A. B. (Alfred Burdon) Ellis.

A history of the Gold Coast of West Africa online

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with the assistance of nine hundred natives from Elmina,
returned to Elmina. Much disappointed at finding De
Ruyter would not attempt the reduction of Cape Coast
Castle, Valckenburgh, the Director-General, urged him to
make an attempt upon Anamabo and Cormantine, which he
represented as being very injurious to Dutch trade. De
Ruyter complied, and sailing from Elmina on January 25th,
1665, passed on to Mori, where he took in the Dutch
garrison, and early next morning attempted a landing at
Anamabo, with 700 soldiers, black and white, and 1,000
Elminas. This attempt was repulsed with loss by the
natives of Cormantine, under their chief, John Cabessa,
aided by the fire of the small guns of the " lodge " ; but
the English had regarded its success as so certain that they
had mined their " lodge" at Egyah, and had ignited the
fuse so that the place might blow up when the Dutch
occupied it, as they would have done during their advance
from Anamabo to Cormantine. Owing to. the failure of the
attack this little plot fell through, and the mine exploded
without injuring any one.

Finding things were not going on well, Valckenburgh
himself came from Elmina to direct the operations. He
entered into an agreement with the Fantis, and purchased
their assistance for a combined attack by land and sea upon
Cormantine ; paying them, according to the English, fifty-
thousand pieces of eight an evident exaggeration and
according to Barbot, fifty-two marks of gold. On January
29th Valckenburgh landed his men without opposition at
Egyah, and being joined by the Fanti auxiliaries, every man
of whom wore a white handkerchief round his neck to
distinguish him from the natives of Cormantine, marched


with a total force of ten thousand men to attack Cormantine
Fort by land, while three ships bombarded it from the sea.
The natives, some three hundred in number, under John
Cabessa, made a most obstinate resistance ; the paths to the
fort were choked with bodies, and the advance was checked
for a long time ; but by a flank movement of the Dutch main
body, most of the English allies were cut off, and the
remainder then retreated to the fort, which soon hung
out a flag of truce. The English surrendered without terms,
but the Dutch gave quarter, and only revenged themselves
by blowing up John Cabessa's house. That chief, who had
committed suicide to avoid capture, was, said the agents of
the Company, truer to the English interest than any of the'
Englishmen who were there; the Dutch offered a large
reward for his head, but the natives buried him at old
Cormantine.* In this attack the Dutch lost forty-nine
Europeans, and the Fanti contingent suffered heavily. They
took in the fort a "tried lump of gold," of 105 Ibs. weight,
which was taken on board De Ruyter's ship. After the
capture of Cormantine the three or four men in Anamabo
"lodge" capitulated, and on January 3Oth De Ruyter and
Valckenburgh returned to Elmina, leaving a garrison of
eighty men in Cormantine Fort, which they now named Fort

At the termination of De Ruyter's expedition the
Company of Royal Adventurers had nothing left of their
former forts and factories on the Gold Coast except the
Castle of Cape Coast ; and when the news of their losses
reached England, they presented a petition to the King,
in which they adopted a strange line of argument. They
asserted that what De Ruyter had done had been done to
revenge the losses inflicted by Holmes (Major Holmes they
styled him) ; and they endeavoured to make it appear that
they had not sanctioned Holmes's action, or taken any part
in his engagements, or profited by them. Yet, as a matter
of fact, all the Dutch forts and factories on the Gold Coast

* Col. Papers, vol. xix., No. 55. Indorsed "An Account of De
Ruyter's barbarityes in Guinea in 1664.''


that had been captured by Holmes, had been handed over
to and occupied by the Company's servants, who, had
matters afterwards turned out differently, would have hailed
Holmes as their benefactor instead of denouncing- him as
their destroyer. They gave a brief narrative of their trade
and late condition, showing 1 that since their incorporation on
January 2Oth, 1663, they had sent to the Coast goods to the
value of ^"158,000; and, besides forts in the Gambia, at
Sierra Leone, and on the Grain Coast, had, on the Gold
Coast, built forts or factories at Anashan, Ahanta, Tantam-
kwerri, Cormantine, Cape Coast, Winnebah, Accra, Whydah,
and Benin, from which they had exported ,200,000 annually
in gold, and ^"100,000 in slaves for the plantations. They
had, besides, a trade at Old and New Calabar, and had engaged
to supply the Spaniards with 3,500 negroes annually from
those places. In consequence, then, of the loss of all this
trade through the unjustifiable aggressions of Holmes, they
begged that all the Dutch prizes which that commander had
taken might be made over to them, to compensate them in
some measure for their losses.* This strange request, owing
probably to the influence of the Duke of York, appears in
some respects to have been complied with, as the Dutch
vessel, Golden Lyon, was, in April, 1666, handed over to the

