Island History

Captain Broughton

British Captain William Robert Broughton (1762-1821), in command of “Providence,” visited Waimea, Kaua‘i in February of 1796 to discover the island racked by bloody civil war.

When “Providence” had anchored off Waimea, the warrior chief then in military control of Waimea district came on board but quickly departed for shore upon observing a fleet of war canoes heading toward Waimea.

In one of those canoes was 16-year-old Prince Kaumuali‘i, the future and last king of Kaua‘i.  Kaumuali‘i came aboard but, along with others, resisted Broughton’s attempts at peacemaking.  After Kaumuali‘i disembarked, Broughton sailed for the northwest coast of North America.

The following July, when Broughton returned to Waimea to fill water casks and was told he’d need to pay for the water, he refused and sent an armed party ashore to take what water he required.

A couple of days later, he sailed for Ni‘ihau to collect a supply of yams and dispatched a party of three marines, a mate and a botanist accordingly.

After some time had passed, Broughton fired a rocket to signal his men to return to “Providence” and sent a boat off to pick them up.

While the boat approached Ni‘ihau, the boat’s crew heard shots and observed the shore party withdrawing into the surf while being attacked by Hawaiians.  A fight ensued in which two marines were killed.  The remaining three Englishmen made it to the boat only by the skin of their teeth.

On shore, Hawaiians danced with delight and displayed the equipment they’d stripped from the dead marines, while taking care to keep out of range of  “Providence’s” guns.

Before leaving Ni‘ihau, Broughton ordered more marines ashore to retrieve the dead and to burn all Hawaiian property within a mile of where the skirmish had occurred.


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