R. A.. Lieutenant Colonel Evelyn Wood, 90th Regiment, and Major B.
C. Russell, 13th Hussars, were each to form and command a native
regiment, having the remainder of the officers as their assistants.
The Ambriz had left England on the 12th of September, and had touched
at Madeira and at the various towns on the coast on her way down,
and at the former place had received the news of the disaster to
the naval expedition up the Prah.
The English government had been loath to embark upon such an
expedition, but a petition which had been sent home by the English
and native traders at Sierra Leone and Elmina had shown how great
was the peril which threatened the colony, and it had been felt that
unless an effort was made the British would be driven altogether from
their hold of the coast. When the expedition was at last determined
upon, the military authorities were flooded with recommendations and
warnings of all kinds from persons who knew the coast. Unfortunately
these gentlemen differed so widely from each other, that but little
good was gained from their counsels. Some pronounced the climate
to be deadly. Others said that it was really not bad. Some warmly
advocated a moderate use of spirits. Others declared that stimulants
were poison. One advised that all exercise should be taken between
five and seven in the morning. Another insisted that on no account
should anyone stir out until the sun had been up for an hour, which
meant that no one should go out till half past seven. One said take
exercise and excite perspiration. Another urged that any bodily
exercise should be avoided. One consistent gentleman, after having
written some letters to the papers strongly advocating the use of
white troops upon the coast instead of West Indian regiments, when
written to by Sir Garnet Wolseley for his advice as to articles
of outfit, replied that the only article which he could strongly
commend would be that each officer should take out his coffin.
Ten days passed after the landing. It was known in the Ashanti
camp that the Fanti kings had been ordered to raise contingents,
and that a white officer had been alloted to each to assist him
in this work. The Ashantis, however, had no fear whatever on this
score. The twenty thousand natives who occupied the country south
of the Prah had all been driven from their homes by the invaders,
and had scattered among the towns and villages on the seacoast,
where vast numbers had died from the ravages of smallpox. The kings
had little or no authority over them, and it was certain that no
native force, capable in any way of competing with the army of the
assailants, could be raised.
The small number of men of the 2d West Indian regiment at Elmina
had been reinforced by a hundred and twenty Houssas brought down
the coast. The Ashanti advanced parties remained close up to Elmina.
On the 13th of October Frank accompanied the Ashanti general to the
neighborhood of this town. The Ashanti force here was not a large
one, the main body being nearly twenty miles away in the neighborhood
of Dunquah, which was held by a small body of Houssas and natives
under Captain Gordon. At six in the morning a messenger ran in
with the news that two of the English war steamers from Cape Coast
were lying off Elmina, and that a number of troops had been landed
in boats. The Ashanti general was furious, and poured out threats
against his spies in Cape Coast for not having warned him of the
movement, but in fact these were not to blame. So quietly had the
arrangements been made that, until late in the previous afternoon,
no one, with the exception of three or four of the principal
officers, knew that an expedition was intended. Even then it was
given out that the expedition was going down the coast, and it was
not until the ships anchored off Elmina at three in the morning
that the officers and troops were aware of their destination. All
the West Indian troops at Cape Coast had been taken, Captain Peel
of the Simoon landing fifty sailors to hold the fort in case the
Ashantis should attack it in their absence. The expedition consisted
of the Houssas, two hundred men of the 2d West India regiment,
fifty sailors, and two companies of marines and marine artillery,
each fifty strong, and a large number of natives carrying a small
Armstrong gun, two rocket tubes, rockets, spare ammunition, and
hammocks for wounded.
The few Ashantis in the village next to Elmina retired at once
when the column was seen marching from the castle. Ammon Quatia had
taken up his quarters at the village of Essarman, and now advanced
with his troops and took post in the bush behind a small village
about three miles from the town. The Houssas were skirmishing
in front of the column. These entered the village which had been
deserted by the Ashantis, and set it on fire, blowing up several
kegs of powder which had been left there in the hurry of the flight.
