First Franco-Dahomean War


First Franco-Dahomean War

Infobox Military Conflict
conflict=First Franco-Dahomean War


caption=
date=February 21, 1890 until October 4, 1890.
place=Ouémé Department of modern Benin
casus=Dahomean attack on Ouémé Valley.
result=French Victory; Dahomey recognizes Porto-Novo as a French protectorate and gives up customs rights to Cotonou in exchange for yearly payment
combatant1=Dahomey
combatant2=flagicon|France France Kingdom of Porto Novo
commander1=King Behanzin
commander2=flagicon|France Chef de Battalion Terrillon
strength1=over 8,000 Fon troops
strength2=709-759 French troops, 500 Porto-Novo warriors
casualties1=1000-2000 dead
casualties2=16 dead, 83 wounded

Background

At the close of the 19th century, European powers were busy conquering and colonizing much of Africa. In what is today Benin, the main colonial power was the French Third Republic. The French had established commercial ties with the indigenous peoples of the area including one of West Africa's most powerful states at the time, the Kingdom of Dahomey. In 1851, a Franco-Dahomean friendship treaty was ratified allowing the French to operate commercially and missionaries to enter the country. [Alpern, Stanley B: "Amazons of Black Sparta: The Women Warriors of Dahomey", page 191. New York University Press, 1998] By 1890, the Fon kingdom of Dahomey was at the height of its power. It laid claim to almost all the coast of modern Benin plus much of south-central Benin as far north as Atcheribé. One of Dahomey's most important tributaries was the small kingdom of Porto-Novo near the coast. The kingdom had been at odds with Dahomey on and off since the middle of the 18th century. [Alpern, Stanley B: "Amazons of Black Sparta: The Women Warriors of Dahomey", page 192. New York University Press, 1998] In 1861, Porto-Novo was attacked by British anti-slaving ships. [Alpern, Stanley B: "Amazons of Black Sparta: The Women Warriors of Dahomey", page 192. New York University Press, 1998] Porto-Novo asked for and received French protection in 1863, but this was rejected by Dahomey. [Alpern, Stanley B: "Amazons of Black Sparta: The Women Warriors of Dahomey", page 192. New York University Press, 1998] Another issue of contention was the status of Cotonou, a port the French believed was under their control because of a treaty signed by Dahomey's representative in Whydah. Dahomey ignored all French claims there as well and continued to collect customs from the port. [Alpern, Stanley B: "Amazons of Black Sparta: The Women Warriors of Dahomey", page 192. New York University Press, 1998]

Cause of the War

In 1874, King Tofa took power in Porto-Novo and re-established French protection over the kingdom after Dahomey attacked it in 1882. [Alpern, Stanley B: "Amazons of Black Sparta: The Women Warriors of Dahomey", page 192. New York University Press, 1998] Dahomey continued raiding the town, which culminated in an incident that brought the Fon and French into war. In March 1889, Dahomey attacked a village on the Ouémé where a village chief under the protection of the French. [Alpern, Stanley B: "Amazons of Black Sparta: The Women Warriors of Dahomey", page 193. New York University Press, 1998] After remarking that the flag of the tri-color would protect him, the Fon commanded one of his Dahomey Amazons to behead him and wrap his head in the flag. [Alpern, Stanley B: "Amazons of Black Sparta: The Women Warriors of Dahomey", page 193. New York University Press, 1998] Then in March of that year, France sent a mission to Dahomey's capital of Abomey to assert its claims to Cotonou and offer an annual payment. [Alpern, Stanley B: "Amazons of Black Sparta: The Women Warriors of Dahomey", page 192. New York University Press, 1998] The crown prince and later king Béhanzin received the mission but nothing was achieved other than mutual distrust. [Alpern, Stanley B: "Amazons of Black Sparta: The Women Warriors of Dahomey", page 192. New York University Press, 1998]

Opening of Hostilites

France responded to these events by building up its force in Cotonou to 359 men, 299 of which were Tirailleurs or French trained Senegalese and Gabonese. [Alpern, Stanley B: "Amazons of Black Sparta: The Women Warriors of Dahomey", page 193. New York University Press, 1998] On February 21, the French arrested the senior Fon officials in Cotonou and began fortifying the town. [Alpern, Stanley B: "Amazons of Black Sparta: The Women Warriors of Dahomey", page 193. New York University Press, 1998] Skirmishes with local militia also broke out. [Alpern, Stanley B: "Amazons of Black Sparta: The Women Warriors of Dahomey", page 194. New York University Press, 1998] It wasn't long before word of this got back to Abomey. Dahomey sent a force straight to Cotonou with plans to bring it firmly back under Fon control once and for all.

