A. B. (Alfred Burdon) Ellis.

A history of the Gold Coast of West Africa online

. (page 21 of 34)
Online LibraryA. B. (Alfred Burdon) EllisA history of the Gold Coast of West Africa → online text (page 21 of 34)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

rather than Captain Humphrey, refused to obey the latter' s
orders ; so he, not wishing to jeopardise the existence of a
force which had been brought together with so much diffi-
culty, gave up the notion of a pursuit, but urged the chiefs
at least to remain on the spot abandoned by the enemy, so
that no opposition might be offered to the passage of the
river by the main body of the allies, which still remained on
the right bank. This proposition all the assembled chiefs,
except Dawuna, chief of Christiansborg, also refused to agree
to; and as they compelled the Christiansborg contingent to
return, Captain Humphrey withdrew from the camp, and
proceeded with his detachment to Addah, leaving Lieutenant
Herbert in charge of the force.


As it was impossible that the expedition could succeed so
long as authority was divided, Lieutenant Herbert called a
meeting of all the chiefs, and declared that if they hesitated
to obey his orders, and chose to regard Tacki as their leader,
he and the volunteers would return to Accra, and leave them
to their own devices; and the chiefs, afraid to act alone,
finally submitted. The 23rd and days following were then
occupied in moving the main body across the Volta, and on
April 3rd it moved to attack the Awunas, who were supposed
to be within a day's march. On the 4th it crossed the Tojeh
River, a tributary of the Volta, and encamped in a forest of
palms till the I2th, when it again advanced, and after a few
miles was suddenly surprised by a body of about eight
thousand Awunas, who had ambushed themselves in front and
on both flanks. Such was the want of organisation, that the
head of the column consisted of the women, carrying baggage
and supplies, and these, being driven back upon the men,
threw everything into confusion. Numbers of the allies were
shot down or captured, the baggage was abandoned, and
the whole army would soon have been in full flight, had
not the King of Akwapim moved his contingent through
the bush at some distance from the scene of conflict, and
fallen upon the enemy in rear. This checked the advance of
the Awunas, and gave the Accras time to rally, and a severely
contested engagement raged for some time. A gun which
the allies had brought up was captured and recaptured half-
a-dozen times, and for two hours the result of the battle was
doubtful ; but at last the enemy began to retreat, and being
followed up vigorously, were pursued with great slaughter for
several miles. The defeat of the enemy was so complete
that had the allies followed up their success by marching
upon the Awuna chief towns, the war would have been
finished at one blow ; but the hard fighting of that day had
been quite enough for the ill-disciplined natives, and, dis-
regarding alike Lieutenant Herbert's orders and expostula-
tions, they retreated to the Volta, and, crossing it on the I4th,
disbanded themselves and returned to their homes.


The Awunas had lost so heavily that for some months
they remained perfectly quiet ; but the Government also
remained inactive, and it was not until October, when Colonel
Conran, with two influential merchants of Accra, went to
Jella Koffi, an Awuna town on the sea-coast, that any
attempt was made to arrive at a settlement. Colonel
Conran's terms were that Geraldo de Lema should be sur-
rendered, and the Awunas pay two thousand dollars to the
Accras for expenses incurred in the war. Had these pro-
posals been made immediately after the defeat of the Awunas,
they might have been accepted ; but now they were at once
rejected, for while the Government had allowed valuable
time to slip away, Ashanti, ever on the look-out for oppor-
tunities of recovering its lost sway over the coast tribes, had
made an alliance with the Awunas. In fact, directly the
news of the Awuna reverse was known in Kumassi, Kwaku
Dua had sent messengers to the Awunas, and the Akwamus,
who were also threatened by the Accras, offering them
assistance; and the offer being accepted by both tribes,
an Ashanti army was, as a first step, sent against the
Krepis, who were in alliance with Accra, with instructions
to enter the Protectorate as soon as a favourable occasion

