COMPANION OF A PRINCE
A Hawaiian Chief Who Fought in Africa.
HE TELLS A ROMANTIC TALE
Decapitated Morrocan of High Rank—Was Owner of Famous Feather Cloak.
WITHIN THREE months a stalwart Hawaiian will leave Honolulu and journey to London to attend the reunion of the survivors of one of England’s wars of conquest fought more than thirty years ago. Upon the Hawaiian’s body are the scars inflicted by sword, spear and bullets, received while he was fighting under the flag of St. George in the service of Queen Victoria upon the battlefields of Southern Africa. According to a romantic story which the Hawaiian tells, few amongst the veterans who will gather in the capital of the British nation will have more honorable records for bravery and conspicuous gallantry in the face of a dark-skinned enemy than he, and few will there be whose entire lives are so wrapped in a halo of romance. Linked with this Hawaiian’s life are those of Kings and Queens, Dukes and Admirals, Generals and Captains, and yet today he is an humble resident of the Hawaiian Islands.
Destiny seemed to have called him to become a soldier, as his ancestors were warriors in the service of Kamehameha I. The blood of brave men flowed through his veins and from his infancy he had heard almost daily the tales of the deeds done by his great grandfather while following the Hawaiian Napoleon upon his conquest of the kings of all the islands of the group until all became subservient to his rule. That he might know that his ancestor had been a brave man and was of high rank he had been made the custodian of the feather war mantle, helmet, girdle, spear and hair necklace which had been worn by the great chief in the battle, a rent in the cloak showing where a spear had been thrust through it into his body. These accoutrements are told of in the histories of old-time wars of Hawaii.
Solomon L. Peleioholani, one of the highest surviving chiefs of the Hawaiian race, the man who stood before Lunalilo when he was crowned King of the Hawaiian Islands, wearing the famous feather cloak, helmet and necklace, and also stood in front of Kalakaua at the latter’s coronation and received the foreign representatives, and who as a boy was the protege of Kamehameha IV and his Queen, Emma, and the companion of the little Prince of Hawaii, was the same man who says he stood in the presence of Queen Victoria and the highest nobles of the British nation, to receive from her Majesty a service medal for bravery on the battlefields of South Africa, and a recognition at the same audience from the Duke of Edinburgh.
His father’s name was also Peleioholani and his mother’s name was Piikeakaluaonalani, his great grandfather being the high chief Keeaumoku, on of the ablest supporters of Kamehameha I. It was in the battle of Mokuohai, which was fought between Kamehameha and Kiwalao in July, 1782, that Keeaumoku distinguished himself and performed a deed which has been one of the greatest treasures handed down to Peleioholani. The death of Kiwalao in that battle gave Kamehameha prestige over the entire island of Hawaii. It was Keeaumoku who kiiled Kiwalao in a hand-to-hand contest, and thus the greatest opponent to Kamehameha’s success was removed. Keeaumoku went into battle arrayed in his magnificent mamo feather cloak and helmet, spear, hair necklace and feather baldric, seven feet long. Upon his hands were the terrible leiamanos, or battle gloves. Each glove was formed of two strips of oa wood, each strip being fitted with four shark’s teeth, sharpened to a keen edge. These were fastened to the middle fingers of each hand with thongs. In a hand-to-hand contest the battle-gloves were weapons which were at once cruel and death-dealing.
Keeaumoku and Kiwalao, uncle and nephew, came face to face during the battle and were about to commence the hand-to-hand contest when a supporter of Kiwalao struck Keeaumoku to the ground. Spears were thrust at him, but he caught them in his powerful hands and turned them aside. But not all, for a spear of seven points finally tore its way through the clak into his side, his blood staining the yellow feathers. Keeaumoku fainted for a few seconds, and on recovering consciousness heard Kiwalao prohibit a warrior from thrusting a spear through Keeaumoku’s throat, as he wanted for spoils of the fight the hair necklace which Keeaumoku wore upon his neck. Keeaumoku instantly resolved that the necklace would not be removed by his enemy without a struggle. Gathering all his strength he suddenly arose and grasping Kiwalao, he tore open his abdomen with the shark-tooth gloves, Kiwalao expiring without an opportunity to revenge his death-wounds.
The blood-stained cloak and all the war accoutrements of Keeaumoku were given to his wife, Ikanaka, and by her to Peleioholani’s grandmother Kahahana, a given into Peleioholani’s keeping by her. The heirlooms were jealously guarded by Kahahana and her grandson. Offers were made to them for their purchase, but though tempted by big sums of money they would not part with them. Two years ago they were to be sent to be exhibited at the Paris Exhibition. Peleioholani’s cousin, the Governess Ululani, and her husband, John Baker, were to accompany Peleioholani on the journey to Paris. Then came the plague and Peleioholani was unable to go to Hilo, whence John Baker and his wife sailed for the mainland. Peleioholani was unable during the strict quarantine maintained about Honolulu to sen the valuable relics of ancient Hawaii to Hilo, and in the great fire which swept over the city in January, 1900, the famous cloak, helmet, spear, necklace were destroyed. Even Peleioholani’s medals and papers received by him at the close of the war from England’s Queen were lost.
