so thick and deadly into the wood wherever the sound rose loudest
that the Ashantis' heart failed them, and they could not be got to
make the rush across the hundred yards of cleared ground.
At five o'clock the fire slackened, but shortly after dark the
attack recommenced. The moon was up and full. Frank feared that
the Ashantis would try and crawl a part of the distance across the
clearing and then make a sudden rush; but they appeared to have no
idea of a silent attack. Several times, indeed, they gathered and
rushed forward in large bodies, but each time their shouting and
drums gave warning to the besieged, and so tremendous a fire was
opened upon them when they emerged from the shadow of the trees
into the moonlight, that each time they fell back leaving the ground
strewn with dead. Till midnight the attack was continued, then the
Ashantis fell back to their camp.
At Accroful, a village on the main road some four miles distant,
the attack had been heard, and a messenger sent off to Cape Coast
to inform Sir Garnet Wolseley.
In the morning fifty men of the 2d West India regiment marched from
Accroful into Abra Crampa without molestation. Later on some Abra
scouts approached the Ashanti camp and shouted tauntingly to know
when the Ashantis were coming into Abra Crampa.
They shouted in return, "After breakfast," and soon afterwards,
a rocket fired from the roof of the church falling into the camp,
they again sallied out and attacked. It was a repetition of the
fight of the day before. Several times Major Russell withheld his
fire altogether, but the Ashantis could not be tempted to show in
force beyond the edge of the wood. So inspirited were the defenders
that they now made several sorties and penetrated some distance
into the wood.
At eight in the morning Sir Garnet Wolseley had marched from Cape
Coast with three hundred marines and blue jackets to the relief of
the position, but so tremendous was the heat that nearly half the
men fell exhausted by the way, and were ordered when they recovered
to march back to Cape Coast. The remainder, when they arrived at
Assaibo, five miles from Abra Crampa, were so utterly exhausted
that a long halt was necessary, although a faint but continuous
fire could be heard from the besieged place.
Chocolate and cold preserved meat were served out to the men, and
in the course of another three hours a large number of the stragglers
came in. At three o'clock, a hundred of the most exhausted men being
left to hold the village, the rest of the force with the fifty West
Indians stationed there marched forward to Buteana, where they were
jointed by fifty more men from Accroful. Just as they started from
this place they met the King of Abra, who had come out with a small
body of warriors; from him Sir Garnet learned that this road, which
wound round and came in at the back of Abra Crampa, was still open.
The Ashantis were too busy with their own operations to watch the
path, and the relieving force entered the place without firing a
shot. The firing round the town continued, but Ammon Quatia, when
he saw the reinforcements enter, at once began to fall back with
the main body of his troops, and although the firing was kept up
all night, when the besieged in the morning advanced to attack the
Ashanti camp they found it altogether deserted.
"It is of no use," the Ashanti general said to Frank. "My men cannot
fight in the open against the English guns. Besides, they do not
know what they are fighting for here; but if your general should
ever cross the Prah you will find it different. There are forests
all the way to Coomassie, as you know, and the men will be fighting
in defense of their own country, you will see what we shall do
then. And now I will keep my promise to you. Tonight your guards
will go to sleep. I shall have medicine given them which will
make them sleep hard. One of the Fanti prisoners will come to your
hut and will guide you through the woods to Assaiboo. Goodbye, my
friend. Ammon Quatia has learnt that some of the white men are good
and honest, and he will never forget that he owes his life to you.
Take this in remembrance of Ammon Quatia."
And he presented Frank with a necklace composed of nuggets of gold
as big as walnuts and weighing nearly twenty pounds.
Frank in return gave the general the only article of value which
he now possessed, his revolver and tin box of cartridges, telling
him that he hoped he would never use it against the English, but
that it might be of value to him should he ever again have trouble
with his own men. Frank made a parcel of the necklace and of the
gold he had received from the king for his goods, and warned Ostik to
hold himself in readiness for flight. The camp was silent although
the roar of musketry a few hundred yards off round Abra Crampa
continued unbroken. For some time Frank heard his guards pacing
outside, and occasionally speaking to each other. Then these sounds
ceased and all was quiet. Presently the front of the tent was opened
and a voice said, "Come, all is ready."
