US Navy’s Lost Chronicles : The Battle of Nuku Hiva, Marquesas Islands, Polynesia, 1813. In November 1813, in what was probably the largest amphibious assault in the Pacific in the 19th century, Captain David Porter of the frigate USS Essex, hit the beach on Nuku Hiva.
Captain Porter was equipped with 36 Sailors and Marines (and a wheeled cannon), and 200 war canoes with 5,000 Te I’i and Happah tribal warriors.
Having quickly grasped the implications of shipboard cannons. As a result, the Tai Pi warriors wisely chose not to defend at the beach.
However, as Porter and his allied warriors (from the other side of Nuku Hiva) advanced toward a fortification held by 4,000 Tai Pi.
Ambushes and skirmishes increased, and Porter’s native allies began to melt away.
Porter’s Marines used muskets to pick off Tai Pi warriors on the ramparts until they ran low on ammunition, but thick vegetation around the fort made the cannon ineffective.
Short on ammunition and left to fend for themselves, Porter’s force withdrew back to the beach. Displaying a healthy respect for musket fire, the Tai Pi did not seriously challenge Porter’s retreat to the ship and the Americans got off lightly with only one dead and two seriously wounded.
Despite the defeat, Porter would subsequently launch a surprise overland attack. In addition, burn the Tai Pi villages (for which the British would accuse him of excessive brutality).
Furthermore, after the subsequent departure of Essex and most of the small flotilla of captured British whalers. The Nuku Hiva warriors would join together to drive the first U.S. naval base and colony in the Pacific (“Madisonville”) off the island by the end of March 1814.