A. B. (Alfred Burdon) Ellis.

A history of the Gold Coast of West Africa online

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escaped ; but the third, the Mulet de Batuille, a vessel of
1 20 tons, was captured, and in her 50 Ibs. of gold was


The English then traded at the various villages as far
as Accra, when six men having died of fever, and a- great
many being sick, they returned to Cape Coast. There,
however, the natives, formerly so friendly, refused to trade.
They ran away into the woods, and the English returned
to their ships, carrying off some goats and fowls. At Mori
also they met with a hostile reception, and the natives
stoned the men who attempted to land. Next day, to
revenge this, the English returned in greater force, and,
forcing a landing, killed and wounded several natives,
burned the town, and destroyed all the canoes. There
being nothing to be done on this part of the coast, the
adventurers next proceeded to Shamah, where they hoped
to revictual their ships, which were now short of provisions.
But the chief of Shamah had come to terms with the
Portuguese, and refused to trade or supply the ships; and
the boats which were sent to Hanta for supplies came back
equally empty. In revenge, the adventurers landed and
burned Shamah, and then quitted the coast. Contrary
winds at first carried them as far south as the Island of
St. Thomas ; but they eventually succeeded in reaching
England in safety.

The high handed proceedings of the merchant adven-
turers in this last voyage were hardly calculated to cause
the natives to regard the arrival of other English vessels
with pleasure, and we find that the Minion and Primrose,
which sailed for Guinea from Dartmouth, in February, 1562,
were unable to trade at all upon the Gold Coast. Both at
Cape Coast and at Mori the English were attacked by two
Portuguese galleys from Elmina. At the second place the
Portuguese were further assisted by a ship and a caravel,
and the Minion was severely handled, her foremast being
shot away. During the engagement a barrel of powder
exploded, wounding most of the gunners of the Minion,
and she was so disabled that she might have been easily
captured; but the Portuguese drew off, and she and her
consort at once ran out to sea and returned to the Grain



The following year, 1563, three more English ships, the
John Baptist, Rondel, and Merlin, sailed for Guinea. This
voyage is chiefly remarkable for the adventures of a boat's
crew of nine men, who became separated from their vessels
in a storm. The three ships were driven out to sea by a
tornado, at a time when the boat was lying off a town on
the Grain Coast, trading; and next day, when they beat
back to the land, as they saw nothing of the boat, they
concluded it was lost, and returned to England. The boat,
however, had gone to the eastward, in which direction it
was imagined the ships would be. For days the castaways
followed the shore, exchanging here and there portions of
their merchandise for food ; but, generally, they found the
coast " nothing but thick woods and deserts, full of wild
beasts," especially elephants, which came down to the sea-
shore in herds and frolicked in the water. At last, over-
come with fatigue, and despairing of ever finding their
ships, they decided to surrender themselves to the Por-
tuguese, the prospect of being chained to the oars as galley-
slaves at Elmina, being less appalling to them than the
unknown evils they might experience at the hands of the
natives. Neither alternative was pleasant; but necessity
demanded a choice. For twenty days they had been
cramped in an open boat, they had nearly lost the use of
their legs, and "their joints were so swollen with the
scurvy that they could scarce stand." By day they had
been exposed to the burning rays of a tropical sun, and
at night they had been drenched by frequent showers.
They were, moreover, half-starved, and had frequently been
without food for three days at a time.

They were making for Elmina in order to surrender,
when they found themselves one morning off a fort, with
a watch-house upon a rock, and a large black cross of
wood standing near it. This was Fort San Antonio, at
Axim, of whose existence they seem to have been ignorant.
Some Portuguese showed themselves on shore, waving a
white flag in sign of peace and signing to them to land ;


and the castaways were pulling to the shore in response
to this invitation, when they were suddenly saluted by a
furious discharge from all the guns of the fort. The balls
fell thickly about the boat, but fortunately none touched
it, and the English rowed as fast as they could to the
shore, shouting that they surrendered. When under the
walls of the fort they were sheltered from the fire of the
guns, which could not be depressed sufficiently to cover
them ; but showers of heavy stones were rained down
into the boat from the battlements, and the natives came
running down and discharged several flights of arrows,
which wounded some of the English. The latter were
naturally full of indignation at this perfidious conduct on
the part of the Portuguese ; and, burning to revenge them-
selves, they pushed off to a little distance from the shore,
where they were still safe from the guns of the fort, and
opened fire with their bows and harquebuses upon the
natives and the Portuguese. After killing or wounding
several, they rowed away, passing through another furious
fusillade from the guns of the fort unscathed, and escaped
out to sea.

