First Fiji Expedition
|First Fiji Expedition|
|Part of the Fiji Expeditions|
Lautoka on Viti Levu in 1842.
|Commanders and leaders|
|Edward B. Boutwell||Seru Epenisa Cakobau|
|Casualties and losses|
The First Fiji Expedition undertaken by the United States Navy occurred in October 1855 during the civil war on the islands. In response to the alleged arson attacks on the American commercial agent in Lautoka, Viti Levu, the navy sent a warship to demand compensation for the attack from King Seru Epenisa Cakobau.
The first incident that led to the American expedition was in 1849 when the house owned by agent John Brown Williams was hit by cannon fire and caught on fire. The Fijians were allegedly celebrating the Fourth of July when cannon balls fell on the building. The second incident happened the same year as the expedition when, again, fire was to interrupt John Williams duties. After another accidental fire on Nukulau destroyed his store and some Fijians looted the place. USS John Adams, under Commander Edward B. Boutwell, was sent to monitor the unrest in October and her crew were landed on more than one occasion to protect American interests. When Commander Boutwell heard of the incidents involving William's house and store, he demanded $5,000 in compensation from King Cakobau. This initial claim was supplemented by further claims totalling $38,000. A deadline was given and if the natives failed to pay so and a landing party of marines and sailors was sent ashore to capture the king in the island's village. Fijian warriors put up some resistance and one American service man was killed and two were wounded. Ultimately the men of USS John Adams were successful in routing a contingent of natives from Lautoka but Cakobau and the survivors escaped capture. A second expedition in 1858, involving the crew of USS Vandalia, achieved clearer results but in the end, Cakobau's debt was never paid.
- U.S. Dept. of State (1902). Memorandum on Fiji land claims. US Government Printing Office.