Forts in Ghana: Fort Batenstein

Fort Batenstein was built in the 17th century, precisely 1656 by the Dutch traders who had arrived in the Gold Coast and taken up residence on the coastal areas of the Western region, near Butre where the Dutch had claimed territorial control at a time when the struggle by European nations for control over important trading routes and areas in the Gold Coast was at its peak.

Like most forts built in Ghana by the Europeans, the Dutch West India Company built Fort Batenstein to challenge the growing commercial influence of the Swedes through the Swedish Africa Company which had successfully built a fort on the coast first years earlier, even though they came to meet the Dutch on their arrival in Gold Coast.

The Dutch later managed to instigate the local people against the Swedish, resulting in the local people attacking the Swedish and forcing them to leave the area. After this, the Dutch signed a treaty with the elders and chiefs of the Butre and Ahanta area, in which the people and entire area was to come under the control of the Dutch.

The treaty remained in place until a war broke out between the Dutch and the local people in what was known as the Dutch-Ahanta war of 1837. It was during this chaotic period that Fort Batenstein gained attention and became an important fort in the Gold Coast, as it was used by the Dutch as their central military point where decisions were taken, refuge was sort and plans hatched.

By the end of the war, the Dutch had successfully defeated the Ahanta people and made the area a protectorate of the Dutch, with the commander of the Fort serving as the Vice governor of the protectorate.

Some forty years later, the Dutch decided to pack up and leave the Gold Coast altogether after the British had proven too strong and taken control of most part of the Gold Coast. As part of their departing arrangements, the Dutch ceded the Fort to Britain in 1872. Hence from that time till the departure of the British in 1957, Fort Batenstein was regarded as a property of Britain.

Unfortunately, the Fort is not in the same shape as it was in the 17th century as some parts of it which are important in telling its story have worn off. Notwithstanding, Fort Batenstein receives lot of tourists on regular basis, and is one of the most important and visited attractions within the Western region.

Forts and Castles in Ghana: Cape Coast Castle

History of the Cape Coast Castle dates back to the 16th century when the Portuguese traders arrived on the shores of Ghana and established a trading post on the shores of Cape Coast in 1555. The purpose of the trading post was primarily to serve as a place of shelter and storage of goods such as gold and timber which the Portuguese traders exchanged with the indigenes in a batter trading system.

Little did anyone know the trading post would decades later become an infamous castle where indigenes were held captive and then shipped across the Atlantic to the Americas and Europe after being acquired from local slave merchants in the hinterland.

The shift from goods trading to human trading took off in roughly 1654 after the Swedes through a company known as the Swedish African Company had taken over the trading post and further developed it into a well-constructed timber fort with the intent of continuing the trading activities the Portuguese were into.

This however changed with the high demand for human labour in the Americas and parts of Europe, convincing the Swedish traders to abandon the commodity trading business and indulge in transporting slaves across the Atlantic to Europe and the Americas.

With the trade in human trafficking becoming booming and generating great and immeasurable wealth for the European traders, the Cape Coast shore became a battleground among the Europeans with each seeking to have control over the area and fort as the Cape Coast seashore was a major exit and entry point for the European traders.

The fort later fell into the control of the Dutch who also continued the trans-Atlantic slave trade for some time and further developed the fort to make it more resilient to attacks and large enough to keep the slaves captive until they were shipped.

The British were the last group of people to have had control of the fort before worldwide outcry and activism brought the horrendous practice of trans-Atlantic slave trade to an end. The British, however, did not leave after the practice ended, staying behind to colonize Ghana, making the British government the official owners of the Fort until 1957 when Ghana gained independence and the British government left the shores of the country, handing over the castle to Ghana in the process.

Inside the castle are pieces of evidence of the heinous crimes committed against the indigenous people, with objects like shackles used to chain slaves kept in the dungeons on display. Other notable things one should expect to see upon visiting the castle are the Door of No Return, sediments of decayed bones and flesh of slaves who died before shipment but their bodies were left to rot away by their slave masters.

The Cape Coast Castle is definitely a place every Ghanaian must visit at a point in their life, to learn about the suffering and tragedy our forefathers faced.

Monuments of Slavery: Fort Santo Antonio

Fort Santo Antonio, which later became known as Fort Saint Anthony, is one of the oldest forts built by the Europeans in the then Gold Coast. The Fort which is located at Axim in Nzema West Municipal District of the Western region of Ghana was built by the Portuguese in 1515, a few years after arriving on the coast of Ghana.

The Fort remained the abode of the Portuguese slave traders who came to the then Gold Coast to trade until 1642 when the Dutch overpowered the Portuguese, seized the Fort and made it part of their territory, then known as Dutch Gold Coast.

The Dutch expanded the Fort considerably as the volume of the trade grew in number and a larger fort was needed to store their trading goods such as gold, food and freshwater used by the Dutch and the slaves they acquired for onward shipment to Europe.

