Honor the memory of Hawaii's Civil War veterans

Even the Sandwich Islands got involved in the Civil War!

Oh, you thought the Civil War was just fought between the Northerners and Southerners? I did too... until I saw that recently, the graves of native Hawaiian Civil War vets were finally getting markers. Wait, what? Even though Hawaii didn't officially become a state until 1959, the state and its native citizens have been playing a mjor role in US history since well before then. Like, back when they were called "The Sandwich Islands".

In 1861, when the Civil War broke out, the Hawaiian King, Kamehameha IV, kept a neutral stance but was definitely sympathetic to the Union. Blockades on the South made it hard for them to export their sugar, and Hawaii moved in to provide goods for those who couldn't get the Southern sugar. As a result, there were a lot of other Hawaiians who were pro-Union as well. A Hilo merchant named Thomas Spencer even mustered and personally paid for a Federal Regiment known as "Spencer's Invincibles". He was devastated to learn that his men were unable to serve-- but roughly 119 others managed to find a way to support the effort.

Another man from Hilo, Henry Ho'olulu Pitman, joined the Union Army-- he eventually died of disease in the Confederates' infamous Libby Prison. Several other Hawaiians served as sailors on a Confederate raider, the CSS Shenandoah. Most notably, though, is a section in the O'ahu Cemetery where 30 Union veterans are laid to rest in a section of the graveyard reserved for Grand Army of the Republic. Many are Americans who came to Hawaii after the war, but there are several Hawaiian Civil War Veterans buried there as well. 

One such Hawaiian is Pvt. J.R. Kealoha. Even though he was only a private, and he managed to survive the war, he died in 1877 and was buried without any kind of grave marker. Little is known about him, other than a mention in a letter from another Hawaiian, Colonel Samuel Chapman Armstrong, and the knowledge that he was buried in an unmarked grave in the cemetery. According to a KITV article, a group that honors Hawaii's Sons of the Civil War requested a marker from the government, since they provide free ones to veterans, but the request was shot down-- the government would only provide a marker to the deceased's next-of-kin. The group then turned to a local monument maker, who happily provided one for Kealoha, free of charge. The bright side of not using the government-issued memorial? They got to choose the inscription on the headstone: "He Koa Hanohano", which means "He was a brave and honorable soldier".


Looking for more Civil War history? Check out these other badass blogs!

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Header via Wikipedia

Header via CWGC

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