Then as they advanced farther the Ashantis opened fire. To their
surprise the British, instead of falling back, opened fire in
return, the Houssas, West Indians, and natives discharging their
rifles at random in all directions. Captain Freemantle with the
sailors, the gun, and rockets made for the upper corner of the wood
facing them to their left. Captain Crease with a company of marine
artillery took the wood on the right. The Houssas and a company of
West Indians moved along the path in the center. The remainder of
the force remained with the baggage in reserve. The Ashantis kept
up a tremendous fire, but the marines and sailors pushed their
way steadily through the wood on either side. Captain Freemantle
at length gained a point where his gun and rockets could play on
Essarman, which lay in the heart of the wood, and opened fire, but
not until he had been struck by a slug which passed through his arm.
Colonel M'Neil, who was with the Houssas, also received a severe
wound in the arm, and thirty-two marines and Houssas were wounded.
The Ashantis were gradually driven out of the village and wood, a
great many being killed by the English fire.
Having accomplished this, the British force rested for an hour and
then moved on, first setting fire to Essarman, which was a very
large village. A great quantity of the Ashanti powder was stored
there, and each explosion excited yells of rage among the Ashantis.
Their general was especially angry that two large war drums had
been lost. So great was the effect produced upon the Ashantis by
the tremendous fire which the British had poured into every bush and
thicket as they advanced, that their general thought it expedient
to draw them off in the direction of his main body instead of
further disputing the way.
The English now turned off towards the coast, marching part of the
way through open country, part through a bush so dense that it was
impossible to make a flank attack upon them here. In such cases
as this, when the Ashantis know that an enemy is going to approach
through a dense and impassable forest, they cut paths through
it parallel to that by which he must advance and at a few yards'
distance. Then, lying in ambush there, they suddenly open fire upon
him as he comes along. As no idea of the coming of the English had
been entertained they passed through the dense thickets in single
file unmolested. These native paths are very difficult and unpleasant
walking. The natives always walk in single file, and the action of
their feet, aided by that of the rain, often wears the paths into
a deep V-shaped rut, two feet in depth. Burning two or three villages
by the way the column reached the coast at a spot five miles from
Elmina, having marched nine miles.
As the Ashantis were known to be in force at the villages of Akimfoo
and Ampene, four miles farther, a party was taken on to this point.
Akimfoo was occupied without resistance, but the Ashantis fought
hard in Ampene, but were driven out of the town into the bush, from
which the British force was too small to drive them, and therefore
returned to Elmina, having marched twenty-two miles, a prodigious
journey in such a climate for heavily armed Europeans. The effect
produced among the Ashantis by the day's fighting was immense. All
their theories that the white men could not fight in the bush were
roughly upset, and they found that his superiority was as great
there as it had been in the open. His heavy bullets, even at the
distance of some hundred yards, crashed through the brush wood with
deadly effect, while the slugs of the Ashantis would not penetrate
at a distance much exceeding fifty yards.
Ammon Quatia was profoundly depressed in spirits that evening.
"The white men who come to fight us," he said, "are not like those
who come to trade. Who ever heard of their making long marches?
Why, if they go the shortest distances they are carried in hammocks.
These men march as well as my warriors. They have guns which shoot
ten times as far as ours, and never stop firing. They carry cannon
with them, and have things which fly through the air and scream,
and set villages on fire and kill men. I have never heard of such
things before. What do you call them?"
"They are called rockets," Frank said.
"What are they made of?"
"They are made of coarse powder mixed with other things, and rammed
into an iron case."
"Could we not make some too?" the Ashanti general asked.
"No," Frank replied. "At least, not without a knowledge of the
things you should mix with the powder, and of that I am ignorant.
Besides, the rockets require great skill in firing, otherwise they
will sometimes come back and kill the men who fire them."
"Why did you not tell me that the white men could fight in the
"I told you that there would be a change when the new general came,
and that they would not any longer remain in their forts, but would
come out and attack you."
A few days after this fight the Ashantis broke up their camp at
Mampon, twelve miles from Elmina, and moved eastward to join the
body who were encamped in the forest near Dunquah.
