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