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Ka'iana and Keouakuahu'ula

Updated: Nov 21, 2022

Originally published in

Ka Hoku o Hawaii

Kamehameha and his warrior Kekūhaupi‘o

Written in Hawaiian by Reverend Stephen L. Desha

Translated by Frances N. Frazier

Produced with the assistance of the State of Hawai‘i Historic Preservation Division, DLNR

Kamehameha Schools Press Honolulu • 2000 Kamehameha and his warrior Kekūhaupiʻo pg 287-302

This famous ali‘i of Hawai‘i Nei was known to be an excellent and wise administrator, seeking always to improve the lives of the maka‘āinana. Nor was he slack in readying his warriors and increasing their instruction in the knowledge of war in ancient Hawai‘i. He also grasped the wise ways of his foreign favorites. These exhibited Kamehameha’s desire for the progress of his government and that the lives of the people under his rule should be provided for well.

He did not at all look with favor on idleness in people under him who depended on others for help. There exist in Hawai‘i today places which show his energetic work, and he set a good example for the young people of his beloved land. The name of this famous ali‘i of Hawai‘i Nei will never be forgotten. He had love for his people and always sought the welfare and progress of his chiefs and his maka‘āinana, and perhaps this was one of the main reasons for their steadfast love for him.

Yet with this good work by Kamehameha at the places where he had been victorious, at the same time he was keenly observant of the movement of his enemies and readied his strategies against the enemy. He combined the work of his hands and his mind. In the war conferences with his generals, Kamehameha never neglected discussions with Kekūhaupi‘o, and he and his father-in-law, Holo‘ae, were heeded by Kamehameha. This was perhaps one of the main reasons for his victory. “He was an ali‘i who listened to advice.” On the flight of Keōua from that Battle of Koapāpa‘a, Kamehameha sent a spying army under the leadership of the ali‘i Ke‘eaumoku, the war-loving father of Ka‘ahumanu.

Skirmish between Ka‘iana and Keōuakū‘ahu‘ula in Ka‘ū

Kamehameha’s scouting army was followed by his haole favorites.

Kamehameha also sent another scouting army to the forest above Hilo under the leadership of Ka‘iana‘ahu‘ula. Kamehameha’s idea in sending these two armies under these ali‘i was to infuriate Keōua and also to punish the people Keōua had stationed at Hilo to enjoy the fat of the land and the fishpond of Waiākea.

Nothing is told of the army under Ke‘eaumoku, but something is known of the army under Ka‘iana‘ahu‘ula between the upland of Ka‘ū and ‘Ōla‘a. However, when they reached a certain place in ‘Ōla‘a, they received a new command to turn back for Laupāhoehoe and board canoes there to sail for Kona. From thence they were to move to Ka‘ū and attempt to move to battle with Keōua from the sea.

Ka‘iana turned back to Laupāhoehoe where Kamehameha had ordered his canoes to be floated in readiness, awaiting him. Ka‘iana’s people boarded those canoes, and the expedition moved to the Kona districts. Because the way around Puna was stormy and furrowed with waves, the fleet from Laupāhoehoe passed offshore of the Kohala districts, and reaching the Kona districts, boarded some more warriors. It then moved to a certain cape called Laeloa. While it floated there, a fight was begun by Keōua’s warriors from the shore, and Keōua led some of his people offshore in canoes to engage in battle with Kamehameha’s men. This battle moved to a certain place in Ka‘ū called Paiaha‘a, ma kai of Kamā‘oa and Naohulehua, where the battle became very strong between the two sides.

Ka‘iana and some divisions of his warriors sprang ashore and began to fight a strong battle with some of Keōua’s warrior chiefs. At times Ka‘iana’s side triumphed, but it must be understood that Ka‘iana was on Keōua’s homeground which was well defended. Ka‘iana’s group retreated and boarded the canoes which awaited them.

