A. B. (Alfred Burdon) Ellis.

A history of the Gold Coast of West Africa online

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force on the banks of the Prah opposite Deraboassi. As
they appeared to be preparing to cross at this point, the
regulars and militia were moved there, and an exchange of
shots across the river took place daily. By a chance shot
fired in this way, Ensign Erskine was one morning wounded
in the thigh and completely disabled, while sitting in a hut
near the river bank.

For eight days the native levies who had crossed the
river continued cutting paths through the bush towards the
Ashanti camp, and though Captain Hutchinson, of the
Anamabo militia, was specially sent by Major Chisholm to
assure them that the English would never consent to make
peace by surrendering the three chiefs, they persevered in
their design. On the night of the ninth day, however, their
courage failed them. The Wassaws, who were on the ex-
treme left, deserted their post in the darkness, and swam
across the river ; and this being discovered at daybreak, the
whole native force, seized with a disgraceful panic, fled across
the Prah with such precipitation that two thousand muskets
and nearly all the ammunition were lost, and several men
drowned. As they landed on the left bank they dispersed
in every direction, making their way to their homes, and the
native force ceased to exist.

The Ashantis, who had been alarmed by the noise made
by the panic-stricken natives in their flight, no sooner ascer-
tained what had taken place than they prepared to follow in
pursuit ; and Captain Blencarne, being left with a mere hand-
ful of men, retired on April 2nd through Effutu to Cape
Coast. On the way he met Kwadjo Tchibbu, at the village
of Bansu, and it was only with the utmost difficulty, and
after giving the most solemn pledges that neither he nor


any of his family would be surrendered to the Ashantis,
that he could persuade the chief to accompany him to Cape

On April loth, Major Chisholm ordered Captain Blen-
carne to move out and form a camp at Effutu. He was
followed by the King of Denkera and Appia, chief of
Adjumako, with their people, and these chiefs, at the request
of Captain Blencarne, took up a position near the village of
Dompim,* some twelve miles beyond Effutu, and close to
-a stream from which the enemy, who had now moved from
the Prah, obtained their water. The two loyal chiefs fired -on
several Ashantis who came down to the stream, upon which
some of the enemy shouted from the dense bush that " they
would soon see who was master," and on the morning of the
25th the Denkeras and Adjumakos were attacked in force.
The -allies fought well, and, when the centre of the Ashanti
line fell back, they conceived that they had won the day.
But it was only a stratagem of savage warfare, for as the
allies pushed after the retreating centre, the Ashanti flanks
wheeled in upon them, and, attacking them on both sides,
threw them into confusion. The slaughter was immense,
and only a small proportion of the allies escaped from the
field. Appia, who had become separated from his men, was
missing for several days, but at last, when all hope had been
nearly abandoned, he was found in a starving condition in
the bush. He was carried to Cape Coast, where small-pox
was raging, and there this brave and loyal chief unfortu-
nately fell a victim to that disease. Captain Blencarne at
Effutu, having heard the firing, had marched to the assist-
ance of the allies, but finding them defeated and dispersed,
and the Ashantis busily engaged in cutting paths towards
Effutu, ordered a retreat to Cape Coast. The Ashantis
followed with unusual alacrity, and actually entered Effutu
at one end as the troops were leaving it at the other, making
prisoners of two European soldiers, and nearly capturing
Ensign Mackenzie, who had just time to leap out of the
window of a house and escape.

* Dompim Place of bones.


A few days later, the Ashantis having made no furthe:'
advance, the troops were again ordered out and directed to
encamp in the Government garden at the village of Beulah,
about six miles from Cape Coast and three from Effutu,
where the enemy had now fixed their quarters. After much
difficulty in getting natives to the camp, a force of abou:
six thousand men, including regulars and militia, wa>
collected; and it being reported that the King of Ashanli
was advancing in person with ten thousand men to reinforc j
his army at Effutu, Major Chisholm ordered the allies t )
cross the Kakum, or Sweet River, which runs close to th*
garden, and attack the enemy before the junction was effectec .
Several days were wasted in a dispute between the allies a 3
to who was to take the right during the projected attacl .
The Fantis insisted upon occupying that position, and th 2
Denkeras and others, knowing their cowardice, strongl r
opposed such an arrangement, for the route to Fanti countr /
lay to the right, and there was every probability that tt 2
Fantis would retreat there during the action ; while, if the /
were placed on the left, they would be unable to run awa -,
as the Elminas, the allies of Ashanti, would be behind ther i.
The Fantis, however, would not yield, and succeeded i
carrying their point by saying that if they were not allows i
to take the right they would return home without fightin r t .
This being settled, the force was told off to its various po< -
tions, and each body commenced cutting its way throu^ h
the thick bush to the enemy, now about two miles off.

