A. B. (Alfred Burdon) Ellis.

A history of the Gold Coast of West Africa online

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of gold was, according to custom, deposited in the grave
with the body. A follower of Kwaku Aputeh, who was
present at the interment, rifled the grave and stole the
treasure ; but the theft was discovered, and Amu at once
demanded redress, and the return of the gold, from Kwaku
Aputeh and Tchibbu. Failing to obtain satisfaction from
these, he laid his complaint before the Ashanti King, who
summoned Aputeh and Tchibbu to Kumassi. The former
obeyed the summons, the latter excusing himself on the
ground of infirmity; but the case was heard, judgment
was given in favour of Amu, and Aputeh was ordered to
"be detained in Kumassi till restitution was made. Shortly
after this decision Aputeh contrived to escape from the
capital, and as he set the King's decree at defiance, Amu


took up arms to enforce k. He gained one battle, but Tchibbu
having in the meantime joined Aputeh, he was severely de-
feated in a second engagement, and compelled to fall back
upon the frontiers of Ashanti. The war was then continued
for some months with varying success, until the Ashanti King
called upon the combatants to refer their dispute to him. Amu
obeyed this summons, and fell back upon the Adansi Hills,
where he was directed to disband his force, and to repair
to Kumassi, while Aputeh was ordered to refrain from
molesting him ; but that chief, so far from obeying, attacked
and defeated Amu's force, put to death some Ashanti
messengers who were in his camp, and seized their state
swords, and the golden axe of Ashanti, as trophies. Upon
this Tutu Kwamina at once raised a powerful army, and
entered the Assin territory. Tchibbu and Aputeh attempted
to make a stand at Ansa, but were defeated ; a second
attempt at Miassa, the capital of the old Assin kingdom,
fared no better ; and a retreat to the Prah was turned
into a complete rout by the vigorous pursuit of the Ashantis.
According to the popular Ashanti songs, thirty thousand
Assins perished in these engagements, and a river of blood
flowed from Miassa to the Prah.

Fanti was at this time no longer the insignificant state
it had been a century earlier, when it extended in breadth
merely from the Iron Hills to Saltpond, and had a depth
of some twelve miles onl>\ Since that time the Fantis
had, by threats, promises, and force of arms, brought into
subjection the two states of Acron and Aguna to the east,
and those of Fetu and Sabi to the west, so that their
territory now extended from the Sweet River to Barraku.
The town of Cape Coast even fell under the influence of
Fanti, and the people, as Meredith tells us, were obliged
to submit to its laws and customs. In fact, Fanti had
begun, in some respects, to emulate in the southern districts
of the Gold Coast the career of Ashanti in the northern ;
and Meredith * complains of their ungovernable conduct,

* An Account of the Gold Coast.


which constantly kept the country in a turmoil. To the
north-west of Fanti proper was the kingdom of Arbra,
which was considered the leading state of Fanti ; and to
the north was the kingdom of Essikuma, which, though
to some extent influenced by Fanti, still preserved a species
of independence. The Government of Fanti appears to
have been that of a federation. Besides the King of Arbra,
there was a King at Mankassim,* and another at Anamabo,
while several chiefs claimed to rule their own districts
independently of all three.

Tchibbu, an old, infirm, and blind man, fled, with Kwaku
Aputeh, to Essikuma, to the chief of which state the Ashanti
King sent a present of twenty ounces of gold, asking
for the surrender of the fugitives, and professing his
friendship. It appears that the chief intended to comply,
and the Assin fugitive?, discovering his intentions, fled
to Arbra, from whose King Osai Tutu Kwamina next
demanded them. A council of Fanti chiefs assembled
at Arbra to consider this demand, and as they refused to
surrender the fugitives, the Ashanti King then sent to ask
permission for his army to march through Fanti, to pursue
the remnant of the Assin force ; but this application was
also rejected, and the Ashanti messengers were, it is said,
barbarously murdered.