The castaways now determined to place themselves in
the hands of the natives, and eventually landed near
Grand Bassam. There was still a considerable quantity
of merchandise in the boat, and as they handed this over
to the chief of the place they were well treated for a few
days. Then, as the natives found there was no more
profit to be made from them, they gradually neglected
them, and the castaways were reduced to such extremities
by hunger and exposure, that in a few weeks six out of
the nine died. The three survivors dragged on a miserable
existence for some time, and were at last rescued by a
French ship.

The French soon followed the example of the English
in breaking in upon the Portuguese monopoly of the trade
to Guinea. Some writers, indeed, are of opinion that the
French took the initiative, but all the evidence tends to

D 2


show that they made no voyages to the Guinea coast till
between 1554 and 1555; that is to say till a year or
eighteen months after the English had commenced a
Guinea trade. Even the voyages made in those and the
succeeding years were few and far between, and it was
not until the reign of Henry III. of France (15/3-1589)
that the French regularly frequented the West African

The Portuguese, finding that their profitable trade was
sadly crippled by the English and French adventurers,
who offered their wares at a cheaper rate to the natives,
did everything in their power to drive them from the
coast. They forbade the natives to have any dealings
with the adventurers, and, as we have seen from Towrson's
voyages, they punished a neglect of this prohibition, when-
ever possible, by destroying the native towns and villages.
As the ships of the adventurers were generally better armed
and manned than the small vessels they themselves had on
the Gold Coast, two large vessels were sent out from
Portugal, for the purpose of capturing and destroying
them, and several galleys were stationed at Elmina. With
these they captured several ships, both French and English,
and condemned the crews to perpetual servitude as galley-
slaves. Amongst others thus taken was La Esperance,
which was captured and sunk in 1582, a large number
of the crew being barbarously put to death, and the survivors
sent to Elmina in irons. A reward of one hundred crowns
was promised for every English or French head, and many
of both nations were treacherously invited to land by the
natives, and then murdered.

These severe measures soon had the effect desired, and
the adventurers gradually ceased to frequent the Gold
Coast. At Accra the French met with some little success.
The inhabitants of that place, provoked by the tyranny
of the Portuguese, surprised their small fort in 1578.
massacred the garrison, and invited the French to form ?
settlement. This they endeavoured to do, but the per-


sistent hostility of the Portuguese rendered their ventures
so profitless that they soon abandoned it, and before long
entirely gave up any further trade with the Gold Coast.
The English similarly found that the risks of a trade in
the vicinity of the Portuguese establishments were too
great to be lightly incurred ; and finding it impossible
to cope with the Portuguese, they abandoned the Gold
Coast and turned their attention to the Sierra Leone
coast and to Benin, where they could trade unmolested.
To encourage commerce with Africa, Queen Elizabeth, in
1588, granted a patent to a company of merchants in
Exeter to carry on a trade to Senegal and Gambia ; and
in. 1592 a second patent was obtained granting a trade
from the Rio Nunez to the south of the peninsula of
Sierra Leone. These concessions had the effect of com-
pletely diverting the attention of the English merchant
adventurers from the Gold Coast, and as the French had
already ceased to frequent that portion of West Africa,
for the next few years the Portuguese remained practically

At this point it will perhaps be convenient to enumerate
the Native States on the littoral of the Gold Coast at
the close^oX_lhe - *ixteerrth century, to several of which it
will bemTcessary to refer when describing the steps taken
by the Dutch to establish themselves in the vicinity of the
Portuguese. There were then eleven States on the sea-
board, which, commencing from the west, were as follows :
Axim, Ante (Ahanta), Adorn, Jabi, Commani (Kommenda),
Fetu, Saboe, Fantyn (Fanti), Akron, Aguna, and Accra.
Axim extended from the Ancobra River to the village of
Akwidah, Ante (Ahanta) from the latter to Zaconde
(Sekondi), Jabi from Zaconde to the mouth of the Prah,
and Commani (Kommenda) from the Prah to the mouth
of the River Beyah, at Elmina. The territory of Fetu lay
between the Beyah and Queen Anne's Point, that of
Saboe between the latter and the Iron Hills, and that
of Fantyn (Fanti) between these and Salt Pond. Akron


lay between Salt Pond and the Devil's Mount, the Monte
de Diablo of the Portuguese, and Aguna between that
eminence and the village of Barraku,* while the kingdom
of Accra extended to the east from Barraku as far as
Ningo. Of the inland States nothing appears at this time to
have been known.