On May iSth, Lieutenant-Colonel Sutherland, of tl e
2nd West India Regiment, arrived from Sierra Leon ;,
bringing with him forty men of his corps, which was all th it
could be spared from the garrison of Sierra Leone. I e
assumed the government of the Gold Coast, and on the 19 h
proceeded to the camp at Beulah ; but finding the paths o
the enemy's position were almost completed, and not wishi g
to deprive Major Chisholm of the honour of the comma d
in the action he had planned and which was about to ta :e
place, he returned to Cape Coast to forward some necesss y
supplies. On the morning of the 2ist every available m .n


from the garrison of Cape Coast was despatched to Beulah,
the marines from the men-of-war in the roadstead being
landed to garrison the Castle and towers, and at one in the
afternoon the battle commenced. The Ashanti position was
on a hill covered with dense wood, the front of which had
been cleared of bush for some considerable distance, so that,
they had a full view of the troops and native allies as they
advanced to the attack. The enemy fought bravely, keeping
up a heavy fire from the thick bush, and making several
attempts to turn the flanks of the allies ; but finding them-
selves baffled at all points, after five hours' fighting, they
retired from the position with great loss in killed and.
wounded. The Denkeras behaved with their usual gallantry,
and pursued the enemy into EfFutu.*

The fruits of this engagement, the first since the be-
ginning of the war in which the Ashantis had suffered any
material reverse, were lost through the cowardice of the
Fantis. As had been expected, at the very commencement
of the battle, the whole Fanti contingent, three thousand
strong, had fled without firing a shot. Nor was this the
worst, for meeting in their flight the carriers from Cape
Coast bringing up supplies and ammunition, they swept
them back with them, reporting that the English were
defeated ; and in consequence the troops and native allies
found themselves at nightfall short of ammunition and
without supplies. They were also much distressed for want
of water, which was to have been sent to them, and there
being no stream nearer than the Sweet River, they were

* The British force engaged consisted of 2 officers and 99 men of
the 2nd West India Regiment, 3 officers and 136 men of the Royal
African Corps, and 470 militia of all ranks. The native auxiliary force
consisted of 77 chiefs and some 5,000 men. The losses were as follows :

Killed. Wounded.

Regulars ... ... 9 ... ... 20

Militia 83 54

Native Levies 84 603

176 677


constrained to fall back to Beulah. Although Major Chis-
Iholm announced that he intended to advance next day anc
renew the engagement, this retrograde movement so dis-
heartened the natives, that during the night the whole ol
them, with the exception of the Denkeras and a few mer
from Cape Coast, dispersed; and Lieutenant-Colonel Suther
land then ordered the troops to return to the Castle, a part}
of observation, under Lieutenant Rogers, of the Royal Africar
Colonial Corps, being left at Beulah.

Two days after the action the Ashantis, who had beer
joined by a strong body of Elminas, returned to their camj
at Effutu, where on the 28th they were reinforced by th<
army from Kumassi under Osai Okoto, for Osai Tuti
Kwamina had died on January 2ist, the very day on whicl
Sir Charles Macarthy had lost his life. Osai Okoto sen
to Colonel Sutherland to say that the walls of the Castl
were not high enough and should be made higher, and tha
he ought to land all the guns from the men-of-war, as h<
intended throwing every stone of the Castle into the sea
but notwithstanding this bombast he did nothing for thre<
weeks, during which time many of his foraging parties wer
cut off by the native allies, who were readier at lying i
ambush and firing volleys upon small bodies of unsuspectin
stragglers than at fighting pitched battles.

