Ceremony honors Native Hawaiians, Black Americans who fought in Civil War

( Image: Hawaii News Now )
( Image: Hawaii News Now )

NUUANU, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Tuesday marked 155 years since the United States War Department created the segregated branch of the military.

To commemorate the occassion, a special ceremony was held at the Royal Hawaiian Mausoleum that honored Black Americans and Native Hawaiians who fought for the Union Army during the Civil War in the 41st Infantry Regiment.

"I don't think many Americans are aware everyone of color was in this unit, therefore Hawaiians were also in this unit," said Alii Sir William Souza of the Royal Order of Kamehameha, Hawaii Chapter 1.

More than 200,000 Black people were Civil War soldiers and sailors, and Hawaiians were mixed in with them.

"Being of colored skin, they could not fight with the union army," said Ed Young of the Obama Hawaiian Africana Museum. "They had to be in a segregated fighting unit."

Verifying the names of Hawaiians that fought in the "War Between the States" is difficult because of a lack of records and because recruiters changed Hawaiian names that were too hard to pronounce.

Historian and researcher Nanette Napoleon contacted the African-American War Museum in Washington for information on Hawaiians connected to the Civil War.

"They issued certificates, so I have certificates for about 12 Hawaiians that served in the Army," Napoleon said. "Several of our Hawaii Sons of the Civil War did die in the war, although most survived," Napoleon said.

She estimates that 83 men from Hawaii fought in the Civil War, and about half of them were native Hawaiians. The ceremony at Mauna Ala culminated at Oahu Cemetery.

"We found one grave here, Private J.R. Kealoha, who was a Civil War veteran," Souza said.

Kealoha died in 1877, but his grave was unmarked until 2014.

Since then, the Royal Order of Kamehameha has held an annual service at the site.

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