The Second Franco-Dahomean War
, which raged from
1892 to 1894, was a major conflict between the French Third Republic
, led by General
and the Kingdom of Dahomey
.The French emerged
triumphant and incorporated Dahomey into their growing colonial
territory of French West
In 1890, the Fon
kingdom of Dahomey
and the French Third Republic
had gone to war
in what was remembered as the First Franco-Dahomean War
former's rights to certain territories, specifically those in the
Valley. The Fon
ceased hostilities with the French after two military defeats,
withdrawing their forces and signing a treaty conceding to all of
France's demands. However, Dahomey remained a potent force in the
area and quickly re-armed with modern weapons in anticipation of a
second, decisive conflict.
After re-arming and regrouping, the Fon returned to raiding the
Valley, the same
valley fought over in the first war with France. Victor Ballot, the
French Resident at Porto-Novo, was sent via gunboat upriver to
His ship was attacked and forced to depart with
five men wounded in the incident. King Benhanzin rejected
complaints by the French, and war was declared immediately by the
Military build up
The French entrusted the war effort against Dahomey to Alfred-Amédée Dodds
colonel of the Troupes de marine
from Senegal. Colonel
Dodds arrived with a force of 2,164 men including Foreign Legionnaires
engineers, artillery and Senegalese cavalry known as spahis plus
the trusted tirailleurs. These forces were armed with the new
, which would
prove decisive in the coming battle. The French protectorate
kingdom of Porto-Novo also added some 2,600 porters to aid in the
prior to the outbreak of the second war, had stockpiled between
4,000 and 6,000 rifles including Mannlicher and Winchester carbines.
These were purchased from German
merchants via the port of Whydah
Béhanzin also bought some machine-guns and Krupp cannons, but it is
unknown (and unlikely) that these were ever put to use.
Beginning of hostilities
On June 15, 1892, the French blockaded Dahomey's coast to prevent
any further arms sales. Then, on July 4, the first shots of the war
were fired from French gunboats with the shelling of several
villages along the lower Ouémé Valley. The carefully
organized French army began moving inland in mid-August toward
their final destination of the Dahomey capital of Abomey.
Battle of Dogba
The French invasion force assembled at the village of Dogba on
September 14, some 50 miles upriver on the border of Dahomey and
Porto-Novo. At around 5 a.m. on September 19, the French force was
attacked by the army of Dahomey. The Fon broke off the attack after
three to four hours of relentless fighting, characterized by
repeated attempts by the Fon for melee combat. Hundreds of Fon were
left dead on the field with the French forces suffering only five
Battle of Poguessa
The French forces moved another 15 miles upriver before turning
west in the direction of Abomey. On October 4, the French column
was attacked at Poguessa (also known as Pokissa or Kpokissa) by Fon
forces under the command of King Béhanzin himself. The Fon staged
several fierce charges over two to three hours that all failed
against the 20-inch bayonets of the French. The Dahomey army left
the field in defeat losing some 200 soldiers. The French carried
the day with only 42 casualties. The Dahomey Amazons
were also conspicuous in the
Trek to Abomey
After the hard-fought victory at Poguessa, the Fon resorted to
guerilla tactics rather than set-piece engagements. It took the
French invasion force a month to march the 25 miles between
Poguessa and the last major battle at Cana just outside of Abomey.
The Fon dug foxholes and trenches in their desperate battle to slow
the French invasion.
Battle of Adégon
On October 6, the French had another major encounter with the Fon
at the village of Adégon. The Fon, again, fared badly, losing 86
Dahomey Regulars and 417 Dahomey Amazons. The French suffered six
dead and another 32 wounded before the fighting was ended. The
French made use of a bayonet charge, which inflicted the lion's
share of Dahomey's casualties. The Battle was a turning point in
the mind of Dahomey. They royal court decided that there would be
no victory for Dahomey. The battle was also significant in that
much of Dahomey's Amazon corps was lost in the engagement.
Siege at Akpa
The French column was able to cross another 15 miles toward Abomey
after Adégon, bivouacking at the village of Akpa. From the moment
they arrived, they were attacked daily. From the French arrival
until October 14, Dahomey's Amazons were conspicuously absent from
the fighting. Then, on the 15th, they reappear in nearly every
later engagement inflicting significant losses especially against
officers. Once resupplied, the French left Akpa on October 26
toward the village of Cotopa.
End of Dahomey
From October 26 to 27, the French fought through the Dahomey forces
crossing lines of enemy trenches. Bayonet charges were the deciding
factor in nearly all engagements. The Fon penchant for hand-to-hand
fighting left them at a disadvantage against French bayonets, which
easily outreatched Dahomey's swords and machetes. The Amazons are
reported by the French to have fought the hardest, charging out of
their trenches but to no avail.
Battle of Cana
From November 2 until November 4, the French and Fon armies fought
on the outskirts of Cana. By this time, Béhanzin's army numbered no
more than 1,500 including slaves and pardoned convicts. On November
3, the king directed the attack on the French bivouac. Amazons
seemed to have made up much of the force. After four hours of
desperate combat, the Fon army withdrew. The fighting continued
until the fourth.
The last engagement at Cana, which took place at the village of
Diokoué, site of a royal palace, was the last time Amazons would be
used. Special units of the Amazons were assigned specifically to
target French officers. After a full day of fighting, the French
overran the Dahomey army with another bayonet charge.
End of the war
On November 5, Dahomey sent a truce mission to the French, and the
next day saw the French enter Cana. The peace mission failed,
however, and on the 16th of November, the French army marched on
Abomey. King Béhanzin, refusing to let the capital fall into enemy
hands, burned and evacuated the city. He and the remnants of the
Dahomey army fled north as the French entered the capital on
November 17. The French tricolor was hoisted over the
Singboji palace, which survived the fire and remains in modern
Benin to this day.
The king of Dahomey fled to Atcheribé, thirty miles north of the
capital. Attempts were initiated to rebuilt the army and its amazon
corps until the French chose Béhanzin's brother, Goutchili, as the
new king. King Béhanzin surrendered to the French on January 15,
1894 and was exiled to Martinique. The war had officially
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