The blood-stained cloak and helmet were closely connected with the fortunes of the Kings of Hawaii. When Lunalilo was crowned King it was Peleioholani who stood in front of him, clothed in the royal feather emblems of rank, holding the sword of the crown. The sword was given into the keeping of Lunalilo when he had taken the oath. The last time the famous cloak and helmet were worn in public was at the coronation of King Kalakaua on February 12, 1883. Peleioholani and Kekuiapoi, son of the high chiefess Keano, the two highest chiefs in attendance at the ceremonies, the great great grandsons of Kamehameha-nui-ai-luau, appeared before the King and Queen before the grand ball was opened the evening of the coronation day. Both chiefs were clothed in feather insignia of rank and stood in front of the King and Queen. These received the foreign representatives and in turn presented them to their majesties, it being a custom which had been observed from the earliest times told of in tradition.
The history of the heirlooms tells also of Peleioholani’s noble ancestry and his claim to the title of a high chief. It was because he was a high chief that while a boy of about ten years, he was sought by Kamehameha IV and his consort, Queen Emma, and taken by them to Honolulu to be brought up as the companion of the Prince of Hawaii, and was to have accompanied the young Prince to England, where they were to have been educated.
During the short life of the little Prince, Peleioholani was his playmate, and both were treated with the utmost respect by all whom they met. During this time Peleioholani lived at the residence of Kekuanaoa, in which the Duke of Edinburgh was domiciled during his visit to Honolulu in 1869. An indiscretion on the part of Peleioholani while he was living in Hilo after the death of the Prince caused his parents to send him away on a whaler, in the company of young Titus Coan. For five years the boys made voyages, visiting the South Seas, Japan, Manila and the Indian ocean. Peleioholani went back to Hilo and attended school. Then he returned to Honolulu, and learned a machinist’s trade under Alex Young. One day the steamer Nevada came into port and Peleioholani was given an opportunity to go with her to Australia. He remained there, became a British subject, drilled with the Australians who were to do service for the Queen to Africa, and he went in a transport to the eastern coast of South Africa, arriving there as a sub-officer. The blacks were on the shore on that day, October 22, 1869, when the troops commenced to land. The ships opened fire upon them and attempted to land men in launchers. Seven of the latter were disabled. From one of them Peleioholani was forced to swim back to the ship, carrying nothing but his sword and belt. He obtained another launch and thus from 2 until 5:30 o’clock in the afternoon the landing went on, the troops finally driving the enemy back.
“We were afterwards sent into the interior on outpost duty and I had seventy men under me at an outpost near a town which I believe was afterwards named Ladysmith. We remained there for several days. One morning about 4 o’clock we saw men issuing from the town evidently to attack us. We advanced until we were in a position to shell the place with two howitzers. A messenger was sent back for reinforcements and these arrived about nine. The enemy pressed us hard and we lost many men. The town surrendered after it had been partially burned. The reinforcements were in command of one of the brigade generals. One of the sub-officers was the present captain of the army transport Sumner, who called upon me when the ship was in port last fall.
“I was sent north with a large force and upon one of our expeditions we were attacked by a body of blacks under command of a man of rank from Morocco, part Russian and part Moroccan, who was called a Prince. Our troops were sent across a river to engage his force. We had to fight while wading across and at last met them on the opposite bank. The Prince was on a horse and the squad with which I was connected engaged the Prince, who was on a horse. I caught his bridle, and was struck on the head. At the same instant Captain Bickerton made for the Prince, who struck at Captain Bickerton with his sword. I threw my arm around his neck and received the point in my left forearm. Before the Prince had time to recover I thrust him with my sword, the blade entering his right side and coming out near the neck. I obtained possession of the sword and a medal which he wore upon his breast, and carried them with me into camp, where I turned them over to the corps commander. I also cut off his head and carried that into camp. When we went to England to be mustered out, we were marched in review before Queen Victoria, who distributed medals to the men. The sword and medal of the Prince was presented to the Queen, and I was questioned as to my nationality. I told her I was an Hawaiian. I told her my grandfather had accompanied Kamehameha II to England. I told her Kamehameha V was my King. The Duke of Edinburgh recognized me as being the native who had assisted him to land at Hilo from the Galatea and procured the hula girls to give a dance before his Highness.”
[Wow. Just wow… Someone should do research and a paper on S. L. Peleioholani, if one has not already been done!]
(Pacific Commercial Advertiser, 1/22/1902, p. 9)