Battle of Cotonou

On March 4, a Dahomey army of several thousand charged the log stockade around Cotonou at approximately 5 in the morning. [Alpern, Stanley B: "Amazons of Black Sparta: The Women Warriors of Dahomey", page 194. New York University Press, 1998] This was usual for the Fon army of Dahomey that almost always marched at night and attacked just before dawn. [Alpern, Stanley B: "Amazons of Black Sparta: The Women Warriors of Dahomey", page 150. New York University Press, 1998] Prying apart the stakes and shoving their muskets through, the Fon fired into the enclosure. [Alpern, Stanley B: "Amazons of Black Sparta: The Women Warriors of Dahomey", page 194. New York University Press, 1998] Some even managed to surmount the 800-meter perimeter inflicting casualties within the walls. [Alpern, Stanley B: "Amazons of Black Sparta: The Women Warriors of Dahomey", page 193. New York University Press, 1998] After four hours of intense fighting, often occurring hand-to-hand despite withering French firepower and even gunboat shells, the Fon force withdrew. [Alpern, Stanley B: "Amazons of Black Sparta: The Women Warriors of Dahomey", page 194. New York University Press, 1998] The French sustained few losses, but the Fon suffered several hundred dead (129 within the French lines). [Alpern, Stanley B: "Amazons of Black Sparta: The Women Warriors of Dahomey", page 195. New York University Press, 1998]

Battle of Atchoupa

After regrouping, Dahomey sent another force south, this time toward Porto-Novo. [Alpern, Stanley B: "Amazons of Black Sparta: The Women Warriors of Dahomey", page 195. New York University Press, 1998] After receiving numerous reinforcements, the French ordered between 350-400 men with three field guns to march north and intercept the Fon. [Alpern, Stanley B: "Amazons of Black Sparta: The Women Warriors of Dahomey", page 195. New York University Press, 1998] This time, the French would be assisted by warriors from the kingdom of Porto-Novo. Some 500 of King Tofa's warriors marched ahead as a screening force. [Alpern, Stanley B: "Amazons of Black Sparta: The Women Warriors of Dahomey", page 195. New York University Press, 1998] Barely 4 miles outside of their target, the Dahomey army encountered and routed the Porto-Novo force. [Alpern, Stanley B: "Amazons of Black Sparta: The Women Warriors of Dahomey", page 195. New York University Press, 1998] A group of tirailleurs fighting alongside the group did hold its ground, allowing the rest of the French force to form a defensive square. [Alpern, Stanley B: "Amazons of Black Sparta: The Women Warriors of Dahomey", page 195. New York University Press, 1998] For over two hours, the Fon attacked the French square with numerous charges forcing. [Alpern, Stanley B: "Amazons of Black Sparta: The Women Warriors of Dahomey", page 196. New York University Press, 1998] The Dahomey force was able to fight the French all the way back to Porto-Novo before breaking off the attack and returning without taking the city.

End of Hostilities

Dahomey did not launch any further attacks on Cotonou or Porto-Novo. On October 3, 1890, Dahomey signed a treaty recognizing the kingdom of Porto-Novo as a French protectorate. [Alpern, Stanley B: "Amazons of Black Sparta: The Women Warriors of Dahomey", page 196. New York University Press, 1998] Béhanzin was also forced to cede Cotonou, but did receive 20,000 francs a year for giving up his customs rights. [Alpern, Stanley B: "Amazons of Black Sparta: The Women Warriors of Dahomey", page 196. New York University Press, 1998] The war was a resounding victory for France and a humiliating, though eye-opening, experience for Dahomey. Despite the treaty, both sides believed peace could not last and made preparations for another decisive encounter. [Alpern, Stanley B: "Amazons of Black Sparta: The Women Warriors of Dahomey", page 197. New York University Press, 1998]

ee also

*Dahomey
*Second Franco-Dahomean War
*Béhanzin

References


Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Second Franco-Dahomean War — Infobox Military Conflict conflict=Second Franco Dahomean War caption=The Dahomey Medal awarded to French soldiers who fought in the 1892 campaign date=July 4, 1892 until Béhanzin s surrender on January 15, 1894. place=Ouémé Department and Zou… …   Wikipedia

  • Franco-Dahomean Wars — The Franco Dahomean Wars were a series of military conflicts including: The First Franco Dahomean War, that pitted the Kingdom of Dahomey against the Third French Republic and its vassal kingdom of Porto Novo The Second Franco Dahomean War,… …   Wikipedia

  • Second Matabele War — Part of the Matabele Wars Depiction of Burnham Armstrong after the assassination of Mlimo. Ndebele warriors in hot purs …   Wikipedia

  • Mahdist War — Depiction of the Battle of Omdurman (1898). Date 1881–1899 …   Wikipedia

  • Chronology for the Age of Imperialism, 1800–1914 —  Cross references to entries in the main entry section are in boldface.  1. Napoleonic Wars, 1800 1815  1799–1804: The Consulate ends the France’s revolutionary period. A dictatorship by Napoleon  Bonaparte with the formal trappings of a republic …   Encyclopedia of the Age of Imperialism, 1800–1914

  • Dahomey — Kingdom of Dahomey Kingdom → Capital Abomey …   Wikipedia

  • Benin — For other uses, see Benin (disambiguation). Republic of Benin République du Bénin (French) Orílẹ̀ èdè Olómìnira ilẹ̀ Benin (Yoruba) …   Wikipedia

  • Médaille commémorative de l'expédition du Dahomey (1892) — Médaille commémorative de l expédition du Dahomey French medal of the Dahomey campaign. Country …   Wikipedia

  • People's Republic of Benin — République populaire du Bénin ← …   Wikipedia

  • List of wars 1800–1899 — 1800 1809= *1800 War of the Castes in Haiti *1801 War of the Oranges *1801 1805 First Barbary War *1801 1807 Temme War *1802 1805 Second War of Haitian Independence *1802 1805 Second Anglo Maratha War *1803 1804 British Expedition to Ceylon *1803 …   Wikipedia


Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.