two or three of the old men gathered around ami
telling stories of ancient Hawaii, and again they told me the story, so
that 1 got it direct from the lips of mm who, while not participating ii:
t!ie battle, had participated in the excitement of the day and .the thou
sands giving offerings in the temples when next day the victory was
celebrated. Ke-telling the story to my father, he remarked upon th
wondeiful memory of the old man, who had left out no detail of the
story a - he had told it in 1854.
I hu e w as considerable uneasiness in those days all around Kauai.
Kaiiieluimeha's triumphal inarch down the group, conquering king- aftei
king-, until he had conqucrc 1 all hut the king of Kauai, alarmed the
whole populace. They expected sooner or later an attack. They saw
that, thi: lied with victory, kamehanieha would attempt to conquer every
t-i'M-er i t the group, and so for some time every warrior had been
(hilled carefully, and everything was in readiness, every man on the
alert. f course, it was taken for granted that the attack would be
m:i'ie n the Kona eoa-t. where there was smooth sea for the landing
and where, in case of defeat, the canoes putting to sea would not have
tojuitle with wind and wave. And so the outlook was posted on many
a luadi uid. watching for any possible attack.
The very first beach protected by the headlands of Kipu on which
a canoe o u!d laud is the beach of Mahaulepu. and one night a lone
warrior, standing on the bare sandhill:;, saw the white line of surf
broken by a line of canoes. It was the invading fleet. There was a
heavy wind blowing. He did not wait, but running as only a Hawaiian
warrior can run, he gave the alarm to the village Olamoku ; from this
one the alarm was sent to all of the neighboring villages, each village
carrying the message on to the one beyond. When the morning star
arose the alarm had reached forty miles, to Mana: and through around
the windward coast and up around the populous valleys of Hanapcpe,
Makaweli and Wainiea. And the warriors were off. From Puako's
village, Kaunalewa, famous for its coconuts, 600 men went off in the
dawn, to travel as fast as they could the forty miles to the scene of
battle, know ing that they were among the last ones notified and there
fore, in all probability, would see nothing of the real fight. Hut in the
gloom of the darkness before dawn, the chiefs, gathered at Koloa, de
cided that they had a sufficient force, for the warriors of Weliweli had
reojiiioilered and again reported that there were probably not 'more
than six thousand warriors on the beach. And so the 'march was
started and before dawn the attack made on the resting warriors, who
had dragged their canoes above the reach of the high surf. Men were
detailed, forty to each war canoe, to carry on their shoulders a stone,
as heavy as they a mil possibly carry. These stones were to be loaded'
into the canoes as the Hawaii men tried to launch them. These men
approached behind the" first array of spearmen, and thus the line of
battle charged upon the invading camp. For a short time there was
tremendous resistance, but the Hawaii men were outflanked on both
sides, and the Kauai men crowded in behind them, some of them even
swimming in and attempting to surround them. They vowed that no
canoe should leave that beach. Then the ranks broke and the order
was given to launch the war canoes. Then the Kauai ranks opened,
llrt the battle was over. They were allowed, however, the honor
of l.ein ; the bodyguard of the chiefs captured in the battle who were
to I t- carried to their own village for the sacrifice to the war god of
Kauai. Young l'uako, with his kauila dagger in his belt and the short,
light s . ..r of a novice, had had the hoimr of standing guard with the
old men. unfit for Mich di-tnnt active service, at the gate of the temple:
and he saw twelve of Hawaii's finest walk into the temple, facing their
doom, as warriors should, walking upright, alert, undaunted to the last.
And so the warriors were dish iiuiled to all of the great temples of the
island, that the blood In -t of the pcopk- could be appeased, and for three
days there was human -acritice upon the altars. The first day twelve
warriors. "Koa." and the next day twelve warriors of rank Alii, and
the la-t and third day the climax, when the twelve chiefs of royal' line
age were struck down upon the altar on the highest platform", before
the imavi of the god of violence.
