A. B. (Alfred Burdon) Ellis.

A history of the Gold Coast of West Africa online

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against the English and their native allies, and stating that
he would not enter into any treaty with Ashanti until the
King abandoned all claim to tribute from, and authority
over, the tribes on the sea-coast. He also announced

N 2


that Elmina was only suffered to exist because of the
friendship between the Dutch and English Governments.
This proclamation was, under the circumstances, rather
bombastic, considering that the Ashantis had not asked for
a treaty, and were not likely, having been the victors in the
late war, to do so. From January to June, a period of six
months, they had held possession of Wassaw, Denkera, and
Fanti, which they had depopulated and pillaged. They had
defeated and slain an English Governor, and had compelled
the troops to keep under the protection of the forts, only
ultimately retiring on account of sickness and the scarcity
of food. In Africa, as in Europe, it is the vanquished and
not the victors who sue for peace; and it was therefore,
to say the least, curious for the Governor to announce
that he would not conclude a treaty except on his own
terms. But this flourish deceived nobody, and on April I4th
he returned to Sierra Leone, taking with him nearly all the
Europeans of the Royal African Colonial Corps, and sending
the 2nd West India Regiment to the West Indies.

Major-General Turner died at Sierra Leone on March 7th
1826, after a residence in West Africa of fourteen months
and news having been received in England that anothe:
Ashanti army was advancing to the coast, Major-Genera
Sir Neil Campbell was appointed his successor, and wa;
ordered to proceed to Africa at once. This new army o
invasion, which had left Kumassi in the beginning of th<
year, had been overrunning eastern Fanti and destroying th'
towns and villages, particularly Essikuma, the chief of which
Kwasi Amankwa, had, after the withdrawal of the forme
army in 1825, reconsidered his position and decided to joi
the British. It remained thus occupied, without meetin ;
with the least resistance till August, 1826, when the Kin ;
concentrated his whole force to the north of Accra, he bein ; -
determined to punish the Accras for joining the allies, i .
considerable force of natives was hastily got together t >
meet the expected attack, and Lieutenant-Colonel Purdoi ,
who was administering the government, joined it with tr
Royal African Colonial Corps, and the militia of Cape Coa, c


and Anamabo, under Messrs. Jackson and Hutchinson

On August 7th the Ashanti army moved to the village of
Dodowah, which lies inland nearly due north from Ningo,
and it being Monday, a day considered propitious by the
Ashantis, an attack was expected. The allied force ac-
cordingly took up a position to await it, and formed up in a
line, which extended about four miles east and west, four
miles south of Dodowah, and twenty miles north-east of
Accra. The country here was open, and consisted of a rolling,
grass-covered plain, dotted here and there with clumps of
trees and underwood. The centre of the allied force was
composed of the Cape Coast Militia (Mr. Jackson), the
Anamabo Militia (Mr. Hutchinson), the Accra Militia (Mr.
Bannerman), and the Christiansborg Militia (Mr. Richter) ;
the Royal African Colonial Corps, sixty strong, being drawn
up in rear as a reserve. The Akwamus were on the extreme
right, and the Denkeras and Akims on the left. This disposi-
tion had not been effected without difficulty, all three tribes
demanding to be posted on the right, where it was expected
the Ashanti King would lead in person ; but in the end they
were all equally disappointed, for, learning that there were
white men in the centre, the King selected that post for
himself in order to gain more honour. The allies were
distinguished from the enemy by white strips of calico
hung from the barrels of their muskets, and by large sea-
shells, which they wore suspended from the neck in front
and behind.

At about half-past nine o'clock the attack commenced
from right to left. For some time the centre was not
engaged, and several natives from the flanks came and
taunted the militia with cowardice, with the result that they
became impatient and began to get out of hand. This being
reported to Colonel Purdon, he directed the centre to advance
about four hundred yards, and the movement had just com-
menced, when a heavy and destructive fire was opened on
it ; but the advance being steadily continued the enemy
slowly and stubbornly fell back. A hand to hand conflict


now raged for some little time, men seizing and dragging
each other from the opposing ranks, and fortunate were
they who were at once put out of their misery, for, in spite
.of the orders and entreaties of the officers of the militia,
numbers of the Ashantis were ripped up or horribly muti-
lated, and left writhing on the ground. The fighting was
so close, that when an Ashanti captain ignited a barrel of
gunpowder and blew himself up, some of the Europeans
were nearly involved in his destruction.