Keōuakū‘ahu‘ula was a genuinely brave ali‘i and he was well supported by his brother, Keōuape‘e‘ale, and there were also very brave men under those ali‘i of Ka‘ū. Aboard Kamehameha’s very large canoes, the numerous warriors rested a little while, and again Ka‘iana led them ashore as before. Following the previous battle, his men were reinforced with unwearied men. A new battle began as Ka‘iana was extremely skilled and was brave and fearless.

Under his leadership the battle was so hard-fought that it was not possible to tell which side was victorious. However, after the battle had lasted for three days, victory seemed to favor Ka‘iana’s side, and at this time Keōua did something clever. He moved the battle toward Puna which was an enticing move.

Because Keōua’s people moved toward Puna, Ka‘iana thought this was a sign of weakness, therefore he went after Keōua thinking to achieve victory for his side.

The two armies met at a place called Punakoki. There Keōua’s men made a stand before Ka‘iana’s army. Keōua’s warriors were led by his famous warrior ali‘i,

Ka‘ie‘iea and Uhai, extremely skilled men and daring heroes of the battlefield. Another strong battle was fought which lasted for three days, after which Ka‘iana was put to flight, boarding his canoes and turning back to Kona with great affliction. This was a battle in which Keōua’s strength was spoken of, and perhaps this was the reason that in the future no battles were begun.

When Ka‘iana arrived at Kona, Ke‘eaumoku also arrived followed by Kamehameha’s haole favorites, and they discussed the trouble which Ka‘iana had encountered. Kamehameha understood that it was useless to pursue further battle with Keōua since the net would be lowered in a pitted place [figurative] (‘oiai, he naele ke ku‘una e ki‘i aku ai). Also, Kamehameha regretted the loss of life amongst his warriors who had fought without being victorious, and he recalled the words of the kahuna on O‘ahu telling him to build a house for the god at Kawaihae.

One thing is understood, which is that Kamehameha’s undertaking of sending his armies to Hilo and Ka‘ū did not succeed as he had expected. Those men had been turned back bringing misfortune to his side.

Keōua continued his rule over those districts of the island of Hawai‘i. Kamehameha had learned one thing, that Keōua was in a place of pits and crevices, and it was truly difficult to surround that “fish” in Ka‘ū, and as Puna was also pitted, if Keōua was attacked in Ka‘ū, he would flee to Puna. Keōua continued his rule over the districts of Ka‘ū, Hilo, and Puna, and Kamehameha ruled the districts of Hāmākua, Kohala, and Kona.

Understanding these conditions, Keōua diligently sought opposition between the two of them with warlike actions. The opposition of Keōua to Kamehameha had begun at the very time when Keōua’s father Kalani‘ōpu‘u, who was also the uncle of Kamehameha, had bequeathed the god Kūkā‘ilimoku to Kamehameha.

We are quite able to understand that, if it had not been for Keōua and Keawemauhili, that very first battle at Moku‘ōhai with Keōua’s hoahānau Kīwala‘ō, would not have begun. But because of the bad division of lands to the ali‘i under Kīwala‘ō, Keōua had become dissatisfied and he started the battle at Moku‘ōhai by going and chopping down the coconut trees on Kamehameha’s ground and needlessly killing his people. Kamehameha had truly been an object of hateful brooding to Keōuakū‘ahu‘ula.

Because of Keōua’s bitter grudge, he carried war onto Kamehameha’s lands, abusing his people, harming the women, breaking down the walls of the fishponds and kalo patches, pulling up the growing kalo plants, and other needless pillaging actions.

These oppressive pillaging actions toward Kamehameha’s people broke Kamehameha’s Kānāwai Māmalahoa, his law of peace which he had proclaimed for his people. As long as this ali‘i of Ka‘ū mākaha [fierce Ka‘ū], continued to live, so would the land continue to be without righteousness (maika‘i ‘ole). Keōua was obsessed with Kamehameha and his people, and he continually sought means to take revenge on them.

As long as this ali‘i‘ ai moku of Ka‘ū lived, there would be no peace in the lives of the chiefs and men on Kamehameha’s side.

