“… at 5 o’clock we arrived there and saw a number of People, I believe between 2 and 300 … we still continued advancing, keeping prepared against an attack tho’ without intending to attack them …”
“… they fired one or two shots, upon which our Men without any orders rushed in upon them, fired and put ’em to flight; several of them were killed”. (Diary of Lt. John Barker, Library of Congress)
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 were 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 formal end of the war did not occur until the Treaty of Paris and the Treaties of Versailles were signed on September 3, 1783 and recognized the sovereignty of the United States over the territory bounded roughly by what is now Canada to the north, Florida to the south, and the Mississippi River to the west.
The last British troops left New York City on November 25, 1783, and the US Congress of the Confederation ratified the Paris treaty on January 14, 1784.
It was the turning point in the future of the continent and an everlasting change in the United States.
At this same time, there was a turning point in the future of the Islands.
In the dawn hours of January 18, 1778, on his third expedition, British explorer Captain James Cook on the HMS Resolution and Captain Charles Clerke of the HMS Discovery first sighted what Cook named the Sandwich Islands (that were later named the Hawaiian Islands.)
Hawaiian lives changed with sudden and lasting impact, when western contact changed the course of history for Hawai‘i.
Cook continued to sail along the coast searching for a suitable anchorage. His two ships remained offshore, but a few Hawaiians were allowed to come on board on the morning of January 20, before Cook continued on in search of a safe harbor.
On the afternoon of January 20, 1778, Cook anchored his ships near the mouth of the Waimea River on Kauaʻi’s southwestern shore. After a couple of weeks, there, they headed to the west coast of North America.
After the West Coast, Alaska and Bering Strait exploration, on October 24, 1778 the two ships headed back to the islands; they sighted Maui on November 26, circled the Island of Hawaiʻi and eventually anchored at Kealakekua Bay on January 17, 1779.
At the time of Cook’s arrival (1778-1779), the Hawaiian Islands were divided into four kingdoms: (1) the island of Hawaiʻi under the rule of Kalaniʻōpuʻu, who also had possession of the Hāna district of east Maui; (2) Maui (except the Hāna district,) Molokaʻi, Lānaʻi and Kahoʻolawe, ruled by Kahekili; (3) Oʻahu, under the rule of Kahahana; and at (4) Kauaʻi and Niʻihau, Kamakahelei was ruler.
At that time of Cook’s arrival, Kalaniʻōpuʻu was on the island to Maui to contend with Kahekili, king of Maui. The east side of Maui had fallen into the hands of Kalaniʻōpuʻu and Kahekili was fighting with him to gain control.
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.”
Throughout their stay the ships were plentifully supplied with fresh provisions which were paid for mainly with iron, much of it in the form of long iron daggers made by the ships’ blacksmiths on the pattern of the wooden pāhoa used by the Hawaiians. The natives were permitted to watch the ships’ blacksmiths at work and from their observations gained information of practical value about the working of iron. (Kuykendall)
After a month’s stay, Cook got under sail again to resume his exploration of the Northern Pacific. Shortly after leaving Hawaiʻi Island, the foremast of the Resolution broke and the ships returned to Kealakekua Bay for repairs.
On February 14, 1779, at Kealakekua Bay, some Hawaiians took one of Cook’s small boats. He attempted to take hostage the King of Hawaiʻi, Kalaniʻōpuʻu. The Hawaiians prevented this and Cook and some of his men were killed. Clerke took over the expedition and they left.
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. He died shortly thereafter. (Bingham)
Following Kalaniʻōpuʻu’s death in 1782, the kingship was inherited by his son Kīwalaʻō; Kamehameha (Kīwalaʻō’s cousin) was given guardianship of the Hawaiian god of war, Kukailimoku.
Dissatisfied with subsequent redistricting of the lands by district chiefs, civil war ensued between Kīwalaʻō’s forces and the various chiefs under the leadership of Kamehameha. At the Battle of Mokuʻōhai (just south of Kealakekua) Kīwalaʻō was killed and Kamehameha attained control of half the Island of Hawaiʻi.
Kamehameha, through the assistance of the Kona “Uncles” (Keʻeaumoku, Keaweaheulu, Kameʻeiamoku & Kamanawa (the latter two ended up on the Island’s coat of arms;)), succeeded, after a struggle of more than ten years, in securing to himself the supreme authority over that island.
After further conquest Kamehameha took all of the islands, except Kauaʻi and Niʻihau – of which he gained control through negotiation in 1810. (And, a little later, back on the continent, the US and Britain battled in the War of 1812.)
It’s interesting how dynamic changes (each involving Great Britain) were occurring at the same time, at relatively opposite ends of the globe.
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