The Ashanti King Who Beheaded A British Governor

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The Ashanti were between the 15th and 19th century having enormous wealth and dominance over trade and lands as well as strong warriors. Illustration [historyfiles.co.uk]

The battle of Nsamankow, which was fought between the Ashanti Empire and the British is almost 200 years old. During this war which happened on the 21st of January, 1824, the king of the Ashantis, Osei Tutu Kwame Asibe Bonsu, defeated the British and killed the governor in the battle.

It is said that the Ashantis, in the 15th to 19th century were very wealthy and had dominion over the lands and trade. They also had an army of very strong warriors who fought to protect their kingdom from local and foreign intruders. They were indeed the most powerful ethnic group during that era.

By the early 19th century, the British had arrived and settled at the coastal areas. They made allies with the Fanti kingdom, and by winning the trust of the Fanti chiefs; they took over the coastal areas. The British decided to take control of the Ashanti kingdom in order to take dominion of the Akan ethnic group. In that era, there was a dispute between the two Akans, the Ashantis and the Fantis.

The situation became intense upon the arrival of the British. The Ashantis being dominant as always wanted to take control over the coastal areas and take control over trade. Thus, they used to attack the towns around the coast city-by-city.

In 1807, during a war with the Fantis,  the Ashanti king, Osei Bonsu’s troops attacked a British fort in a town called Anomabo, which is located in the Central region of modern day Ghana. This resulted in a face to face conference between Osei Bonsu and a British governor. However, the dispute between the two Akan groups, the Ashantis and the Fantis continued. In the 1820s, the British decided to finally step in for the Fantis to protect them from the Ashantis.

The Ashantis unlawfully invaded some Fanti farm lands which were under the protection of the British. The Ashantis also decided to not settle and meet the demands of the British. As a result of this, in 1823, the then British governor, Sir Charles McCarthy out of frustration declared war on the Ashantis. It triggered the first war between the British and the Ashantis.

On the 20th of January, 1824, the British governor, Sir McCarthy led an army of 80 men from the Royal African corps, 170 men from the Cape Coast militia and 240 Fanti men to fight against the Ashantis. It is believed that the British thought they could defeat Osei Bonsu’s army of 1000 men with such a small army due to the possession of ammunitions.

An illustration of a war between The Ashantis against The Fantis and The British

During the war, the Fantis retreated out of fear, resulting in a decrease in the British army. In the end, one of the Ashanti warriors killed the British governor and the Ashanti king beheaded the British governor. The head was taken to the capital of the Ashantis, Kumasi, and was used as a trophy.

On that same day, Osei Bonsu died. Later on, the British were angered after hearing the death of Sir McCarthy and the captivity of J.T. Williams. The British sent troops to establish an army in Cape Coast and declared war on the Ashantis for the next 100 years. The Ashantis after being defeated became part of Gold Coast in the year 1902.

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