Also Keōua coveted Kamehameha’s lands, and the only way that they could become his was by making war between the two of them. Keōua mistakenly thought the victory would be to his side. Because of his grudge against Kamehameha, he began his pillaging actions at Hāmākua, as far as Waimea, and eyeing (ki‘ei) the Kohala districts. We know, O reader, that this was a most unjust action by Keōua’s side as Kamehameha was fighting at Wailuku, and when Kamehameha was moving toward battle on O‘ahu, this was the time that Keōua’s bad actions took place on Kamehameha’s lands and to his people, causing Kamehameha’s tears to fall.

Kahekili and Kā‘eokūlani Form Alliance

While on Moloka‘i, hearing of the oppression of his people, Kamehameha disregarded the pressure toward war on O‘ahu by the war-loving father of Ka‘ahumanu. He turned back to rescue his people and to punish Keōua, but Keōua escaped. Keōua did not think well of Kamehameha’s action to save his people. He continued to nurse his jealousy of his hoahānau.

The writer makes this explanation to the Hoku’s readers in order to make clear the main reason for seeking the death of Keōua later, as Kamehameha’s actions were talked about afterwards. He did not seek Keōua’s death on the battlefield, but Keōua’s trust in Kamehameha’s emissaries was betrayed, and Ka‘ahumanu’s father strangled him in the sea at Kawaihae. We are here selecting the pathway for these events before our story progresses. The main reason for combining these things concerning Kamehameha’s story is in order to educate the new generations of the land that they may know of some famous doings of their renowned ali‘i.

Let us turn again to our story from this short diversion and move on to the story of Kekūhaupi‘o which ends with his death by assassination at Nāpo‘opo‘o.

It is said by the ancients of this land that this battle called the Battle of the Red-Mouthed Cannon, also known as the Battle of Kawai, was the fifth in which Kamehameha was engaged. It was between Kamehameha’s forces and the combined forces of Kā‘eokūlani, the ali‘i of Kaua‘i, and Mō‘ī Kahekili of O‘ahu. We also see that this was an unjust action by Kahekili for he had asked Kamehameha to draw back from attacking him on O‘ahu [and to wait until the black kapa covered him, in other words to wait for his death]. Kamehameha had returned to Hawai‘i as shown in recent issues of Ka Hoku, but they jointly attempted to break his rule. However, O reader, we shall see the frustration of this attack by the two mō‘ī from those other islands. We shall go on to this most famous sea battle in the annals of Hawai‘i Nei.

In the old stories of our land told by such Hawaiian writers as S.M. Kamakau and David Malo, as well as all the foreign writers, nothing at all has been satisfactorily explained about the date of this battle called the Battle of the Red-Mouthed Cannon, the most famous sea battle of Kamehameha against Kā‘eokūlani and Kahekili.

The foreign writer Jarves says that this battle was fought just after the departure of Vancouver from Hawai‘i. S.M. Kamakau says that it was fought before the killing of Keōua. David Malo says it was fought before the building of the heiau of Pu‘ukohola at Kawaihae.

In understanding these various versions, they are alike in that Keōua was not killed at Kawaihae until the very time of completion of that heiau of Pu‘ukohola. Vancouver had departed just before the building of that great heiau. Kamehameha’s energy in building that house for his god was the reason Vancouver spoke those words of advice to Kamehameha concerning the worship of god. Also, Kamehameha spoke to Vancouver about returning and asking the king of England to send someone to take care of guns here in Hawai‘i.

The report that Kamehameha granted the land of Hawai‘i to be under the power of Britain was a mistake. The truth of that conversation between Kamehameha and Vancouver was that Vancouver had seen Kamehameha’s trust in his god. These are words to educate the readers of Ka Hoku o Hawaii.

Let us return to the story of that famous sea battle. Kahekili, who was a skilled strategist, saw that Kamehameha was engaged in an internal war with his hoahānau Keōua. Therefore this clever strategist thought that quick action should be taken in fomenting a war of opposition to Kamehameha. This ali‘i ‘ai moku of Maui had not forgotten the harm inflicted on Maui by Kamehameha when the warriors under his son Kalanikūpule had been slaughtered, and his son had barely escaped death by fleeing to O‘ahu.

