Second Samoan Civil War

The Second Samoan Civil War was a conflict that reached a head in 1898 when Germany, the United Kingdom, and the United States were locked in dispute over who should have control over the Samoan island chain, located in the South Pacific Ocean. At the war's conclusion in 1899, the United States was granted the eastern section of the islands, the Germans were granted the western section of the islands, and the British were given the northern Solomon Islands of Choiseul, Isabel and the Shortland Islands that had formerly belonged to Germany.[1][2] The German half is now an independent nation – Samoa. The U.S. half has voluntarily remained under the control of the U.S. government as the territory of American Samoa.

Second Samoan Civil War
Second Samoan Civil War

Map featuring the locations of battles in which British and U.S. forces fought.


  • Tripartite Convention
  • Partitioning of the Samoan archipelago
  • United States acquires American Samoa
  • Germany acquires German Samoa
  • Britain withdraws claim in exchange for concessions in the Solomon Islands
  • Mata'afa Iosefo becomes paramount chief of Samoa
Supporters of Tanumafili I
 United States
 United Kingdom
Supporters of Mata'afa
Commanders and leaders
Tanumafili I
United States Albert Kautz
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland Leslie Stuart
Mata'afa Iosefo
Casualties and losses
24 killed or wounded 127 killed or wounded
2 forts damaged


The allies were the Samoan followers of Malietoa Tanumafili I and supporting naval forces from the United States and the United Kingdom who fought against the rebels of Mata'afa Iosefo.[3]


As result of Malietoa Laupepa's death, Mata'afa Iosefo returned from exile and was elected to power by a council of Samoan chiefs. In response, the British Royal Navy and the U.S. Navy landed forces at Apia in support of Laupepa's son Malietoa Tanumafili I against the German-backed Mataafa.

The first battle of the conflict involving the British and Americans was fought at Apia, when the naval forces landed they occupied much of the city, Mataafan forces attacked, so British and U.S. warships in Apia Harbour began bombarding enemy positions around the city. After the conflict, Mataafaite forces, as they were sometimes called, retreated to the stronghold of Vailele and thus began several U.S. and British expeditions into the dense jungle to find the chief's men.[4]

At the end of March, a joint expedition of British, U.S., and Samoan forces marched along the coast from Apia towards Vailele. Skirmishes were fought and two villages destroyed as the Samoan rebels retreated. On April 1, the expedition of 26 marines, 88 sailors and 136 Samoans left the coast for an attack on the landward side of Vailele, leaving the protection of naval gunfire support. The cruisers USS Philadelphia, HMS Tauranga, HMS Porpoise and the corvette HMS Royalist landed the sailors and marines, Royalist was sent ahead of the expedition to bombard the two forts guarding Vailele plantation.[5]

The Second Battle of Vailele on 1 April was a defeat for the expeditionary forces, they retreated back to Apia and reported their casualties to their commanders who decided to plan for future operations in the area. On April 13, the British frontline was extended just south of Vailele and that day the Matafaans attacked but were repulsed. Another expedition later fought again within Vailele, this time the rebels won again when they withstood a British led attack on the two forts. The engagements occurred near the battlefield where Samoan rebels had defeated German troops in 1889 during the first civil war on the island. A statue of Ensign Monaghan was erected in Spokane, Washington to commemorate the young officer's bravery.[6] A second battle in Apia took place on 25 April when a small force of Samoans attacked a patrol of U.S. Marines, but were driven off without inflicting any casualties on the Americans.

The war eventually resulted, via the Tripartite Convention of 1899, in the partition of the Samoan Islands into American Samoa and German Samoa.[2]

See also


Tivoli Hotel, Apia 1896

Tivoli Hotel in 1896, used as the command post for American force during the battle at Apia.

Marines naval gun samoa

United States Marines and a naval gun in Upolu, 1899.

Samoa warriors

Samoan warriors and American servicemen during the Siege of Apia in March 1899.

Raising the German flag at Mulinu'u, Samoa 1900 photo AJ Tattersall

German flag raising ceremony commemorating the creation of German Samoa in 1900.

Scene.on.the.Mulinu’u.Peninsula,Upolu.Andrew.Thomas 1900

Samoans, Americans and Britons holding a ceremony while erecting a monument on Mulinuu Peninsula, 1902.

Samoan Paramount chief Mataafa & group 1902

Mata'afa Iosefo and followers, 1902.


