The battle was the last stand of Kalanikūpule and 9,000-warriors of O‘ahu against Kamehameha and his invading army of 12,000-warriors from Hawai‘i. Kamehameha’s fleet landed at Waikiki where it covered the beaches from Waiʻalae to Waikiki. Kalanikūpule and his chiefs were stationed at strategic points in Nuʻuanu at Kanoneakapueo, Kahapaʻakai, Luakaha, Kawananakoa, Kaukahoku, Kapaʻeli, Kaumuʻohena, and Puʻiwa (where the fighting began.)
Kamehameha’s cannon’s rained fire down on Kalanikūpule’s forces, which disorganized under the assault. From that point on, it was a running fight, a desperate rear-guard action as Oʻahu’s defenders were herded up Nuʻuanu Valley. The name of the Battle of Nuʻuanu is also referred to as Kaleleakeʻanae, which means “the leaping of the mullet fish.” With their backs to the sheer cliff of the Nuʻuanu Pali, many chose to fall to their deaths than submit to Kamehameha.