A reinforcement battalion of 500 men under Colonel Tommaso De Cristofori en route to the garrison at Saati was ambushed by Ras Alula's men at Dogali and annihilated.
On his own initiative, Ras Alula Engida, then governor under Emperor Yohannes IV, attacked the Italian-controlled town of Sahati/Saati 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.
On January 26, a battalion of 500 men (mostly Italians and a few Eritrean Askari) under Colonel Tommaso De Cristofori, sent to reinforce the Italian garrison at Sahati, were attacked while in march by Ras Alula’s men at Dogali. Although the 500 Italians fought back bravely against 7,000 Ethiopians, holding out for hours until they exhausted all ammunition, nearly all were then killed, except for eighty wounded men who were able to escape notice by the Ethiopians and be successfully rescued.
Although a small victory for the Ethiopians, Haggai Erlich notes that this incident 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 then started to attack Ethiopia in the following years in order to get revenge.