As the Ashantis gave way, a large quantity of spoil fell
into the hands of the militia, who, instead of pressing their
advantage, broke their ranks and ran hither and thither
collecting it, and would not listen to orders and continue
the attack ; but while they were so engaged a cry arose that
the Ashantis had pierced the line to the left of the centre,
and th,e imminent danger recalled them to their duty. The
fact was that a body of men from Dutch Accra had given
way, and the Ashantis had pushed forward into their place :
the whole of the Danish natives from Christiansborg had alsc
fled, and the swallow-tailed banners of Denmark were no\\
seen flying far in the rear. At this moment a vigorous attack
was made upon the centre, which, still disorganised by it.'
eagerness for plunder, was compelled to fall back, closel>
followed by masses of the enemy. At the same time i
galling fire was opened on the flank, and Captain Rogers, o
the Royal African Corps, who was bringing up a piece o
artillery, was nearly captured. This was the critical momen:
of the battle. The retreat of the centre was fast becoming i
flight, which, although the natives on the extreme right anc
left were still holding their own, would soon have involvec
them also, when Colonel Purdon ordered the reserve t<
advance, and opened fire with Congreve rockets. It was th<
first time that these missiles had been used against th<
Ashantis, and their effect was prodigious. Terrified at th<
screaming sound and the trail of fire streaming behind
and astonished at the explosion and the frightful wound
they inflicted, the Ashantis, imagining that the English wer
fighting with actual thunder and lightning, first wavered, am


then broke and fled in irretrievable disorder, and the day was

On the left old Kwadjo Tchibbu, King of Denkera, had
well sustained his former reputation. The Winnebahs, who
were next to him, had fled almost at the first fire, but a few
rounds of grape fired over the heads of the allies had checked
the Ashanti advance in that quarter, and Tchibbu gallantly
Jed on his followers to drive them back. The issue of the
conflict on the right had not been doubtful for a moment.
The King of Akwamu had driven all before him, and pene-
trating to the Ashanti camp had taken the enemy in flank.
His advance was marked by a dense column of smoke, the
dry grass having taken fire, and by loud explosions, followed
by columns of v/hite smoke shooting up above the trees, as
the Ashanti captains blew themselves up in despair. The
shouts and groans of the combatants, many of them writhing
and struggling in the midst of the burning grass, the roar of
the musketry and the savage yells of the victors, completed a
scene which can be better imagined than described.

About one o'clock the allies began to bring in the heads
of the Ashanti chiefs who had fallen, and several of them
were recognised as those of noted captains and princes of
the blood royal, to whom, even in the heat of the battle,
human sacrifices had been made by the King's order, as their
deaths were reported. Among the trophies thus brought in
was a head taken by the King of Akwapim, and subsequently
sent to England by Colonel Purdon, in the belief that it was
Sir Charles Macarthy's. The skull was enveloped in paper
covered with Arabic characters, and wrapped in a silk
handkerchief, while over all was a leopard skin, the emblem
of royalty. It was said that the Ashanti King regarded it as
a powerful talisman, and had offered a libation to it on the
morning of the battle, invoking it to cause the heads of all
the white men in the field to lie beside it. It was afterwards
discovered to be the head of the late King, Tutu Kwamina.

The whole Ashanti camp fell into the hands of the allies,

with great quantities of baggage and gold. The amount of

'.the latter was said to have been exceeding large, but it was


never known with certainty how much the natives obtained.
The Christiansborg contingent, which, as has been said, fled
almost at the first onset, reaped the greatest harvest of spoil ;
for directly they saw that the enemy was repulsed, they
returned and took possession of immense quantities of
plunder, with which they deliberately walked off the field.
On being charged with cowardice, they excused themselves
by saying that it was "against their fetish" to fight on
a Monday, a circumstance which, if true, they should have
remembered before the battle began. Towards the end of the
day the natives, satiated with slaughter, took a great many
prisoners, and until it was dark, parties kept coming in en-
cumbered with booty and driving captives before them.