At last, on June 2 1 st, the Ashanti army advanced from Effut
to within five miles of Cape Coast, driving in before it Lieu
tenant Rogers's party of observation. Next day the enem
moved considerably nearer, taking up a position which th *.
smoke of their camp fires showed to be about three miles i
extent; and on the day following they advanced so near tha ;
they were distinctly seen in great force on the hills behin .
Forts William and Victoria. An attack was considered irr -
minent, and the whole of the male population of the town WE ;
ordered out to repel it, while the women and children of Cap . k
Coast, together with those who had fled into the town from th .-
surrounding villages, rushed to the Castle for protection. Th. i
crush at the gate, the wicket only of which had, through sorn ?
mismanagement, been left open, was terrible ; several wome i


were squeezed to death in the crowd, and the cries of the
terrified people struggling for an entrance were pitiful be-
yond expression. To add to the terrors of the moment a
vast conflagration now broke out, and soon involved the whole
town in destruction. In past years the natives had been suffered
to encroach upon the open space in front of the Castle, and had
built thereon several houses which actually overlooked and
commanded the Castle ramparts. Colonel Sutherland had
given orders for these to be pulled down, but the owners had
neglected to comply, and when the near approach of the
enemy was signalled from Fort William, there being no time
for anything else to be done, he ordered four of them to be
set on fire. The strong sea breeze caused the conflagration
to spread, and the flames, springing from one thatched roof
to another, soon destroyed the roofs and all the woodwork
of nearly every house in the town. The mud walls, of course,
could not be seriously damaged, and fortunately nearly all
goods of value had already been moved into the Castle for
safety ; but still the destruction of property, especially that
of the poorer people who could not easily replace it, was
very great.

After all, the enemy made no attack on that day, but after
advancing to within less than a mile of the Castle, halted, and
without any apparent cause retired early next morning, the
24th, to Beulah. Many years afterwards the Ashantis ex-
plained this movement by saying that the conflagration of the
town dismayed them. They seem to have thought that the
people had destroyed it in a frenzy of despair and were pre-
paring to perish in its ruins, and that therefore it would be
wiser to postpone the attack for another time. They remained
stationary at Beulah until the end of the month, detaching
strong parties to lay waste the country and destroy the
neighbouring villages, which work they effected without
molestation, for the garrison of Cape Coast consisted of less
than four hundred men, one-third of whom were in hospital,
and no dependence could be placed upon the native levies.

On July 4th a welcome reinforcement of one hundred and
one officers and men of the Royal African Colonial Corps


arrived in H.M.S. Thetis from England ; and two days later
the garrison of Cape Coast was further increased by a re-
inforcement of some five thousand natives, who had beer
raised from Accra and the sea-coast towns to the eastward a. 1
far as the Volta. This contingent had been got together b}
Major de Richelieu, the Danish Governor at Christiansborg
who had recently arrived on the Gold Coast, and who through
out exhibited the greatest friendliness to the British. He sent ' .
Danish officer/Captain Peloson, in command of the force, am
announced that he was assembling another strong force t<
advance through Akim, commanded by himself, and create ; .
diversion by threatening an invasion of Ashanti territory
Unfortunately the reinforcement brought no munitions of wa
with them, and the troops were already so badly supplie<
with lead that all the waterpipes from the Castle, the lea<
from the roofs of the merchants' houses, and every pevvte
vessel that could be procured, had been taken for the castin;
of bullets and slugs.

On July /th the enemy again approached the town, an .
-were seen defiling ever a hill by several paths in great fore :
and moving towards a line of heights, where they took up .
position. Near to the left of this position, at a spot wher >
the bush had been cleared, the King pitched his tent, and th :
Ashantis were so near that their movements could be easil -
observed from the town. Some of them were wearing th j
uniforms of the officers and men who had been killed t
Assamako, and they displayed English, Dutch, and Danis i
flags, together with others designed by themselves. Tr :
allied natives were now ordered out to take up a position c i
a line of hills opposite to those occupied by the Ashanti ,
and several skirmishes took place with small bodies of tl
latter, who were busily engaged in cutting paths towards tl 2
town. On Sunday, the nth, the enemy were seen descendir *
the hills in large masses soon after daylight, and formir r
long lines in the valley that lay between the two opposin j
positions. Shortly after noon they made a further advanc ,
and, being fired upon by some skirmishers, a general engag -
ment ensued, and continued till dark, when the eneir .'