Kahekili and Kā‘eokūlani discussed starting a battle with this famous ali‘i of the east because of this internal war between Kamehameha and his hoahānau Keōua. These ali‘i determined that this was an appropriate time to launch a battle from without to assault Kamehameha. They entertained fears of Kamehameha for the news of his victories had spread at the time they were achieved, and it would be a very short time before this ali‘i of the east could launch a battle against them and the islands over which they ruled. Therefore they determined to gather their sea-going strength and go forth with their multitudinous warriors to make war on Kamehameha.

Sea-Going Forces of O‘ahu and Kaua‘i Journey to Hawai‘i

When the decision was reached between the Kaua‘i and O‘ahu ali‘i,

Kā‘eokūlani immediately prepared his war canoes and filled them with numerous warriors. He was followed on this war expedition by a certain man named Pe‘ape‘a, famed for bravery. He was also accompanied by two renowned warriors, Ki‘ikikī and Kai‘awa, whose fame was like that of Kekūhaupi‘o. There was also one foreigner known amongst the Hawaiians by the name of Mare Amara [Armorer?] who was skilled in working with cannons. A large cannon (pū kuni ahi) was mounted on one of the ali‘i Kā‘eokūlani’s largest canoes.

These very strong and brave men were chosen from amongst the famed warriors of Kaua‘i and were skilled in use of the weapons of that period.

It was also said that the ali‘i Kā‘eokūlani was accompanied by some very large dogs which he had gotten from a foreign land. They were handled by his foreign favorite and they had been taught to fight with men. It was thought that at the right time the use of these large dogs would inspire terror in Kamehameha’s warriors.

Possibly it was thought that they would meet in person on land with the ali‘i Kamehameha and, at that time, those dogs would be released amongst Kamehameha’s men to tear them to bits. But perhaps this idea was not carried out because this battle was initiated on the wide sea and there was no opportunity to release the dogs.

Kā‘eokūlani and his war fleet arrived at O‘ahu in the spring (kau kupulau) of the year 1791. When he met Kahekili on O‘ahu, the fleets were immediately made ready and filled with provisions for the journey. Those men who were fully prepared were selected. Kahekili appointed his son Kalanikūpule to be the kahu or caretaker of O‘ahu while he sailed with Kā‘eokūlani to make war on Kamehameha. Leaving O‘ahu and moving on the sea of Kaiwi, they first landed at Kaunakakai, Moloka‘i. They rested a little while there while they sought some things of benefit to this sea journey to Hawai‘i, and also furnished food for those multitudes of warriors who were sailing with those ali‘i of the west.

They delayed some days making preparations. Then after a few days they left Moloka‘i and sailed on the sea of Kalohi, the ancient name of the sea between Lāna‘i and Moloka‘i.

The fleet passed along the edge of the sea of ‘Au‘au, adjoining the sea of Pailolo, which was the sea between Moloka‘i and Maui. They sailed along the back of Maui until they arrived at Kahakuloa and then lay to off Waihe‘e and Waiehu.

On this sailing expedition perhaps a certain secret accord had been reached between these ali‘i to make war on Kamehameha. They knew that if Kamehameha’s strength was not broken at that time, the day would come when Kamehameha would turn and overcome them. This was a very good time for them to seek war with Kamehameha as there was war on Hawai‘i at that time between Keōua and Kamehameha. This divided the strength of this war-loving ali‘i who was attempting to overcome the ali‘i ‘ai moku of other islands.

Forces Cross the ‘Alenuihāhā Channel and Desecrate Waipi‘o

The covenant between these ali‘i ‘ai moku of Kaua‘i and O‘ahu was Kahekili’s promise to give Kā‘eokūlani the land of Maui. At this time Maui had passed under the power of Kamehameha because of the rout of Kalanikūpule, Kahekili’s son, from the Battle of the Dammed Waters of ‘Īao. This granting of Maui by Kahekili was perhaps, as we may guess, only bragging. However, on the arrival of those ali‘i at those places which have been spoken of, and as their sea-going armies were lying quietly in the calm waters off Waiehu and Waihe‘e, Kā‘eokūlani did something strange and remarkable by dividing some parts of Maui and giving them to some Kaua‘i ali‘i who would also go under him to fight with Kamehameha.

