Asantes have fought in a number of wars since the kingdom was formed by Otumfuo Osei Tutu I. They conquered territories to establish an empire which covered present-day Ashanti Region, Eastern Region, Greater Accra Region, Bono East Region, Bono Region, Ahafo Region, Western Region and also extended to part of present-day Ivory Coast.
The Asantes art in warfare made the Dutch send an envoy to the capital of the Asante Empire, Kumase in 1836 to meet with the Asantehene, Otumfuo Kwaku Dua I to ask for his help.
The Dutch needed soldiers to help them fight Prince Diponegoro and his allies in the Java War or Diponegoro War in Dutch East Indies (present-day Indonesia).
The Dutch had suffered massive casualties in the war and their population had also reduced drastically due to the Belgian Revolution in the southern Netherlands which led to the establishment of the Kingdom of Belgium.
With Prince Diponegoro in pole position to win the war after the casualties the Dutch suffered, the Dutch recruited soldiers from Edina (Elmina) in the Royal Netherlands East Indies Army to fight the war.
The Dutch first recruited 44 people who were half Europeans-half Africans and they were sent to Sumatra in 1832.
Unluckily for the Dutch, the 44 soldiers they sent to fight in the war all died as they could not resist the climate, however, their physique and appearance impressed the Sumatran people.
Four years later, 88 people were recruited and sent to the battlefield.
The Dutch then decided to recruit soldiers from the Kingdom of Asante.
The deal was made possible by Major General Jan Verveer who had been appointed as the Royal Commissioner by King William in the autumn of 1836.
At that time, Elmina was the capital of the Dutch Gold Coast. General Verveer arrived in Elmina on 1 November 1836 and headed for Kumase with 900 people.
Majority of the people who went to Kumase with Verveer were porters and they carried gifts and provisions which were for the Asantehene.
After a lengthy negotiation, the Dutch reached an agreement with the Asantehene. Albeit the recruitment was voluntary, Otumfuo offered the Dutch slaves and prisoners of war in Asanteman.
Those who were recruited were given the name Belanda Hitam which means Black Dutchmen when they got to Dutch East Indies by the locals.
Although the Belanda Hitam were mostly Asantes, they recruited other Akans too.
When General Verveer was leaving Kumase to Elmina, he went with two sons of Otumfuo Kwaku Dua, Kwasi Boakye and Kwame Poku, and from Elmina, they went to the Netherlands.
Although the Dutch had a recruiting agency in Kumase, they could not get the number of people they expected. At that time, the laws of Asante prohibited Asantes from doing foreign service. Also, some Asantes only recruited their slaves when they needed money.
The recruitment was suspended and in 1841, the recruitment was abolished.
Over 3,000 soldiers were recruited from Africa between 1831 and 1872 to fight in the war.
The war ended after Prince Diponegoro was tricked into entering a Dutch controlled area where he was made to believe he was going to meet the Dutch officials and negotiate for a possible cease-fire. He was captured and exiled to Manado and then to Makassar where he died in 1855.
After the war, some of the soldiers returned to the Gold Coast while the rest stayed in Java as they had started a family there.