retired. During the action two of their camps were plundered
<ind burnt by some of the native levies, who, although it had
been necessary hitherto to drive them daily to their posts at
the point of the bayonet, fought well this day for four hours,
especially those stationed on the right, at Prospect and
Connor's Hills, where the enemy, who showed the greatest
courage, made the most determined efforts.*

Next day the enemy again formed up in the valley as if to
renew the engagement, and being fired at by a few skirmishers
who had crept through the bush to reconnoitre, opened a
heavy fire in return, which they kept up for half an hour.
They then remained quiet until about two in the afternoon,
when, on a few random shots being fired into the bush from
a field-piece, they returned to their former position. Next
morning they were again observed in motion, descending in
single file from the line of hills by several paths towards the
valley. A renewal of the engagement was momentarily ex-
pected and everything was held in readiness, but throughout
the whole day, and until darkness set in, they still continued
marching down the hills. During the night hundreds of fires
gleamed in the valley, but when daylight appeared not an
enemy was to be seen, and it was soon ascertained that the
entire army had decamped. In order to enable their wounded,
carriers, and prisoners to retire unmolested, they had marched
men down the hills in full view of the English, taken them by
hidden paths through the bush to the back of the hills, and
then again marched them down in full view. The reason of

* The allied force engaged on the nth was as follows :

Officers. Men.

Royal Marine Artillery



2nd West India Regiment ...



Royal African Corps

... 15

... 193

Militia . .



Native Levies...

46 ;o

*9 5053

The loss was one officer (Lieutenant Swanzy, Royal African Corps)
-and 103 men killed, and 448 men wounded.


this abandonment of the attack on Cape Coast was that th*
army had suffered terribly from small-pox and dysentery, a>
well as from want of food, they having, with very little fore-
sight, destroyed all the plantations for miles round. Disconten:
was the natural result, and on the night of the nth the entire
Assin contingent had deserted, saying that they could net
fight \vhen hungry. From native prisoners who escaped frori
the Ashantis it was now learned that the principal Ashan i
chiefs had divided and eaten the heart of Sir Charles Macarttr ,
in the belief, common to most savages, that they would then -
by acquire some portion of the courage that had animated i :.
It was further said that his flesh had been dried, and divide i
amongst all the chiefs and captains in the army, as charms 1 y
inspire bravery.

The Ashanti army retired in the direction of Elmin .,
Beulah, and Effutu, and though every effort was made 1 :>
induce the allies to follow and harass it, it was without effec :.
On June igth a reconnoitring party from Cape Coast report* i =
that the enemy had retreated in the direction of Anamabo, n
the vicinity of which town they remained, destroying villag s
and plantations, till the report of the advance through Aki n
of the force raised by Major de Richelieu caused them o
retire to Kumassi. When they withdrew they left behii d
three or four hundred sick and wounded, all of whom f< 11
into the hands of the Fantis, and were murdered.

The wanton destruction of the plantations and provisio i-
grounds, which had necessitated the withdrawal of t e
Ashanti army, was now the cause of a famine that devastat d
Cape Coast and Anamabo. These two towns were filled o
overflowing with the fugitives from the inland towns a: d
villages, for whom there was absolutely no food. T ie
officers and soldiers of the garrison were themselves ve y
short of provision, having neither meat nor flour, and fi r e
or six Europeans died daily. The natives perished >y
hundreds from mere starvation, and an epidemic of sm^ 1-
pox and dysentery carried off scores of others. Dozens sf
dead and dying were seen lying about the streets of Ce )e
Coast, and the Castle yard was so- crowded with women a id


children in the last stage of exhaustion, that it was im-
possible to pass from one side of it to the other without
treading on them. The stench was horrible, and the frequent
showers of rain which washed into the .cisterns the filth
naturally accumulated under these conditions, aggravated the
situation by causing the water to become polluted. Providen-
tially a vessel with a supply of provisions arrived from Sierra
Leone, and as soon as the dreadful condition of Cape Coast was
known, several ships laden with rice were despatched from
England. These supplies preserved the life of the gar-
rison and the remaining inhabitants, for the country could
produce nothing in the way of food till fresh crops were
:sown and had grown up, a process which would require
some months.

