Saturday, November 10, 2012

Amankwatia, Gallant General of Asante

Chief of Bantama and General of the army of Asantehene, Kofi Karikari (misspelt Koffee KalKalli* by Major-General Garnet Wolseley) Amankwatia was hailed as a great military strategist and deeply feared by the vassal States of Asante and the free States surrounding the empire.

Research into historical accounts mention an Amankwatia from as early as 1715, who led an Asante army to wipe out an Aowin army in the Asante_Aowin war. Another Amankwatia is thought to have led an Asante army in an indecisive victory over the Akyem and Akwapem in 1814.

Amankwatia (the Bantamahene) designed, planned and executed the last great stand of the Asante at the village of Amoaful against the advancing British Army of Major-General Garnet Wolseley in the Third Anglo-Ashanti War. The Battle of Amoaful itself did not last much more than 24 hours on 31 January 1874.

The British won (and the Asante lost) the Battle of Amoaful. Some (perhaps questionable) British accounts have it that the biggest havoc in the British ranks was caused by bad air (malaria) and yellow fever, but in the Battle of Amoaful every fourth British soldier was hit by the heavy Asante fusillade.  

You see, the Asante chose forest cover and ridges overlooking bogs (through which the British had to wade) as their battle stands. Amankwatia is credited with such clever calculation. What advantage the British had in heavy armament and superior rifles the Asante countered with far superior numbers (no wonder between 2000 and 3000 of them were either injured or killed). The British soldiers for a long time came under heavy gunfire from people they could not see.

After the defeat of the Asante, many chiefs (generals) were counted among the dead, including Amankwatia. Although Wolseley was happy to refer to King Koffee Kalkalli as a “wily savage”, he allowed his fellow general Amankwatia the following tribute: “The great Chief Amanquatia was among the killed, and the King of Mampon was wounded, while many other chiefs bit the dust. Admirable skill was shown in the position selected by Amanquatia, and the determination and generalship he displayed in the defence, fully bore out his reputation as an able tactician and gallant soldier.”

*To be fair, Wolseley was likely misled by locals who interchanged the sound of L and R liberally.