Ho'olulu Pitman, the son of a Hawaiian high chiefess, was born in
Hilo, served as a young man in the Union Army during the American
Civil War, and died from the effects of being held in the South's
Bush, also part Hawaiian, was in the Union Navy in the war between
the states, and he received a veteran's pension when he was older.
history of Isle service on both sides of the war isn't widely known,
said Justin Vance, a Civil War and military history professor at
Hawai'i Pacific University.
the nation today remembers its war dead, a few in Hawai'i are trying
to recognize the service of Isle residents from the conflict that
preceeded the establishment of what is now known as "Memorial
Native Hawaiian sailors served on the Confederate ship CSS Shenandoah.
The Shenandoah went on a rampage, mostly in the Pacific, that resulted
in the sinking or capture of 37 Union ships. Those ships represented
"a huge chunk of the whaling fleet," and the Pacific industry
would never fully recover from the Confederate attacks, Vance said.
many as a few dozen Punahou School students signed up for the Union
Army, and five were killed in the war, Vance said.
honor these men, the Hawai'i Sons of the Civil War Memorial Committee
in September plans to install a bronze and stone memorial at the
National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific at Punchbowl. It will
be dedicated to those from Hawai'i who served in the war, which
was from 1861 to 1865.
organization, an ad hoc group of people interested in the Civil
War, said it will be the first memorial of its kind in the Islands
honoring individuals from Hawai'i.
really knew that our boys went to fight in the Civil War,"
said Edna Ellis, 84, a Chinatown resident and the great niece of
Union Navy veteran James Bush.
In 1868, three years after the Civil War ended, a group of Union
veterans established "Decoration Day" on May 30 as a time
to decorate the graves of service members with flowers, according
to the Department of Veterans Affairs.
the end of the 19th century, Memorial Day ceremonies were being
held on May 30 throughout the nation, the VA said. The national
holiday is being observed today at Punchbowl and the Hawai'i State
Veterans Cemetery in Kane'ohe.
to Vance, about 40 individuals who were born and raised in Hawai'i
served in the Civil War. As many as 200 immigrants to Hawai'i who
were living here at the outbreak of the war in 1861 may have served
in the conflict.
numbers are difficult to determine in part because the last names
of Native Hawaiians were often "made up" when they signed
on to whaling ships and then into Civil War armies and navies, he
Native Hawaiians appear on the rosters of "colored" regiments
in the Union Army, Vance said.
30 Civil War veterans who later died in Hawai'i are buried in a
"Grand Army of the Republic" plot at O'ahu Cemetery, he
said. The Grand Army of the Republic was founded by Union veterans
in Decatur, Ill., in 1866.
Kamehameha IV in 1861 declared the Kingdom of Hawai'i to be neutral
in the conflict, Vance said. Hawai'i residents found their way into
the American Civil War by volunteering and, in the case of some
sailors, through the fate of their whaling ships.
were great sailors, and so they served on the whaling ships and
lots of merchant ships before the war," Vance said. "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."
Napoleon, a historical researcher and writer, said Hawai'i had ties
to the North through its missionaries and whaling industry, and
that led to involvement in the Civil War on the Union side.
The Shenandoah, by contrast, was a Confederate ship. The 1,160-ton
steam cruiser cut a swath through the Pacific late in the war, capturing
two dozen vessels in the Bering Sea and destroying all but a few,
according to the Naval Historical Center.
of the vessels being attacked were whalers providing oil, and the
intent was to impact the North's economy, said Vance, whose great-great-grandfather,
Joseph Vance, was with the Union Army out of Iowa.
said the dozen Hawaiians on the Shenandoah were probably from captured
ships. Sailors on the losing end of an engagement with the Shenandoah
could be put in chains below deck, marooned on an island or be given
the chance to join the crew of the Southern vessel.
also estimates there were about 5,000 American missionary families
living in Hawai'i at the time of the Civil War.
of them went back to enlist in the Union Army to do their duty,"
said little is known about the Union Navy service of James Bush.
don't really know," he said. "The Union had a Pacific
squadron that was based out of California."
Ellis said her great uncle was half Hawaiian. His brother, John
Bush, had a newspaper on O'ahu.
Ho'olulu Pitman, who was born in Hilo and fought for the Union Army,
was the son of Benjamin Pitman of Boston and Kino'ole O Liliha,
the last Hawaiian high chiefess of Hilo, family said.
O Liliha Pitman Spieler, who lives in Kailua, said after her great-grandmother
died, Benjamin Pitman married again, his second wife also died,
and he moved back to Boston with the children.
Ho'olulu Pitman fought for the Union Army at the age of about 18.
He was assigned to a black regiment.
father was an American from Boston and he was (living) there,"
Pitman Spieler said. "I would assume that he felt it was his
duty to join in the war."
the researcher and writer, said Henry Ho'olulu Pitman was captured
by the South in 1862 early in his enlistment. He died in 1863, she
Spieler said he was held in Libby Prison. The Confederate lockup
in Richmond, Va., was notorious for its poor conditions, and the
Hawaiian soldier contracted "lung fever," according to
of Pitman Spieler's great uncle and his parents are part of the
Peabody Essex Museum in Salem. Mass.
very proud of a young man of his age he was quite young
who served in the Civil War for his family," Pitman Spieler
Hawai'i chapter of the Civil War Roundtable, a national organization,
is spearheading a drive to raise the remaining 30 percent of the
$3,500 cost for the bronze plaque and stone base commemorating the
service of the Hawai'i Sons of the Civil War.
can be made to the O'ahu Cemetery Association at 2162 Nu'uanu Ave.,
Honolulu, HI 96817.
Reach William Cole at email@example.com.