July 17, 1900: Kumasi surrenders to British forces under Sir Frederick Hodgson

 The Golden Stool

The Golden Stool

The Anglo-Ashanti wars were a series of bloody conflicts fought throughout the 19th century which precipitated the transition of power in modern day Ghana from Ashanti sovereignty inland--and strong influence throughout the region--to British colonial rule in the entirety of what was to become the Gold Coast.

This series of battles culminated in the Fifth Anglo-Ashanti War, colloquially known as "The War of the Golden Stool" or the "Yaa Asantewaa War." In 1896 the Sir Francis Scott led a British expedition in Kumasi, during which the Asantehene (king) Prempeh I was forced to submit to the invading forces. During this expedition, the British annexed key Ashanti and Fante lands further inland. Prempeh was exiled to Seychelles and the British constructed and administered a fort in Kumasi.

 Flag of the Ashanti Nation which includes the Golden Stool

Flag of the Ashanti Nation which includes the Golden Stool

The Golden Stool is an Ashanti royal symbol of power. The stool serves as the throne of the king and according to ancient lore is said to possess divine power, housing the spirit of the entire Ashanti nation: past, present, and future.

In 1900 Sir Frederick Hodgson sponsored an expedition to find the Golden Stool after the abdication of Prempeh. Symbolically, he demanded to sit on the Golden Stool in the name of the queen as he believed the British to be entitled to the spoils of victory. In a meeting with the Ashanti chiefs, Hodgson insisted that as the representative of the Queen in the Gold Coast, he had a rightful seat on the Golden Stool. This was a political miscalculation of Hodgson as he understood the connotations of power that the stool held, but failed the grasp the spiritual significance. This search for the stool incensed the Ashanti and they subsequently attacked the British soldiers who were seeking out the stool.

"What must I do to the man, whoever he is, who has failed to give to the Queen, who is the paramount power in the country, the stool to which she is entitled? Where is the Golden Stool? Why am I not sitting on the Golden Stool at this moment? I am the representative of the paramount power in this country; why have you relegated me to this chair? Why did you not take the opportunity of my coming to Kumasi to bring the Golden Stool and give it to me to sit upon?"
Sir Frederick Hodgson
 Artist's depiction of Queen-Mother Yaa Asantewaa

Artist's depiction of Queen-Mother Yaa Asantewaa

This led to full out warfare which lasted for roughly 4 months. In the absence of the Asantehene, the Ashanti were led by Yaa Asantewaa, the Queen Mother. Asantewaa and her forces besieged Hodgson at the British Kumasi Fort. However, the British garrison was well-equipped and able to withstand the attack. British reinforcements of roughly 700 troops arrived from the coast and engaged in battle with the Ashanti, defeating the local forces. This enabled Hodgson and his men to escape the fort and march back to Cape Coast. The British sent additional waves of relief forces throughout July, 1900 and eventually defeated the Ashanti forces led by the Queen Mother, declaring victory on July 17, 1900. This began the process of annexing Asanteman. On January 1, 1902 the Ashanti Empire officially became a part of the Gold Coast colony. It would remain under British colonial rule until 1935, at which point the Kingdom was allowed self-rule. In 1957 the Ashanti Kingdom entered a state union with the newly independent nation of Ghana and remains in this state today. The Golden Stool itself was hidden during the war and was not uncovered until 1921, when it was found by road workers. The workers stripped the stool of its golden ornaments. The stool was eventually restored and used in the crowning ceremony of Asantehene Prempeh II in 1935.

Now I have seen that some of you fear to go forward to fight for our king. If it were the brave days of Osei Tutu, Okomfo Anokye, and Opoku Ware I, chiefs would not sit down to see their king taken without firing a shot. No white man could have dared to speak to the Chief of Asante in the way the governor spoke to you chiefs this morning. Is it true that the bravery of Asante is no more? I cannot believe it. It cannot be! I must say this: if you, the men of Asante, will not go forward, then we will. I shall call upon my fellow women. We will fight the white men. We will fight till the last of us falls on the battlefield.
-Yaa Asantewaa's rallying cry to resist the British
 Kumasi Fort is now the Ghana Armed Forces Museum

Kumasi Fort is now the Ghana Armed Forces Museum