Native Village
Youth and Education news
November 1, 2010, Volume 1

Native Hawaiians served on both sides during Civil War
Condensed by Native Village


Henry Ho'olulu Pitmanson, the son of a Hawaiian high chieftess, served in the Union Army during America's Civil War. He died as a prisoner of war in the South's Libby Prison;

James Bush, also part Hawaiian, was in the Union Navy. He received a veteran's pension when he was older;
A few dozen Punahou School students signed up for the Union Army. Five were killed in the war;
Perhaps 200 immigrants living in Hawai'i may have served in the conflict and been counted as Native Hawaiians;
Twelve Native Hawaiian sailors served on the CSS Shenandoah, a Confederate ship which sunk or captured 37 Union ships, mostly in the Pacific;

Determining the actual number of Native Hawaiian soldiers is almost impossible. Some used new last names when signing up for the service. Others appear on the rosters of "colored" regiments in the Union Army.

In 1861 Hawaii's ruler, King Kamehameha IV, declared the Kingdom of Hawai'i to be neutral in the American Civil War.  Despite this neutrality, Hawaiians were tied to the North through its missionaries and whaling industry.

Those who did serve either volunteered or, the case of some captured sailors, met their fate through whaling ships.

"Hawaiians were great sailors, and so they served on the whaling ships and lots of merchant ships before the war," said historian Justin Vance from Hawai'i Pacific University. "When the war started, many of those ships were drafted into service in the Union Navy, and for their livelihood, (those Hawaiians) would end up as sailors in the Union Navy."

But the Shenandoah was a Confederate ship. Vance believes the Native Hawaiians who served on it were captured  from Union ships. 

Now the Hawai'i Sons of the Civil War Memorial Committee are recognizing these soldiers. A new memorial plaque has been installed at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific at Punchbowl.  The plaque is dedicated to Hawai'ians who served in the war from 1861- 1865.

Approximately 30 Civil War veterans who later died in Hawai'i are buried in the "Grand Army of the Republic."

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