The troops lay on their arms all night, not knowing but
that the King might make a desperate effort to retrieve his
fallen fortunes, and under cover of the darkness attack with
the remainder of his force. At intervals throughout the night
the drums of the different allied chiefs were sounded, accom-
panied by the usual recitative of voices. Each time, the
sounds were repeated all along the line, until they died away
in the distance ; and the hollow beat of the drums, mingled
with the weird notes of the singers, suggestive of devilish and
mysterious rites and human sacrifices, caused many of the
Europeans to shudder. These melancholy sounds were
generally followed by answering wails and lamentations from
the clumps of trees and bushes in front, where the unhappy
Ashanti women were searching for their relatives amongst the
heaps of slain, and whose voices rose out of the intense blackness
of the night like the cries of despairing spirits. It was a-
veritable night of horror.

Next morning the allied chiefs were urged to follow irt
pursuit of the fugitive King, but every argument was ex-
hausted in vain, and the whole of the allies returned to Accra
laden with booty. There was so little cohesion between the
various bodies that composed the allied force, and the chiefs
were so mutually jealous of each other, that, probably, had
the Ashantis delayed their attack for a few days, the whole
coalition against them would have fallen to pieces, and the


enemy would have been able to enter Accra almost un-
opposed. The total force engaged at Dodovvah has been
estimated as follows :

Royal African Corps 60

Militia of Cape Coast, Anamabo, English and Danish Accra 500
Native allies 10,820


The regulars suffered no loss, but the combined loss of the
militia and native levies was stated to be 800 killed and 1,000
wounded. It has been commonly supposed that there was-
a body of some five or six hundred Europeans engaged, and
to them has been attributed the success of the day; but
although the use of rockets and grape turned the scale at
a critical moment, the above figures show that the whites had
numerically very little to do with the contest, which was-
really a struggle between natives.

But few chiefs of importance were lost on the side of the
allies. Mr. Richter was wounded in the thigh early in the
action, and the Akwamu and Akim generals, with Kwasi
Amankwa, chief of Essikuma, were killed. The latter, having
been accused by the natives of intended treachery, had
determined to prove his loyalty during the battle, and had
made a bold attempt to seize the Ashanti King. He had
actually reached the royal basket litter, and had put his hand
on it to pull it down, when he was shot in the neck and
secured. The King, charging him with having deserted his
cause, directed him to follow him, and, on his refusing to do
so, ordered his head to be struck off. A party of Tchibbu's
Denkeras made a bold effort to rescue him, but they reached
the spot too late, and his head was carried off as a trophy.
The Ashantis, who were supposed to have been 10,000 strong,
left about half their number on the field. Twenty -four
powerful chiefs were killed, the King himself was wounded,
and several women and children of the royal blood were
taken prisoners.

On August 2 ist, fourteen days after the battle, Sir Neil


Campbell arrived at Cape Coast, and Colonel Purdon returned
to England. Beyond holding a meeting of the chiefs of Cape
Coast, to congratulate them on the victory that had been
won, the Governor did nothing until the end of September,
when he held a palaver, to which were summoned the Kings
of Denkera and Tufel, the King of Mankassim, and the two
principal chiefs of Anamabo. The chiefs and headmen of
Cape Coast were also present. Sir Neil Campbell thanked
the several chiefs for their gallantry at Dodowah, and sug-
gested that now, while the King of Ashanti was suffering
from his terrible reverse, would be a good time to send
messengers to him to make peace. This was the exact
opposite of Major- General Turner's policy, and although tc
a European mind the generosity of holding out the olive
branch to a vanquished foe might commend itself, to th<
native mind it appeared utter folly. The native view wa;
and is that overtures for peace should emanate from th<
party that has been worsted in the struggle ; and the chief
assured the Governor that any such application as he con
templated would be regarded, not only by the Ashantis, bu
by all the neighbouring tribes, as an act of submission. T
this the Governor replied that peace would only be made o:
conditions that the Ashanti King furnished securities for it
continuance ; that the object of going to war was to obtai .
peace ; and that although a proposal for peace might b j
construed as an act of submission if made after a defeat, sue i
could not be the case if made after a victory. Barbarot 5
peoples, however, do not reason in this way, and the chief ,
not wishing to destroy the effect of their success by con -
mencing peace negotiations, and desirous, on the other han ,
of avoiding any rupture with the British, adopted the midd 2
course of asking for a delay of twelve months ; stating, as tl 2
sequel proved with truth, that the Ashantis would with i
that time themselves ask for peace. To this Sir N< 1
Campbell refused to consent, and the chiefs then asked th t
at least, before any irretrievable step was taken, those wl o
were so materially interested in the question as the Queen >f
Akim and the Kings of Akwamu and Akwapim, might e