The Ashanti army, under its general, Appia Dunkwa,
then advanced, and the Fantis, with the relics of Tchibbu's
and Aputeh's army, were defeated in two engagements.
Many prisoners were taken, and amongst them Attah, Kirg
of Arbra. The Arbras wished to ransom their King, and the
Ashanti general expressed his willingness, provided that the
state swords and the golden axe, which were now in the
hands of the Arbras, were surrendered ; but while the nego-
tiations were going on, Akum, chief of Essikuma, in whose
hands Attah had been placed for safe keeping, allowed him
to escape. Aputeh then made offers of submission, which
the King accepted, sending messengers with presents both

* Mankassim (Great Town), about fifteen miles north of Saltpond.


to him and Tchibbu ; but the proposals had, it seems, only
been made to gain time, for these Ashanti messengers were,
like the former, inhumanly put to death. Enraged at this
outrage, the King took his sacred oath never to sheath the
sword or return to his capital till the heads of Tchibbu and
Aputeh lay at his feet, and at once hastened to join his army.
The utter extermination of the Fantis was determined upon,
and orders were issued to spare none of either sex, or of any
age. An engagement took place at Arbra which was most
sanguinary. The Ashantis were at first repulsed with great
slaughter ; but a sudden attack in the flank and rear of the
Fantis, made by the King in person, changed the fate of the
day. Their retreat cut off, nearly the entire Fanti force was
slaughtered, and only about one hundred men are said to have
escaped from the fatal field. Arbrakampa was burned, and
the inhabitants butchered or cast into the burning houses.
The few survivors made their way to Anamabo, then perhaps
the most important town on the sea-coast ; but Tchibbu and
Aputeh soon quitted that place for Cape Coast, where they
received assurances of protection from Colonel Torrane, the

Akum, the chief of Essikuma, had, so far, taken no part
in the hostilities, and had indeed supplied the Ashantis with
provisions, on which account the King had overlooked his
treachery in conniving at Attah's escape ; but now, for some
unknown reason, he suddenly committed an act of hostility,
by seizing seven hundred carriers, who had been sent to him
to procure food, and selling them as slaves. This action at
such a time, when the Fantis had just suffered a crushing
defeat, would appear incomprehensible, did we not know that
the inhabitants of the Gold Coast, like most savages, are
simply guided by the passion of the moment, and rarely
consider the consequences of their acts. Appia Dunkwa at
once moved against Akum, defeated his force, and scattered
it in every direction. During this expedition the bulk of the
Ashanti army, under the King, remained encamped at Arbra-
kampa, and Colonel Torrane, fearing for the safety of Cape
Coast, on which the Ashantis might advance at any moment,


purposed sending a flag of truce to them, but abandoned the
design in consequence of the opposition of the Cape Coast
chiefs. The fact was that the people of Cape Coast believed
themselves fully able to cope with the Ashantis, of whom,
it is but just to say, they had then had no experience.

The Ashanti force under Appia Dunkwa, after defeating
Akum, moved leisurely down to the coast, destroying
Mankassim and several other towns, and first gained sight
of the sea in the neighbourhood of Cormantine. They
destroyed the town, and Appia Dunkwa, after sending
several calabashes full of salt water to the King, in proof
of his victories, took up his quarters in Cormantine Fort,
which the Dutch commandant surrendered without firing a

The near approach of this force to Anamabo,* from
which Cormantine is distant only some three miles, led
Mr. White, the Commandant of Anamabo Fort, to send a
flag of truce to the Ashanti general, asking what the King's
motives in marching to the coast might be, and offering
himself as mediator in any dispute the Ashantis might have
with the Fantis. This appears to have been the first serious
attempt made by the officials of the African Company of
Merchants to open negotiations with the invading force,
and their previous apathy is incomprehensible. Had offers
of mediation been made earlier, no doubt much misery and
bloodshed might have been avoided ; but the time for such
action was now past, and to expect the Ashantis to be
moderate in their hour of triumph, when they had gained
access to the much-coveted seaboard and were actually in
possession of a European fort, was to show a lamentable
ignorance of savage character. But the fact was, that the
Company cared nothing for the natives. They exercised
no control of any kind over any part of the country except
those towns that lay under the guns of their forts, and as
long as these were not 'directly threatened, they made no
move. They were so short-sighted as to be unable to see

* Anamabo, "Bird Rock."


that if they quietly allowed the Northern Fantis to be
crushed, a further advance of the Ashantis to the seaboard
would be inevitable. Consequently they did nothing until
the Ashanti army was at Cormantine ; when, suddenly
awakening to the fact that trfeir * forts were in peril, they
commenced negotiations.