Fort Antonio remained in the possession of the Dutch and became their most important Fort until 1872 when they handed it over to the British administration and departed from the shores of the Gold Coast. The Dutch’s decision to hand over the Fort to the British was as a result of their loss of monopoly over the slave trade business and also loss of jurisdiction in places with hitherto used to be their territory and under their control.

The British with their immense wealth and power had become the main trading partners of the indigenous people, being sold almost all the slaves and leaving the Dutch with no option than to depart from the Gold Coast.

Fort Antonio remained under the control of the British throughout the slavery and colonization eras until Ghana gained independence in 1957 and the British had to leave the shores of the country.

The fort is now one of the tourist sites in Ghana and is opened to the general public.  Historical artefacts such as paintings and portraits of former commanders of the fort, shackles used to chain slaves, cups used by the slave masters are all on public display in the fort.

Forts and Castles in Ghana: Fort Prinzenstein

Fort Pinzenstein, found in Keta, in the Volta Region of Ghana, was built by the Danish traders in 1784 as part of their effort to protect their slave-trading business. The Fort is one of the very few built outside the Central and Greater Accra region by the European slave traders.

Built by the Danish, the main purpose of the Fort back then was to protect the Danish traders from the local Anlo people who were indigenes of the town. The Danes and the local people were engaged in a brutal war over trade-related issues, in which the Anlos were alleged to have looted from the Danish agent stationed on the Coast. The Danish government did not take this lightly and formed an army comprising of sworn foes of Anlo including the Krobos and Gas to attack Keta.

During the 1700s, the fight for territorial control of Africa among the European nations was at its peak, every nation wanted to have control over important trading areas. The Danes realized putting up a Fort in Keta could help cement their territorial control of the area and keep away other colonial powers.

However, after the war, the Fort was used more as a Dungeon where slaves were held for weeks and months before being transported to Europe and the Americas.

In 1803, the Danes sold the Fort and the rest of their territories to the British who had by then managed to gain territorial control over most part of the Gold Coast.

The Fort was finally handed over to the government of Ghana in 1957 upon the declaration of the end of colonial rule and independence of Ghana. Fort Prinzenstein has in recent decades undergone a lot of erosion due to its location, with the sea gradually washing away the once-famous Fort that reminded the people of their colonial past.

Forts and Castles in Ghana: Ussher Fort

The Ussher Fort is one of the oldest Forts in Ghana and West Africa, built in the year 1649 by the Dutch. The Fort was constructed in Accra as Fort Crevecaur. The purpose was to serve as a shelter for the Dutch traders who came to the Gold Coast to trade in the slave business which was booming at the time.

Initially built in 1642, the building served as a small factory until it was renovated and converted into a  Fort in 1649 by the Dutch West Indian Company.

While the Fort was not as imposing and important as the Osu and Elmina Castle, it played a significant role in the pre-colonial trade between the indigenous people and the Europeans.

Name Change

In the 1800s, the Fort was renamed after the then British administrator of the Gold Coast, Herbert Taylor Ussher. During the 1800, the Dutch were long gone, and the whole Gold Coast was under the rule and authority of the British government.

Tourism

In recent times, the European Commission and UNESCO have provided funds for the renovation and restoration of the Fort in a bid to convert it into a museum and tourist site. This initiative resulted in the establishment of a museum within the Fort in 2007. Historical artefacts such as paintings depicting slavery, drinking cups made of clay, grinding stones and portraits of those who fought for the abolishing of the slave trade are found in the museum and available for public viewing.

Ussher Fort receives thousands of tourists every year, especially from Europe and the Americas. Most of these tourists are usually African Americans who return to Ghana to see these Forts that once held their ancestors captives as centre of the dreaded Slave trade. The Ussher Fort remains one of the only 11 remaining Forts still in good shape and serving as tourist destinations.

 

Forts And Castles In Ghana

Most of the castles and forts in Ghana were built and occupied at different times by traders from Portugal, Spain, Denmark, Sweden, Holland, Germany and Britain. These places played a significant part in slave trade many years ago. In this article, Jetsanza.com looks at some of the forts and castles in Ghana.

There are about 32 separate properties in Ghana as documented by The UNESCO but we would look at the few with strong significance to the history of Ghana.

The Top 10 Forts And Castles In Ghana

The Elmina Castle

The Elimina Castle was built by the Portuguese during their exploration in Africa about 500 years ago. It served as a place of rest and also for business. They transported black slaves from there since it was located at the seashore. It tells the harrowing history of the trans-Atlantic slave trade. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and located in the Central region which is well-known for its forts and castles.

Anomabu Castle

Popularly called the Fort William, Anomabu Castle is situated in Anomabu on the coast of the Mfantsiman Municipal Assembly. The town has about 14,389 people. It was built between 1753 and 1760 by the European trade rivalry in the 17th and 18th centuries. The earliest lodge was built in 1640 by the Dutch using earthwork, changed hands four times – from the Dutch to Swedes, then to the Danes, back to the Dutch and finally to the English.