"I am going," Ammon Quatia said to Frank, "to eat up Dunquah and
Abra Crampa. We shall do better this time. We know what the English
guns can do and shall not be surprised."
With ten thousand men Ammon Quatia halted at the little village
of Asianchi, where there was a large clearing, which was speedily
covered with the little leafy bowers which the Ashantis run up at
each halting place.
Two days later Sir Garnet Wolseley with a strong force marched out
from Cape Coast to Abra Crampa, halting on the way for a night at
Assaiboo, ten miles from the town. On the same day the general sent
orders to Colonel Festing of the Marine Artillery, who commanded at
Dunquah, to make a reconnaissance into the forest from that place.
In accordance with this order Colonel Festing marched out with a gun
and rocket apparatus under Captain Rait, the Annamaboe contingent
of a hundred and twenty men under their king, directed by Captain
Godwin, four hundred other Fantis under Captain Broomhead, and
a hundred men of the 2d West India regiment. After a three mile
march in perfect silence they came upon an Ashanti cutting wood,
and compelled him to act as guide. The path divided into three,
and the Annamaboes, who led the advance, when within a few yards
of the camp, gave a sudden cheer and rushed in.
The Ashantis, panic stricken at the sudden attack, fled instantly
from the camp into the bush. Sudden as was the scare Frank's
guards did not forget their duty, but seizing him dragged him off
with them in their flight, by the side of Ammon Quatia. The latter
ordered the war drums to begin to beat, and Frank was surprised at
the quickness with which the Ashantis recovered from their panic.
In five minutes a tremendous fire was opened from the whole circle
of bush upon the camp. This stood on rising ground, and the British
force returned the fire with great rapidity and effect. The Annamaboe
men stood their ground gallantly, and the West Indians fought with
great coolness, keeping up a constant and heavy fire with their
Sniders. The Houssas, who had been trained as artillerymen, worked
their gun and rocket tube with great energy, yelling and whooping
as each round of grape or canister was fired into the bush, or each
rocket whizzed out.
Notwithstanding the heavy loss which they were suffering, the
Ashantis stood their ground most bravely. Their wild yells and the
beating of their drums never ceased, and only rose the louder as
each volley of grape was poured into them. They did not, however,
advance beyond the shelter of their bush, and, as the British were
not strong enough to attack them there, the duel of artillery and
musketry was continued without cessation for an hour and a half,
and then Colonel Festing fell back unmolested to Dunquah.
The Ashantis were delighted at the result of the fighting, heavy
as their loss had been. They had held their ground, and the British
had not ventured to attack them in the bush.
"You see," Ammon Quatia said exultingly to Frank, "what I told you
was true. The white men cannot fight us in the bush. At Essarman
the wood was thin and gave but a poor cover. Here, you see, they
dared not follow us."
On the British side five officers and the King of Annamaboe were
wounded, and fifty-two of the men. None were killed, the distance
from the bush to the ground held by the English being too far for
the Ashanti slugs to inflict mortal wounds.
Ammon Quatia now began to meditate falling back upon the Prah -
the sick and wounded were already sent back - but he determined
before retiring to attack Abra Crampa, whose king had sided with
us, and where an English garrison had been posted.
On the 2d of November, however, Colonel Festing again marched out
from Dunquah with a hundred men of the 2d West India regiment,
nine hundred native allies, and some Houssas with rockets, under
Lieutenant Wilmot, towards the Ashanti camp. This time Ammon Quatia
was not taken by surprise. His scouts informed him of the approach
of the column, and moving out to meet them, he attacked them in
the bush before they reached the camp. Crouching among the trees
the Ashantis opened a tremendous fire. All the native allies, with
the exception of a hundred, bolted at once, but the remainder,
with the Houssas and West Indians, behaved with great steadiness
and gallantry, and for two hours kept up a heavy Snider fire upon
their invisible foes.