Appia Dunkwa sent messengers to Anamabo in reply
to Mr. White's flag of truce, with a message that if the
latter sent twenty barrels of gunpowder and one hundred
muskets he would tell him what' the King's designs were.
The Commandant, in return, expressed to the messengers
his regret that the general did not seem inclined for con-
ciliation, and said . that had he been told what offence the
p'eople of. Anamabo had committed he would have obtained
reparation for it, but that till he knew how they had offended,
he would most certainly give them the protection of the fort,
which would consequently fire upon the Ashantis should
they attempt to advance upon the town. He ordered two
or three guns to be fired, to give the messengers some idea
of the destructive effects of artillery, and sent them back
under escort to Cormantine. This last precaution was
most necessary, to save them from being murdered by the

The town of Anamabo was then placed in a state of
defence. Strong outposts were formed, and every approach
to the town carefully guarded ; while arrangements were
made that on the first alarm the old men, women, and
children should 'take refuge inside the fort, such as the
fort could not contain keeping close to the walls under
the shelter of the guns. As this was the first time the
Ashantis had descended to the sea, Mr. White knew
nothing of them, although he had been twenty-seven
years on the coast. He thought they were like the tribes
with which he was acquainted, and he was confident that
a few discharges of cannon would suffice to put them to

Nothing took place for a week, at the end of which time
the Ashanti general unexpectedly made a forward move-


ment and captured Egyah, a village on a cape about a mile
to the east of Anamabo, from which the town could be
conveniently watched. On the I4th of June, 1806, the
Anamabos marched out to recover the village, and an action
took place. The Ashantis, who appeared to be in small
force, were driven out of the western end of Egyah ; but
retreating across a gully which intersects the village, and
which the Anamabos did not seem inclined to cross, held
the eastern end. The Anamabos were much elated by this
partial success, which Appia Dunkwa had merely allowed them
to gain for his own ends. In order to increase their force for
the attack on Egyah, the Anamabos had withdrawn- the posts
covering the approaches to the town a fact which was soon
discovered by the Ashanti scouts and communicated to
Appia Dunkwa ; who, leaving a small body of men at Egyah
to occupy the attention of the Anamabos, moved his force
round to the north side of Anamabo and occupied the
approaches without the least resistance. There he was
joined in the evening by the main Ashanti army, which had
moved down from Arbrakampa with the King.

Early on June I5th the Ashantis advanced to the attack
of Anamabo, and every Fanti who could carry a musket took
the field, while the old men, women, and children crowded
into the fort, the gates of which, as soon as it was full, were
closed and barricaded. For a time a continuous roar of
musketry was heard all round the town, but the Anamabos
were outnumbered, and the circle of fire gradually contracted
as they were driven back. To intimidate the enemy, Mr.
White ordered one or two guns to be fired over the town,
but this did not produce the slightest effect, and by eleven
o'clock the Ashanti bullets were whistling all about the fort.
From all directions the Ashantis poured into the town, and
the wretched Anamabos fled to the beach, hoping to be able
to escape to sea in their canoes, but the enemy pursued too
closely, and a terrible slaughter took place on the sands.
The garrison of the fort did their best to check the pursuit.
A 24-pounder that pointed to the west, along the sea-shore,
swept down dozens of Ashantis with each discharge of grape,



while a 3 -pounder that flanked the eastern gate did great
execution. But on this side the Ashantis pushed on over
the heaps of dead, and actually seized and carried off the
terrified and shrieking women who were standing close to
the fort walls for protection. In the meantime others had
been keeping up a very hot fire, by which White was
shot in the mouth and left arm, and obliged to resign the
command to Mr. Meredith, while one man was killed, and
an officer and two men wounded.

