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Valdemar Knudsen and the Russian Fort

I

n July 1816, Kauai’s King Kaumualii and Georg Anton Schaffer, a German physician in the employ of the Russian-American Company, formed an alliance for the purpose of conquering the Hawaiian Islands.

Their alliance ultimately came to naught, but one stipulation that materialized was the building of a fort at Waimea, with construction being completed either in November or December of 1816.

The Russian Fort (also known as Fort Elizabeth or Fort Hipo) served as Kaumualii’s home, his chiefs’ residence and quarters for about 150 of his warriors while he was sovereign of Kauai and Niihau.

When his sovereignty ended on May 26, 1824, the day he died, Kamehameha II thenceforth ruled Kaumualii’s dominions.

Accordingly, on Aug. 1, 1824, Prime Minister Kalanimoku, along with a contingent of soldiers, arrived at Waimea to occupy the fort and to look after the affairs of Kauai — but not without resistance.

For, on Aug. 8, 1824, the fort was attacked by Kaumualii’s son, Humehume, and other Kauai chiefs in rebellion against their new rulers, but were beaten back, and not long afterwards were finally defeated in battle near the Hanapepe Lookout.

Years passed, while the Russian Fort fell into disrepair. In 1853, it was abandoned.

In 1862, the fort’s buildings and small munitions were dismantled by Kauai sugar pioneer and rancher Valdemar Knudsen at the request of the Kingdom of Hawaii.

His report of September 1862 listed the following war material at the fort — 62 muskets with flint-locks, 216 bayonets, 15 swords no scabbards, 20 swords without handles, 61 old cartridge boxes, 6 heavy guns, 12 18-pound heavy guns, 26 4- and 6-pounders, and 24 little guns.

Knudsen either sold the muskets, etc., on Kauai or forwarded them to Oahu.

In 1864, he removed the cannon from the fort and shipped to Oahu all but one that fell into Waimea Bay during the process and was lost.

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