A Military History of Sovereign Hawai'i   

    First Visit to the Hawaiian Islands by a
    U.S. Warship

    The MW Sir Andrew Hammond (1814) or The USS Dolphin (1826)?

        You be the judge . . .


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"The first visit to the Hawaiian Islands, then known as the Sandwich Islands, by the U.S. Navy was in 1826 when the warship USS Dolphin came into port in Honolulu," according to writer and historian Kevin Fraley.

The Hawaiian Historical Society calendar notes January 16, 1826 as the day "The U.S. schooner Dolphin arrives. It is the first American warship to visit Honolulu."

History, however, is rarely clear-cut. Although it may only have been for a few short days aboard a captured vessel, the first visit to the Hawaiian Islands by the crew of an American warship falls to the Sir Andrew Hammond May 25, 1814.

During the War of 1812, the Sir Andrew Hammond—a merchant whaling ship under a British letter of marque (armed with twelve guns and manned by a crew of thirty-one)—was captured off the Galapagos September 13, 1813 by the USS Essex, flagship of Capt. David Porter. At Nuka Hiva Island, in the Marquesas, command of the Hammond was transferred to Lieut. John M. Gamble, USMC. Gamble's crews were largely made up of British sailors from various prizes pressed into American service. Having barely escaped a violent mutiny with his life, Gamble and a small crew managed to get safely to sea in the Hammond.

After a remarkable voyage of over 2,000 miles without a chart, Lieut. Gamble and his surviving crew of three seamen and three Marines arrived in the Hawaiian Islands, a neutral party to the second Anglo-American war. According to his report to the U.S. Secretary of the Navy, on May 25, 1814 Gamble and his crew made Owhyhee (Hawai‘i). Five days later they anchored in Whtytetee Bay (Waikiki) at the island of Woahoo (O‘ahu). On O‘ahu Gamble received assistance from American sandalwood merchants Jonathan and Nathan Winship. Hawaiians supplied the Hammond with fresh meat, fruit and vegetables. Gamble intended to sail the Hammond on to Valparaiso, but was captured while en route by HMS Cherub (Captain Tucker commanding) June 19, 1814.

Prize ships anchored at Nuka Hiva

The USS Essex and her prizes at Nuka Hiva,
including the captured British privateer Sir Andrew Hammond