Following the Partition of Africa during the Berlin Conference of 1885, Prime Minister Francesco Crispi of Italy began his nation’s colonization in Africa. Italy focused on the Red Sea because of its trade routes to Asia and East Africa, and subsequently stationed troops in the port of Massawa in Eritrea, then part of the Ethiopian nation. Ethiopia’s King Yohannes fought back against this Italian invasion. Although initially unsuccessful, they eventually defeated the Italian troops in a battle that took place on January 26, 1887, that would be known as the Dogali Massacre. This battle left four hundred and thirty Italian troops dead and injured eighty-two. King Yohannes’s forces did not dislodge the Italians from Eritrea, but they did limit their control to that coastal province. Nonetheless, with the Dogali Massacre, Ethiopia became the first African nation to defeat a European power following the partition.
After the death of King Yohannes in 1889, the new monarch, King Menilik II, realizing the Italians would seek to conquer all of Ethiopia, began to assemble a modern arsenal for his army by opening up trade with French-controlled Djibouti, and ironically with Italian merchants at Massawa. After developing a friendly relationship with Italians partly because of this trade, Menilik in 1889 signed the Treaty of Wichale with the Italian government. While Menilik and the Ethiopians understood the treaty would give them the option to use Italian assistance to communicate with other European powers, the Italians interpreted the treaty as giving them authority over all Ethiopian trade and communications with other nations, thus effectively stripping Ethiopia of its sovereignty. This deliberate mistranslation by the Italians caused tensions between Italy and Ethiopia which led to the Italo-Abyssinian War of 1889–1896.
In preparation for the oncoming conflict, Menilik II assembled an army of one hundred and ninety-six thousand men to take on both the Italian Army of twenty-five thousand men composed of European