A. B. (Alfred Burdon) Ellis.

A history of the Gold Coast of West Africa online

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morning of the 2Oth, with the company of the Royal African
Colonial Corps and the militia, after a night spent in the bush
under heavy rain. During the afternoon of the same day an
alarm was given that the Ashantis were advancing, and the
troops remained under arms for five hours exposed to torrents
of rain ; but at nightfall, no enemy having appeared, and it
being well known that the Ashantis did not make night
attacks, they returned to their quarters. Early next morning
Sir C. Macarthy arrived with a body-guard of two hundred
men, who had been sent by Appia, chief of Adjumako. Kwasi
Yako, chief of Assamako, an infirm old man who had to be
carried on the heads of his slaves in a basket litter, also accom-
panied him with his followers ; while two hundred Kommendas,
and the carriers with the ammunition, were reported to be
close behind.

The Governor seems to have been of opinion that there
was but a small force of Ashantis at hand, and that the main
body was at the distance of two or three days' march ; and
although the native allies and scouts asserted that the entire
army was in front of him, he did not credit them, believing
that they had invented the report in order to induce him to
retire beyond the Prah, as the chiefs had already asked him to
do. However, as some hostile body, large or small, was close
at hand, the natives were told off for the positions they were
to occupy in case of attack, but with such a force it was almost
impossible to ensure orders being carried out. In fact the


body-guard which had been furnished by Appia, and whose
sole duty was to protect the person of the Governor, at once
left the spot where they had been posted, and took up a
position on the extreme left, which they refused to quit, saying
that they understood bush fighting and had now got a place
that they liked.

About two p.m. on February 2ist, the Ashantis, who are
said to have exceeded ten thousand in number, and who
were all concentrated instead of being dispersed, as Sir C
Macarthy believed, advanced to within half a mile of the
position on the Adamansu, blowing their horns and beating
their drums. The Governor then ordered the band of the Roya
African Colonial Corps, which had accompanied him, to pla}
" God save the King/' and the bugles to sound, for he hac
been so misinformed as to entertain the extraordinary belie
that the greater part of the Ashantis only wanted an oppor
tunity to desert their own people and come over to him. Th(
Ashantis played in return, and this musical defiance was kep
up for some time, after which a dead silence ensued. Thi
was before long interrupted by the fire of the allied native
upon the enemy, who had advanced and lined the oppo
site bank of the river, here about sixty feet wide. Thi
movement was executed with the greatest regularity, th
Ashantis advancing in a number of different divisions unde
their respective leaders, whose horns sounded their calls ; an .
upon hearing them, a native who had been in Kumassi wa ;
able to name nearly every Ashanti chief with the army.

The action now commenced on both sides with grec :
vigour, and for about an hour neither side could claim an r
advantage. But about four o'clock it began to be rumoure I
that the allied natives had expended all their ammunitio: .
The ordnance storekeeper, Mr. Brandon, who arrived aboi t
this time, was at once applied to for more, but the reserv i
ammunition had not yet come up. He had left Assamak )
with forty natives carrying ammunition, but on hearing tr i
firing had unwisely hurried on, leaving them to follow ; ar 1
the carriers, who had been obtained almost by force, seeir j
the Wassaws making off from the field, hastened to folio /


their example. A barrel of powder and one of ball, which
were all that remained, were at once issued, but the Ashantis,
perceiving that the fire slackened, commenced to cross the
river, which though swollen from the recent rains was still
fordable. At the same time, in pursuance of their usual
tactics, they despatched a considerable body of men to out-
flank the allied force and threaten its line of retreat ; and soon
they closed in from all directions. The Wassaws had aban-
doned the field already, and Sir C. Macarthy, who had him-
self been wounded, seeing that all was lost, retired to where
Kwadjo Tchibbu, King of Denkera, was still fighting bravely,
surrounded by his people.

On joining the King of Denkera Sir Charles wished to
sound a retreat, but not a bugler could be found, every man
of the Royal African Corps having joined his company in
the action. It was impossible to see far in the dense bush r
and only a few wounded men were got together. A small
brass field-piece, which had arrived during the battle, and
had been flung down still lashed to the poles on which it had
been carried, was untied, some powder was obtained from
the King of Denkera, and the piece, loaded with musket-
balls, fired towards the enemy, to check, if possible, their
advance ; but it only served to draw them in that direction,
and they immediately rushed forward and killed the two-
West India soldiers.