Early in the fight Lieutenant Wilmot, while directing the rocket
tube, received a severe wound in the shoulder. He, however, continued
at his work till, just as the fight was ended, he was shot through
the heart with a bullet. Four officers were wounded as were thirteen
men of the 2d West India regiment. One of the natives was killed,
fifty severely wounded, and a great many slightly. After two hours'
fighting Colonel Festing found the Ashantis were working round
to cut off his retreat, and therefore fell back again on Dunquah.
The conduct of the native levies here and in two or three smaller
reconnaisances was so bad that it was found that no further
dependence could be placed upon them, and, with the exception of
the two partly disciplined regiments under Colonel Wood and Major
Russell, they were in future treated as merely fit to act as carriers
for the provisions.
Although the second reconnaissance from Dunquah had, like the first,
been unsuccessful, its effect upon the Ashantis was very great.
They had themselves suffered great loss, while they could not see
that any of their enemies had been killed, for Lieutenant Wilmot's
body had been carried off. The rockets especially appalled them,
one rocket having killed six, four of whom were chiefs who were
talking together. It was true that the English had not succeeded
in forcing their way through the bush, but if every time they came
out they were to kill large numbers without suffering any loss
themselves, they must clearly in the long run be victorious.
What the Ashantis did not see, and what Frank carefully abstained
from hinting to Ammon Quatia, was that if, instead of stopping and
firing at a distance beyond that which at their slugs were effective,
they were to charge down upon the English and fire their pieces
when they reached within a few yards of them, they would overpower
them at once by their enormous superiority of numbers. At ten paces
distant a volley of slugs is as effective as a Snider bullet, and
the whole of the native troops would have bolted the instant such
a charge was made. In the open such tactics might not be possible,
as the Sniders could be discharged twenty times before the English
line was reached, but in the woods, where the two lines were not
more than forty or fifty yards apart, the Sniders could be fired
but once or at the utmost twice, while the assailants rushed across
the short intervening space.
Had the Ashantis adopted these tactics they could have crushed
with ease the little bands with which the English attacked them.
But it is characteristic of all savages that they can never be got
to rush down upon a foe who is prepared and well armed. A half dozen
white men have been known to keep a whole tribe of Red Indians at
a distance on the prairie. This, however, can be accounted for by
the fact that the power of the chiefs is limited, and that each
Indian values his own life highly and does not care to throw it
away on a desperate enterprise. Among the Ashantis, however, where
the power of the chiefs is very great and where human life is held
of little account, it is singular that such tactics should not have
The Ashantis were now becoming thoroughly dispirited. Their sufferings
had been immense. Fever and hunger had made great ravages among
them, and, although now the wet season was over a large quantity
of food could be obtained in the forest, the losses which the white
men's bullets, rockets, and guns had inflicted upon them had broken
their courage. The longing for home became greater than ever, and
had it not been that they knew that troops stationed at the Prah
would prevent any fugitives from crossing, they would have deserted
in large numbers. Already one of the divisions had fallen back.
Ammon Quatia spent hours sitting at the door of his hut smoking and
talking to the other chiefs. Frank was often called into council,
as Ammon Quatia had conceived a high opinion of his judgment, which
had proved invariably correct so far.
"We are going," he said one day, "to take Abra Crampa and to kill
its king, and then to fall back across the Prah."
"I think you had better fall back at once," Frank answered. "When
you took me with you to the edge of the clearing yesterday I saw
that preparations had been made for the defense, and that there were
white troops there. You will never carry the village. The English
have thrown up breastworks of earth, and they will lie behind these
and shoot down your men as they come out of the forest."
"I must have one victory to report to the king if I can," Ammon
Quatia said. "Then he can make peace if he chooses. The white men
will not wish to go on fighting. The Fantis are eager for peace
and to return to their villages. What do you think?"
"If it be true that white troops are coming out from England,
as the Fanti prisoners say," Frank answered, "you will see that
the English will not make peace till they have crossed the Prah
and marched to Coomassie. Your king is always making trouble. You
will see that this time the English will not be content with your
retiring, but will in turn invade Ashanti."
Ammon Quatia and the chiefs laughed incredulously.
"They will not dare to cross the Prah," Ammon Quatia said. "If they
enter Ashanti they will be eaten up."
