Ashanti War, First (1824–1831)
PRINCIPAL COMBATANTS: The Ashanti Union vs. Great
Britain (with Fulani and other tribal allies)
PRINCIPAL THEATER(S): Gold Coast of Africa
MAJOR ISSUES AND OBJECTIVES: The Ashanti Union had
expanded its dominion to the Gold Coast, where Ashanti
raids threatened British outposts and coastal tribes under
OUTCOME: The Ashantis were defeated and gave up their
claims to various portions of the Gold Coast.
APPROXIMATE MAXIMUM NUMBER OF MEN UNDER ARMS:
Ashanti, 100,000; Britain and allies, 11,000
CASUALTIES: Ashanti, 5,000 killed; Britain and allies,
TREATIES: Ashanti renounced the Gold Coast, 1831.
Armed with guns from Portuguese and Dutch slave traders,
the Ashanti had established a large confederated kingdom
in West Africa during the 17th century (see ASHANTI, RISE
OF THE). In the early 1800s the confederation began
expanding its territory again, moving toward the adjacent
Gold Coast, one of the imperial enclaves of the British in
Africa. In 1806 and 1807, under their king, Osei Bonsu
(1780–1824), the Ashanti extended their dominions to the
coast itself. Four years later, in 1811, Britain abolished the
slave trade throughout its empire. But the slave trade had
helped make the Ashanti rich and powerful, and they continued
their raids and their wars of conquest. Sir Charles
M’Carthy (1770–1824), colonial governor of the British
posts that dotted the Gold Coast, tried his best to defend
the posts and to protect British settlers and coastal tribes
from Ashanti war parties and slaving expeditions. When
the colonial forces were defeated, and Governor M’Carthy
killed in 1824, London sent reinforcements. In this way,
the First Ashanti War began in earnest.
Most of the initial wave of reinforcements succumbed
to disease, but a force of 11,000, mostly Fulani tribesmen
under British command, defeated 10,000 Ashanti at the
Battle of Katamanso on August 7, 1826. A total of 800
Fulani died, and 1,000 were wounded in the Afro-British
unit, but 5,000 of the Ashanti fell, including 70 generals
or princes. The defeat effectively ended Ashanti claims to
suzerainty over the Gold Coast, although it was 1831
before the tribe formally renounced those claims.
See also ASHANTI UPRISING; ASHANTI WAR, SECOND;
ASHANTI WAR, THIRD; ASHANTI WAR, FOURTH.
Further reading: Robert B. Edgerton, The Fall of the
Asante Empire: The Hundred-Year War for Africa’s Gold
Coast (New York: Free Press, 1995); Edward W. Said, Culture
and Imperialism (New York: Vintage, 1994).