The Governor now left the King of Denkera, and Captain
Ricketts, suddenly missing him, was about to follow, when a
general discharge of musketry was poured in from the bush
close at hand, and he was swept away in the rush of
fugitives. Despairing of joining the Governor, Captain
Ricketts, followed by Mr. De Graft, lieutenant in the militia,
and some wounded men, endeavoured to force a way
through the bush to where the King of Denkera, though
retreating, was still keeping up a fire and presenting a front
to the victorious Ashantis. At this moment a Wassaw man
who was running by was seized by a militia sergeant, and
offered a reward if he would guide the party through the
bush. A silver whistle and chain were given him by Mr.


De Graft, and he led the way, one of the party holding him
fast. He led them up a small stream, and then some
distance along its banks, the enemy all the time scouring the
bush so closely that they were several times obliged to halt
and hide themselves. At last, it having become so dark
that they could scarcely see each other, the guide ordered
a halt, saying that it was impossible to proceed till the moon
rose. The exulting shouts and cries of the Ashantis, and
their attempts to sound the musical instruments they had
captured, were distinctly heard at a distance of a few
hundred yards ; and the fugitives cowered in the darkness
of the bush, momentarily expecting discovery and death.

At about midnight the moon rose, and the small party
directed by their guide, commenced cutting a path through
the bush. With the exception of a short interval between
the setting of the moon and the rising of the sun, the>
continued this work until three o'clock in the next afternoon
when they hit upon a path leading to Assamako. The)
had proceeded some little distance along this when the)
perceived a party of Ashantis in front. They at once
hastened back, and, the guide having fled, turned up ;
narrow path to their right. A short distance along this the}
fell in with a party of some fifty Wassaws, who reportec
that there were some Ashantis further on, and that the}
themselves had turned back in the hope, now that th<
Ashantis were plundering in every direction, of being abl
to recover some of their women and children, who had beei
carried off" from their villages. Captain Ricketts's part;
joined these men, and about nightfall the whole penetrate<
some way into the bush, and halted on a small island in th
midst of a swamp, in crossing which Captain Ricketts los
one of his shoes. In the middle of the night two Ashanti;
thinking it was a party of their own people, came into thei
midst ; and the Wassaws, after extracting from them a
the information they could give, immediately cut thei
throats. At dawn they struck into a path that led toward .
the Prah, and after a slight skirmish with a small party c '
Ashantis, reached at nightfall a deserted village on th :


banks of that river. At this place they were obliged to halt
for the night, there being only one small broken canoe, that
would scarcely float, with which to cross the river. During
the day's march the Wassaws had found several of their
women and children in hiding in the bush. Several children
were also found with their brains dashed out, and others in
a dying condition where they had been cast away ; for the
Ashantis had compelled the women to throw away their
infants, in order that they might the more easily carry their

Next morning at daybreak, the whole party crossed the
Prah, on the bank of which two European soldiers of the
Royal African Colonial Corps met Captain Ricketts, and
informed him that they belonged to the advanced guard of
Major Chisholm's force, which was marching to join the
Governor. Fainting from hunger " and exhaustion, and with
his feet torn and bleeding, Captain Ricketts was unable to
proceed further ; but the two men constructed a litter of the
branches of trees and carried him to a small village, where
before long Major Chisholm arrived. Thus terminated the
disastrous expedition into the Wassaw country, which was
one of the rashest and most ill-conceived schemes imaginable.
Sir C. Macarthy was crushed by overwhelming numbers, and
the failure of ammunition at a critical moment turned defeat
into disaster. The engagement is generally known as the
battle of Assamako, though, as a matter of fact, the struggle
took place on the banks of the Adumansu,* some twenty
miles from that town.

