February 6, 1812: Commandant of Winneba Fort, Henry Meredith killed by Effutus

In the month of February 1812, Mr. Meredith now commandant of Winneba was done to death by the natives of that place. One day, he was suddenly seized by a number of natives, who dragged him away into the bush and there charged him with detaining a quantity of gold, the property of the natives. This gold, they asserted, a sergeant of the company’s soldiers had delivered to him for safekeeping as Ashantis were in the neighborhood.

It appears that the sergeant upon being asked for it by the owners, had evaded payment by declaring that he had forgotten to whose care he had entrusted it. The owner consulted the great god of the Fanti and was told by the Oracle that was the Meredith had it, hence his seizure.

It was in vein that the unfortunate commandant declared that he knew nothing of the gold….They treated their captive with the greatest barbarity. Not satisfied with making him walk several miles bareheaded in the heat of the sun, they set fire to the dry grass, and taking off his boots, forced him to walk over at barefooted. He was frequently beaten, his arms were stretched out horizontally at full length, and fastened to a long pole, which pressed upon his throat and caused him much pain.

Apparently during this period, there was a great deal of surface gold in and around Winneba. With the Ashanti’s close by, the locals would amass large quantities of gold and send it to the British fort for safekeeping. They however noted that a barrel being shipped out to England, which fell and broke revealed a great deal of gold. Suspicious, the Effutu people demanded an accounting of the gold which had given the British and this was not achieved. As a result, they held the Commandant Mr. Meredith responsible and killed him in the manner described above.

To avenge his death, the English forces led by Commodore Irby, destroyed the fort and burn down Winneba in July 1812. The Effutu were required to pay an indemnity of “some of money and satisfaction of the injury done to the late Mr. Meredith”. Under the guns of the British, the natives of Winneba brought all the gold they had until the large scale being used weigh the gold broke under its weight.

This is why Winneba is the only major caostal town without a fort from this era.