The Ashanti Wars


The Ashanti-Fante War (1806 - 1807) was fought between the Ashanti Confederacy and the Fante Confederacy of present-day Ghana.

The Ashanti Confederacy was a major African kingdom on the Gold Coast. Rivalry between the Ashanti and Fante was long held but grew much more serious in the beginning of 19th century. The British were usually allies of the Fante, and the Dutch of the Ashanti.

The war began when the Asantehene of the Ashanti charged some people with robbing graves. The Fante promptly gave refuge to the accused, who were people from Assin, and Osei Bonsu thus sent an army against the Fante. At Abora, four miles from Cape Coast, a battle was fought, in which the Ashanti were victorious. A British agent representing the African Company of Merchants at Cape Coast sheltered the accused grave robbers, whilst the Ashanti went on to attack the fort at Kormantine (Fort Amsterdam) of their old allies the Dutch. The British then tried to make friends with the Ashanti, and Colonel Torrane, who was in charge at Cape Coast, most treacherously handed an old and blind Assin king called Kwadwo Otibu to the Asantehene, although he knew the old man would be killed; which he was.

An oral agreement was then made between the British and the Asante that the latter should be recognized as the rulers of the Fante, except where a British fort existed. Torrane sold or gave away 2,000 of his former Fante allies, and the Asante victoriously marched first east along the coast and then north back to their capital. The Ashanti thus extended their dominions to the coast.



Ga-Fante War 1811

Ga-Fante war in 1811 was a tribal war in African Ashanti Confederacy situated roughly in present day Ghana.

It involved series of battles between Asante and their allies, Ga-people of Accra and tribes of Elmina, against alliance of Fanti, Akim and Akwapim tribes. The Asante won the pitched battle, but then had to retreat in the face of the guerrilla tactics used by the Akwapim in the Akwapim Hills, where the Asante had the disadvantage of not knowing the terrain so well. Akwapim, battled also against the Europeans by conquering Dutch fort at Apam and a British one at Tantamkweri.


The Anglo-Ashanti Wars


The British fought periodically with the Ashanti for nearly a hundred years, wearing down and eventually annexing their Empire, but never decisively beating them in battle. The ‘Gold Coast’ had been of interest as a trading post to Europeans for several hundred years with the British, French, Portuguese and Dutch all establishing forts. Initially, the Europeans had no direct contact with the interior of the region.

The Ashanti people came to prominence at the end of the seventeenth century when a confederacy of local tribes was raised to defeat the powerful Doma people. After their success Osei Tutu the Chief of Kumasi wished to keep this union together with himself as King or Asantehene. The Ashanti continued to grow from strength to strength with subjugated chiefs pledging allegiance to the Asantehene and the Golden Stool at Kumasi.

The Fanti people, essentially middle men in the slave trade, were part of a buffer zone between the European dominated coast and the interior. Between 1806 and 1814 their power was broken by the expansion of the Ashanti, who had now gained access to the sea. A misunderstanding occurred between the Ashanti, the Fanti and the British which caused the Asanthene to take offence. The British put the whole coast on a state of defence and the Ashanti mobilized their forces. The British marched against them but were overwhelmed and the severed head of the Governor, Sir Charles McCarthy was taken back to Kumasi. Fighting eventually died down in 1831 and the region was more or less peaceful for the next three decades.

In 1873 the cessation of Elmina, in present day Ghana, from the Dutch to the British greatly angered the Ashanti and they marched into British protected territory. An expeditionary force under the command of Major-General Sir Garnet Wolseley was sent from England to Africa with the aim of capturing Kumasi. Hausa troops from West Africa were employed by the British to supplement the expeditionary force. After brutal but indecisive battles in the jungle Wolseley’s force reached Kumasi in February 1874. Although the British found an almost empty city, with no sign of King Kofi Karikari or the Golden Stool, the campaign had been a triumph of logistics. The capture of Kumasi and the subsequent treaty signed with the British undermined the Ashanti confederacy and some of its founding states rebelled. Kofi Karikari was dethroned, although the Ashanti soon began to rebuild.

Twenty years later the British Government, seeking to exploit the commercial possibilities of the Gold Coast and the Northern Territories, decided that Ashanti should become part of the British Protectorate. Not surprisingly King Prempeh declined this offer and soon after, in 1895, the British sent another expedition, led by Colonel Sir Francis Scott against the Ashanti. After a hard campaign Kumasi was once again entered but this time the Asantehene was there in person to negotiate. He was forced to agree to Ashanti being taken into the protectorate but he refused a request to pay 50,000 ounces of gold. Prempeh and his close relations were taken prisoner, removed to the coast and eventually exiled to the Seychelles. The British consolidated their power by constructing a fort at Kumasi.

In 1900 the British decided to find out what had become of that ultimate symbol of Ashanti power, the Golden Stool. This angered the Ashanti and fighting broke out, resulting in a large number of British troops, along with the governor and his wife, becoming trapped in Kumasi. Running out of supplies, those who had not contracted fever broke out of the city, eventually reaching safe territory after a difficult and dangerous journey. Those left behind were eventually rescued, but not before many had died of disease and starvation. Following this Ashanti was finally annexed as a British Crown Colony. The Golden Stool was recovered in 1920 and Prempeh returned to Ashanti in 1925. The Gold Coast became the independent Republic of Ghana in 1957.