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The First Battle of Cormantine breaks out

The First Battle of Cormantine breaks out

After a diplomatic mission gave a gift of 250 bendas (31.25 pounds) of gold to the Fante Braffo to not oppose his attack, de Ruyter lands around 900 Dutch troops near Anomabo fort. The English abandon and blow up the fort rather than surrender. While the Dutch advance from the west, 500 war canoes with 1000 Elmina and 200 Mouri men threaten to land to the east of Cormantine Castle. Kormantin headman and strong English ally John Cabes led 300 Kormantin men to oppose the Dutch advance and inflicted heavy casualties from a small two-gun tower west of the fort, but were forced to retreat.

The Dutch-Elmina army torched the town as it advanced to revenge Cabes’s resistance. Under cover of smoke from the burning town, de Ruyter’s forces surrounded the fort, unleashed mortars and grenades inside, and used storming ladders to scale the walls. Knowing that his garrison of fifty men and the few dozen slaves belonging to the fort could not defend it, Director Thomas Selwyn surrendered just as Dutch forces poured over the walls – ignoring John Cabes’ demand that he blow up the fort with gunpowder rather than submit. Cabes denounced the English as cowards, and stood on top of the wall, hoping to be killed by enemy forces.  When this didn’t happen, he slashed his own throat and threw himself from the fort’s walls. He survived the fall, however, and friends carried him to Old Kormantin, where he died two days later.

The Dutch were highly impressed by Cabes’ bravery and loyalty. In the wake of battle, fighting broke out between Dutch, Elmina and Fante men over their ability to plunder the fort’s goods. Dutch officers only barely managed to save the fifty English prisoners captured from being decapitated for bounties. One report stated that a young Englishwoman was also captured, likely Selwyn’s mistress.

De Ruyter’s fleet returned to Elmina on February 13, after renaming the captured castle to Fort Amsterdam and guarding it with 82 men – 52 of his own, 10 English defectors, and 20 Africans. He had lost 49 men taking it. While at Elmina, he received orders to proceed to the Caribbean and inflict all possible damage on English holdings there.


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