"They are not so easy to eat up," Frank answered. "You have seen
how a hundred or two can fight against your whole army. What will
it be when they are in thousands? Your king has not been wise. It
would be better for him to send down at once and to make peace at
CHAPTER XX: THE WHITE TROOPS
Two days later Frank was awoke by a sudden yell. He leaped from
his bed of boughs, seized his revolver, and rushing to the door,
saw that a party of some twenty men were attacking Ammon Quatia's
hut. The two guards stationed there had already been cut down. Frank
shouted to his four guards and Ostik to follow him. The guards had
been standing irresolute, not knowing what side to take, but the
example of the young Englishman decided them. They fired their
muskets into the knot of natives, and then charged sword in hand.
Ostik drew the sword which he always carried and followed close
to his master's heels. Frank did not fire until within two yards
of the Ashantis. Then his revolver spoke out and six shots were
discharged, each with deadly effect. Then, catching up a musket
which had fallen from the hands of one of the men he had shot,
he clubbed it and fell upon the surprised and already hesitating
These, fortunately for Frank, had not loaded their muskets. They
had intended to kill Ammon Quatia and then to disperse instantly
before aid could arrive, believing that with his death the order
for retreat across the Prah would at once be given. Several of them
had been killed by the slugs from the muskets of Frank's guard, and
his pistol had completed their confusion. The reports of the guns
called up other troops, and these came rushing in on all sides.
Scarcely did Frank and his followers fall upon the conspirators
than they took to their heels and fled into the wood.
Ammon Quatia himself, sword in hand, had just sprung to the door
of the hut prepared to sell his life dearly, when Frank's guard
fired. The affair was so momentary that he had hardly time to
realize what had happened before his assailants were in full flight.
"You have saved my life," he said to Frank. "Had it not been for
you I must have been killed. You shall not find me ungrateful.
When I have taken Abra Crampa I will manage that you shall return
to your friends. I dare not let you go openly, for the king would
not forgive me, and I shall have enough to do already to pacify him
when he hears how great have been our losses. But rest content. I
will manage it somehow."
An hour afterwards Ammon Quatia gave orders that the army should
move to the attack of Abra Crampa. The place was held by a body of
marines and sailors, a hundred West Indians, and the native troops
of the king. Major Russell was in command. The village stood
on rising ground, and was surrounded for a distance of a hundred
and fifty yards by a clearing. Part of this consisted of patches
of cultivated ground, the rest had been hastily cleared by the
defenders. At the upper end stood a church, and this was converted
into a stronghold. The windows were high up in the walls, and a
platform had been erected inside for the sailors to fire from the
windows, which were partially blocked with sandbags. The houses
on the outside of the village had all been loopholed, and had been
connected by breastworks of earth. Other defenses had been thrown
up further back in case the outworks should be carried. The mission
house in the main street and the huts which surrounded it formed,
with the church, the last strongholds. For two or three days the
bush round the town had swarmed with Ashantis, whose tomtoms could
be heard by the garrison night and day.
Frank accompanied Ammon Quatia, and was therefore in the front, and
had an opportunity of seeing how the Ashantis commence an attack.
The war drums gave the signal, and when they ceased, ten thousand
voices raised the war song in measured cadence. The effect was very
fine, rising as it did from all parts of the forest. By this time
the Ashantis had lined the whole circle of wood round the clearing.
Then three regular volleys were fired, making, from the heavy
charges used, a tremendous roar.
Scarcely had these ceased when the King of Abra, a splendid looking
negro standing nearly six feet four in height, stepped out from
behind the breastwork and shouted a taunting challenge to the
Ashantis to come on. They replied with a loud yell, and with the
opening of a continuous fire round the edge of the wood. On wall and
roof of the village the slugs pattered thickly; but the defenders
were all in shelter, and in reply, from breastwork and loophole,
from the windows and roof of the church, the answering Snider bullets
flew out straight and deadly. Several times Ammon Quatia tried to
get his men to make a rush. The war drums beat, the great horns
sounded, and the men shouted, but each time the English bullets flew