In 1866, King Kamehameha V looked to have a separate barracks building for the Royal Guard (prior to that time, they were quartered in Fort Kekūanāoʻa (Fort Honolulu, which used to be at the bottom of ‘Fort” Street.))
Prior to becoming a US territory, Hawaiʻi’s modern army consisted of a royal household guard and militia units. By the 1860s, the Hawaiian military had been reduced to the Royal Guard, a unit assigned to guard the sovereign.
They were also known as the Household Guard, Household Troops, Queen’s Guard, King’s Own and Queen’s Own – they guarded the king and queen and the treasury and participated in state occasions.
On March 4, 1866, Heuck submitted a drawing and verbal description of the proposed Barracks to Governor Dominis – a ‘romantic betowered building’ of coral rock in the Victorian military style. (HHF, Peterson)
In 1870, Heuck was contracted to design and build the barracks for the Royal Guard. Halekoa was designed to berth between 86 to 125 soldiers depending on whether double or triple-tier bunks were used. In practice, the size of the Royal Guard did not exceed 80 men at any time in the 1870s, 80s or 90s. (HHF)
“During the reign of Lunalilo a mutiny occurred among the Household Guard …. The men mutinied over the kind of poi being issued to them as rations and defied the authority of the king to make them obey orders until new poi was given them.” (The Independent, March 13, 1902)
“Two companies of volunteers, the Honolulu Rifles and the Hawaiian Calvary, some forty men in all, were called out but were given nothing to do beyond serving as a rather ineffectual guard for parts of two days.” (Kuykendall)
After further negotiation, the mutineers obeyed the king’s order. Lunalilo then issued a decree disbanding the Household Troops and the kingdom was thus left without any regular organized military force.Public Safcommittee
On February 12, 1874, nine days after the death of King Lunalilo, an election was held between the repeat candidate David Kalākaua and Queen Emma, widow of King Kamehameha IV.
The election was held by the members of the legislature, not the public. The election was held in a special session of the Legislature at the old Courthouse on Queen Street (it was almost the last official action to take place in the courthouse.) When the vote was tallied, Kalākaua won by a count of 39 – 6.
Emma’s supporters (referred to as the “Queenites,” “Emmaites” or the “Queen Emma party”) were unhappy with the decision – an angry mob of about 100 of the Queen’s followers gathered.
No outbreak occurred … until the Committee of five representatives, which had been appointed to notify the King of his election, attempted to leave the building and enter a carriage waiting to convey them to the Palace. A riot ensued and many of the legislators were attacked (1 died.)
During the election riot of 1874, “No dependence could be placed on the police nor on the Hawaiian Guards; these had proved unfaithful to their duties to preserve order, and had in some cases joined the partisans of Queen Emma in their riotous actions.” (Lili‘uokalani)
“The only alternative, in this emergency, was to seek aid from the war vessels in port. About half-past 4 pm, a written request was sent by Charles R Bishop (the Minister of Foreign Affairs,) on behalf of the Government, to the American Minister Resident, for a detachment to be landed from the US ships Tuscarora and Portsmouth, lying in the harbor. And a similar request was transmitted to the British Consul General.” (Hawaiian Gazette – March 4, 1874)
The request stated, “Sir: A riotous mob having unexpectedly made a violent attack upon the Court House and the Members of the Legislature which we have not the force at hand to resist, I have to request that you will cause to be furnished at the earliest moment possible aid from the US ships “Tuscarora” and “Portsmouth” to the Police, in quelling the riot and temporarily protecting life and property. Your obedient servant, Chas. R. Bishop” (Hawaiian Gazette – March 4, 1874)
A force of 150 American marines and sailors under Lieutenant Commander Theodore F. Jewell were put ashore along with another seventy to eighty Britons under a Captain Bay from the sloop HMS Tenedos.
“Commander Belknap and Commander Skerrett of the United States forces took possession of the square on which the court-house is built; and on seeing this, the mob melted silently and entirely away. The armed marines subsequently, at the request of the Hawaiian authorities, guarded the treasury, arsenal, jail, and station-house.”
“The British marines were marched to the residence of Queen Emma, and, after dispersing the rioters assembled there, they occupied the barracks and guarded the palace itself.” (Liliʻuokalani)
Then, the newly-elected king, Kalākaua, restored the army, and named it the Household Guard. (It was reported Kalākaua sympathized and sided with the mutineers and advised and instigated them.)
In 1893, the Kingdom’s force strength was 496 (224 at the Police station and 272 at the barracks.) “Queen Lili‘uokalani attempted on Saturday, Jan 14 (1893,) to promulgate a new Constitution, depriving foreigners of the right of franchise and abrogating the existing House of Nobles, at the same time giving her the power of appointing a new House.”