The whole force of the Ashantis was now directed against
the fort, which they imagined to contain a rich booty, and
thousands of black warriors swarmed round it. The garrison
consisted of twenty-nine men, including Mr. White, four
officers of the Company (Messrs. H. Meredith, F. L. Swanzy,
T. A. Smith, and Barnes), and four free mulattos. Of
the remaining twenty, several were servants and workmen ;
but all fought with desperation, for they knew that if the
place were stormed they could hope for no mercy. The
Ashantis pressed on, but the walls were too high to be
scaled, and the two gates one on the east and one on
the west too strong and too well barricaded to be forced.
Possessing neither ladders for scaling nor cannon for
breaching, it is possible that the Ashantis might have
been beaten off, but for one fatal defect in the construction
of the fort. This was that the embrasures yawned to
such an extent that the gunners were absolutely without
cover ; and, exposed to thousands of musket shots, so
many were wounded that at last the guns had to be aban-
doned, and the defence carried on by musketry alone.
Shortly after noon the garrison was reduced by casualties
to eight, of whom four were officers, and as the fire o
the defenders slackened the Ashantis strove to force th(
eastern gate. Twice they advanced to it, and twice hac
to retire, having lost heavily. The third time they brough
fire, but the man who carried the firebrands was shot dead
and extinguished them by falling upon them. Thus th<
afternoon passed in an incessant struggle, until, at 6 p.m
when darkness commenced to fall, the Ashantis drew ofi


The last glimpse of daylight was used by the garrison
in repairing damages and making preparations for a night

Day dawned upon a horrible scene of bloodshed and
devastation. Eight thousand Fantis had perished, most
of them in the vicinity of the fort ; heaps of dead en-
cumbered the beach in every direction, or were washed
hither and thither in the surf, and the sands were red
with blood. For a mile along the shore to the east nothing
was to be seen but flaming houses, or the black and charred
ruins of those that had already been devoured by fire.
Some two thousand refugees were in the fort, and to a
rock a few yards from shore, and surrounded by the sea,
two hundred panic-stricken wretches were clinging. These
were all the survivors of the populous town of Anamabo.

Soon after daybreak the Ashantis recommenced the
attack of the fort. They came coolly up in masses to
the very muzzles of the guns, N and a perfect hail-storm of
lead flew about the defenders. On the eastern side the
garrison had been able to contrive some protection for the
men working the guns, and two well-served 3-pounders
that flanked the eastern gate swept away several of the
foe at each discharge. The guns that flanked the western
gate, however, were so exposed that it was found im-
possible to work them, and two of the officers, Messrs.
Meredith and Swanzy, defended it with muskets alone.
In keeping this gate clear they expended nearly three
hundred rounds of ball-cartridge, and they fired till their
shoulders were so bruised that they could no longer bear
the recoil of their muskets. Not a round was wasted,
and the enemy were so near and so crowded together
that a ball frequently disabled t\vo men.

So far the garrison had gallantly held their own, but
surrender was inevitable unless they were speedily rein-
forced. Human endurance could not last much longer,
and there were no provisions for the fugitives who crowded
the courtyard, so that in another day famine would compel
them to capitulate. Added to this, the bodies of the

I 2


thousands slain on the previous day were already beginning*
to putrefy under the burning rays of the tropical sun, and
a sickening stench arose on all sides. Fortunately the
Ashantis had also had nearly enough. They had lost over
two thousand men round the fort, and began to despair
of ever taking it ; but neither side wished to be the first
to make overtures.

About 4 p.m. (June i6th) two vessels from Cape Coast
Castle anchored in the roadstead opposite the fort, and a
small force of three officers and twelve men was landed
without any interruption from the Ashantis. On receiving
this accession to their strength the garrison wished to
continue the struggle ; but the reinforcement brought orders
from Colonel Torrane to show a flag of truce, and a white
flag and a Union Jack were accordingly lowered over the
fort walls with two men. These were received by the
Ashantis with exultation, and they crowded so closely
round the bearers of the flags that the King's officers had
some difficulty in penetrating the mass to conduct the twc
soldiers to his presence. The Ashantis observed the truce
except that some of them made an attempt to reach tht
rock upon which the fugitives were still clinging, but c
musket shot or two from the fort brought them back
About 7 p.m. the flag of truce returned from the King
who had given the two soldiers a present of a sheep
Several Ashanti captains accompanied the flag back tc
the fort, and waited upon Mr. White. They entered int<
a long account of the invasion, so that Colonel Torran<
might be able to understand the merits of the case. The;
disclaimed on the part of the King any intention of making
war upon the white men, and attributed the attack o;
the fort to the English themselves, who had first fire
upon the Ashantis. It was agreed that a report of th
King's views should be made to Colonel Torrane, and th
Ashanti captains returned to their camp.