consulted. To this the Governor also objected, on the
ground that there was not time to send for them ; and
he finally peremptorily told the chiefs that he had orders to
make peace at once, and that he would do so, without any
stipulation in their favonr, if they would not consent to send
representatives to the King of Ashanti.

The Kings and chiefs, much dissatisfied with the result of
this palaver, were still in Cape Coast when Sir Neil Campbell
resolved to send presents on the part of the Government to
Kumassi. The chief of Cape Coast was directed to select
three men to form an embassy and convey these presents ;
and the Kings of Denkera, Tufel, Wassaw, and Mankassim
were ordered to furnish an escort for the party. This they
all positively refused to do, and the Governor thereupon sum-
moned the King of Denkera to appear in the Castle and
answer for his conduct. Being afraid that he would be made
a prisoner, and then delivered up to the Ashantis in order
that a peace might be concluded, Kwadjo Tchibbu disobeyed
this summons, and, in consequence, was ordered, with the
King of Tufel, to leave the town at an hour's notice,
with his followers. Thus this old man, who had fought
gallantly beside the British in every battle since the com-
mencement of the war, was driven from the town which he
had so materially assisted to defend. The projected mission
to Kumassi was fortunately now abandoned ; but these oc-
currences had produced the worst possible effect upon all the
native tribes, and when, on October loth, the Governor pro-
ceeded to Accra to hold a palaver with the chiefs of that
place and the surrounding districts, they declined to assemble
and meet him ; and on November I5th, disgusted by his
want of success, Sir Neil Campbell sailed for Sierra Leone,
leaving Major Ricketts to administer the government of the
Gold Coast. During his short stay of less than three months
he had, through his blind adherence to instructions and his
ignorance of native character, awakened all the old feelings
of distrust of the British Government, and virtually shattered
that union of the English and the coast tribes which had
been cemented by the victory of Dodowah.


About the middle of January, 1827, the Ashantis began
to feel their way towards commencing peace negotiations,
and engaged the services of the King of Adansi as an inter-
mediary. The Adansis, it may be noted, were really those
Assins who had remained north of the Prah in 1806, when
the bulk of that tribe had fled southward, and this is the first
time they appear under their new designation. The King of
Adansi wished to act as arbitrator between the British and
the Ashantis, and have the palaver held in his capital ; but
Major Ricketts would not consent to this, and after most
protracted negotiations an Ashanti embassy crossed the Prah
at the end of August. It was delayed by the allied chiefs
who had assembled to deliberate as to what their line of
conduct should be for a considerable time at Yan Kumassi
Assin, but finally reached Cape Coast on October 23rd.

The palaver was conducted by Lieut. -Colonel Lumley,
who had arrived on October nth. The Ashanti ambassador
declared that he was authorised to say that the King was
sorry for what he had done, and hoped that the English
would pardon him ; that he found there was no use in fight-
ing against white men, and therefore wished to be under
their control. In token of submission he laid his cap at the
Governor's feet. Colonel Lumley wisely decided to enter
into no engagement without first consulting the chiefs who
had been in arms against Ashanti, and these being sent for,
a palaver was held on December I2th, at which the Kings oi
Wassaw, Denkera, Tufel, and Assin, the chiefs of Cape
Coast, Anamabo, and Fanti, and others of minor note, were
present ; and the following terms were agreed upon as those
on which peace should be granted to the Ashantis : That the
King should lodge four thousand ounces of gold in the Castk
of Cape Coast, to be appropriated in purchasing arms anc
ammunition for the use of the allied tribes, in case Ashant
should again commence hostilities ; and that two of th<
royal family of Ashanti should be sent to Cape Coast a:
hostages. The King of Akwamu, the Queen of Akim, th<
King of Akwapim, and the people of Accra were not presen


at the meeting, but messengers from each arrived a few days
later, and on the terms on which peace had been offered
being explained to them they signified their approval. It
was, of course, understood that all the tribes allied with the
British were henceforward to be independent of Ashanti rule ;
.and after a short delay the Ashanti embassy returned to
Kumassi, accompanied by messengers from most of the allied
chiefs and two natives of Cape Coast who could read and