Very soon after De Ruyter's expedition the English
must have taken steps to re-establish themselves at some
of the places they had lost, for Villault, in the narrative
of the voyage he made to the Gold Coast in 1666, says that
they had at Anashan a small fort on an eminence, about
six hundred paces from the sea. When he was at Cape
Coast the King of Fanti had seized the Dutch commandant
of Cormantine, who had gone on a visit to Anamabo, and
had killed two men who were with him. The reason of this
seizure, Villault was told, was that the Fanti King had
promised the English to put them in possession of Cor-
mantine again, and had given his son to them as a hostage

* Col. Papers, vol. xix., No. 5.


for the fulfilment of his promise. Afterwards, finding that
he was unable to keep his word, he demanded his son,
whom the English declined to give up till the conditions
were complied with; and he thereupon seized, the Dutch
commandant and four others, intending to exchange them
for his hostage. How this affair terminated we are not
told. When Villault's vessel anchored off Cape Coast the
Castle fired a shotted gun at it, upon which the governor
of Fredericsburgh, the Danish fort at Omanfo, replied with
a shotted gun at the Castle, which it commanded, to show
that he took the ship under his protection.

By the treaty of Breda, in 1667, the Dutch retained
possession of Cormantine and all the other posts they had
captured from the English, and the right of the latter to
Cape Coast Castle was acknowledged. The treaty does
tfiot, however, appear to have put an end to- the differences
between the two nations, for, in 1668, the Dutch demanded
that the English should give up Egyah, which they had
reoccupied, on the grounds that, being under the guns of
Cormantine, it had been ceded to them with that fort. In
July of the same year, too, the people of Kommenda
plundered the Dutch factory at that place, and murdered
the native servants of the Dutch Company ; and as they
were supposed to have been instigated by the people of
Fetu, the Dutch declared a blockade of Kommenda and all
the coast of Fetu, including Cape Coast, and called upon
the English to cease trading at those places until they, the
Dutch, had received satisfaction. Naturally, however, the
English did not acknowledge a blockade of their own head-
quarters, and the consequence was that there was a good
deal of bickering between them and the Dutch.

1669 1700.

Formation of the Royal African Company The Brandenburghers form
settlements Rebellion of the Elminas Native wars The voyage
of Thomas Phillips Capture of Christiansborg by the Akwamus
War between the Dutch and Kommendas The English trade to-
Africa made open.

IN 1672 the "Company of Royal Adventurers trading to
Africa" surrendered its charter to the Crown, and on
September 27th a fourth exclusive company, entitled the
" Royal African Company," was' established. The King,
the Duke of York, and many other persons of rank were
among the promoters, and in nine months the whole
capital of ;in,ooo was raised. Out of this sum the
out-going Company was paid ,34,000 for its three forts,
viz., Cape Coast Castle, James Fort, in the River Gambia,
and a fort on Bunce Island, in the Sierra Leone River.
The new Company very shortly commenced to build new
forts at Sekondi, Kommenda, Anamabo, Winnebah, and
Accra, and much increased the trade. They exported
annually English goods to the value of ,70,000, and in
1673, 50,000 guineas, so called from the Guinea Coast,
were coined from gold which they brought to England.

In 1679 the Danish commandant of Christiansborg
John Ollricks, of Gluckstad, was treacherously murdered
by the natives at the instigation of a Greek who wa. c
second in command ; and who, after making himsel


master of the Castle, sold it to Julian de Campo Baretto,.
a Portuguese who had formally been Governor of St.
Thomas, for about ^224. Baretto was supported by the
Portuguese Government, which furnished him with a
garrison, and, in spite of the remonstrances of the Danes,
Christiansborg remained in Portuguese hands till 1683 ;
when, the garrison having mutinied, and their affairs
generally being in a wretched condition, the Portuguese
permitted the Danes to redeem it by purchase.