  1. ^ Lawrence, David Russell (October 2014). "Chapter 5 Liberalism, Imperialism and colonial expansion" (PDF). The Naturalist and his "Beautiful Islands": Charles Morris Woodford in the Western Pacific. ANU Press. p. 168. ISBN 9781925022032.
  2. ^ a b Ryden, George Herbert. The Foreign Policy of the United States in Relation to Samoa. New York: Octagon Books, 1975. (Reprint by special arrangement with Yale University Press. Originally published at New Haven: Yale University Press, 1928), p. 574; the Tripartite Convention (United States, Germany, Great Britain) was signed at Washington on 2 December 1899 with ratifications exchanged on 16 February 1900
  3. ^ Mains, P. John; McCarty, Louis Philippe (1906). The Statistician and Economist: Volume 23. pg. 249
  4. ^ Mains, pg. 24
  5. ^ Mains, pg. 24
  6. ^ Mains, pg. 24
Albert Kautz

Rear Admiral Albert Kautz (January 29, 1839 – February 6, 1907) was an officer of the United States Navy who served during and after the American Civil War.

Henry L. Hulbert

Henry Lewis Hulbert (January 12, 1867 – October 4, 1918) was a United States Marine who served during the Second Samoan Civil War and World War I. As a private, he received the Medal of Honor for distinguished service in Samoa on April 1, 1899.

Hulbert was buried in Arlington National Cemetery Arlington, Virginia. His grave can be found in Section 3 Lot 4309.

History of American Samoa

Wikimedia Atlas of American Samoa

The islands of Samoa were originally inhabited by humans as early as 850 CE. After being invaded by European explorers in the 18th century, by the 20th and 21st century, the islands were incorporated into Samoa (Western Samoa, Independent Samoa) and American Samoa (Eastern Samoa).

History of Samoa

The Samoan Islands were first settled some 3,500 years ago as part of the Austronesian expansion. Samoa's early and more current history is strongly connected with the histories of Tonga and Fiji, which are in the same region, and with whom it shares historical, genealogical, and cultural traditions.

European exploration first reached the islands in the early 18th century.

Louis-Antoine de Bougainville named them Navigator Islands in 1768.

The United States Exploring Expedition (1838–42) under Charles Wilkes reached Samoa in 1839.

In 1855 J.C. Godeffroy & Sohn expanded its trading business into the archipelago.

The Samoan Civil War of 1886–1894 devolved into the Samoan crisis between colonial powers, followed by the Second Samoan Civil War of 1898/9, which was resolved by partition of the islands in the Tripartite Convention, between the United States, Great Britain and Germany

After World War I, German Samoa became a Trust Territory and eventually became independent as Samoa in 1962. American Samoa remains an unincorporated territory of the United States.

John R. Monaghan

Ensign John R. Monaghan (26 March 1873 – 1 April 1899) was an officer in the United States Navy.

Last surviving United States war veterans

This is an incomplete list of the last surviving veterans of American wars. The last surviving veteran of any particular war, upon their death, marks the end of a historic era. Exactly who is the last surviving veteran is often an issue of contention, especially with records from long-ago wars. The "last man standing" was often very young at the time of enlistment and in many cases had lied about his age to gain entry into the service, which confuses matters further.

List of colonial governors of Samoa

This article lists the colonial governors of Samoa (or Western Samoa), from the establishment of German Samoa in 1900 until the independence of the Western Samoa Trust Territory in 1962.

Mata'afa Iosefo

Mata'afa Iosefo (1832 – 6 February 1912) was a Paramount Chief of Samoa who was one of the three rival candidates for the kingship of Samoa during colonialism. He was also referred to as Tupua Malietoa To'oa Mata'afa Iosefo.

Michael Joseph McNally

Michael Joseph McNally (June 29, 1860 – November 2, 1916) was a United States Marine Sergeant who received the Medal of Honor for actions during the Second Samoan Civil War. McNally was part of a joint British, American and Samoan expedition against Samoan rebels on Upolu, Samoa in mid-1899. He fought at the First Battle of Vailele on April 1, 1899 and was subsequently awarded the Medal of Honor along with Private Henry L. Hulbert. Both McNally's and Hulbert's citations incorrectly list them as serving in the Philippines during the time of their distinguished service though they served on USS Philadelphia (C-4), which was never dispatched to fight in the Philippine-American War.

McNally joined the Marine Corps from Mare Island, California in December 1897, and retired in January 1915. On the night of 1 and 2 November 1916, he disappeared from a Baltimore Steam Packet Company steamer; his body was recovered some three weeks later, and he was buried in Portsmouth, Virginia

Norman Edsall

Norman Eckley Edsall (3 June 1873 – 1 April 1899) was a sailor in the United States Navy during the Spanish–American War.