Scarcely had the Ashanti army retired into its own
territory than the Elminas gave a fresh proof of their hostility
to the natives allied to the British. When it was ascertained
that the enemy had really crossed the Prah, some of the
inhabitants of the deserted villages returned to their former
homes, to rebuild their houses and resume their avocations,
amongst them being the Kommendas. The majority of the
Kommendas returned home by sea, but a number of women
and children who sought to proceed by land, were seized as
they were passing through the town of Elmina, and murdered
by the inhabitants. The Governor, Colonel Grant, of the
Royal African Corps, for Colonel Sutherland had been
invalided to England towards the end of July, at once wrote
to Governor Last at Elmina to demand that the perpetrators
of this crime should be punished ; but the latter replied that
he had no sufficient force to control the people, much less to
compel them to surrender some of their number to condign
punishment. Colonel Grant then offered to send the troops
from Cape Coast, and Governor Last at first accepted this
offer, but changed his mind at the eleventh hour, when every
arrangement for their conveyance had been made and the
hour of landing fixed. Further remonstrances failed to produce
any effect, and none of the Elminas were ever brought to
justice for their crime.



The mortality among the officers and European troops
during this campaign had been terrible. The account is
contained in an old "letter-book in the Military Hospital at
Cape" Coast, and a part of it is given here in detail to show
what the climate of the Gold Coast really is; for the Colonial
Government, probably not wishing to terrify its European
officials, has never published any death statistics. Out of the
first two companies of white soldiers, who arrived at Cape Coast
from the Cape of Good Hope in April, 1823, only one man
remained alive in December, 1824. Out of a second detach-
ment that had arrived in November, 1823, from England,
only eight remained alive ; the greater part of a third detach-
ment which disembarked at Cape Coast on I2th March, 1824
died within three months of landing ; only six men remainec
alive of a fourth detachment that arrived on 2Oth March; am
out of the one hundred and one men who landed from H.M.S
Thetis on July 4th, forty-five died within a week of arrival
The deaths of fifteen officers are recorded within the sam
period, viz., between April, 1823, and December, 1824. .A
if it were not sufficiently bad to send men to serve in such
climate, the Government actually sent out the soldiers' wive
and children. Forty-two women and sixty-seven childre
arrived at Cape Coast in October, 1823, and by Decembe ,
1824, twenty-nine women and forty-one children were deac ,
sacrificed to official ignorance, and twenty-seven women an 1
children had been sent to England to save their lives. We 1
might Assistant-Surgeon Bell, of the Royal African Coloni; 1
Corps, who compiled this record, say : " The destruction < f
life that has taken place ought to prevent any more Europe^ i
women and children being sent out. ... I sincerely hope I
will never rewitness the many trying sights I have done th s
year, in beholding the father and four or five fine childre i,
laid up with fever in a small hovel of a place, totally helple s
to each other, and gradually dying, without my being able o
mitigate their sufferings even in a small degree."

1825 1829.

Major-General Turner Advance of a second Ashanti army Battle of
Dodowah Proceedings of Sir Neil Campbell Peace negotiations
Blockade of Elmina Further negotiations The Home Govern-
ment withdraws from the Gold Coast A committee of merchants
formed Condition of the country.

COLONEL GRANT was soon succeeded in the government
by Major Chisholm, and nothing worthy of note occurred
till the death of the latter, which took place on October i/th,
1824. His loss was much regretted, for he possessed an
intimate acquaintance with native affairs, having served in
West Africa in various capacities since 1809. At the end of
March, 1825, Major-General Turner, who had been appointed
Governor-in-Chief of the British Settlements in West Africa,
arrived at Cape Coast with three transports, containing
seven hundred European soldiers of the Royal African
Colonial Corps from England, and the 2nd West India
Regiment from Sierra Leone. Finding that there was no
hostile body of Ashantis south of Prahsu, he issued a pro-
clamation, charging the Ashanti King with having, with the
assistance of the Elminas, waged a cruel and unjust war

Online LibraryA. B. (Alfred Burdon) EllisA history of the Gold Coast of West Africa → online text (page 15 of 34)