And so the beaten and discouraged remnant from Kamehameha's
flict landed on the beach of Waianae and reported that the gale had1
Mini: half their hYet. and that the high priest had received a summons!
to return to Maui, w he re Kanu hameha was. And thev put on a bold I
fioi't. because- the v were 1. Hiding amongst a conquered "people. And it
was onlv three or Jour years -ine-c the terrible battle- of Xuuanu preci- '
piev. w:rtc ten thousand skull- lay bleaching in the tropical sun. Hut'
K ilaipahoa did not stop at Maui. Through the Kaiauau they paddled,
looking neither to the left mr to the right. Out into the boisterous
ami the files of men carrying rock on their shoulders were allowed to
ri'sh through and load up the canoes with rock. Some of the canoes
had already been launched or were in the surf, and the rocks piled into
the right-hand canoe and none in the left-hand canoe at once capsicd
the double war canoes. Swimming in the surf in the twilight of the
morning, it was difficult to tell friend from foe. The surf carried the
canoes back to the beach, and these, swinging up sidewisc, would mow
down dozens of men and crush them under their weight. Within half
an hour chaos reigned in the ranks of the Hawaii men. The great
war cry of Kalaipaiioa rallied a few around the priests, chiefs and com
manders. Kalaipahoa. the war god that had caried the standards of
Kamehanieha triumphantly through the battles of his conquest of the
w hole archipelago, was for the first time in danger. To lose that was
to lose the kingdom ; and probably the dynasty was then in peril. And
so. surrounded by a dense wall of frantic, desperate men, three war
c tin cs were launched and got safely beyond the breakers with the high
priest, the commanding officer and Kalaipahoa. Several others then
put to sea. Finally about one-half of the war canoes got away, about
one-quarter were destroyed, and the other quarter captured by Kau
inualii. The beach was strewn with dead, and up among the sand hills
were 543 prisoners, some of them .with royal mamo cloaks on, showing
that they were chiefs of royal rank, carefully guarded, to expiate the
fury of the war god on the temple floor of Polihali. The battle took
place between dawn and sun-up. and the retreating Hawaiian canoes
v, re still plainly visible to the Mana contingent as they came over the
highland of Weliweli and began the descent to the beach,
channel again plunged the tired paddlers, struggling against wave and
current, until they were safe under the lee of the Kohala mountains,
md then quietly sped alenig in the night on the smooth waters of Ka
.vaihae I 'ay, w here at dawn the high priest carried his defeated idol
up into its own temple in the lava Hows of Kawaihae. Here the god
could rest and fill his image with his power, so that the image went
forth again to battle with all his original prestige. And so Kalaipahoa
rame back to Maui, and in the retinue of Kamehanieha he went back
Thus Kamehanieha failed to conquer Kauai, and he never again at
tempted it. And Kauai came into the union of the Islands by treaty:
!jy peaceful absorption. The last of the great koa war canoes, cut in
he forests of Hilo and Kan. still stood on the beach of Kikiaola in
b54. and was shown to my father as a relic of the event, but was no
1 nger reaworihy. With the laced-on running-board the canoe had a
depth of forty-two inches. History tells us that some of these war
anoc.-; were as large as sixty-two feet in length. Tt would be impos
sible, however, to estimate how many warriors traveled in each canoe,
rid thus form an idea of the number of men in the expedition. The
Kauai narrators differed, giving the figure of the dead as four thousand,
others giving the number of the Hawaii dead as four thousand. Hut
from accounts told us that it was half the army that landed on Oahu
;hat continued the voyage to Kauai, the invading force must have been
ai least ten thousand men. and it would not be so remarkable if four
thousand of them had failed to embark under the conditions of the
has died out of the people of today, but you will yet find an old man
The piles of bones along the beach give their mute testimony that
there were a great many. There are more than a man would care to
.c unt in a day. lint the Kauai warriors, toe), are dead. Their spirit
whose eye will twikle with a strange light when he tells you that Kalai
pahoa tied to Kawaihae because of the fierceness of the Kauai war
riors, inspired by the war god of Kauai.
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