In 1682* the Brandenburghers, or, to give them their
present title, the Prussians, anxious if possible to obtain
a share in the profitable slave trade, also commenced to
form settlements on the Gold Coast. In that year the
Elector of Brandenburgh sent out two frigates under Matthew
de Vos and Peter Blanco, who, on arriving at Cape Three
Points, landed their men at " Pokquefo," and set up the
Brandenburgh flag on Manfro Hill. The chief of the dis-
trict at first objected to this summary proceeding ; but,
eventually, he was induced to give them permission .to build
a fort. They landed some guns, built a few houses, sur-
rounded the whole with a palisade, and leaving a small
garrison in the place, returned to Hamburg. In the fol-
lowing year Blanco returned to assume command, with the
title of Director-General for the Elector of Brandenburgh; and
having built a fort, which mounted thirty-two guns, named
it Great Fredericsburgh, in honour of his sovereign. The
Brandenburghers subsequently built Fort Dorothea at
Akwidah, and formed a "lodge" at Takrama. The Dutch
drove them out of the former in 1690, and enlarged the fort,
but restored it in 1698.

In 1687 the Dutch determined to build a fort at Kom-
menda, to endeavour to compete with the English, who had
succeeded in engrossing the whole trade of that place. The
natives, perhaps instigated by the latter, offered resistance
to the Dutch occupation ; but troops were collected from the
other Dutch forts, and in the war which ensued the King of

* Bosman says 1674, but Barbot, who is more circumstantial, 1682.


Kommenda and several of the principal chiefs were killed,
and the people entirely subjected. The Dutch fort was then
commenced, about gun - shot distance from that of the
English; it was completed in 1688, and named Fort Vren-

The same year was remarkable for a rebellion of the
natives of Elmina. The Portuguese had made the district
of Elmina independent of the Kings of Commani (Kom-
menda) and Fetu, whose kingdoms were separated by the
River Beyah at Elmina, and the natives had been governed,
.according to their own laws and customs, by three chiefs.
This arrangement the Dutch now tried to upset, in order to
bring the inhabitants Under their direct control ; but the
Elminas resisted, and took up arms in defence of their
ancient liberties. Twice they assaulted the Castle, being
repulsed each time with great slaughter, although the Dutch
lost only four men ; and then finding they could not stand
against the fire of the guns, they established, by land, a
strict blockade of the Castle, and of Fort Conraadsburgfy
permitting no one to enter or leave them. Affairs were ir
this condition when Barbot visited Elmina in 1688, and h(
saw three Elminas who had been taken prisoners in iron:
on the battery on the land side of the Castle. These mer
had been kept there for nine months, exposed to the hea
of the sun and the inclemency of the weather, without an}
covering. The dispute was finally terminated by mutua

In 1688 the Royal African Company, and all othe
exclusive companies not authorised by Parliament, wen ,
by the " Petition and Declaration of Right," on the acces
sion of William and Mary, abolished. Notwithstandin
this, however, the Company's officers on the coast still cor
tinued to seize the ships of private traders, and this gav i
rise to many disputes.

The year 1688 is also noticeable as having witnessed a i
attempt on the part of the French to obtain a footing c i
the Gold Coast. In that year, M. du Casse arrived on tl 2
Coast with four men-of-war from Rochefort, and establishe 1


a small factory at Kommenda; but the Dutch contrived to
foment quarrels between the natives, and during the dis-
turbances that ensued the French factory was pillaged, and
its inmates compelled to fly to Cape Coast for safety. From
that time forward the French abandoned all hope of gaining
any footing on the Gold Coast, and their ships ceased to
frequent it.

Between the years 1669 and 1692 two native wars of
note took place. In the former year the Akwamus com-
menced hostilities against the Accras, and the struggle
continued until 1680, when the latter were completely
crushed, and large numbers of them migrated to Great and
Little Popo, on the Slave Coast, the old kingdom of Accra
thus ceasing to exist. The Akwamus completely depopu-
lated the country, and the devastation was such that when
Barbot visited Accra in 1682 the English and Dutch forts
at Accra, and the Danish castle of Christiansbcrg had still
to be supplied with food from the windward forts. Every
plantation had been ravaged and destroyed, and maize
sold for five pieces of eight per bushel. The other native
war was between the kingdoms of Adorn and Ahanta, that
of Jabi subsequently joining the former against the latter.
It broke out in 1690, lasted three or four years, and virtually
destroyed for a time the kingdom of Ahanta.