However, because Kā‘eokūlani was cutting up and granting these Maui lands, some of Kahekili’s sons became enraged. These native-born ali‘i of Maui joined together in their anger at this cheeky behavior by the Kaua‘i ali‘i ‘ai moku. This stupid action of the Kaua‘i chief in dividing up the Maui lands caused disaffection between the various armies of Maui and Kaua‘i.

This dissension spread afar amongst those of O‘ahu and Kaua‘i. The Kaua‘i people became irritated, and from a small beginning, both sides pitched in as anger grew between the two sides. When the fight began to grow, the unexcelled bravery of Koalaukani was seen. He was one of the sons of Kahekili, and he faced the weapons of the Kaua‘i people. In the beginning of this civil war (kaua kūloko) between Koalaukani of Maui and the Kaua‘i people, most of the strength was on the side of the Kaua‘i people. There were few people behind Koalaukani. They started this civil war because their ancestral lands were coveted, and their determination was strengthened by their love for their lands.

Kahekili quickly saw this trouble between himself and the ali‘i of Kaua‘i. If he did not quickly end this disturbance (uluāo‘o), then their unity would be nullified and they would fight amongst themselves, the result being that they would not get to Hawai‘i. Because of the cleverness of Kahekili in soothing his son Koalaukani, this break was ended between them all.

The place where this fight of opposition between the Kaua‘i and the Maui people took place was called Paukūkalo, situated between Waiehu and Wailuku.

After this commotion between the Kaua‘i and Maui people ended, the combined fleets of these ali‘i quickly departed. They sailed for the Ko‘olau districts of Maui, and on arrival, Kā‘eokūlani delayed there. Kahekili sailed to the Hāna district, gathering some new warriors from there and as far as Mokulau at Kaupō.

When Kā‘eokūlani arrived at Hāna he climbed up on that famous hill of Ka‘uiki, and standing on the peak of this hill fortification, he took up his spear and thrust it into the air, saying these words:

It was said of old that the heavens of Hāna are low. However, I have seen that the heavens of Hāna are high as I have thrust up my spear, Kamo‘olehua, and have not struck the heavens. Therefore I think that perhaps Kamehameha will not halt (‘a‘ole nō paha e kū ana) my spear thrust.

Kā‘eokūlani turned and said these further words to his ali‘i and some of his warriors who were watching this strange action of their ali‘i: “‘Auhea mai na‘e ‘oukou, my chiefs and fearless warriors who have traveled these far seas, hear my voice: with great strength and patience we shall drink the cool waters of Waipi‘o and gather the kalo of Kūnaka.” These words by this Kaua‘i ali‘i to his people were to arouse and encourage them for some of them were having thoughts of their beloved land and also the families they had left behind.

However, these hopeful words by their ali‘i ‘ai moku electrified them (ho‘ouwila), and they were encouraged by them for the Hawaiian race is one which really loves its ali‘i. These ali‘i were always a focus for them, and heeding the voice of their loved ali‘i they would follow him to the very death.

These Kaua‘i folk delayed a little while awaiting the return of Mō‘ī Kahekili from recruiting warriors at Kaupō, one of the lands with very brave warriors. Shortly thereafter Kahekili returned having increased his forces and they began to travel the waves of ‘Alenuihāhā Channel for the goal of: “Excellent Waipi‘o where the cliffs face one another.”

These combined armies of the ali‘i ‘ai moku of Kaua‘i and O‘ahu faced the yawning waves of ‘Alenuihāhā Channel, and the steersmen of the canoes were so clever that the skins of those ali‘i were not chilled by the sea spray until the very time they arrived at the place desired by them, the beautiful valley of Waipi‘o.

When the fleet of the mō‘ī of Kaua‘i landed, he sprang ashore with his warriors. Some cannons on shore were placed to enable them to fire on Kamehameha’s fleet if he should pass close to Waipi‘o, and perhaps to fire their cannon balls before the fleets should meet.