Colonel Torrane, delighted to find the King disposed t >
be friendly, sent him a considerable present, and invited hir
to Cape Coast Castle to settle their differences, an invitatio .


which was declined. Eventually, Torrane, finding that the
King would not come to him and that nothing could be
definitely settled by his messengers, decided to go to
Anamabo, and, in order to ensure a favourable reception,
determined to surrender to the King the two Assin chiefs
Tchibbu and Kwaku Aputeh. The chiefs of Cape Coast
were indignant at this breach of faith, and resolutely de-
clared that they would never surrender those whom they had
promised to protect ; but Torrane sent an armed force un-
expectedly to the houses occupied by the Assin chiefs,
where Tchibbu was seized, not without resistance, while
Aputeh beat off his assailants and escaped. The unfor-
tunate Tchibbu was at once sent to the Ashanti camp,
where he was put to death with the most exquisite tortures,
and his jawbone was affixed as a trophy to the King's death

Some difficulty arose as to the place of meeting at
Anamabo, for the King would not consent to go to the
fort, and the Governor refused to go to the Ashanti camp ;
but at last a neutral spot was fixed upon behind the ruins of
the town. The meeting took place on June 23rd, and was
devoted to ceremony and courtly speeches. The King
spoke of the losses he had sustained from the fire of the
fort, which he estimated at nearly three thousand men,
complimented the garrison on their gallantry, and expressed
his regrets at Mr. White's wounds. In subsequent interviews
Colonel Torrane concluded some kind of convention with
the King, but as it was never reduced to writing it is diffi-
cult to say positively what took place. The general opinion
was that Torrane acknowledged that, by right of conquest,
Fanti, including Cape Coast and every other town in Fanti,
belonged to Ashanti. He reserved a judicial authority for the
Company over the towns under the forts ; but paid arrears
on the " notes " for ground-rent for Anamabo Fort and Cape
Coast Castle, which the King now claimed. Osai Tutu
Kwamina was much pleased with Colonel Torrane. He
said to M. Dupuis in 1821: "From the hour Governor
Torrane delivered up Tchibbu, I took the English for my


friends, because I saw their object was trade only, and they
did not care for the people. Torrane was a man of sense,
and he pleased me much."

Among the chiefs of the Ashanti army present in Ana-
mabo was a Moor who had been to Tunis and Mecca. He
was said to be a native of a place called Kassina, supposed
to be to the south-east of Timbuktu, and commanded a body
of men a part of whom were armed with bows and arrows.
His presence with the army attracted some attention, for
this was the first time any Mohammedan had been seen on
the littoral of the Gold Coast.

The disposal of the Fanti refugees in the fort was founc
to be one of the most difficult matters to settle. The King
claimed them as prisoners, which claim was resisted b>
Torrane ; but the King remained obdurate, declaring tha
no peace with the English would be concluded unless hi:
right to these people was acknowledged. In the meantim<
the poor wretches were dying of starvation at the rate o
five or six a day, and at last a middle course was adopted
The King, in consideration of Torrane's services in seizin;
Tchibbu, agreed to be satisfied with one half of the fugitives
leaving the other half at Torrane's disposal. This par
tition was immediately made, and the fort relieved of thei

The number of these unfortunates is variously stated
Mr. Meredith estimates it at two thousand, but Colom '.
Torrane in his letter to the Committee states it to hav .-
been thirteen hundred. Of those who fell to the share c f
the Ashantis many were sacrificed, and the remainder sol I
to the traders ; for during this invasion the Ashantis mair -
tained a friendly intercourse with Elmina and Accra, an 1
carried on with them a steady traffic in slaves. Those wh >
fell into Torrane's hands fared no better. After the Kir i
had received his share of the refugees, the remainder we -
carried to Cape Coast Castle, divided into lots for tl t
Governor and members of Council, and sold to the slai ^
vessels. To his eternal honour, Mr. John Swanzy, one f
the members of Council, refused to be a party to th s


monstrous transaction. He was Commandant of Accra
Fort at the time, but as soon as he heard of the proceedings
of the Governor and his colleagues, he rose from a sick
bed and went to Cape Coast Castle by canoe to lodge an
indignant protest. His threats of exposure probably had
more weight with the members of Council than his appeals
to their honour and humanity ; they began to be alarmed,

Online LibraryA. B. (Alfred Burdon) EllisA history of the Gold Coast of West Africa → online text (page 10 of 34)