In 1693 a Captain Thomas Phillips made a voyage to
the Gold Coast, the narrative of which, published in the
second volume of Astley's Collection, furnishes some curious
particulars of the affairs of the coast and the manner of
life of Europeans there at that time. After losing a number
of men from fever on the Grain and Ivory Coasts, Phillips
at length arrived at Axim, on the Gold Coast. He says
there were more than a dozen " Interlopers " i.e. private
traders trading on the coast, notwithstanding the exclusive
grant of the trade possessed by the Dutch Company, and
the power of the latter to 'seize and confiscate thet ships
and cargoes of interlopers. When such vessels were captured,
the crews were confined in the dungeons at Elmina, and
the commanders condemned to death. Yet Phillips saw


four or five interlopers together, lying off Elmina Castle
for a week at a time, and trading in defiance of it. But
these vessels were generally well armed and manned, and
resisted capture to the last extremity.

At Axim the Dutch factor, Mr. Rawlison, came on board
Phillips's ship, and was making merry, when the appearance
in the distance of a twelve-hand canoe with a flag caused him
to throw himself into a fishing canoe and hasten to the
shore. Phillips was unable to account for the sudden flight
of his guest ; but he learned afterwards that he was afraid
the canoe was bringing the Fiscal from Elmina, an officer
whose duty it was to supervise all the Dutch establishments
on the coast, and to see that the factors engaged in no
private trade on their own account. " In discharging this
trust," says Phillips, " he uses as much subtilty and rigour
as the severest old searcher in the Port of London, and
in case of a discovery, not only takes all the contraband
goods away, but possibly seizing upon all the gold the
factor has for the Company's use, carries his person to
the Mina, where he is imprisoned ; and the gentlest usage
he meets with is to be well fined, and forced to carry a
musket in the Castle as a common sentinel, another being
put into his Government. It is the same likewise in case
of any neglect or remissness in his duty as Governor, such
as lying out, or letting black women in at night. The
last of which, though it be a common practice in the English
castles, yet the Dutch seldom or never do it, although they
have black or mulatto wives as well as the English, which
they change at pleasure. It is for these reasons that the
Fiscal is so dreadful to them."

Leaving Axim, Phillips passed the Brandenburgh factory
(Great Fredericsburgh), and anchored off Dikjes-chaft, or
Dicky's Cove (Dixcove), where the English were building a
fort then half-finished. It had been commenced in 1691.
From Dixcove he went to Tacoradi, and thence to Sekondi.
Here he found Mr. Johnson the English factor in bed,
raving mad, and his assistant a young lad " who had been
a Bluecoat Hospital boy" in charge.


At Shamah the natives were afraid to trade, lest the
'Dutch should seize their goods ; for, says Phillips, " the
Dutch were very insolent upon this coast, especially since
the Revolution, endeavouring by all manners to undermine
and ruin the English commerce there ; treating the Negroes
with great severity, when they catched them trading with
the English."

Passing Elmina Castle which was saluted with seven

.guns Phillips anchored off Cape Coast, where he remained

twenty-nine days. He landed here thirty soldiers for the

Company in as good health as when they left England ; but

in two months' time nearly half of them were dead. There

was a curious fashion at that time of celebrating every social

event with discharges of cannon or musketry. Phillips and

his companions gave a dinner on shore in what he calls the

" Castle garden," which appears to have been on Prospect

Hill, to the officers of the Company ; and he tells us that

each of the captains brought six of his quarter-deck guns on

shore, and that eleven were discharged at each toast.

While he was at Cape Coast the King of Saboe returned
from a war he had been waging against the King of Fetu, in
which the latter had been defeated, and compelled to seek
protection at Elmina. A brother of the King had been
placed on the "stool," and he came in to Cape Coast to
"eat fetish" and swear to be true to the English interest.
This war was caused by the Fetu people having molested
the inhabitants of a small state called Akanna, which
from M. D'Anville's map of the Gold Coast, published in
1729 appears to have been situated where the present
Assin is.* The Akanna people, called by the English
Arkanis, had the purest gold, and traded exclusively with
the English ; and the Dutch, desirous of having a share in
this profitable trade, instigated the King of Fetu to refuse
the Akannas permission to pass through his territory, which
intervened between Akanna and Cape Coast. The King of

* The dialect of the Tshi language spoken by the northern tribes of
. the Gold Coast is called Akan ; and the name Akanna was probably
applied to all who spoke it.