As has already been stated, the letter sent by Sir C.
Macarthy to Major Chisholm on January r/th did not reach
him until the 22nd; a second letter, written on the 2 1st, and
containing the most pressing orders for him to join with his
whole force immediately, actually arriving two hours earlier.
The whole of the 23rd, however, was occupied in crossing
the Prah, five miles from Ampensasu, only one canoe being
available, and at nightfall the force was still at a village on

* Adu-man-su the water, or river, of Ada's town.


the river. Here Major Chisholm heard that an engagement
had taken place, but could not learn the result, and next day
was pushing on with all haste, when he met Captain Ricketts-
and learned the full extent of the disaster. Sir Charles
Macarthy's force being entirely dispersed or destroyed, and
his own being inadequate to cope with the victorious enemy,
who, he imagined, would advance upon Cape Coast by rapid
marches, Major Chisholm, on the 25th, commenced to retreat
thither. An hour after the march had begun, Captain
\J Estrange, of the Royal African Colonial Corps, dropped
dead from fatigue and exposure. The troops halted for the
night at a deserted village, marched through Effutu shortly
after noon next day, and arrived at Cape Coast in the
evening. In Cape Coast was found Captain Laing, who,
agreeably with his instructions, had advanced some thirty
miles into Assin ; but hearing of the defeat of Assamako,
prudently retired, bringing back in safety the whole of his

Contrary to expectation, the Ashantis had made nc
attempt to follow up their success, and had not even crossed
the Prah. In fact, such is not the Ashanti mode of waging
war. After a victory they usually remain halted for some
weeks, overrunning and plundering the surrounding country
and destroying the villages and plantations ; and when the}
do finally advance, it is in a very leisurely manner. Ever}
exertion was now made to assemble a force sufficient tc
oppose the enemy ; but the effect of the defeat of Assamak(
was soon visible in the excuses made by the different chief:
to avoid taking the field, most of them bitterly regretting
that they had been induced to take up arms at all. How
ever, on' February ,5th, Captain Laing marched from Cap'
Coast to Jukwa with a detachment of the Royal Africai
Colonial Corps, and a small party of Fantis in all som
foyr hundred men ; and being joined in the course of the wee!
by some six hundred more natives, he was ordered to mov
to Kommenda, where Major Chisholm himself proceeded o
the 1 5th.

The object of this movement was to punish the inhabitant


of Dutch Sekondi for an attack made, on January 25th,
on Captain Woolcomb and some officers of H.M.S. Owen
Glendower, who had landed to gain intelligence concerning
the battle. Two marines and a Kruman had been killed and
several wounded on that occasion, and the Dutch Sekondis
had also murdered several wounded men who had escaped
from the field of Assamako. On February i6th the force was
embarked on board H.M. ships Bann and Owen Glendower,
but owing to contrary winds and a strong current, did not
reach Dutch Sekondi till the following afternoon. It was
at once disembarked, the town, which was immediately aban-
doned by the inhabitants and a party of some four hundred
Ashantis, was set on fire and destroyed, and the force re-
turned to Kommenda the same night.

The Ashantis, who were now ascertained to be some
fifteen thousand in number, were still at Assamako, but it
was reported that they intended advancing on March 1st.
The Accra Militia, under Captains Hansen and Bannerman,
having joined Captain Laing at Kommenda, and thereby
brought his force up to a total strength of six thousand
men, he was ordered to take up a position on the Prah, in
order to dispute the expected passage of the enemy; but
before this movement could be effected, Captain Laing was
invalided to England, and the command of the native force
devolved upon Captain Ricketts. That officer posted the
detachment of the 2nd West India Regiment, under Lieu-
tenant Macarthy, at Deraboassi, on the direct route from
Assamako to Kommenda, distributed some of the native
levies in other villages along the Prah, and proceeded with
the bulk of his force to the mouth of that river, where he
encamped. The 1st of March passed without the enemy
making any appearance, and the continued inaction was
beginning to affect the morale of the native levies, whose
chiefs were urgent in their entreaties to be allowed to cross
the river and attack the enemy, saying that their men would
lose their courage if they waited much longer. A forward
movement, however, formed no part of the present plan of
operations, and the chiefs were informed that they must



wait. On March loth, Major Chisholm being seriously ill,
Captain Ricketts, the second in command, was recalled to
Cape Coast, and Captain Blencarne, of the Royal African
Colonial Corps, took command of the force distributed along
the Prah.