Kā‘eokūlani’s favorite haole was Mare (Murray) who had risen suddenly to a high position with him (‘o ia nō ho‘i kā Kā‘eokūlani ali‘i kīpū nui). Also with Kā‘eokūlani’s army were some large dogs which he had gotten from some Russians. They had been trained to fight with the enemies of that Kaua‘i ali‘i. It is understood that this ali‘i of Kaua‘i was in a state of readiness, so that perhaps the enemy would be unable to thwart him. Now, let us gaze to the future as there is a certain famous saying of the ancients of Hawai‘i Nei: “No skill in catching the goby fish (‘A‘ole he loea i ka wai ‘o‘opu).”114

When that Kaua‘i chief had made his arrangements, he quickly began his wicked actions. The most harmful acts he did were to break down the sacred heiau of Paka‘alana and also the heiau of Moa‘ula, these being some of the heiau repaired by the ali‘i ‘ai moku Kalani‘ōpu‘u when he was reigning over the whole island of Hawai‘i.

The sacred places within these very kapu heiau of Hawai‘i were thrown over and burned, as was the sacred nīoi of mō‘ī Līloa known in the famous stories of Hawai‘i by the name of “The Fiery Nīoi of Paka‘alana.” The old men who were guardians of the heiau and the old women living in the kapu of Paka‘alana were brutally evicted.

At the time that Kā‘eokūlani was doing these wicked deeds, the mō‘ī Kahekili was leaving Mokulau at Kaupō and sailing the ‘Alenuihāhā Channel for Waipi‘o Valley.

At the time that these invading (komo hewa) ali‘i were carrying out their war plans, Kamehameha was staying in Kona, living pleasurably in the fragrant calm of the Kona districts and doing his customary work of cultivation and fishing. He was also preparing the young men under him for warfare. The instruction also passed under the care of his great warrior, Kekūhaupi‘o of Ke‘ei, the war instructor of that famous conqueror of the Pacific. While he was living pleasantly, without thinking that there was a land-snatching war at his door, a certain messenger who had been sent from Kohala arrived in his presence.

According to the historian S.L. Peleioholani, the name of this messenger was Kila, and he sailed by canoe from Hālawa in Kohala to report this bad news to Kamehameha. At this place of our story, the historical account by S.L. Peleioholani reports that Kahekili did not sail in person to Hawai‘i for this joint war with Kā‘eokūlani, but he sent his two sons, Kalanikūpule and Koalaukani, who were the most brave of all the warriors in a fight.

Kamehameha Readies Response to Raiding Armies

These sons who entered with the ali‘i of Kaua‘i into this sea battle with Kamehameha are described by S.L. Peleioholani in his handwritten history. Also, by the unanimous testimony of S.M. Kamakau, Abraham Fornander, Jarves, and Professor Alexander, Kahekili also went to this battle on Hawai‘i with his comrade, the mō‘ī of Kaua‘i.115 However, perhaps they did not sail together, but Kahekili followed after Kā‘eokūlani as told above.

When Kila arrived in the presence of Kamehameha, he spoke these words before him: “E ke ali‘i ē! E Kalani ho‘i! I arrive before you with tears of sorrow.” “What are these tears on this arrival before me? Be so good as to tell me quickly the cause of these tears of sorrow?” The startled Kamehameha quickly questioned him.

“Here is the answer to your question, O heavenly one: There is a rebellion which has arrived, has burst forth in your land which was in the care of your ancestors

(i ko ‘āina a i ka luhi ho‘i ou mau kūpuna).

“Who is this rebel who has come here to Hawai‘i?” asked Kamehameha. Kila replied in an angry voice: “It is indeed Kā‘eokūlani of Kaua‘i and Kalanikūpule and Koalaukani.” “By your understanding how many rebels have arrived here in Hawai‘i?” asked Kamehameha with eyes flashing like lightning.

“It has only been heard that there are perhaps as many as seven lau,” replied the messenger Kila with his tears yet falling.

