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Fri, 08.21.1840

J. R. Kealoha, Soldier born

J. R. Kealoha Gravestone

*The birth of J. R. Kealoha is celebrated on this date in 1840. He was a Native Hawaiian citizen of the Kingdom of Hawaii who became a Union Army soldier during the American Civil War.

Kealoha enlisted in the 41st United States Colored Infantry, a United States Colored Troops regiment formed in Pennsylvania. Participating in the siege of Petersburg, he and another Hawaiian soldier met the Hawaii-born Colonel Samuel Chapman Armstrong, who recorded their encounter in a letter home.

With the 41st USCT, Kealoha was present at the surrender of Confederate General Robert E. Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia at Appomattox Court House on April 9, 1865. After the war, Kealoha returned to Hawaii. After the war, Kealoha returned to Hawaii, died on March 5, 1877, and was buried with eighteen other Native Hawaiians in an unmarked grave in Section 1, Lot 56 of the Oʻahu Cemetery, Honolulu. During the Hawaii Territorial period, Kealoha's Civil War service was recorded by the United Veterans Service Council (UVSC), a precursor of the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), which included his name in their records as a "Deceased Veteran" and listed the location of his burial.

The legacy and contributions of Kealoha and other Hawaiian participants in the American Civil War were largely forgotten except in the private circles of descendants and historians. Still, in later years, interest in the Hawaiian community was revived. In 2010, these "Hawaii sons of the Civil War" were commemorated with a bronze plaque erected along the memorial pathway at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu. We chose this date and year to Align him with his kingdom to become the 50th state in the union. In 2014, another local effort dedicated a grave marker over J. R. Kealoha's burial site, which had remained unmarked for 137 years.

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