Frank came out and looked round. The Ashanti camp was deserted.
Ammon Quatia had moved away with the main body of his troops,
although the musketry fire round the village was kept up. A Fanti
stood at the door of the hut with Ostik. The four guards were
sleeping quietly. Noiselessly the little party stole away. A quarter
of an hour later they struck the path, and an hour's walking brought
them to Assaiboo. Not an Ashanti was met with along the path, but
Frank hardly felt that he was safe until he heard the challenge of
"Who goes there?" from an English sentry. A few minutes later he
was taken before Captain Bradshaw, R. N., who commanded the sailors
and marines who had been left there. Very hearty was the greeting
which the young Englishman received from the genial sailor, and a
bowl of soup and a glass of grog were soon set before him.
His arrival created quite a sensation, and for some hours he sat
talking with the officers, while Ostik was an equal subject of
curiosity among the sailors. The news that the Ashanti army was in
full retreat relieved the garrison of the place from all further
fear of attack, and Frank went to sleep before morning, and was
only roused at noon when a messenger arrived with the news that
the Ashanti camp had been found deserted, and that the road in its
rear was found to be strewn with chairs, clothes, pillows, muskets,
and odds and ends of every description. Few Ashanti prisoners
had been taken, but a considerable number of Fantis, who had been
prisoners among them, had come in, having escaped in the confusion
of the retreat. Among these were many women, several of whom had been
captured when the Ashantis had first crossed the Prah ten months
before. In the afternoon Sir Garnet Wolseley, with the greater
portion of the force from Abra Crampa, marched in, and Frank was
introduced by Captain Bradshaw to the general. As the latter was
anxious to press on at once to Cape Coast, in order that the sailors
and marines might sleep on board ship that night, he asked Frank to
accompany him, and on the road heard the story of his adventures.
He invited him to sleep for the night at Government House, an
invitation which Frank accepted; but he slept worse than he had done
for a long time. It was now nearly two years since he had landed
in Africa, and during all that time he had slept, covered with a
rug, on the canvas of his little camp bed. The complete change, the
stillness and security, and, above all, the novelty of a bed with
sheets, completely banished sleep, and it was not until morning was
dawning that, wrapping himself in a rug, and lying on the ground,
he was able to get a sleep. In the morning at breakfast Sir Garnet
asked him what he intended to do, and said that if he were in no
extreme hurry to return to England he could render great services
as guide to the expedition, which would start for Coomassie as soon
as the white troops arrived. Frank had already thought the matter
over. He had had more than enough of Africa, but two or three months
longer would make no difference, and he felt that his knowledge
of the Ashanti methods of war, of the country to be traversed, the
streams to be crossed, and the points at which the Ashantis would
probably make a stand, would enable him to tender really valuable
assistance to the army. He therefore told Sir Garnet Wolseley that
he had no particular business which called him urgently back, and
that he was willing to guide the army to Coomassie. He at once had
quarters as an officer assigned to him in the town, with rations
for himself and servant.
His first step was to procure English garments, for although he
had before starting laid aside his Ashanti costume, and put on that
he had before worn, his clothes were now so travel worn as to be
scarce wearable. He had no difficulty in doing this. Many of the
officers were already invalided home, and one who was just sailing
was glad to dispose of his uniform, which consisted of a light
brown Norfolk shooting jacket, knickerbockers, and helmet, as these
would be of no use to him in England.
Frank's next step was to go to the agent of Messrs. Swanzy, the
principal African merchants of the coast. This gentleman readily
cashed one of the orders on the African bank which Mr. Goodenough
had, before his death, handed over to Frank, and the latter
proceeded to discharge the long arrears of wages owing to Ostik,
adding, besides, a handsome present. He offered to allow his faithful
servant to depart to join his family on the Gaboon at once, should
he wish to do so, but Ostik declared that he would remain with him
as long as he stopped in Africa. On Frank's advice, however, he
deposited his money, for safe keeping, with Messrs. Swanzy's agent,
with orders to transmit it to his family should anything happen to
him during the expedition.