Affairs remained in this unsettled state until April, 1867,
when Major Blackall, Governor-in-Chief, arrived at Accra
and at once proceeded to Jella Koffi to' endeavour to come
to some understanding with the Awunas. No real repre-
sentative of the Awuna nation met him, but the chief of
the insignificant hamlet of Srongbi, and a native trader of
Jella Koffi, went on board the Governor's vessel, and after
some discussion agreed to sign a treaty of peace on behalf
of the Awunas, which was not worth the paper on which
it was written. Indeed, at the very time at which it was
signed, the Awunas, with their Ashanti allies, were engaged
in pillaging the Krobo villages near the Volta, had again
entirely stopped the navigation of that river, and were
blockading all the roads leading to Krepi. The treaty did


not produce the slightest effect, and was immediately re-
pudiated by the Awunas, who declined to be bound by
the promises of two persons who were not authorised to
act for them. Thus, curiously enough, the Government of
the Gold Coast had at this time two so-called treaties which
were absolutely valueless ; namely, the treaty of peace with
the Ashantis which had been proclaimed by Colonel Conran,
and the treaty just entered into by Governor Blackall.



Exchange of territory with the Dutch Native protests Bombardment
of Kommenda The Fanti Confederation Investment of Elmina
Fruitless negotiations Condition of affairs in Ashanti Palaver at
Elmina Dutch prisoners at Kommenda Bombardment of Dixcove.

THE incessant petty squabbles which took place between
the natives subject to Dutch control and those subject
to the British, and the difficulties which were continually
arising from the difference in the customs duties levied by
the two Governments, induced the Home Government about
this time to endeavour to arrange some mutual cession of
territory on the Gold Coast, by which these might be
obviated. The question of the customs duties was the more
important of the two, as the Dutch duties on imports were
merely nominal ; and this not only seriously affected the
British revenue in those places where each nation had a
fort, but was a cause of continual conflict between the
authorities and the natives, who naturally smuggled their
goods through the Dutch possessions. The British Govern-
ment at first proposed that the duties should be equalised,
but the Dutch objected to increase theirs, and the result
of a diplomatic exchange of views was that in March, 1867,
a convention was] concluded between the two Governments,
by which the Dutch ceded to the British all their possessions
to the east of the Sweet River, and received in return all
the possessions of the latter to the west of that river. The

R 2


treaty was signed by the plenipotentiaries of both countries
on March 6th, 1867, and ratified on July 6th. It came
into effect on January 1st, 1868, and by it the British handed
over Appollonia, Dixcove, Sekondi, and 1 Kommenda, and
received Mori, Cormantine, Appam, and Dutch Accra. The
British also relinquished to the Dutch the protectorate over
Wassaw, Denkera, and Appollonia.

Although the interests of the natives were materially
concerned in this exchange of territory, it does not appear
that any of the tribes affected by it were consulted,
nor was it thought necessary to obtain their consent to
what was really a transfer of allegiance. As far as that
portion which now came under British rule was concerned,
there was no difficulty, for the Dutch natives had for many
years been on friendly terms with the British ; but the case
was very different with the western half of the Gold Coast,
which had now entirely become Dutch territory. As will
have been seen from the preceding chapters, the bitterest
animosities prevailed between the British and Dutch pro-
tected natives on the sea-coast between Elmina and Appol-
lonia. The Elminas were the deadly foes of the Kommendas.
and were also hostile to the Denkeras and Wassaws ; whik
Sekondi had an hereditary feud with Chama, Dixcove witf
Butri, and Appollonia with Axim. Moreover, the Dutd
natives of the western half of the Gold Coast were on th<
most friendly terms with the Ashantis, the people of Elmin;
being even regarded as Ashanti subjects; while the Britisl
natives had repeatedly been in arms with the Governmen
against Ashanti. By this partition of the Gold Coas
the natives of Appollonia, Dixcove, Sekondi, and Kom
menda were now required to effect a complete change c '
front in their politics. As Dutch subjects they were require<
not only to live on peaceable terms with those neighbour
with whom they had quarrelled for years, but also to exten
the hand of friendship and alliance to Ashanti, to that powe
from which, for more than half a century, they had suffere
the greatest cruelties and oppressions. For the Wassaws an
Denkeras it meant more than this. The inhabitants of th :


sea-coast towns might be guaranteed from Ashanti extortion
and violence by the Dutch authorities, but the latter were
too weak to afford protection to these inland tribes, who
now had before them the alternative of becoming tributary
to Ashanti or of withstanding another Ashanti invasion.
It is not surprising, therefore, that all the natives now
about to be transferred to the Dutch made indignant pro-
tests against that measure, and it certainly does seem a
most extraordinary proceeding to have transferred a number
of people, who were not British subjects but were only
living under British protection, to another power, without
even going through the form of asking them if they were
willing to accept the control of that power. In fact, the
natives could not have been treated more unceremoniously
if they had been the absolute property the slaves of the
British Government. The matter was further complicated
by the fact that, no treaty of peace having been concluded
with Ashanti since the invasion of 1863, the British and
their native allies were to be considered as being still at
war with Ashanti, to whose indirect rule, through the Dutch,
a portion of those very native allies was now to be trans-

