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Ashantee sword bearer, c. 1834

The Anglo-Ashanti Wars were four conflicts between the Asante Empire, in the Akan interior of what is now Ghana, and the British Empire in the 19th century between 1824 and 1901. The ruler of the Asante (or Ashanti) was the Asantahene. Coastal peoples, such as the Fante and the inhabitants of Accra, who were chiefly Ga, came to rely on British protection against Ashanti incursions. In the end, the Asante Empire became a British protectorate.

Contents

Earlier wars

The British were drawn into three earlier wars:

In the Ashanti-Fante War of 1806-07, the British refused to hand over two rebels pursued by the Asante, but eventually handed one over (the other escaped).

In the Ga-Fante War of 1811, the Akwapim captured a British fort at Tantamkweri and a Dutch fort at Apam.

In the Ashanti-Akim-Akwapim War of 1814-16 the Ashanti defeated the Akim-Akwapim alliance. Local British, Dutch, and Danish authorities all had to come to terms with the Ashanti. In 1817 the (British) African Company of Merchants signed a treaty of friendship that recognized Ashanti claims to sovereignty over much of the coast.

First Anglo-Ashanti War

The First Anglo-Asante War was from 1823 to 1831. In 1823 Sir Charles MacCarthy, rejecting Ashanti claims to Fanti areas of the coast and resisting overtures by the Ashanti to negotiate, led an invading force from the Cape Coast. He was defeated and killed by the Ashanti, and the heads of MacCarthy and Ensign Wetherall were kept as trophies. See Charles MacCarthy for details of the Battle of Nsamankow, when MacCarthy's troops (who had not joined up with the other columns) were overrun. Major Alexander Gordon Laing returned to Britain with news of their fate.

The Ashanti swept down to the coast, but disease forced them back. The Ashanti were so successful in subsequent fighting that in 1826 they again moved on the coast. At first they fought very impressively in an open battle against superior numbers of British allied forces, including Denkyirans. However, the novelty of British Congreve rockets caused the Ashanti army to withdraw. [1] In 1831, the Pra River was accepted as the border in a treaty, and there were thirty years of peace.

Second Anglo-Ashanti War

The Second Anglo-Asante War was from 1863 to 1864. With the exception of a few minor Ashanti skirmishes across the Pra in 1853 and 1854, the peace between Asanteman and the British Empire had remained unbroken for over 30 years. Then, in 1863, a large Ashanti delegation crossed the river pursuing a fugitive, Kwesi Gyana. There was fighting, with casualties on both sides, but the governor's request for troops from England was declined and sickness forced the withdrawal of his West Indian troops, with both sides losing more men to sickness than any other factor, and in 1864 the war ended in a stalemate.

Third Anglo-Ashanti War

The Third Anglo-Asante War lasted from 1873 to 1874. In 1869 a German missionary family and a Swiss missionary had been taken to Kumasi. They were hospitably treated, but a ransom was required for them. In 1871 Britain purchased the Dutch Gold Coast from the Dutch, including Elmina which was claimed by the Ashanti. The Ashanti invaded the new British protectorate.

General Wolseley with 2,500 British troops and several thousand West Indian and African troops (including some Fante) was sent against the Ashanti, and subsequently became a household name in Britain. The war was covered by war correspondents, including Henry Morton Stanley and G. A. Henty. Military and medical instructions were printed for the troops. [2] The British government refused appeals to interfere with British armaments manufacturers who sold to both sides.[3]

Wolseley went to the Gold Coast in 1873, and made his plans before the arrival of his troops in January 1874. He fought the Battle of Amoaful on January 31 of that year, and, after five days' fighting, ended with the Battle of Ordahsu. The capital, Kumasi, which was abandoned by the Ashanti was briefly occupied by the British and burned. The British were impressed by the size of the palace and the scope of its contents, including "rows of books in many languages." [4] [5] The Asantahene, the ruler of the Ashanti (Asente) signed a harsh British treaty, the Treaty of Fomena in July 1874, to end the war. Wolseley completed the campaign in two months, and re-embarked them for home before the unhealthy season began. Most of the 300 British casualties were from disease. Wolseley left behind a power vacuum which led to more fighting, as the Asantahene could no longer control the former vassal tribes.

Some British accounts pay tribute to the hard fighting of the Ashanti at Amoaful, particularly the tactical insight of their commander, Amanquatia: "The great Chief Amanquatia was among the killed. Admirable skill was shown in the position selected by Amanquatia, and the determination and generalship he displayed in the defence fully bore out his great reputation as an able tactician and gallant soldier."[6]

Fourth Anglo-Ashanti War

The Fourth Anglo-Ashanti War was a brief war from 1894 - 1896. The Ashanti turned down an unofficial offer to become a British protectorate in 1891, extending to 1894. Wanting to keep French and German forces out of Ashanti territory (and its gold), the British were anxious to conquer Asanteman once and for all. The war started on the pretext of failure to pay the fines levied on the Asante monarch by the Treaty of Fomena after the 1874 war.

Sir Francis Scott left Cape Coast with the main expedition force of British and West Indian troops in December 1895, and arrived in Kumasi in January 1896. The Asantehene directed the Ashanti to not resist. Soon, Governor William Maxwell arrived in Kumasi as well. Robert Baden-Powell led a native levy of several local tribes in the campaign. Asantehene Agyeman Prempeh was arrested and deposed. He was forced to sign a treaty of protection, and with other Asante leaders was sent into exile in the Seychelles.

War of the Golden Stool

In the War of the Golden Stool (1900), the remaining Asante court not exiled to the Seychelles mounted an offensive against the British and Fanti troops resident at the Kumasi Fort, but were defeated. Yaa Asantewaa, the Queen-Mother of Ejisu and other Asante leaders were also sent to the Seychelles. The Ashanti territories became part of the Gold Coast colony on 1 January 1902.

See also

References

  1. ^ Alan Lloyd, The Drums of Kumasi, Panther, London, 1964, pp. 39-53
  2. ^ Lloyd, Ibid pp. 88-102
  3. ^ Lloyd, Ibid p. 83
  4. ^ Lloyd, Ibid pp. 172-174
  5. ^ Lloyd, Ibid p. 175
  6. ^ Charles Rathbone Low, A Memoir of Lieutenant-General Sir Garnet J. Wolseley, R. Bentley: 1878, pp. 57-176

Bibliography

  • Agbodeka, Francis (1971). African Politics and British Policy in the Gold Coast, 1868–1900: A Study in the Forms and Force of Protest. Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press. ISBN 0810103680.
  • McCarthy, Mary (1983). Social Change and the Growth of British Power in the Gold Coast: The Fante States, 1807–1874. Lanham, MD: University Press of America. ISBN 0819131482.
  • Wilks, Ivor (1975). Asante in the Nineteenth Century: The Structure and Evolution of a Political Order. London: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0521204631.

External links

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