According to Stauder, “The documented facts concerning (Humehume’s) service in the American Navy – this service which should merit ‘a very peculiar claim upon the charity of Americans.’ – tell a far different story from that given in (various) accounts (including his letter home).”
Humehume, son of Kauai’s King Kaumuali‘i, was about six or seven years old when an American ship, the Hazard, under the command of Captain James Rowan, anchored at Waimea, Kauai.
Kaumuali‘i had early in his reign established friendly relationships with British and American sea captains. He was a genial and helpful ruler when ships called at Kauai for supplies.
He knew Captain Rowan from previous port calls and entrusted Humehume to Rowan’s care for the long voyage to America via the Orient. The Hazard sailed from Kauai in January 1804. (Spoehr)
The purpose of sending Humehume to America was either to enable George to receive a formal education, or as some believe, to avoid tensions on Kauai concerning succession to the kingship. King Kaumuali‘i provided Captain Rowan with about seven or eight thousand dollars to cover the cost of his son’s passage and the expenses of his education.
After about four years, Rowan was unable to care for George any longer and turned him over to Captain Samuel Cotting, a school keeper in Worcester. Cotting was Humehume’s preceptor for the next four years. When Cotting moved from Worcester to neighboring Fitchburg, he took Humehume with him. (Spoehr)
“I lived with (Cotting) till he became very poor, and I thought I would seek for my own living rather than to live with him, and I went to Boston”. (Humehume letter to Kaumuali‘i, October 19, 1816) Instead of returning to Hawai‘i, Humehume enlisted in the U.S. Navy and as ‘George Prince’. (Spoehr)
Humehume wrote to his father explaining (or embellishing) his service … “I shipped on board the Brig Enterprise in order to go and fight with the Englishmen. After I went on board I went to sea then, and I was about 30 days from land before we meet the enemis that we wear seeking after. We came to an Action in a few minutes after we hove in sight.”
“We fought with her abought an hour, and in the mean time, I was wounded in my right side with a boarding pike, which it pained me very much. It was the blessing of God that I was keept from Death. I ought to be thankful that I was preserved from Death. I am going to tell you more of my being in other parts of the world. I then was drafted on board of the US Ship Guerrier.”
“I went then to the Streats of Mediterranean. I had a very pleasant voyage up there, but was not there long before we fell in with the barbarous turks of Algiers.”
“But we come to an action in a few minutes, after we spied these people; we fought with them about three hours and took them and brought them up to the city of Algiers and then I came to Tripoly, and then I came to Naples, and from thence I came to Gibraltar and then I came back to America.” (Humehume letter to Kaumuali‘i, October 19, 1816)
However, Stauder notes, “The first battle in which George claimed participation was the engagement between the Enterprise (American) and the Boxer (British). This took place September 5, 1813 off Portland, Maine. The name ‘George Prince’ is not on the muster roll of the vessel, nor is it on the list of ten wounded.”
“(The) description of the action is not confirmed by official reports. George reported being at sea about thirty days from land before the enemy was encountered, engaging in action a few minutes after sighting, and being wounded in his right side with a boarding pike.”
“The surviving senior officer of the Enterprise, Edward R McCall, reported that the vessel left Portsmouth on Sept. 1, 1813, and on the morning of Sept. 5 sighted the Boxer. At three pm, after reconnoitering, the Enterprise ran down with intent to bring to close action. At twenty minutes after 3 pm, when within half pistol shot, the firing commenced from both vessels.”
“It was ‘warmly kept up’ and about 4 pm the Boxer surrendered; she was a wreck. The Enterprise escorted the Boxer into the Portland harbor. The crew of neither ship boarded the other during the battle.”
“The name ‘George Prince’ does appear on the Enterprise muster roll, but not until June 19, 1815, at Boston, almost two years after the battle in which he claimed to have taken part. He was No. 68 on the roll and signed on as a ‘landsman.’”
(A landsman was the lowest rank and given to recruits with no experience at sea. They performed the dirtiest, heaviest, and most menial tasks, and endured the harassment of their more seasoned shipmates. With at least three years’ experience, or upon re–enlisting, a Landsman could be promoted to Ordinary Seaman. (Williams))
“At this time Commander William Bainbridge was fitting out a naval squadron to attack the Algerian pirates in the Mediterranean; the Enterprise was one of the ships in his squadron.”
“It sailed from Boston, July 3, 1815, and arrived in the Mediterranean after Decator’s squadron, with the Guerriere as flagship, had defeated the enemy. Again, George missed the battle.”
“The Enterprise visited a number of Mediterranean ports in a show of strength and returned to America, arriving at Newport, November 15, 1815. The Guerriere had arrived at New York, November 12, 1815. George transferred to the Guerriere in New York December 12, 1815, muster roll No. 944, still a ‘landsman.’”
“About two months later, he transferred to the Boston Navy Yard, Charlestown, Mass., muster roll No. 367 and is listed as No. 449 on March 14, 1816. George was on board both vessels but not at the time they engaged in battle. His discharge is dated September 27, 1816, still a ‘landsman.’” (Stauder)
George was now about 18 years old. By this time there were several Hawaiian youths in New England who had arrived out of curiosity or a thirst for adventure and knowledge. (Spoehr) On October 23, 1819, he returned to the Islands on the Thaddeus with the Pioneer Company of American Protestant missionaries.