War of the Golden Stool

British colonial Africa had its share of conflict over the centuries, and who would of ever thought that sitting in the wrong chair would lead to an outbreak of war. 

The Golden Stool

The Golden Stool

The Ashanti region of Africa was amidst the territory of the British Crown colony of Gold Coast in West Africa (modern day Ghana). The long standing Ashanti Kingdom had been annexed into the British colony in 1896 and the British exiled the Ashanti leaders once they had occupation (particularly the Ashanti leader King Prempeh I). The Ashanti kingdom was still allowed to independently govern itself for the most part, but the British had veto over their government. 

In 1900 the British Governor of the Gold Coast (Sir Frederick Mitchell Hodgson) decided to go to the Ashanti capital of Kumasi with a small contingent of British soldiers. After he addressed the defacto Ashanti leadership (whom were British subjects), he announced that the British would be taking over the rule of the Ashanti's (since their King Prempeh I was in exile). Governor Hodgson then commanded to the Ashanti that their precious Golden Stool be brought to him for him to sit on, declaring that it was now the property of the Queen of England.

The Golden Stool was a significant item in the Ashanti kingdom, a gold-laden throne that symbolised the history and power of the Ashanti's. Only members of the Ashanti royal family were permitted to sit upon it, and only they knew its hiding place. Whoever sat on the Golden Stool was deemed leader of the Ashanti and held with them the embodiment of the Ashanti's past. 

The mere suggestion that Hodgson, a foreigner, should sit on the throne, infuriated the Ashanti people, and anti-British sentiments quickly grew in the streets in no time at all.

The Queen mother of the Ejisu Ashanti dominion swiftly gathered a force of men to attack the British and retrieve the King who was in exile. All the while, Hodgson's British soldiers were searching for the Golden Stool, when all of a sudden they were ambushed by the Ashanti. Only a handful of British survived the attack and they retreated back into the British fortified offices.

Over the next few months, the Ashanti (knowing the British had superior arms), continued to test the defences of the fort, all the while cutting off and blockading all supply routes to the fort.

The Ashanti and their Golden Stool (1935)

The Ashanti and their Golden Stool (1935)

In June, a rescue party of 700 British arrived, just in time as the British were running out of supplies. In late June, Hodgson, along with about 100 others inside the fort made a break for it, and joined the British relief party, evacuating the region back to the British controlled Gold Coast.

The Ashanti weren't willing to let it go, and summoned a force of 12,000 warriors to chase down the fleeing British Governor. Most of the fleeing British were wiped out, however Hodgson and few other survivors made it to the coast, commandeered a ship and sailed back to Accra in the Gold Coast.

By July, a British rescue force of 1,000 had set out to put down the uprising in Kumasi, facing constant skirmishes along the way. When they arrived at Kumasi, the British were finally able to overcome the Ashanti after two days of heavy fighting, using Nigerian (Yoroba) warriors on their front line. In September the British proceeded to put down the Ashanti in neighbouring towns which again inflicted heavy casualties on both sides. British Captain Charles John Melliss received a Victoria Cross for his efforts in the campaign.

Following the conflict, the British annexed the Ashanti province into the British Empire (which would remain under British control until independence in 1957). In 1901, the British went and arrested the Queen Mother, along with other Ashanti chiefs involved in starting the uprising, and exiled them to the Seychelles. The British lost over 1,000 soldiers in the conflict, and the Ashanti suffered losses of over 2,000.

The British never did get their hands on the Golden Stool (despite their continued efforts to find it). Instead, it was uncovered by road workers in the early 1920's. The workers stripped the gold off the chair and sold different bits of pieces of the throne. The Ashanti's caught the workers and sentenced them to death, but the British stepped in and arranged for them to be exiled instead. In 1924 King Prempeh I returned to Kumasi to rapturous applause.

After every thing settled down, the British said that they wouldn’t try and sit on the Golden Stool again, and it was brought out of hiding for future coronations. 

And who said a stool is just a stool.