As soon as the messenger’s words ended, Kamehameha turned to some of his ali‘i who were standing close by and gave his order to immediately prepare the war fleet to sail to Kohala and go to war with Kā‘eokūlani mā. This order by Pai‘ea was quickly carried out. On hearing of this war expedition against the invaders from Kaua‘i, Maui, and O‘ahu, the people who had the authority to prepare the fleet, quickly designated the paddlers of each large war canoe.

The large fleet was quickly prepared. The largest ship carried the flag of the admiral who was Kalaninuimehameha. He was on board that ship which had been captured by Kame‘eiamoku at Ka‘ūpūlehu, North Kona, called by the American name of Fair American, as reported by the historians Alexander and Jarves. The name it was known by at this time was the name of Britain (Pelekane), and it was called Britannia.116 Mounted on that warship were three brass cannons which were operated by Isaac Davis and John Young. Also on some large (peleleu) canoes were mounted some cannons under command of the ali‘i Ka‘iana, for he was one of the ali‘i of Hawai‘i very experienced in that type of warfare.

Ka‘iana had been taught the use of those large cannons in foreign lands and he had brought some of these weapons from the foreign lands. He had the leadership of the war canoes as the mō‘ī Kamehameha was on board his flagship. Also, some of Kamehameha’s warriors marched by land led by Kame‘eiamoku and his twin brother Kamanawa, the sacred twins of Kekaulike, who also were makua kāne of Kamehameha. The remarkable thing was that these warriors of Kamehameha arrived in the Kohala districts to guard the peace of Kohala at the time that Kā‘eokūlani and his people were wrongfully attempting to trample in the upland of Kohala, but they were ejected by the warriors of Kamehameha and returned on board their war fleet. From their canoes, which floated between Waimanu and Waipi‘o, they raided inland. At this place, the fleet of the Kaua‘i and O‘ahu ali‘i were met by Kamehameha’s fleet, and a terrible battle began between the two sides, a very famous battle which was the first initiated on the seas of Hawai‘i Nei. It was perhaps described by the ancients of Hawai‘i Nei as the Battle of the Red-Mouthed Cannon [Kaua o Kepūwaha‘ula‘ula].

Battle of the Red-Mouthed Cannon Commences

Kamehameha’s ship, which bore the British flag, immediately moved into Kbattle. Cannons handled by Isaac Davis and John Young on the flagship were fired at the canoe fleet. On the side of Kā‘eokūlani, his foreign favorite used his expertise against Kamehameha’s flagship.

This fight between Kamehameha’s flagship and the enemy was not of great importance, but the greater part of the fight was by the great fleet of Kamehameha led by Ka‘iana. The remarkable thing about this fight was that Ka‘iana was leading it against his blood relative of Kaua‘i, for Ka‘iana was a Kaua‘i ali‘i. On his return from Kahiki (which was how ancient Hawaiians referred to other lands), he had been held back by Kamehameha and had agreed to stay with Kamehameha as he was aware of Kā‘eokūlani’s bad feelings about him. Here was this Kaua‘i ali‘i fighting against the combined fleets of Kā‘eokūlani and Kahekili. Kā‘eokūlani’s forces did great damage, and some of the canoes were sunk in the sea off Waimanu. It has been thought that the strongest battle was fought just off Waimanu. Off Waipi‘o was where Kamehameha’s flagship began firing at Kā‘eokūlani’s great fleet.

It was because of the sound of the cannons (pū kuni ahi), the firing of the muskets, and the flame flashing from these weapons that this battle was called the Battle of the Red-Mouthed Cannon. However, another name for it was Kawai. It is thought that the date of this battle was the year 1791 just before the killing of Keōua at Kawaihae.

After a hot battle between the two sides, it was seen that most of the damage was done to Kā‘eokūlani and his companion, Kahekili. The greater part of his fleet was sunk, and some of the men of those canoes swam to other canoes so that Kā‘eokūlani and Kahekili began to seek means of escaping being taken prisoner by Kamehameha.