In December, 1867, a few days before the actual transfer
took place, Mr. H. T. Ussher, Administrator of the Gold
Coast, issued a proclamation setting forth the convention
between the British and Dutch Governments; and at the
same time a circular letter was sent to the Kings and chiefs
of the Protectorate who were about to be transferred to the
Dutch, informing them that, in order to facilitate trade and
civilisation, the British protectorate over them would be
abandoned, and they would be handed over to the Govern-
ment of the King of the Netherlands. The letter concluded
with the hope that their relations with their new rulers would
be as satisfactory as those they had maintained with their
old ones.

Dutch Accra was the principal town to be transferred to
British rule, and on January 4th, 1868, the Dutch Governor,
Colonel Boers, there met Major Blackall, who, as Governor-in-


Chief, had come from Sierra Leone to effect the transfer.
The Dutch flag was lowered on Fort Creve Coeur, and the
British flag hoisted, under salutes from the vessels of war
and the forts, without any opposition. Appam, Mori, and
Cormantine were also handed over to the British without
trouble ; and this part of the business, which was simple
enough, having been concluded, Major Blackall then re-
turned to Sierra Leone, leaving Mr. Ussher to hand over the
British protected towns to the Dutch. This, however, proved
to be a very different affair. The inhabitants of those towns,
always having been strong supporters of the British, deter-
mined, should that Government decide to withdraw its pro-
tection, to decline to accept Dutch rule ; and they drew up a
petition against the transfer, praying the British not tc
desert them. The Kings of Wassaw and Denkera flatl)
refused to accept either the convention or proclamation, bui
the inhabitants of the towns on the sea-coast, with one ex-
ception, were compelled to temporise. That exception wa<
the people of Kommenda. They refused positively to allo\\
a British flag that they had hoisted to be lowered, anc
attacked the crew of a boat from the Dutch man-of-war
Metalen Kruis, which had landed for this purpose or
January 3Oth. In return the Dutch bombarded Kommenda
and next day landed a force from their corvette which
burned the town, destroyed the fishing canoes, killed man}
of the inhabitants, and drove the remainder into the bush.

The Elminas rejoiced over the calamity which hac
befallen their ancient enemies, but the bombardment o
Kommenda acted like an electric shock throughout the
Protectorate, and the passive resistance of the various King.'
and chiefs was now turned into armed opposition. The
Kings and chiefs of Wassaw, Denkera, Assin, Arbra
Anamabo, Mankassim, Winnebah, and Gomoa assemblec
at Mankassim, and, after a council of war, decided to resis
to their utmost the Dutch occupation of those towns whicl
had hitherto been under British protection. As they ex
pressed it their father had no right to enslave them, hi;
children, to another master. They had been brought u[



from childhood under the British flag, and they would not
submit to the Dutch. Appollonia, which consisted of two
districts, namely Atwaambu* and Baying, was divided in
opinion as to what should be done. Atwaambu, being near
the Dutch fort at Axim, accepted the Dutch flag, but the
Bayins refused to accept it ; and when their chief town was
bombarded retired to the bush towns, and sent to the
Administrator at Cape Coast for munitions of war to enable
them to fight the Dutch. This was of course refused, but the
Fanti chiefs supplied them with powder and lead and several
ounces of gold-dust. The inhabitants of Dixcove, being
under the guns of Dixcove Fort, were obliged to submit, as,
for a similar reason, were those of Sekondi ; but the people
of the bush villages of both districts refused to recognise
Dutch authority. The transfer was particularly obnoxious
to the people of Cape Coast, as by it most of their important
villages and plantations such as Effutu and Mampon,J from
which they derived the greater part of their food supply
being situated to the west of the Sweet River, were trans-
ferred to the Dutch. The Dutch also levied certain taxes on
staple articles of food, a species of impost which the British
had never imposed ; so that the people of Cape Coast,
though living under British rule, now found themselves under
the necessity of paying taxes to the Dutch, or of abandoning
their plantations. Being, however, under the guns of the
Castle, they did not join the confederation of the chiefs,
which was soon known as the Fanti Confederation.

