On April 19, 1775, the Battles of Lexington and Concord were the first military engagements of the American Revolutionary War. The battles marked the outbreak of open armed conflict between the Kingdom of Great Britain and its thirteen colonies of British North America.
The first shot (“the shot heard round the world”) was fired just as the sun was rising at Lexington. The American militia was outnumbered and fell back; and the British regulars proceeded on to Concord. Following this, the Continental Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence and it was signed by 56-members of the Congress (1776.)
The next eight years (1775-1783,) war was waging on the eastern side of the continent. The main result was an American victory and European recognition of the independence of the United States (the war ended in 1873 with the signing of the Treaty of Paris.)
In the Islands, over the centuries, the islands weren’t unified under single rule. Leadership sometimes covered portions of an island, sometimes covered a whole island or groups of islands. Island rulers, Aliʻi or Mōʻī, typically ascended to power through familial succession and warfare. In those wars, Hawaiians were killing Hawaiians; sometimes the rivalries pitted members of the same family against each other.
Kalaniʻōpuʻu (Hawaiʻi Island ruler,) from the very beginning of his reign, made repeated attempts to conquer the neighboring island of Maui. He held portions of the Hāna district and the Kaʻuiki fort in 1775, when, in the war between Hawaiʻi and Maui, he commanded a raid in the Kaupō district. (Thrum)
In 1775, war between Hawaiʻi and Maui broke out at Kaupō on the island of Maui; it was the first battle that the rising warrior Kamehameha took part in.
While Kalaniʻōpuʻu was at Hāna he sent his warriors to plunder the Kaupō people. Kahekili was king of Maui at that time, when Kahekili’s warriors met those of Kalaniʻōpuʻu at Kaupō, a battle developed between the two sides.
The Hawaiʻi forces at Hāna, apparently under the command of Kalaniʻōpuʻu in person, raided the Kaupō district (that still acknowledged the rule of Kahekili.) Taken by surprise and unprepared, the Kaupō people suffered great destruction of property, cruelty and loss of life at the hands of the Hawaiʻi soldiers. (Fornander)
When Kahekili heard of this he sent two detachments of soldiers to the relief of Kaupō. A battle ensued between the Hawaiʻi and Maui forces near Kalaeokaʻīlio Point, it became known as the Battle of Kalaeokaʻīlio (“The Cape of the Dog” – also called the War of Kalaehohea.)
Kalaniʻōpuʻu’s army was routed and retreated to their fleet, near at hand, and barely a remnant escaped on board and returned to Hāna.
“Among the warriors on the Hawaiʻi side in this battle of “Kalaeokaʻīlio” the legends make honourable mention of the valour of Kekūhaupiʻo, whose fame as a warrior chief stood second to none of his time.” (Fornander)
“Kamehameha, afterwards famous in history, (also) figured prominently in this battle as having gallantly supported Kekūhaupiʻo”. (Thrum) Despite the courageous fighting of Kamehameha and Kekūhaupiʻo along with the other Hawai‘i Island warriors, the massive Maui army of Kahekili eventually forces the Hawai‘i Island warriors to flee the battlefield.
Kekūhaupiʻo was Kamehameha’s teacher in the ancient martial arts. Kekūhaupiʻo was determined to give all his knowledge to his chiefly pupil, and he indeed did so. This brought about the firm bond between Kekūhaupiʻo and the young Kamehameha.
Kamehameha became the most skillful of all the chiefs in the use of the spear. Captain George Vancouver later wrote that he once saw six spears hurled at Kamehameha all at the same time. Kamehameha caught three with one hand as they flew at him. Two he broke by hitting them with a spear in his other hand. One he dodged. (Williams)
Kekūhaupiʻo is arguably the one man most closely connected to Kamehameha I during Kamehameha’s formative years, while he developed his skills as a warrior, and through the early period of Kamehameha’s conquests.
Outnumbered and overpowered, after this severe repulse, Kalaniʻōpuʻu went back to Hawaiʻi and made preparations for a revengeful invasion. This occupied a whole year. (Thrum)
Kalaniʻōpuʻu promised revenge and, in 1776, he again went to battle against Kahekili. This battle (known as the Battle of Sand Hills or Ahalau Ka Piʻipiʻi O Kakaniluʻa) was recorded as one of the most bloody. Unfortunately, Kalaniʻōpuʻu was not aware of the alliance between Kahekili and the O‘ahu warriors under Kahahana, the young O‘ahu chief; Kalaniʻōpuʻu lost again.
Although often defeated, Kalaniʻōpuʻu managed to hold the famous fort of Kaʻuiki in Hāna for more than twenty years. (Alexander) At the time of Captain Cook’s arrival (1778-1779,) Kalaniʻōpuʻu was the chief reigning over the Island of Hawaiʻi and Hāna, Maui.
Kalaniʻōpuʻu returned to Hawaiʻi and met with Cook on January 26, 1779, exchanging gifts, including an ʻahuʻula (feathered cloak) and mahiole (ceremonial feather helmet.) Cook also received pieces of kapa, feathers, hogs and vegetables.
In return, Cook gave Kalaniʻōpuʻu a linen shirt and a sword; later on, Cook gave other presents to Kalaniʻōpuʻu, among which one of the journals mentions “a complete Tool Chest.”
After the departure of the Resolution and Discovery, Kalaniʻōpuʻu left the bay and passed to Kaʻū, the southern district of Hawaiʻi, having in his charge the young Kaʻahumanu. (Bingham) Kalaniʻōpuʻu died in 1782; Kahekili died in 1794.