Three days later Frank was attacked by fever, the result of the
reaction after so many dangers. He was at once sent on board the
Simoon, which had been established as a hospital ship; but the attack
was a mild one, and in a few days, thanks to the sea air, and the
attention and nursing which he received, he was convalescent. As
soon as the fever passed away, and he was able to sit on deck and
enjoy the sea breezes, he had many visits from the officers of the
ships of war. Among these was the captain of the Decoy gunboat.
After chatting with Frank for some time the officer said: "I am
going down the coast as far as the mouth of the Volta, where Captain
Glover is organizing another expedition. You will not be wanted on
shore just at present, and a week's rest will do you good; what do
you say to coming down with me - it will give you a little change
Frank accepted the invitation with pleasure. An hour later the
Decoy's boat came alongside, and Frank took his place on board it,
Ostik following with his clothes. An hour later the Decoy got up
her anchor and steamed down the coast. It was delightful to Frank,
sitting in a large wicker work chair in the shade of the awning,
watching the distant shore and chatting with the officers. He had
much to hear of what had taken place in England since he left,
and they on their part were equally eager to learn about the road
along which they would have to march - at least those of them who
were fortunate enough to be appointed to the naval brigade - and
the wonders of the barbarian capital. The Decoy was not fast, about
six knots being her average pace of steaming; however, no one was
in a hurry; there would be nothing to do until the troops arrived
from England; and to all, a trip down the coast was a pleasant
change after the long monotony of rolling at anchor. For some
distance from Cape Coast the shore was flat, but further on the
country became hilly. Some of the undulations reached a considerable
height, the highest, Mamquady, being over two thousand feet.
"That ought to be a very healthy place," Frank said. "I should
think that a sanatorium established there would be an immense boon
to the whites all along the coasts."
"One would think so," an officer replied "but I'm told that those
hills are particularly unhealthy. That fellow you see jutting out
is said to be extremely rich in gold. Over and over again parties
have been formed to dig there, but they have always suffered so
terribly from fever that they have had to relinquish the attempt.
The natives suffer as well as the whites. I believe that the
formation is granite, the surface of which is much decomposed; and
it is always found here that the turning up of ground that has not
been disturbed for many years is extremely unhealthy, and decomposing
granite possesses some element particularly obnoxious to health.
The natives, of course, look upon the mountain as a fetish, and
believe that an evil spirit guards it. The superstition of the
negroes is wonderful, and at Accra they are, if possible, more
superstitious than anywhere else. Every one believes that every
malady under the sun is produced by fetish, and that some enemy is
casting spells upon them."
"There is more in it than you think," the doctor joined in; "although
it is not spells, but poison, which they use against each other.
The use of poison is carried to an incredible extent here. I have
not been much on shore; but the medical men, both civilian and
military, who have been here any time are convinced that a vast
number of the deaths that take place are due to poison. The fetish
men and women who are the vendors of these drugs keep as a profound
secret their origin and nature, but it is certain that many of them
are in point of secrecy and celerity equal to those of the middle
"I wonder that the doctors have never discovered what plants they
get them from," Frank said.
"Some of them have tried to do so," the doctor replied; "but have
invariably died shortly after commencing their experiments; it
is believed they have been poisoned by the fetish men in order to
prevent their secrets being discovered."
The hours passed pleasurably. The beautiful neatness and order
prevailing on board a man of war were specially delightful to
Frank after the rough life he had so long led, and the silence and
discipline of the men presented an equally strong contrast to the
incessant chattering and noise kept up by the niggers.
The next morning the ship was off Accra. Here the scenery had
entirely changed. The hills had receded, and a wide and slightly
undulating plain extended to their feet, some twelve miles back.
