|Part of the Scramble for Africa|
Ashantee captain in war dress, c. 1834
|United Kingdom||Ashanti Empire|
|Commanders and leaders|
| George IV
Alexander Gordon Laing
Charles MacCarthy †
Osei Yaw Akoto
Kwaku Dua I Panyin
Kwaku Dua II
Prempeh I (POW)
The Anglo-Ashanti Wars were four conflicts between the Ashanti Empire, in the Akan interior of the Gold Coast, now Ghana, and the British Empire in the 19th century between 1824 and 1901. The ruler of the Ashanti (or Asante) was the Asantehene. The wars were mainly over the Ashanti establishing strong control over the coastal areas of what is now Ghana. Coastal peoples, such as the Fante and the inhabitants of Accra, who were chiefly Ga, came to rely on British protection against Ashanti incursions. The Ashanti impressively withstood the British in some of these wars but, in the end, the Ashanti Empire became a British protectorate.
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 Ashanti, but eventually handed one over (the other escaped).
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-Ashanti 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. At the Battle of Nsamankow, 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 Denkyiras. However, the novelty of British Congreve rockets caused the Ashanti army to withdraw. 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-Ashanti 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 the Ashanti 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 troops.
Third Anglo-Ashanti War
The Third Anglo-Ashanti 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 Garnet 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. The British government refused appeals to interfere with British armaments manufacturers who sold to both sides.
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 Ordashu. The capital, Kumasi, was abandoned by the Ashanti and 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." The Asantahene, the ruler of the Ashanti signed a harsh British treaty, the Treaty of Fomena in July 1874, to end the war. Among articles of the treaty between H.M. Victoria, Queen of Great Britain and Ireland and H.M. Kofi Karikari, King of Ashanti were that "The King of Ashanti promises to pay the sum of 50,000 ounces of approved gold as indemnity for the expenses he has occasioned to Her Majesty the Queen of England by the late war..." The treaty also stated that "There shall be freedom of trade between Ashanti and Her Majesty's forts on the [Gold] Coast, all persons being at liberty to carry their merchandise from the Coast to Kumasi, or from that place to any of Her Majesty's possessions on the Coast." Furthermore, the treaty stated that "The King of Ashanti guarantees that the road from Kumasi to the River Pra shall always be kept open..." Wolseley completed the campaign in two months, and re-embarked then for home before the unhealthy season began. There were 300 British casualties.
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."
The campaign is also notable for the first recorded instance of a traction engine being employed on active service. Steam sapper number 8 (made by Aveling and Porter) was shipped out and assembled at Cape Coast Castle. As a traction engine it had limited success but gave good service when employed as a stationary engine driving a large circular saw.
Fourth Anglo-Ashanti War
The Fourth Anglo-Ashanti War was brief, lasting only from December 1895 to February 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 the Ashanti once and for all. The war started on the pretext of failure to pay the fines levied on the Ashanti monarch by the Treaty of Fomena after the 1874 war.
Sir Francis Scott left Cape Coast with the main expeditionary force of British and West Indian troops in December 1895, and arrived in Kumasi in January 1896. The Asantehene directed the Ashanti not to resist, but casualties from sickness among the British troops were high. Among the dead was Queen Victoria's son-in-law, Prince Henry of Battenberg. Robert Baden-Powell led a native levy of several local tribes in the campaign. Soon, Governor William Maxwell arrived in Kumasi as well. Asantehene Agyeman Prempeh was arrested and deposed. He was forced to sign a treaty of protection, and with other Ashanti leaders was sent into exile in the Seychelles.
War of the Golden Stool
In the War of the Golden Stool (1900), the remaining Ashanti 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 Ashanti leaders were also sent to the Seychelles. The Ashanti territories became part of the Gold Coast colony on 1 January 1902.
- Ashanti Empire
- List of rulers of Asante
- British Empire
- History of Ghana
- Gold Coast (British colony)
- African military systems after 1800
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- Stanley, Henry Morton (1876). Coomassie and Magdala: the story of two British campaigns in Africa. New York: Harper.
- Boyle, Frederick (1874). Through Fanteeland to Coomassie, a diary of the Ashantee expedition. London: Chapman and Hall.
- Reade, Winwood (1874). The Story of the Ashantee Campaign. London: Smith, Elder & Co.