Ashanti Wars and Fall
Ashanti Wars and Fall
Wars of the Asante
From 1806 until 1896, the Asante Union was in a perpetual state of war involving expansion or defense of its domain. The Asante’s exploits against native African forces made it the paramount power in the region. It’s impressive performance against the British also earned it the respect of European powers. Far less known than its Zulu contemporaries, Asanteman was one of the few African states to decisively defeat the British Empire in not only a battle but a war.
In 1806, the Ashanti pursued two rebel leaders through Fante territory to the coast. The British refusal to surrender the rebels led to an Ashanti attack. This was devastating enough that the British handed over a rebel; the other escaped. In 1807 disputes with the Fante led to the Ashanti-Fante War, in which the Ashanti were victorious under Asantehene Osei Bonsu (“Osei the whale”).
In the 1811 Ga-Fante War, a coalition of Asante and Ga fought against an alliance of Fante, Akwapim and Akim states. The Asante war machine was successful early on defeating the alliance in open combat. However, Asante were unable to completely crush their enemies and were forced to withdraw from the Akwapim hills in the face of guerilla tactics. They did, however, manage to capture a British fort.
In 1814 the Ashanti launched an invasion of the Gold Coast, largely to gain access to European traders. In the Ashanti-Akim-Akwapim War, the kingdom faced the Akim-Akwapim alliance. After several battles, some of which went in favor of the Asante and, some of which went in favor of the out numbered Akim-Akwapim alliance the war ended. Even though the outnumbered Akim-Akwapim won some key battles and had moments of glory by 1816, Asanteman was established on the coast.
First Anglo-Asante War
The first of the Anglo-Asante Wars occurred in 1823. In these conflicts, Asanteman faced off, with varying degrees of success, against the British Empire residing on the coast. The root of the conflict traces back to 1823 when Sir Charles MacCarthy, resisting all overtures by the Ashanti to negotiate, led an invading force. The Ashanti defeated this, killed MacCarthy, took his head for a trophy and swept on to the coast. However, 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 rockets caused the Ashanti army to withdraw. In 1831, a treaty led to thirty years of peace with the Pra River accepted as the border.
Second Anglo-Asante War
With the exception of a few Ashanti light 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, 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. The war ended in 1864 as a stalemate with both sides losing more men to sickness than any other factor.
Third Anglo-Asante War
In 1869 a European missionary family was taken to Kumasi. They were hospitably welcomed and were used as an excuse for war in 1873. Also, Britain took control of Ashanti land claimed by the Dutch. The Ashanti invaded the new British protectorate. General Wolseley and his famous Wolseley ring were sent against the Ashanti. This was a modern war, replete with press coverage (including by the renowned reporter Henry Morton Stanley) and printed precise military and medical instructions to the troops. The British government refused appeals to interfere with British armaments manufacturers who were unrestrained in selling to both sides.
All Ashanti attempts at negotiations were disregarded. Wolseley led 2,500 British troops and several thousand West Indian and African troops to Kumasi. The capital was briefly occupied. The British were impressed by the size of the palace and the scope of its contents, including “rows of books in many languages.” The Ashanti had abandoned the capital. The British burned it. The Ashantehene (the king of the Ashanti) signed a harsh British treaty on July 1874 to end the war and start the gradual destruction of the Asante Union.
Fourth Anglo-Asante War
In 1891, the Ashanti turned down an unofficial offer to become a British protectorate. Wanting to keep French colonial forces out of Ashanti territory (and its gold), the British were anxious to conquer Asanteman once and for all. Despite being in talks with the kingdom about making it a British protectorate, Britain began the Fourth Anglo-Ashanti War in 1894 on the pretext of failure to pay the fines levied on the Asante monarch after the 1874 war. The Asanteman were victorious and British was forced to sign a treaty of protection.
Fall of Asanteman
In December 1895, Sir Francis Scott left Cape Coast with an expedition force. It arrived in Kumasi in January 1896. The Asantehene directed the Ashanti to not resist. Shortly thereafter, Governor William Maxwell arrived in Kumasi as well. Asantehene Agyeman Prempeh was deposed and arrested.
Britain annexed the territories of the Ashanti and the Fanti in 1896, and Ashanti leaders were sent into exile in the Seychelles. The Asante Union was dissolved. Robert Baden-Powell led the British in this campaign. The British formally declared the coastal regions to be the Gold Coast colony. A British Resident was permanently placed in the city, and soon after a British fort.
Ashanti Uprising of 1900
As a final measure of resistance, the remaining Asante court not exiled to the Seychelles mounted an offensive against the British Residents at the Kumasi Fort. The resistance was led by Yaa Asantewaa, the Queen-Mother of Ejisu. From March 28 to late-September 1900, the Asante and British were engaged in what would become known as the War of the Golden Stool. In the end, Asantewaa and other Asante leaders were also sent to Seychelles to join Prempeh I. In January 1902, Britain finally added Asante to its protectorates on the Gold Coast.