The captain was going to land, as he had some despatches for the
colony, and he invited Frank to accompany him. They did not, as
Frank expected, land in a man of war's boat, but in a surf boat,
which, upon their hoisting a signal, came out to them. These surf
boats are large and very wide and flat. They are paddled by ten or
twelve negroes, who sit upon the gunwale. These men work vigorously,
and the boats travel at a considerable pace. Each boat has a stroke
peculiar to itself. Some paddle hard for six strokes and then easy
for an equal number. Some will take two or three hard and then one
easy. The steersman stands in the stern and steers with an oar. He
or one of the crew keeps up a monotonous song, to which the crew
reply in chorus, always in time with their paddling.
The surf is heavy at Accra and Frank held his breath, as, after
waiting for a favorable moment, the steersman gave the sign and
the boat darted in at lightning speed on the top of a great wave,
and ran up on the beach in the midst of a whirl of white foam.
While the captain went up to Government House, Frank, accompanied by
one of the young officers who had also come ashore, took a stroll
through the town. The first thing that struck him was the extraordinary
number of pigs. These animals pervaded the whole place. They fed in
threes and fours in the middle of the streets. They lay everywhere
in the road, across the doors, and against the walls. They quarreled
energetically inside lanes and courtyards, and when worsted in their
disputes galloped away grunting, careless whom they might upset.
The principal street of Accra was an amusing sight. Some effort had
been made to keep it free of the filth and rubbish which everywhere
else abounded. Both sides were lined by salesmen and women sitting
on little mats upon the low wooden stools used as seats in Africa.
The goods were contained in wooden trays. Here were dozens of women
offering beads for sale of an unlimited variety of form and hue.
They varied from the tiny opaque beads of all colors used by English
children for their dolls, to great cylindrical beads of variegated
hues as long and as thick as the joint of a finger. The love of
the Africans for beads is surprising. The women wear them round
the wrists, the neck, and the ankles. The occupation of threading
the little beads is one of their greatest pleasures. The threads
used are narrow fibers of palm leaves, which are very strong. The
beads, however, are of unequal sizes, and no African girl who has
any respect for her personal appearance will put on a string of
beads until she has, with great pains and a good deal of skill,
rubbed them with sand and water until all the projecting beads are
ground down, and the whole are perfectly smooth and even.
Next in number to the dealers in beads were those who sold calico,
or, as it is called in Africa, cloth, and gaudily colored kerchiefs
for the head. These three articles - beads, cotton cloth, and
colored handkerchiefs - complete the list of articles required for
the attire and adornment of males and females in Africa. Besides
these goods, tobacco, in dried leaves, short clay pipes, knives,
small looking glasses, and matches were offered for sale. The majority
of the saleswomen, however, were dealers in eatables, dried fish,
smoked fish, canki - which is a preparation of ground corn wrapped up
in palm leaves in the shape of paste - eggs, fowls, kids, cooked
meats in various forms, stews, boiled pork, fried knobs of meat,
and other native delicacies, besides an abundance of seeds, nuts,
and other vegetable productions.
After walking for some time through the streets Frank and his
companions returned to the boat, where, half an hour later, the
captain joined them, and, putting off to the Decoy, they continued
the voyage down the coast.
The next morning they weighed anchor off Addah, a village at
the mouth of the Volta. They whistled for a surf boat, but it was
some time before one put out. When she was launched it was doubtful
whether she would be able to make her way through the breaking
water. The surf was much heavier here than it had been at Accra,
and each wave threw the boat almost perpendicularly into the air,
so that only a few feet of the end of the keel touched the water.
Still she struggled on, although so long was she in getting through
the surf that those on board the ship thought several times that
she must give it up as impracticable. At last, however, she got
through; the paddlers waited for a minute to recover from their
exertions, and then made out to the Decoy. None of the officers had
ever landed here, and several of them obtained leave to accompany
the captain on shore. Frank was one of the party. After what they
had seen of the difficulty which the boat had in getting out, all
looked somewhat anxiously at the surf as they approached the line
where the great smooth waves rolled over and broke into boiling
foam. The steersman stood upon the seat in the stern, in one hand
holding his oar, in the other his cap. For some time he stood half
turned round, looking attentively seaward, while the boat lay at
rest just outside the line of breakers. Suddenly he waved his cap
and gave a shout. It was answered by the crew. Every man dashed
his paddle into the water. Desperately they rowed, the steersman
encouraging them by wild yells. A gigantic wave rolled in behind
the boat, and looked for a moment as if she would break into it,
but she rose on it just as it turned over, and for an instant was
swept along amidst a cataract of white foam, with the speed of an
arrow. The next wave was a small one, and ere a third reached it the
boat grounded on the sand. A dozen men rushed out into the water.