While affairs were in this condition, the Ashantis plunder-
ing Wassaw, and the allied natives losing heart in en-
forced idleness awaiting the expected attack, Governor
Last, the Dutch Director-General, who had recently arrived
at Elmina from Holland, wrote to inform Major Chis-
holm that some Ashanti messengers had arrived at El-
mina, and that they wished to hold a palaver with the
English. Captain Ricketts was accordingly sent from Cape
Coast, and had a meeting with the Ashanti messengers, and
with Atjiempon, their resident ambassador at Elmina. In
the course of the conference which took place, the messengers
declared that they were authorised to say that the King had
not sent his army to fight against the white men, but to
capture Kwadjo Tchibbu, King of Denkera, Awusucu, chief of
Tshiforo, or Tufel, and Annimelli, King of Western Wassaw,
who had made war against him, their sovereign. They added
that if these three men were delivered up, the Ashanti army
would immediately return home, but that they had special
orders from the King to take Kwadjo Tchibbu, even should
he be locked up in Cape Coast Castle.

The reason the capture of the King of Denkera was sc
insisted upon was as follows : The Ashanti King, suspecting
that he was meditating a rebellion, had inveigled him to Ku
massi, where he was kept a prisoner for some time, until, bein<
informed privately that it was intended to put him to death
he contrived to bribe some Ashanti captains and escape
On returning to Denkera, he at once proclaimed war agains .
Ashanti, in which he was joined by his neighbours the King ;
of Tufel and Western Wassaw ; and having taken prisoner ;
some Ashantis who were working in the Denkera gold mine ,
he sent them to Kumassiwith a message to the King that h >
captains were not very trustworthy persons, since for gol I


they had allowed him to escape. This charge created great
excitement in the capital, and the whole of the assembled
Ashanti captains, after denying the accusation, swore by the
King's head, a most sacred oath, that they would follow and
bring back to the capital their accuser, even should he seek
protection within the walls of Cape Coast. It was the army
despatched with this object that had entered Wassaw and
defeated Sir C. Macarthy.

The reply of Captain Ricketts to the Ashanti messengers
was unfortunately ambiguous. Instead of at once declaring
that the British Government would never treacherously sur-
render chiefs who had stood by it in the hour of need, he
contented himself with affirming that it was not the wish
of the King of England to make war upon any of the natives
of Africa, and that if the Ashantis wished for .peace it could
be at once effected, provided that properly accredited ambas-
sadors were sent for that purpose. The Ashanti messengers
interpreted this speech as meaning that no difficulty would
be made about surrendering the three chiefs, so on their part
they promised that their army should remain stationary until
ambassadors could arrive at Elmina to arrange a peace, and
asked that orders might be given to the troops and allied
natives not to attack the Ashantis. To this Captain Ricketts
agreed, and the meeting broke up. As a proof of their
friendly intentions, the Ashantis now surrendered Mr.
Williams, the Colonial Secretary, who had been captured
by them at Assamako ; but unable to deny themselves the
satisfaction of a triumphant procession before the inhabitants
of Elmina, they led him naked through the streets, with his
hands tied behind him, before giving him up to Governor

From Mr. Williams's account it appeared that he had left
the battlefield with Sir Charles Macarthy, Mr. Buckle, and
Ensign Wetherell, and after proceeding a short distance along
the path to Assamako, had been suddenly attacked by a
party of the enemy. At the first fire one of Sir C. Macarthy 's
arms was broken, and almost immediately afterwards he

M 2


received a wound in the breast and fell. At the same time
Mr. Williams received a ball in the thigh and fell fainting,
the last thing he remembered seeing being Ensign Wetherell,
who was lying wounded close to the Governor, cutting with
his sword at the enemy as they were tearing off Sir Charles's
clothes. When he recovered his senses he found that some
Ashantis were trying to cut off his head, and had already
inflicted one gash on the back of his neck. Fortunately, at
this moment an Ashanti trader, to whom Mr. Williams had
been able to show some kindness at Cape Coast, came up,
and, recognising the prisoner, ordered his life to be spared.
Close at hand were the headless trunks of Sir C. Macarthy,
Mr. Buckle, and Ensign Wetherell.