The James fort

Built by the British in 1673, the Fort James serves as a reminder of former colonial rule though it is no longer serving its main purpose, it shows the struggle and progress Ghana has been through. You can also climb the lighthouse for the views and take some photographs of the township. Painted red and white, the Fort also serves as a lighthouse.

Cape Coast Castle

The Cape Coast Castle was built by the Portuguese in the 15 Century. It is the second largest after the Elmina Castle in the country. For nearly a century, there was a ding-dong competition among the Portuguese, Dutch, Danes, Swedes and English to gain control of Cape Coast. The fort remained in English hands till the late 19th century serving as the West African headquarters seat of the president of the Committee of Merchants and later as the seat of the British governor.

Christianborg Castle

The Christianborg castle is also known as the Osu Castle and has been traced to the early 17th century as facility used to store slaves for transport into foreign countries.

It is unique among the castles and forts in Ghana as it served as Government House during various periods in the 19th centuries. It was once the Danish Gold Coast headquarters.

Fort St. Jago

Located around Elmina Castle, Fort St. Jago was built by the Portuguese in 1555 and 1558 to serve as a chapel. It is also called Coenraadsburg. It had no commercial purpose as it was purely used as a military base by the Dutch. In 1503, according to historical narration by the Portuguese Diego de Alvarenga, a Portuguese missionary converted and baptized the paramount chief of the Efutu Kingdom on the Mina coast together with 300 of his subjects. It helped the Dutch launched their successful land attack on Elmina Castle. It had no commercial purpose as it was purely used for military purposes by the Dutch. It is one of the oldest purely military architecture of the Gold Coast.

Fort St. Anthony

In 1503, the Portuguese had built a trading post in Axim, near the edge of the River Ankobra, but they had to abandon it due to insistent attacks by the local people. They then constructed, in 1515, a massive triangular fort on a small promontory closer to the River Ankobra named ‘Santo Antonio’. In 1642, the Dutch captured the fort and subsequently made it part of the Dutch Gold Coast. The fort was expanded by the Dutch. Some of these expansions were to improve defence while others housed slaves before they were loaded onto transport ships.

Fort Batenstein

Batenstein literally means “profit fort” in Dutch. It’s located behind Butre village in the Western Region of Ghana. It was built by the Dutch in 1656 but was taken by Britain in 1665, abandoned in 1818-27, rebuilt by the Dutch, in 1828, relinquished by treaty and remained in Dutch possession until 1872, when it was transferred to the British.

Fort Apollonia – Beyin

The name Apollonia, chosen for the fort was first conferred on the area by the Portuguese explorer who sighted the place on St. Apollonia’s Day years after the Slave trade had ended. In 1868, Fort Apollonian was transferred to the Dutch who renamed it after their monarch, Willem III, and held it till 1872.

Fort St. Sebastian

Fort St. Sebastian was built as a Dutch lodge in 1526 and abandoned by the Portuguese in 1600. It is located at Shama in the Central Region of Ghana. The Dutch carried out repairs in 1640-42.

Other Forts in Ghana are:

  • Fort Augustaborg at Teshie
  • Fort Vernon, Prampram
  • Fort Fredensborg at Old Ningo
  • Fort Prinzensten at Keta
  • Fort Patience at Apam

Tourist Sites in Ghana: Elmina Castle

Established by the Portuguese in 1482 as the São Jorge da Mina, which literary means St. George of the Mine, was one of the camping bases during the slave trade which occurred in the Gold Coast (Ghana).

Despite being built by the Portuguese, the castle was later taken over by the Dutch who eventually relinquished it to the British.

The Elmina Castle ever since Ghana’s independence in 1957 has served as a tourist site. Most people visit the site to see one of the major trading centers of slaves in Africa.

According to history, the main reason why the castle was built along the coast was to ensure effective slave trading, acting as a depot where slaves were brought in from different Kingdoms in West Africa.

The Portuguese, Dutch and British who were effectively involved in the slave trade constructed a Gun Defence spot at the Elmina Castle to ward off any attacks from the enemy.

Elmina Castle PHOTO: Easy Track Ghana
Elmina Castle PHOTO: Easy Track Ghana

One of the most memorable places at the Elmina Castle is the “door of no return”, previously the Slave Export Gate, which served as the channel or space where the slaves were usually transported through. In most cases, one will not return as soon as he or she goes through the door of no return until he or she reaches the exact destination being transported to.

The government of Ghana together with the tourism Ministry saw the need to keep the place as an attractive tourist site hence embarking on a renovation exercise in 2006 to revamp the edifice.

It is believed that Elmina, which is a fishing community, is highly sustained by tourism due to the existence of the Castle.

In addition it has served as a place of pilgrimage for many African Americans seeking to connect with their long lost heritage.

Some notable places one can identify at the Elmina Castle includes the Castle Interior View of Church, Castle Interior, Castle Male and Female Slave Entrances and Castle Slave Holding Cell.

Elmina is 3 hours away from Ghana’s capital Accra by land, with the castle located close to the city center of Elmina.