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Pahikaua War
Sword War

Principia Moderni IV
Part of the Unification of Hawaii
PM4 Hawaii 1710
Map of the Hawaiian Islands in 1710, with the
Kingdom of Hawaii shown in orange.
Date 1715/6 - 1718
Location Hawaiian Islands
Result Hawaiian Victory
  • Conquest of Kingdom of Oahu
  • Consolidation of Maui
Kanaka Maoli flag Kingdom of Hawai'i
  • Loyalist Maui
Flag of O'ahu OC Kingdom of Oʻahu

Flag of Maui3 OC Kingdom of Maui

Commanders and leaders
Kanaka Maoli flag Kamehameha I

Kanaka Maoli flag Kameʻeiamoku †
Kanaka Maoli flag Kaliloamoku
Kanaka Maoli flag Kepoʻokalani
Kanaka Maoli flag Kamanawa

Flag of O'ahu OC Kahekili II †

Flag of Maui3 OC Kalanikūpule †

Unknown Unknown

The Pahikaua War, Hawaiian for the "Sword War", was a conflict primarily between the Kingdom of Hawaii and the Kingdom O'ahu, and is considered to be the second major conflict in the Unification of Hawaii. The war began in 1716, after a disagreement broke out between Kameʻeiamoku, Kuhina Nui and Chief of Puna, and Kahekili II of O'ahu, which resulted in the Kuhina Nui's death and the loss of his sword. The attack, supported by Hawaii's main rival, Kahekili II of O'ahu, led to war being declared by Kamehameha I of Hawaii soon after.

The Kingdom of Hawaii had annexed the Kingdom of Maui less than a decade prior, in the Kepaniwai War, which had previously saw conflict between Kahekili II and Kamehameha I. As such the Pahikaua War would also become a civil war on the island of Maui, split between the loyalist supporters of the King of Hawaii, and various rebelling chiefs, who elected Kahekili II's son, Kalanikūpule, as king following an invasion in 1717.

In 1718 the war ended in a Hawaiian victory, with Kamehameha I becoming King of O'ahu, while also consolidating his rule over Maui. The infamous stolen sword that sparked the conflict would be returned to Kameʻeiamoku's son, Kepoʻokalani. The war would leave Kamehameha I essentially in control of all the Hawaiian Islands, with the exception of the Kingdom of Kauai to the west. The war would be the last major conflict fought by Kamehameha I for control over the islands, with the unification of Hawaii being completed diplomatically several years after the conclusion of this war.


Following the conclusion of the Kepaniwai War, tensions had remained high between the Kingdom of Hawaii under Kamehameha and the Kingdom of O'ahu under Kahekili II. Kameʻeiamoku, Chief of Puna, one of the king's most trusted allies and advisers, who had been appointed the first Kuhina Nui in 1710, got into a disagreement with Kahekili II. The feud culminated in an ambush of Kameʻeiamoku while he was traveling, leading to his death and the theft of his prized metal sword. Although the king had likely been preparing and planning for war in the near future, the severity of this raid forced him to declare war immediately on O'ahu in late 1716, beginning the Pahikaua War, or Sword War.

In 1717 Kahekili II launched an invasion of neighboring Molokai, and King Kamehameha sailed for the island to repulse the invasion. Kahekili II was defeated in a costly battle and his army retreated west. Around the same time a second invasion force landed on Maui, led by Kahekili II's son, Kalanikūpule. The king's son managed to sway several chiefs of Maui to join his cause, and declared himself Chief of Maui. Throughout the rest of the year, while Kamehameha was in Molokai preparing to counterattack, several skirmishes would break out across Maui, mostly around the major cities on the island. The loyalist forces and the settled Hawaiians managed to secure Wailuku and Kahului, driving out the rebels from the capital. The rebels attempted to counterattack, but at the Battle of Wailhee a larger army from Kāʻanapali was successfully pushed back, stalling Kalanikūpule's advance. Instead the pretender secured Lahaina and declares it his capital, consolidating his forces in preparation to meet Kamehameha in battle.

Kamehameha returned to the island of Maui with the majority of his forces, capturing Lahaina and moving along the coast toward Kahului. Kalanikūpule fled east, but was caught at the Battle of Waikapu, where he aws defeated and captured, later scarified by the king. Similarly, the chiefs who had supported the rebellion were killed. Kahekili II raised an army on O'ahu, but before he has time to attack Maui, Kamehameha launched his own invasion. The ensuing Battle of Nuʻuanu began with Kamehameha's forces landing on the southeastern portion of Oʻahu near Waiʻalae and Waikiki. After spending several days gathering supplies and scouting Kahekili II's positions, Kamehameha's army advancing westward, encountering Kahekili II's first line of defense near a crater on the southern side of the island. The king split his army into two, sending one half in a flanking maneuver around the crater and the other straight at Kahekili II. Pressed from both sides, the Oʻahu forces retreated to Kahekili II's next line of defense near Laʻimi. While Kamehameha pursued, he secretly detached a portion of his army to clear the surrounding heights of the Nuʻuanu Valley, where Kahekili II had positioned a reserve force, hoping to ambush the Hawaiians. Kahekili II's main defense eventually fell apart, and he ordered his men through the Nuʻuanu Valley to the cliffs at Nuʻuanu Pali. Caught between the Hawaiian Army and a thousand foot drop, over 700 Oʻahu warriors either jumped or are pushed over the edge of the cliff. Kahekili II was captured soon after the battle and scarified, and Kamehameha declared himself King of O'ahu, and recoverd the stolen sword, which he returned to Kameʻeiamoku's son, Kepoʻokalani.

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