F 2


Fetu complied, and plundered some Akanna traders ; where-
upon the Akannas made war, and were assisted by the
Company at Cape Coast with arms and ammunition, the
King of Saboe and his people being also hired as allies.
The Fetus were utterly defeated, a new King chosen, and
a treaty drawn up in the name of the Royal African Com-
pany, and of the Kings of Fetu, Akanna, and Saboe, in
which the new King swore to be friendly with the Akannas,
and permit them a free passage through his territory.

On leaving Cape Coast, Phillips passed Mori and Ana-
shan at the latter of which the Company's establishment
consisted of a thatched house and anchored at Anamabo.
Here the factors of Anamabo and Egyah came on board to
dine with him, accompanied by two mulatto girls, their
country wives. "This," says Phillips, " is a pleasant way of
marrying ; for they can turn their wives off, and take others
at pleasure, which makes them very careful to humour their
husbands, in washing their linen, cleaning their chambers,
etc., and the charge of keeping them is little or nothing.''
At Winnebah, where a Mr. Nicholas Buckerige was factor.
Phillips had an interview with the Queen, a corpulent woman
of fifty. " She was free of her kisses to Mr. Buckerige, whorr
she seemed much to esteem, and truly he deserved respecl
from all who knew him, being an extraordinary good-
humoured and ingenious gentleman, and understood thij
country and language very well." The factor lived here ir
a thatched house, without any defences, and was in constan
fear of being attacked and plundered by the Akwamus.

Phillips found Christiansborg Castle in the hands of th<
Akwamus. It had been surprised by a number of natives
secretly armed, who gained admission by pretending the>
had come to trade. While the assistant factor was showing
them some goods, one of their number stabbed him, am
his companions secured the other servants of the Compan 1
that were in the Castle, and ran to admit a body of armei
natives who were lying in ambush outside. The Danish
Director- General, hearing the tumult, came out of his roor
sword in hand, and was immediately attacked by two natives .


He held his own against them for some time, but more
natives coming up, he threw himself out of a window, and
escaped to the Dutch fort at Accra. He had received
several wounds, and by one of them his left arm was dis-
abled. The Danish garrison, consisting of some twenty-five
men only for it had recently been much reduced by deaths
taken unawares, was soon overpowered, and the Akwamus
became masters of the place.

The leader of this attack was, Bosman tells us, a man
named Assammeni. He dressed himself in the clothes of
the Danish Governor, caused himself to be addressed by that
title, and saluted all the " Interlopers" with volleys of cannon.
Assammeni invited Phillips and two of his companions to dine ;
an invitation which they accepted. He treated his guests
well, and the food was very well dressed, for, says Phillips,
he had formerly been a cook in one of the English factories,
and now went very often to the kitchen to give the necessary
orders. At dinner he sat in great state, having a negro boy,
with a pistol, on each side of him, as a guard. He drank
the King of England's, and the African Company's, and his
guests' healths frequently, with volleys of cannon, of which
he fired about two hundred during their visit. He had flying
on the Castle a white flag, having on it a negro brandishing
a scimetar.

Next day, two Danish vessels, each of twenty-six guns,
arrived. They had been despatched from Denmark as soon
as the capture of the Castle was known, and were em-
powered to treat. Assammeni at first made the most ex-
travagant demands ; but the Danes won over the King of
Akwamu to their interest by a considerable present, and
Assammeni eventually surrendered the Castle for fifty marks
in gold, and an indemnity in writing for himself and
followers. After accomplishing this service, the Danish
vessels went on to St. Thomas, where they fell in with
Avery, alias " Long Ben," a notorious pirate who had long
infested the Coast, and were plundered and burnt by him.

In 1694 the people of Kommenda, who had only sub-
mitted by force to the Dutch occupation in 1687, once more


took up arms; the immediate cause being as follows. In
1694 the Dutch sent out some miners from Holland to open
up those hills in the neighbourhood of their forts which were
thought to contain gold. It was known that the Portuguese
had had a gold mine at Kommenda, which, according to
tradition, had fallen in in the year 1622, and had since lain
idle ; a hill about half a mile from Fort Vrendenburgh was
supposed to be identified with this, and the miners were
there set to work. Now it so happened that this hill was

Online LibraryA. B. (Alfred Burdon) EllisA history of the Gold Coast of West Africa → online text (page 6 of 34)