Battle of Mokuohai

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Battle of Mokuʻōhai
Part of Unification of Hawaii
Kamehameha I head to waist 5111.jpg
King Kamehameha I
Date July, 1782
Location Kona, Hawaiʻi Island
Result Kamehameha I victory
Kamehameha I's army Kiwalaʻo
Commanders and leaders
Kamehameha I
Keōua Kuahuʻula

The Battle of Mokuʻōhai, fought in 1782 on the island of Hawaii, was a key battle in the early days of Kamehameha I's wars to conquer the Hawaiian Islands. It was his first major victory, solidifying his leadership over much of the island.


After King Kalaniʻopuʻu died in the summer of 1781, his family took his remains to the royal mausoleum known as Hale o Keawe at the important religious temple Puʻuhonua o Hōnaunau. While Kalaniʻopuʻu's son Kiwalaʻo had inherited the kingdom, his nephew Kamehameha was given a prominent religious position, as well as the district of Waipiʻo valley. When a group of chiefs from the Kona district, including his brothers and uncles, Keawe-a-Heulu, twins Kamanawa and Kameʻeiamoku, and Keʻeaumoku Pāpaʻiaheahe, offered to back Kamehameha instead of Kiwalaʻo, he accepted eagerly, traveling back from his residence in Kohala.[1]

Kiwalaʻo's half-brother Keōua Kuahuʻula had been left with no territory from his late father. He went into a rage, cutting down sacred coconut trees (considered a great insult) and killing some of Kamehameha's men. Their bodies were offered as a sacrifice to Kiwalaʻo, who accepted them, and Kamehameha felt he had to respond to the challenge to his honor.[2]


The battleground was just to the south of Kealakekua Bay, near the present-day community called Keʻei.,[3] on the bay now called Mokuʻakae (which could be a misspelling of Mokuʻōhai), South of Palemano point.The name means "grove of ʻōhai trees".[4] The tree, Sesbania tomentosa, is now endangered, and no longer grows in the area, so the site is only known from oral history.

As tensions were building, women and children from both sides flooded into the "place of refuge", Puʻuhonua o Hōnaunau. Kameʻeiamoku was the first leader injured, but when Kiwalaʻo approached, Kamanawa came to his aid. Then Kiwalaʻo was knocked down by a sling stone, and the injured Kameʻeiamoku was able to slit his throat with a shark-tooth dagger.[2] It was during this battle that the renowned red feather cloak of Kiwalaʻo (now in the Bishop Museum) was captured by Kamehameha the Great.


Keawemauhili (uncle of Kiwalaʻo) was captured but escaped to Hilo, and Keōua Kuahuʻula fled to Kaʻū where he had relatives. After the battle, Kamehameha controlled the Northern and Western parts of the Big Island, including Kona, Kohala, and Hamakua while Keawemauhili controlled Hilo and Kiwalaʻo's half-brother Keōua Kuahuʻula controlled Kaʻū.[5] Kamehameha fought several more battles over many years to consolidate his control. In 1790, Keōua's party was to have their footprints frozen into volcanic ash, and in 1791 Kamehameha's forces finally killed Keōua at Puʻukoholā Heiau.


  1. ^ Desha, Stephen (2000). Kamehameha and his warrior Kekühaupi‘o. Honolulu, HI: Kamehameha Schools Press. ISBN 0-87336-056-7. 
  2. ^ a b William De Witt Alexander (1891) A brief history of the Hawaiian people
  3. ^ Thomas S.Dye (2003) Archaeological Survey of a Portion of Keʻei Makai
  4. ^ lookup of Mokuohai on Hawaiian Place Names web site
  5. ^ Dukas, Neil (2004). A Military History of Sovereign Hawaiʻi. Honolulu: Mutual Publishing. pp. 66–74. ISBN 1-56647-636-4.