“This was resisted by the foreign element of the community, which at once appointed a committee of safety of thirteen members, which called a mass meeting of their classes, at which 1,200 or 1,500 were present.”
“That meeting unanimously adopted resolutions condemning the action of the Queen and authorizing the committee to take into consideration whatever was necessary for the public safety.” (New York Times, January 28, 1893)
The Committee of Safety, formally the Citizen’s Committee of Public Safety, was a 13-member group also known as the Annexation Club; they started in 1887 as the Hawaiian League.
The Committee of Safety was made up of 6-Hawaiian citizens (3-by birth and 3 naturalized (1-former American, 1-former German & 1-former Tasmanian;)) 5-Americans, 1-Scotsman and 1-German.
Most were not American, and, BTW, none were missionaries and only 3 had missionary family ties – the Missionary Period ended in 1863, a generation before the overthrow.
“During our meetings from the 14th to the 17th we had been looking up men, arms, and ammunition, and in every meeting had reports. We had figured up about 200 of the old Honolulu Rifles besides from 400 to 600 citizens that would shoulder a gun if it became necessary. We had to make estimates, as we could not expect to succeed without backing. We counted on those men as ready in squads around town to be at the building at 3 o’clock.” (McChesney, Morgan Report)
On January 16, 1893, the Committee of Safety wrote a letter to John L Stevens, American Minister, that stated: “We, the undersigned citizens and residents of Honolulu, respectfully represent that, in view of recent public events in this Kingdom, culminating in the revolutionary acts of Queen Liliʻuokalani on Saturday last, the public safety is menaced and lives and property are in peril, and we appeal to you and the United States forces at your command for assistance.” (Pacific Commercial Advertiser, January 17, 1893)
“(A) small force of marines and sailors was landed from the United States ship Boston, as a precautionary step for the protection of American life and property, and as a safeguard against night incendiarism stimulated by the hope of plunder, greatly feared by many of the best citizens.” (Stevens, The North American Review, December 1893)
“About 5 o’clock in the afternoon (January 16, 1893,) the USS Boston landed (162) men. Each man had two belts of cartridges around his waist and was armed with a rifle. The men marched up to the office of the Consul-General of the United States where a halt was made.”
“The Marines were detached and sent to the American Legation on Nuʻuanu Avenue, while the sailors marched out along Merchant Street with two gatling guns and made a halt at Mr JA Hopper’s residence. About sundown they moved to the grounds of Mr JB Atherton’s and after a stay of several hours returned to the Arion Hall, where they camped overnight.” (Pacific Commercial Advertiser, January 17, 1893)
“If the Queen, or the people, or both acting in conjunction, had opposed the landing of the troops from the Boston with armed resistance, their invasion would have been an act of war. But when their landing was not opposed by any objection, protest, or resistance the state of war did not supervene, and there was no irregularity or want of authority to place the troops on shore.” (Morgan Report)
The Honolulu Rifles, a volunteer group of men who supported the Committee of Safety, assembled in opposition to the loyalist guard stationed across King Street at the Palace. With horse blankets and boxes of hard tack, the Honolulu Rifles camped in the halls of Ali‘iolani Hale. (Judiciary History Center)
Following the reading of the Proclamation establishing the Provisional Government, “dozens and scores of armed men poured in till the buildings and premises were filled to overflowing. I believe that before 5 pm, 1,000 to 1,500 men were there, not all armed by any means, but asking for arms to support the Provisional Government. Several hundred were armed and all were determined to hold the (armory) at any cost.” (Tenney, Morgan Report)
“At the time the Provisional Government took possession of the Government buildings, no troops or officers of the United States were present or took any part whatever in the proceedings.” (John Foster, State Department, February 15, 1893, Blount Report)
Kuykendall put the Hawaiian army at 272; this is consistent with the Blount report that noted an affidavit by Nowlein, commander of the palace troops that put its strength at 272 (with an additional local police force of 224.)
“A part of the Queen’s forces, numbering 224, were located at the station house, about one-third of a mile from the Government building. The Queen, with a body of 50 troops, was located at the palace, north of the Government building about 400 yards. A little northeast of the palace and 200 yards from it, at the barracks, was another body of 272 troops. These forces had 14 pieces of artillery, 386 rifles, and 16 revolvers.” (Blount Report)
The present military force of the Provisional Government is “between 1,200 and 1,500,” well armed and equipped with modern arms and ammunition. (Oleson, Morgan Report)
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