When matters thus seemed fairly in train for the final
conclusion of a peace a new difficulty arose. The allied
tribes, seeing the Ashantis humbled and suing for peace,
considered this a good opportunity for demanding repara-
tion for the injuries they had received at the hands of the
Elminas. The seizure and sale by that people of fugitives
from Fanti during the invasion of 1807, an< ^ the wanton
murder of the Kommenda women in 1824, had never been
revenged ; and, in addition to these barbarities, the Elminas
had fought beside the Ashantis against the British and allied
natives at Effutu, Beulah, and Cape Coast. Moreover, ever
since the withdrawal of the Ashanti army from before Cape
Coast in 1824, they had, in 'spite of the efforts of the Dutch
Governor, continued to supply the Ashantis with gunpowder,
which they obtained by night from American vessels.
Having now nothing to fear from the Ashantis, the allied
tribes demanded a moderate sum from the Elminas in
reparation for these injuries, and this being haughtily refused,
they encamped in considerable numbers round Elmina, and
closely blockaded it.

During the stay of the Ashanti embassy at Cape Coast,
it had been ascertained that there was in Kumassi a white
man who had been captured at Effutu, and a mulatto of
Cape Coast who had been taken at Assamako, and the
surrender of these prisoners having been insisted upon as one
of the preliminaries to peace, they were sent down shortly
after the embassy returned to Kumassi with a message from
the King that he surrendered them at once in accordance


with the Governor's request, to show his sincerity in wishing
for peace. The surrender of the two captives, however, was
not made without an equivalent being expected in return,
for the King asked that some of the members of his family,
particularly his head wife, who had been captured at Dodowah,
might be sent back to him, and also that Atjiempon and
his followers, who were at Elmina, might be permitted to
return. This request, which was reasonable enough, un-
fortunately could not be complied with, as his wife was in
the hands of the chief of Christiansborg who had captured
her, and the natives under Danish rule being dissatisfied
with the terms of peace that had been arranged, determined
to keep her, in the hope that through her influence they
might be able to make separate and more favourable terms
for themselves. The allied tribes who were blockading
Elmina likewise refused to allow Atjiempon or any Ashanti
to quit that town till the King had lodged the securities
according to the conditions agreed upon. Although a mutual
restoration of prisoners at the conclusion of a peace seems
the natural corollary of such an act, it is probable that the
natives understood their own interests and the Ashanti
character better than did the Government. The two persons
the King had surrendered were of no importance to him,
and if he could have succeeded in obtaining his wife and
the other members of his family in exchange, it is possible
that he might have adopted quite another tone, and have
shown no anxiety to be on friendly terms with the coast

The two prisoners from Kumassi had been well treated
during their captivity. The European, who had been there
for nearly four years, proved to be Patrick Riley, a private
of the Royal African Corps, who had been taken at Effutu
on April 25th, 1824. From his account, when the troops
evacuated Effutu on that date, he and two other soldiers
stayed behind to discuss some ration rum of which the>
had obtained possession, and while so employed had -beer
surprised in a house by the Ashantis. One of the men


fixed his bayonet and offered resistance, and was immediately
shot down and decapitated, but Riley and the other, who
were too drunk to resist, were spared. They were stripped
of their uniforms, attired in native cloths, and sent at once
to Kumassi, where twelve months later Riley's companion

In the meantime the blockade of Elmina was continued,
and all the neighbouring plantations having been destroyed,
the Elminas were obliged to cultivate the ground within the

Online LibraryA. B. (Alfred Burdon) EllisA history of the Gold Coast of West Africa → online text (page 16 of 34)