Not long after the bombardment of Kommenda, the
Kommendas killed a native of Elmina, and forwarded his
jawbone to the Kings and chiefs assembled at Mankassim,
as a token that they had commenced hostilities. A few
days after this the Elminas, in retaliation, suddenly fell upon
some British protected natives who had for several years
lived peaceably in a village belonging to Elmina, killed
several of them, and paraded the remainder through Elmina
as prisoners. The chiefs at Mankassim at once ordered the

* Atwaambu Doom. t Bayin Witchcraft.

% Mampon is probably a corruption of Mampam the iguana.


Arbras, under their King, to move to Effutu ; the King of
Arbra being the traditional leader of the Fantis, whose busi-
ness it was to be the first to take the field. At Effutu he
was soon joined by the King of Denkera, and the combined
forces marched to Semu, where they were shortly reinforced
by the chief of Mankassim and the other chiefs of the Con-
federation, and Elmina was closely invested.

The British and Dutch authorities on the Gold Coast
viewed with consternation this result of an exchange of
territory which had been effected with the best intentions,
but which, so far from producing that era of peace and
quietness that had been expected, had caused a general
conflagration. It was but another example of the profound
ignorance of the natives and their political sympathies and
antipathies which seems always to have been conspicuous in
the British authorities on the Gold Coast. The scheme had
been conceived and carried out without the smallest con-
sideration for native interests or prejudices, and perhaps no
example better serves to show the ignorance of its designers
than the selection of a boundary by which the town of Cape
Coast was placed under one power, and its principal de-
pendent villages under another. Any native, or indeed any
European who knew anything of the natives, could have
foretold what would be the result of this ill-advised measure,
and the local officials were probably the only persons who
had not foreseen it.

To endeavour to cripple the resources of the confederated
Kings and chiefs, Mr. Ussher issued a proclamation suspend-
ing for an indefinite period under heavy penalties the sale of
powder, lead, and firearms, and the people of Cape Coast
and its neighbourhood were warned against taking any part
in the disturbances. He also wrote to the King of Arbra
demanding an explanation of his conduct, and warning him
not to compel the Government to use extreme measures
against him. The King of Arbra had, it appears, despatched
a considerable force to attack the Dutch at Kommenda, and
he excused this action to the Administrator by saying that
the Elminas had sent three of their town companies to


Kommenda to assist the Dutch. The other Kings and chiefs,
however, took a higher standpoint. They declared that
they could not understand how the people of Kommenda,
who were not the slaves of either Government, could be
bartered ; and they reminded the Administrator that the
very ground on which the deserted fort of Kommenda stood
was the property of the people, and that, when the fort was
inhabited, the Royal African and other Companies had paid
a ground rent for it.

The people of Cape Coast had up to this time remained
neutral, but on April 4th a party of Elminas suddenly
attacked and burned the village of Abina, which belongs
to Cape Coast, killing four of the inhabitants and taking
several prisoners. It was not to be expected that the
people of Cape Coast would tamely submit to this, and they
marched out under their head-man, Kwasi Attah, drove the
Elminas out of Abina, and then joined the confederate force.
Mr. Ussher viewed this action with great severity. He
issued a proclamation in which he charged Kwasi Attah
with a breach of his oath of allegiance, proclaimed him an
outlaw, and confiscated his property to the Crown ; and
further decreed, which decree was carried out to the letter,
that his house should be razed to the ground as a warning to
all seditious persons.