* Barraku is the name of a bird.



The Dutch commence to trade to the Gold Coast They form settle-
ments Hostility of the Portuguese Wars between the Dutch and
Portuguese Capture of St. George d'Elmina Final expulsion of
the Portuguese Traces of their occupation.

IT was not until the year 1595 that the Dutch began to
make trading voyages to West Africa. It appears that
their attention was first directed to the Guinea trade by
a certain Bernard Ericks, or Erickson, who, having been
captured at sea by the Portuguese, had been carried by
them as a prisoner to Prince's Island, in the Bight of
Biafra, where he learned many particulars concerning the
Gold Coast. The reported richness of that part of the
African continent in gold seems to have excited his
imagination, and on returning to Holland he offered to
attempt a voyage. Some merchants, influenced by his
representations, furnished a ship and a suitable cargo,
and in 1595 Erickson performed the voyage successfully,
and returned in safety. This was the commencement of
a regular trade to Guinea on the part of the Dutch, and
which prospered in spite of the continued hostility of the

The Dutch, unlike the English and French, were not
satisfied with a mere haphazard trade along the coast,
and before long they sought to establish tracing posts on
the land. To this end they skilfully fomented quarrels


between the natives and the Portuguese, and frequently
allied themselves with the former. This was, indeed, no
new feature in West African politics. The English had
also encouraged the natives to rebel, promising them
protection and assistance, and had then, after completing
their cargoes, returned to England and left their allies
to bear the whole brunt of the anger of the Portuguese.

. This conduct had naturally made the natives rather chary
of entering into alliances with other Europeans against
the Portuguese, and the Dutch seem at first to have met
with little encouragement in their designs; but after some
time they succeeded in inducing the King of Saboe to
rebel, and as an earnest of their intention to continue to
extend their protection to him, built, shortly before 1599,
a small fortified trading " lodge " at Mori, in the kingdom
of Saboe. Having thus obtained a footing on the coast,
they rapidly extended their influence, and before long
they succeeded in establishing other " lodges " at Butri and

This, of course, was not effected without opposition
on the part of the Portuguese. They represented to the
natives that the Dutch were mere slave-hunters, kidnappers
of men, a trade in which, as we have seen, they were
themselves adepts, and they offered a reward for every
Dutch ship or Dutchman's head that might be taken.
According to the Dutch, they aided and abetted the
natives in every kind of treachery, and several Dutchmen
were enticed ashore at various places and murdered. In
1596 they seized a Dutch vessel at Cape Coast, killed
most of the crew, and sent the rest to the galleys, where
all of them soon died. In 1598, assisted by the natives,
they surprised and massacred the crew of a Dutch barque
at the same place, and in 1599 they seized five Dutchmen

from Mori, who were becalmed in a small boat off Elmina,
struck off their heads and placed them on the castle walls
as an example to others. In revenge for this last outrage
the Dutch instigated the people of Commani (Kommenda)
and Fetu to rise against the Portuguese. They assisted


the natives with arms and ammunition, and it is said
that the Portuguese lost some . three hundred men in the
war that ensued, but probably most of these were natives.
The Portuguese succeeded in bringing the natives of Fetu
to terms, but those of Commani achieved their independence,
and as a result the Dutch formed a new "lodge" at

