Kamehameha’s failed invasions of Kauai

In 1796, Kamehameha I, then the conqueror of all the Hawaiian Islands, except Kauai and its satellite island of Niihau, launched his first invasion of Kauai from Waianae, Oahu.

At his command were 1,200 to 1,500 canoes and around 10,000 soldiers, about half of whom were armed with muskets.

But, disaster struck about one-quarter of the way across the Kauai Channel, when Kamehameha’s armada encountered fierce winds that sank many of his canoes, forcing him to order what remained of his fleet back to Oahu.

In anticipation of still another invasion, Kauai’s King Kaumualii was then able to muster only three cannons, 40 swivel guns, and a relatively small force of soldiers in defense.

He also hired foreigners to build a small vessel, so that he might escape in it to another Pacific island or even to China in the likelihood that his meager forces would be defeated.

Meanwhile, on Oahu, Kamehameha assembled a second invasion force consisting of 7,000 Hawaiian and 50 European soldiers, most armed with muskets, and several mortars, eight cannons, 40 swivel guns, 21 armed schooners, and a large fleet of double-hulled canoes.

Yet, in 1804, as fate would have it, disaster fell upon Kamehameha a second time, when a foreign disease, likely typhoid or cholera, devastated his magnificent army.

Kaumualii was exultant, for his kingdom had been spared invasion once again.

However, Kamehameha’s determination to conquer Kauai did not end.

Thereafter, he sought a peaceful means of satisfying his ambition to rule all of the Hawaiian islands.

He proposed an alliance with Kaumualii, whereby Kaumualii’s kingdom would fall under his rule, yet with Kaumualii still retaining authority over it.

Finally, in 1810, when Kamehameha indicated he would be satisfied if Kaumualii were to acknowledge his sovereignty in person and be willing to pay him tribute, Kaumualii, dreading a third invasion, consented.

On Oahu, in April of 1810, Kaumualii and Kamehameha sealed their alliance.

Thereafter, Kaumualii would continue to rule Kauai, but as a vassal king under Kamehameha, who would not attempt to conquer Kauai again.
Hank Soboleski has been a resident of Kauai since the 1960s. Hank’s love of the island and its history has inspired him, in conjunction with The Garden Island Newspaper, to share the island’s history weekly. The collection of these articles can be found here: https://bit.ly/2IfbxL9 and here https://bit.ly/2STw9gi Hank can be reached at hssgms@gmail.com

  1. harryoyama July 7, 2019 7:55 am Reply

    Yet this article omit the fact that when Kamehameha died, his son kidnapped King Kaumuali’i to be married off to Kaahumanu because she being of low rank and not recognized as legitimate ruler, wanted this “arrangement” of being associated with a much higher ranking Kaumuali’i so she could rule is apparent.

    It is just another chapter of those ruling over Hawaiians who have no legitimacy other than to rule as brutal tyrancy under force of death and war. Kaahumanu was the most degenerate force that is responsible for the demise and eventual down fall of the Hawaiian nation because of her lust and greed for power, first by abolishing the kapu system that kept order, then this kidnapping.

    These failed invasions could have been a direct influence of King Kaumuali’i’s spiritual training from his mother, who had connections to the much feared Molokai kahunas who repelled the forces of Pa’aoa’s forces from Tahiti who introduced the war god that demanded human sacrifice, the same movement that Kamehameha used. These forces tried to invade Molokai, but was met by an invisible force field like energy that no warrior could penetrate, thus they fled in fear.

  2. Robert "Tito" Edwards July 7, 2019 10:49 am Reply

    Kauai should have their own flag to signify that we were never conquered.

    Maybe we should be called Kauaians instead of Hawaiians. Or maybe just Menehune since the Menehune are the original settlers of Kauai, not the “Hawaiians” from Tahiti.

  3. Ej July 7, 2019 3:03 pm Reply

    See what happens when you let the white man feed you? See the Europeans helped Kamehameha believe theybwere making him stronger and then took his kingdom from him. Now all the howlies throw trash and waste all over the paradise

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