Adowa, Battle of

Adowa, Battle of
   The decisive battle ending the First Italo-Abyssinian War. In 1889, Menelik, the king of Shoa, an Italian ally and claimant to the Ethiopian throne, signed the Treaty of Uccialli pledging to accept an Italian protectorate in return for substantial amounts of munitions. Menelik achieved the throne and then claimed that the Amharic text of the treaty never required a protectorate. In late 1894, Menelik then indirectly encouraged a native revolt inside Italy ’s colony of Eritrea. The Italians crushed the rebellion and invaded the Ethiopian province of Tigre to force the acceptance of the protectorate. In October 1895, Menelik raised a substantial feudal army and encamped at the city of Adowa. The Italian governor of Eritrea, General Oreste Baratieri, entrenched his mixed metropolitan and colonial force to guard the approach into Eritrea, intent on conducting defensive operations that would slowly dissipate Menelik’s army. Rome, however, demanded an offensive victory over a native state and pressured Baratieri into ordering an assault on the city.
   The attack started with a nighttime approach-march to the Abyssinian defensive positions. The Italian formation lost its cohesion in the mountainous terrain and was spotted by the Abyssinians, who launched a surprise attack with vastly superior numerical forces. The attack overwhelmed the Italians and defeated them piecemeal. By mid-afternoon they withdrew, leaving 6,000 soldiers dead on the field, 1,428 wounded, 954 missing, and another 1,865 taken prisoner; the Abyssinian loss was 7,000 dead and 10,000 wounded. The loss at Adowa humiliated Italy, led to the fall of the government, halted its expansionism in East Africa, and guaranteed Ethiopia’s independence until 1936.
   See also <>; <>.
    Berkeley, G.F.H. The Campaign of Adowa and the Rise of Menelik. London: Archibald Constable, 1902.

Encyclopedia of the Age of Imperialism, 1800–1914. 2014.

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