The canoes which they had boarded immediately left the battle area, and before Kamehameha’s forces were able to realize it, they had distanced themselves, attempting to sail from the site of the sea battle, followed by some other canoes which had barely escaped Kamehameha’s forces. Kamehameha did not follow after the persons attempting to flee. Kamehameha’s forces had also received damage. Some of his canoes had sunk, having been struck by cannon balls from the other side. However, the damage on Kamehameha’s side was small, while the major damage was on the side of those ali‘i who fled.

Those Kaua‘i, Maui, and O‘ahu ali‘i sailed to Hāna. They had encountered great difficulty in their daring attempt to make war on Kamehameha. Their side had suffered much damage, and wails of mourning resounded as numerous members of their side had been killed. Also, O reader, we know of the untruthfulness of the mō‘ī Kahekili when he promised Kamehameha’s sacred messenger with these words: “Return and tell that son of mine (ua keiki ala a‘u), ‘Wait, and listen, and when the black kapa covers me and the pig rests at the altar, then take the land for himself, without hurt to the skin.’” Kamehameha had obeyed the thought of his precious elder, but we have seen the breaking of Kahekili’s promise to Kamehameha at the time when Keōuakū‘ahu‘ula was continuing in opposition to Kamehameha. It is known also that his anger had not been appeased over the rout of the army under his son Kalanikūpule at the Battle of the Dammed Waters of ‘Īao. Kamehameha bore no blame for the instigation of this battle as he had not broken the promise between them.

As these ali‘i knew of Keōua’s continual rebellion against Kamehameha, they thought this an appropriate time to take the fight to Kamehameha, and perhaps damage his defensive status. However, O reader, we have seen the lack of success in that war with no cause, and those ali‘i returned with a burden of frustration. This fulfills the idea of the ancients of this land: “Rebellion is an act with no result (He hana hope ‘ole ke kipi ‘ana).” Something follows in the footsteps of the action of breaking an agreement, and not only by battle, but by other means. Such as in governing, if you should secretly rebel against your side and think to attack those with whom you covenanted, a time will come when your acts will return to you. Neither you nor I can dispute those unshakable words of the Amazing Savior of the World: “As a man sows so shall he reap.” In this sea battle just offshore of Waimanu, Kekūhaupi‘o showed his fearlessness in encountering the O‘ahu and Kaua‘i fleets, showing his expertise with the spear and in killing the people on their side. Some of the Kaua‘i people were terrified at seeing men broken as though they were pieces of wood.

Those who had escaped brought fame to Kamehameha’s fearless warrior as they had witnessed with admiration his remarkable strength. The fighting strength of this famous warrior of Ke‘ei, the war instructor of Kamehameha, became legendary amongst the ancients.

This battle showed Kamehameha the value of being well-supplied with a large canoe fleet, and thus he began preparing himself. After that sea battle, he sailed as far as Hilo to see the high chiefess Ululani, the widow of Keawemauhili, who was the mother of his hoahānau Keaweokahikona. He also saw Kekaulikeikawēkiuonālani. After seeing his chiefly aunt Ululani, Kamehameha told of his idea for coming thither which was the carving of large canoes called peleleu in those ancient times. His aunt Ululani replied: “E Kalani ē, the forest is yours and the koa trees which stand in it. You must do as you will.” Kamehameha stayed for some days and after those days of rest, his twin uncles returned to the Kona districts to watch over the peace of those land divisions beloved by the ancient ali‘i of the land. Kamehameha immediately commenced the work of carving the large canoes. The upland forest of Hilo, as far as Hilo Palikū, was filled with huge koa trees. Kamehameha was prepared with skilled canoe-carving kāhuna, and the work progressed. (Perhaps this is the reason the Rev. W.M. Kalaiwa‘a is called by that name, because Kamehameha climbed the mountain and began the work of carving canoes in the high upland of Hilo Hanakahi, as this Reverend Kalaiwa‘a is of the line of the “Ship-Breaking Twin” known by the name of Kame‘eiamoku, who is also one of the sacred twins of Kekaulike, the mō‘ī of Maui.)

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