The passengers threw themselves anyhow on to their backs, and in
a minute were standing perfectly dry upon the beach.
They learned that Captain Glover's camp was half a mile distant,
and at once set out for it. Upon the way up to the camp they passed
hundreds of negroes, who had arrived in the last day or two, and
had just received their arms. Some were squatted on the ground
cooking and resting themselves. Others were examining their new
weapons, oiling and removing every spot of rust, and occasionally
loading and firing them off. The balls whizzed through the air in
all directions. The most stringent orders had been given forbidding
this dangerous nuisance; but nothing can repress the love of negroes
for firing off guns. There were large numbers of women among them;
these had acted as carriers on their journey to the camp; for among
the coast tribes, as among the Ashantis, it is the proper thing
when the warriors go out on the warpath, that the women should not
permit them to carry anything except their guns until they approach
the neighborhood of the enemy.
The party soon arrived at the camp, which consisted of some bell
tents and the little huts of a few hundred natives. This, indeed,
was only the place where the latter were first received and armed,
and they were then sent up the river in the steamboat belonging to
the expedition, to the great camp some thirty miles higher.
The expedition consisted only of some seven or eight English
officers. Captain Glover of the royal navy was in command, with
Mr. Goldsworthy and Captain Sartorius as his assistants. There were
four other officers, two doctors, and an officer of commissariat.
This little body had the whole work of drilling and keeping in
order some eight or ten thousand men. They were generals, colonels,
sergeants, quartermasters, storekeepers, and diplomatists, all at
once, and from daybreak until late at night were incessantly at work.
There were at least a dozen petty kings in camp, all of whom had
to be kept in a good temper, and this was by no means the smallest
of Captain Glover's difficulties, as upon the slightest ground for
discontent each of these was ready at once to march away with his
followers. The most reliable portion of Captain Glover's force were
some 250 Houssas, and as many Yorabas. In addition to all their
work with the native allies, the officers of the expedition had
succeeded in drilling both these bodies until they had obtained a
very fair amount of discipline.
After strolling through the camp the visitors went to look on at
the distribution of arms and accouterments to a hundred freshly
arrived natives. They were served out with blue smocks, made of
serge, and blue nightcaps, which had the result of transforming
a fine looking body of natives, upright in carriage, and graceful
in their toga-like attire, into a set of awkward looking, clumsy
negroes. A haversack, water bottle, belts, cap pouch, and ammunition
pouch, were also handed to each to their utter bewilderment, and
it was easy to foresee that at the end of the first day's march the
whole of these, to them utterly useless articles, would be thrown
aside. They brightened up, however, when the guns were delivered to
them. The first impulse of each was to examine his piece carefully,
to try its balance by taking aim at distant objects, then to
carefully rub off any little spot of rust that could be detected,
lastly to take out the ramrod and let it fall into the barrel, to
judge by the ring whether it was clean inside.
Thence the visitors strolled away to watch a number of Houssas in
hot pursuit of some bullocks, which were to be put on board the
steamers and taken up the river to the great camp. These had broken
loose in the night, and the chase was an exciting one. Although
some fifty or sixty men were engaged in the hunt it took no less
than four hours to capture the requisite number, and seven Houssas
were more or less injured by the charges of the desperate little
animals, which possessed wonderful strength and endurance, although
no larger than moderate sized donkeys. They were only captured at
last by hoops being thrown over their horns, and even when thrown
down required the efforts of five or six men to tie them. They were
finally got to the wharf by two men each: one went ahead with the