No doubt one reason why the Dutch succeeded where
the English and French had failed was that the formation
of trading posts satisfied the natives that they had no
desertion to fear on the part of their allies ; but the
principal cause was that the Portuguese establishment on
the Gold Coast had been much reduced, but for which
it is doubtful if the Dutch would have succeeded in
obtaining a footing. The decline of the Portuguese
settlements dated from 1580, when, Portugal having
become a province of Spain under Philip II., the African
colonies were gradually neglected in favour of those of
the New World ; and they were still further reduced
under the weak Philip IV., who came to the throne in
1621. By that time the Dutch trade had utterly ruined
that of the Portuguese on the Gold Coast, for the former
were able to sell goods on the coast cheaper than the
latter could buy them in Lisbon ; and the King, at whose
expense the garrison and establishment at Elmina was
kept up, finding that the trade now hardly covered his
expenditure, reduced the garrison and limited the supplies.
Not more than one or two ships a year sailed to Elmina
from Portugal, the force on the coast was too small for
the Portuguese to do more than maintain their authority
in the towns under the guns of their forts, the Native
States threw off their allegiance, and the whole trade
was soon engrossed 1 by the Dutch, who became virtually
masters of the whole of the Gold Coast, except Elmina and

To strengthen their position, the Dutch, about 1620,
commenced transforming their " lodge" at Mori into a fort.
It was completed in the year 1624, and Adrian Jacobs was


placed in command of it. The year following, the garrison
of Elmina being reported to be much reduced by sickness,
they made a bold attempt upon it with twelve hundred of
their own men, and one hundred and fifty Saboe natives.
The force, which was under the command of Jan Dirks
Lamb, landed at Terra Pequena, or Ampeni, to the west
of Elmina, in the kingdom of Commani; but before the
troops had time to form up, they were furiously attacked, at
sunset, by the natives of Elmina, and utterly defeated. The
Dutch lost 373 soldiers, 66 seamen, most of their officers,
and all the Saboe contingent. Lamb himself was wounded,
and was only rescued with difficulty by the people of Little
Kommenda. This repulse seems to have rather cooled the
ardour of the Dutch, and no further attempt to oust the
Portuguese was made for some years.

About 1631 the States General of Holland made over
Fort Nassau at Mori, and their trading " lodges " at Butri
and Kommenda, to the Dutch West India Company, and
the latter appointed as their Director-General in Africa
Nicholas Van Ypren, a man who proved most indefatigable
in his endeavours to drive the Portuguese from the Gold
Coast. By presents and promises he induced the Kings of
the contiguous native kingdoms to enter into an agreement
to assist the Dutch to capture Elmina, whenever a favourable
opportunity presented itself; and, having thus paved the
way for a fresh attempt upon the Portuguese stronghold, he
suggested to the directors of the Company the advisability
of sending a force to the coast. This suggestion was
favourably received, and instructions were sent to Count
Maurice, of Nassau, who, with a fleet of thirty-two sail,
twelve of them men-of-war, carrying 2,700 soldiers, was then
engaged in attacking the Portuguese in Brazil, to detach
such ships as he could spare to the Gold Coast.

Count Maurice sent a fleet of nine sail under Colonel
Hans Coine, which arrived at Cape Lahou, on the Ivory
Coast, on June 25th, 1637. From this place Coine sent
notice of his arrival to Van Ypren, and then proceeded to
Assini. Van Ypren requested Coine to sail to Kommenda,


the natives of which kingdom were the chief supporters of
the Dutch, and on his arrival there met him with two
hundred canoes full of native auxiliaries. Thence the flotilla
proceeded towards Cape Coast, and on July 24th the force
landed in a little creek about half a mile to the west of the
Cape, which must have been the present salt-pond, or lagoon,
at Cape Coast, though it is now separated from the sea by
a ridge of sand. The army, which moved in three bodies,
consisted of 800 soldiers and 500 seamen, carrying pro-
visions for three days, and the native auxiliaries, who pro-
bably amounted to five or six thousand.