Mr. Williams was marched as a prisoner to Assamako,
where the Ashanti army was encamped. During the day he
was kept under a thatched shed, and every night he was
locked up in a small room with the heads of the Governor,
Mr. Buckle, and Ensign Wetherell, which, owing to some
peculiar process, were in a perfect state of preservation. The
Governor's head in particular presented nearly the same ap-
pearance as when he was alive. The only sustenance allowed
the prisoner during his captivity was as much snail soup
every morning and evening as he could hold in the palm of
his hand ; and, with a refinement of cruelty, the Ashantis ;
whenever they beheaded any of their prisoners, compelled
him to sit on one side of their large war drum while the heads
were struck off on the other. The Ashantis had intended
sending Mr. Williams to Kumassi, and as he was not abk
to walk, on account of the musket-ball in his thigh, the}
endeavoured to force it out by tying strings tightly rounc
the leg, above and below the wound. This treatment, whil<
it caused the prisoner the most excruciating pain, entire!}
failed in its object, and Mr. Williams was in daily expectatioi
of being put to death, when he received the welcome new
that they were going to send him to Elmina. During hi
captivity he learned that Mr. Jones, a merchant and captai
of militia, who had fallen into their hands, had been sacrifice


to one of their gods, because he had received five wounds.
Mr. Raydon, captain in the militia, had also been brutally
murdered because, when stripped naked and deprived of his
boots, he had been unable to keep up with his captors.

The losses sustained by the regulars and militia engaged
in the battle of Assamako, were now ascertained to have
been as under :



Brigadier-General Sir Charles Macarthy.

Ensign Wetherell )

e r> r j m JT t 2no - West India Regiment.

Surgeon Beresford Tedlie 3

J. S. Buckle, Esq., Colonial Engineer.

Captain Heddle ^

~ . T Merchants holding Commissions in the

Captain Jones V ^A/T-I -

^ V . V. j Cape Coast Militia.

Captain Raydon J

Captain Robertson, Cape Coast Volunteer Company.
Mr. Brandon, Ordnance Store-keeper.


2nd West India Regiment 2

Royal African Colonial Corps 41

Royal Cape Coast Militia 8r

Royal Volunteer Company ... ... ... ... 54




Captain Ricketts, 2nd West India Regiment.
Ensign Erskine, Royal African Colonial Corps.
Mr. Williams, Colonial Secretary.


Royal African Colonial Corps 17

Royal Cape Coast Militia 58

Royal Volunteer Company 14


The brunt of the day had been borne by the regulars and
militia, who in consequence had suffered severely. The


Royal African Corps had 58 killed and wounded out of
a total of 80, the Cape Coast Militia 139 out of I/O, and
the Volunteer Company 68 out of 76. The loss sustained by
the native levies was never ascertained, but it was probably
not very heavy, as the whole of them, except the Denkeras
under Kwadjo Tchibbu, quitted the field early in the day.
The Denkeras fought bravely and suffered a considerable


Effect of the Elmina palaver on the natives Retreat from the Prah
Defeat at Dompim A camp formed at Beulah Action at Effutu
The Ashantis advance upon Cape Coast Cape Coast attacked
Withdrawal of the Ashantis Condition of the town Outrage by
the Elminas.

THE ambiguous language used by Captain Ricketts to the
Ashanti messengers at Elmina soon produced its natural
results, for the palaver had been conducted openly, and the
matter discussed was of such vital importance to the native
allies, that everything that had been said was soon known
and commented upon. It soon became commonly believed
that the Government intended purchasing a shameful peace
by delivering to their barbarous foes Kwadjo Tchibbu and
the two other chiefs who had been demanded, and unfortu-
nately the recollection of a former disgraceful surrender only
tended to confirm the natives in their belief. This belief was
further strengthened by the fact that Captain Blencarne, who
had at last yielded to the importunities of the chiefs, and had
fixed a day for crossing the Prah and attacking the enemy,
was now obliged to cancel this order, in consequence of the
engagement to abstain from hostilities made by Captain
Ricketts with the Ashanti messengers.

The native chiefs, conceiving themselves about to be
abandoned by the English, now decided to attack the
Ashantis by themselves, and it was in vain that Captain


Blencarne strove to dissuade them. On the morning of
March 24th, they crossed the river about seven thousand
strong, leaving Captain Blencarne with only the regulars,
militia, and a party of Accras, and commenced cutting paths
towards the enemy's camp. The Ashantis, of course, re-
garded this advance as a breach of the engagement to
suspend hostilities, and moving from Assamako, appeared in

Online LibraryA. B. (Alfred Burdon) EllisA history of the Gold Coast of West Africa → online text (page 14 of 34)