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Battle of Dogali

battle of dogali

Other Wars of Ethiopia

Battle of Dogali

The Background

The Italians (after their unification in 1861) wanted to create their own colonies in Africa and started to occupy coastal Eritrea. Soon they were at war with the Ethiopians in 1885. On his own initiative, Ras Alula Engida, then governor under Emperor Yohannes IV, attacked the Italian-controlled town of Sahati on the day prior. Hundreds of his men were slaughtered by cannon and rifle fire, while only four Italians were injured, forcing Ras Alula to pull his men back.

The besieged Italians needed ammunitions and requested supplies and on January 26, a battalion of 500 men (mostly Italians and a few Eritrean Askari) under Colonel Tommaso De Cristofori, were sent to reinforce the Italian garrison at Sahati.

The Battle

The Battle of Dogali was fought on January 26, 1887, in Dogali, near Massawa in Eritrea. The battalion was attacked while marching to Sahati, by Ras Alula's men at Dogali. The 500 Italians were no match against the 7,000 Ethiopians, and nearly all were killed, except for about eighty men who were able to escape unnoticed by the Ethiopians and were successfully rescued.This victory for the Ethiopians only encouraged the Italians to intrigue with Yohannes' rival, Menelik II, then ruler only of Shewa, and encourage his insubordination towards his Emperor.

Italians felt that the battle of Dogali was an insult to be avenged, and proceeded to attack Ethiopia in the following years. This would later lead to the First Italo-Ethiopian War which ended in their defeat at Adwa. In 1936, they finally obtained their revenge with the Second Italo-Ethiopian War with a brief occupation only to be defeated by a joint British and Ethiopian liberation force.

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