Advancing towards Elmina, they halted at the River
Dana, or Dolce (Sweet River), to refresh ; and Coine, who
brought up the rear, being informed that a body of a
thousand Elminas was posted at the foot of the hill of St.
Jago, to prevent its capture for it commanded the Castle
detached four companies of fusileers to beat them off.
These four companies were cut to pieces by the Elminas,
who struck off the heads of the slain and carried them in
triumph into the town ; but a second Dutch detachment,
sent under Major Bon Garzon, fared better. Fording the
River Dana while the majority of the enemy were still
celebrating their victory in the town of Elmina, he dispersed
the few natives who remained and carried the position with
the loss of only four whites and ten native allies. The
Elminas and Portuguese made two attempts to recover the
position, but were on each occasion repulsed with loss, and
on the remainder of the Dutch force coming up, the Por-
tuguese retired into a small redoubt which they had built
on the summit of the hill. The only path to this redoubt
lay on the side of the hill opposite to the Castle, and was
swept by its guns ; but the Dutch rapidly cut paths through
the thick bush on the northern slope, and the redoubt was
soon carried. A mortar and two pieces of cannon were
then brought up, and from that commanding position a fire
was opened upon the Castle, while a detachment of Kom-
menda natives was sent to attack the western end of the
town of Oddena. This latter body met with little success,


and would indeed have been defeated, but for the skilful
manner in which the Dutch officers kept the force covered
by the River Beyah.

Next day the Dutch advanced to the assault of the town,
from which the heavy fire of the guns of the Castle com-
pelled them to retire ; but the day following, at daybreak,
Coine summoned the Castle to surrender, threatening to put
the garrison to the sword if any further resistance were
offered. The Portuguese Governor demanded three days'
truce, ostensibly to consider the terms, but really to gain
Jtime ; but Coine, who could not afford to wait, as he had
only provisions for that day, refused this, and, drawing up
his forces on St. Jago, continued the bombardment, though
with but little effect. Next morning, being obliged to en-
deavour to take the place by assault or abandon the attempt,
he ordered the grenadiers to advance, and the Portuguese at
once beat the chamade, and sent out two persons to arrange
the terms of capitulation. These were finally settled as
follows :

1. The Governor, garrison, and all other Portuguese to
march out that day, with their wives and children, but with-
out swords, colours, or any weapons, each person being
allowed but one suit of wearing apparel.

2. All the goods, gold, merchandise, and slaves to be
handed over to the Dutch, with the exception of twelve
slaves allowed to Portuguese officials.

3. The church furniture, which was not of gold or silver,
to be allowed to be carried away.

4. The Portuguese and mulattos to be put on board the
squadron, with their wives and children, and conveyed to
the Island of St. Thomas.

Barbot says the Castle surrendered on August 29th,
1637; but this is probably a mistake for July 29th, as the
Dutch force landed on July 24th. The Dutch found little
gold or merchandise, but a large quantity of gunpowder, and
thirty brass guns. At the time of the capture, the Portu-
guese establishment was very much reduced, which accounts
for the easy surrender of a place considered so strong. It


appears to have consisted of a Governor, a chaplain, a inedor t
or chief factor, a King 1 's procurador, or judge, the captain of the
soldiers, and a chief clerk. The soldiers were criminals, who
had been banished to Africa for life ; their number did not
exceed thirty, and a large proportion of them were sick.
The defence of Elmina had chiefly been undertaken by the
natives, some seven hundred of whom had been drilled and
disciplined by the Portuguese, and it has been insinuated
that the latter exhibited great want of spirit in surrendering
so tamely. But what could the white garrison of thirty men,
even supposing they were all fit for duty, have effected against
Coine's force of thirteen hundred Europeans ?

After the reduction of Elmina Van Ypren returned to
Mori with his forces, leaving Captain Walraeven with a
garrison of one hundred and forty men in the Castle of St.
George. He sent a cartel to the commandant of Fort St.
Anthony, at Axim, informing him of the fall of Elmina, and
summoning him to surrender; but the latter replied that he
would defend the place to the last extremity. It is not
clear why the Dutch commanders did not take advantage
of the presence of their large force on the coast to reduce
this last stronghold of the Portuguese, which was in strength
far inferior to St. George d'Elmina; but Coine returned to
Brazil with his fleet, without making any attempt upon it,
and it was not until January Qth, 1642, that Fort St.
Anthony was captured by the Dutch.

After Coine's departure Van Ypren took up his residence
at Elmina, which, -henceforward, became the chief post of
the Dutch upon the Gold Coast. They considerably en-
larged and improved the Castle, and for its protection built
Fort Conraadsburgh on the hill of St. Jago, on the site
formerly occupied by the small redoubt of the Portuguese.

Online LibraryA. B. (Alfred Burdon) EllisA history of the Gold Coast of West Africa → online text (page 4 of 34)