Pacific Squadron

The Pacific Squadron was part of the United States Navy squadron stationed in the Pacific Ocean in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Initially with no United States ports in the Pacific, they operated out of storeships which provided naval supplies and purchased food and obtained water from local ports of call in the Hawaiian Islands and towns on the Pacific Coast. Throughout the history of the Pacific Squadron, American ships fought against several enemies. Over one-half of the United States Navy would be sent to join the Pacific Squadron during the Mexican–American War. During the American Civil War, the squadron was reduced in size when its vessels were reassigned to Atlantic duty. When the Civil War was over, the squadron was reinforced again until being disbanded just after the turn of the 20th century.

Prime Minister of Samoa

The Prime Minister of Samoa is the head of government of the Independent State of Samoa, a sovereign country located in the Pacific Ocean.

Samoan Civil War

The First Samoan Civil War refers to the conflict between rival Samoan factions in the Samoan Islands of the South Pacific. The war was fought roughly between 1886 and 1894, primarily between Samoans fighting over whether Malietoa Laupepa or Mata'afa Iosefo would be King of Samoa. However, the German military intervened on several occasions. There was also a naval standoff between the United States, Germany, and the United Kingdom. After the 1889 Apia cyclone destroyed six of the German and American ships stationed at Samoa, the three countries decided that Laupepa would be the King.

Samoan Islands

The Samoan Islands are an archipelago covering 3,030 km2 (1,170 sq mi) in the central South Pacific, forming part of Polynesia and the wider region of Oceania. Administratively, the archipelago comprises all of Samoa and most of American Samoa (apart from Swains Island, which is part of the Tokelau Islands). The two Samoan jurisdictions are separated by 64 km (40 mi) of ocean.

The population of the Samoan Islands is approximately 250,000, sharing a common language, Samoan, a culture, known as fa'a Samoa and an indigenous form of governance called fa'amatai.

Most Samoans are full-blooded and are one of the largest Polynesian populations in the world.The oldest evidence of human activity in the Samoan Islands dates to around 1050 BCE. This comes from a Lapita site at Mulifanua wharf on Upolu island.

In 1768, the eastern islands were visited by French explorer Bougainville, who named them the Navigator Islands, a name used by missionaries until about 1845 and in official European dispatches until about 1870.

Samoan crisis

The Samoan Crisis was a standoff between the United States, Imperial Germany, and the United Kingdom from 1887–1889 over control of the Samoan Islands during the Samoan Civil War. The incident involved three United States Navy warships (the sloop-of-war USS Vandalia, the screw steamer USS Trenton, and the gunboat USS Nipsic) and three Imperial German Navy warships (the gunboats SMS Adler and SMS Eber and the corvette SMS Olga), keeping each other at bay over several months in Apia harbour, which was monitored by the British corvette HMS Calliope.

The standoff ended when a cyclone on 15 and 16 March wrecked all six warships in the harbour. Calliope was able to escape the harbour and survived the storm. Robert Louis Stevenson did not witness the storm and its aftermath at Apia but did, after his arrival in Samoa (December 1889) write about the event. The Samoan Civil War continued, involving Germany, United States and Britain, eventually resulting, via the Tripartite Convention of 1899, in the partition of the Samoan Islands into American Samoa and German Samoa.

Second Battle of Apia

The Second Battle of Apia was the final engagement of the Second Samoan Civil War, and possibly fought as an attempted act of defiance by the Samoan rebels after being given an ultimatum that would have denied them access to Apai.

Second Battle of Vailele

The Second Battle of Vailele was fought during the Second Samoan Civil War in 1899. British, American and Samoan forces loyal to Prince Tanu were defeated by a superior force of Samoan rebels loyal to Mata'afa Iosefo. Fighting occurred at the former German plantation of Vailele, Samoa and was a major engagement of the small colonial conflict.

Siege of Apia

The Siege of Apia, or the Battle of Apia, occurred during the Second Samoan Civil War in March 1899 at Apia. Samoan forces loyal to Prince Tanu were besieged by a larger force of Samoan rebels loyal to Mata'afa Iosefo. Supporting Prince Tanu were landing parties from four British and American warships. Over the course of several days of fighting, the Samoan rebels were defeated.

Tripartite Convention

The Tripartite Convention of 1899 concluded the Second Samoan Civil War, resulting in the formal partition of the Samoan archipelago into a German colony and a United States territory.

Forerunners to the Tripartite Convention of 1899 were the Washington Conference of 1887, the Treaty of Berlin of 1889, and the Anglo-German Agreement on Samoa of 1899.

Second Samoan Civil War
Asia & Pacific
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