The confederate force now disposed around Elmina con-
sisted of between twenty and thirty thousand men. On the
right were the Kommendas, Denkeras, Anamabos, and
Tufels ; in the centre, at the village of Frampun, were the
Arbras, Adjumakos, and people of Mankassim; and on the
left, near Abina, were the people of Cape Coast, Mori, and
Cormantine, with a contingent from Gomoa. At his wits'
end, Mr. Ussher sent Mr. T. B. Freeman to the camp to
endeavour to persuade the chiefs to disperse their forces,
but he entirely failed in his mission, and an attack on
Elmina was arranged for May 2/th. The Kommendas were
to commence the action, which was then to be taken up on
the left ; and while the Elminas were thus engaged on both
jflanks the centre was to force its way into the town. A


traitor, however, in the camp of the confederates betrayed
the plan to the Elminas, who anticipated events by making
a vigorous onslaught on the left at daybreak on the 26th
The Cape Coast people, though taken by surprise, fought
well, and the centre coming to their assistance, the Elminas
who were supported by the Dutch troops, were driven back
to the town after some five hours' fighting ; a destructive fire
which was opened from Fort Conraadsburgh alone preventing
the victorious confederates from entering Elmina itself. The
suburbs fell into their hands and were burned, as were the
Dutch camps, where a number of breech-loading rifles were
captured; but several attempts to fire the town failed, and
about 3 p.m. the confederated chiefs, having decided tc
recommence operations next day, returned to their various

In this engagement the greater part of the confederates
had taken no part, the King of Arbra, either through
jealousy or through the influence of Mr. Freeman, who was stil
in his camp, having withheld his men ; while the Kommendas
and the others on the right, had remained in complete
ignorance of what was taking place. During the remainde
of the day Mr. Freeman redoubled his efforts to arrange
matters, and the chiefs, suspecting that the King of Arbra was
about to desert them, at last agreed to leave to the Adminis-
trator the settlement of the quarrel between themselves and
the Elminas. Next morning the King of Arbra struck his
camp and retired some ten miles further from Elmina; towards
evening his example was followed by several other chiefs,
and the blockade terminated with the retreat of the whole
force on the day following.

A commission, consisting of the Collector of Customs (Mr.
Simpson), Mr. Freeman, and a native named Dawson, who
was styled Secretary to the Confederated Kings and Chiefs,
was now sent by Mr. Ussher to Elmina to discuss the terms
of peace, and the following were agreed upon : (i) That
hostilities between the two parties should cease. (2) Thai
the alliance between the Elminas and Ashantis should b(
suspended for six months. (3) That the Elminas should be



allowed free intercourse with and through every part of the
districts of the confederates. When these terms, however,
were communicated to the confederated chiefs they declined
to accept them, and demanded, very reasonably, that the
Elminas should altogether put an end to their connection
with Ashanti, and join them in a defensive alliance against
that power. This the Elminas refused to do, and the
negotiations therefore came to an end, but the allied forces
which had thus been dispersed to no purpose were not
reassembled. A semi-blockade of Elmina was, however,
maintained by the inhabitants of the surrounding villages,
and the Elminas, who were often reduced to great straits for
food, made occasional sorties upon unprotected hamlets,
slaying the occupants, and parading their heads through the
streets of Elmina as proofs of their prowess. The struggle
was also carried on by sea, the canoes from the Dutch ports
being waylaid and attacked ; and sometimes battles in which
hundreds of men were engaged were waged upon the water.
In these sea-fights the Elminas and Dutch natives were nearly
always worsted, and the supply of fish, one of their staple
articles of food, was almost entirely cut off.

Fortunately the condition of affairs in Ashanti had been
such that that people, who would never have allowed so good
an opportunity for interfering in the affairs of the coast tribes
to have escaped them, had been fully employed at home. Osai
Kwaku Dua had died at Kumassi on April 27th, 1867, before
any exchange of territory between the British and Dutch had
taken place, and the events which followed his death pre-
vented his successor from taking advantage of the anarchy
in which that transfer plunged the Protectorate. On the death
of a King of Ashanti, any prince is allowed by custom to
take the life of any subject, and on such occasions frenzied
members of the royal family rush into the streets and high-
ways and fire their muskets indiscriminately; but they
usually preserve sufficient self-control to distinguish indi-
viduals, and are careful only to kill such as have no near
relatives of sufficiently high rank to become dangerous
enemies. But when Kwaku Dua died, a nephew of Asamoa


Online LibraryA. B. (Alfred Burdon) EllisA history of the Gold Coast of West Africa → online text (page 21 of 34)