A. B. (Alfred Burdon) Ellis.

A history of the Gold Coast of West Africa online

. (page 20 of 34)
Online LibraryA. B. (Alfred Burdon) EllisA history of the Gold Coast of West Africa → online text (page 20 of 34)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

denly upon the native force at Essikuma, completely routed it
after a six hours' engagement. The regular troops were now
pushed to the front to check a further advance, and on April
iQth, four hundred men under Major Cochrane, Gold Coast
Corps, with seventy Cape Coast Volunteers, marched to Man-
kassim. Here they remained for ten days, and then proceeded
to Bobikuma, where a large native force had been collected.
Bobikuma is some fourteen miles to the south-east of Essi-
kuma, where the Ashanti head-quarters still were ; and this
movement was designed to cover Winnebah, and prevent any
advance of the enemy upon Accra. On May loth the Ashantis
advanced to within a quarter of a mile of the camp of the
allies, and a slight skirmish took place between them and
the native scouts, in which several of the latter were killed.
A general engagement was now confidently expected for
the next day, and there was a reasonable prospect of victory,
as the native contingent at Bobikuma numbered nearly
twenty thousand men ; but to the astonishment and indigna-
tion of the entire force, both regular and native, Major
Cochrane issued orders for the whole of the former and the
greater portion of the latter to retire to the village of

* Kwantanan literally "Four roads," i.e., Cross-roads,
f Kpong Island.



Adijuma; and this retrograde movement was carried out on
the day following 1 , while the gallant commander himself
proceeded to the sea-coast town of Mumford. On May I2th
the remnant of the native contingent left at Bobikuma
was attacked in force by the Ashantis at two o'clock in the
afternoon, and by five o'clock the allied natives were com-
pletely routed, losing very heavily. The town of Bobikuma
was destroyed, and had Awusu Kokkor pushed on to Adijuma
the disorganised force there waiting, without orders and
without a commander, would no doubt have been swept
away before him. Fortunately, however, he did not follow
up his success, but after destroying upwards of thirty towns
and villages in the neighbourhood, retired unmolested on
May 24th to Akim Swaidru, a town on the southern frontier
of Ashanti-Akim, and close to the River Birrim, the eastern
tributary of the Prah. From this town he sent a Fanti
prisoner to the Governor with two sticks, one long and one
short, and requested him to make a choice. If he took the
short one he was to give up the refugees and the war would
be at an end ; but if he chose the long one the war would be
continued. The Ashanti general also demanded the surrender
of the King of Western Akim, on the grounds that he had,
on some former occasion, insulted Kwaku Dua's father.
Governor Pine chose the long stick, and sent a reply that he
was prepared to continue the struggle till the Ashanti
kingdom was overthrown.

While these operations had been going on in the east,
the large native force that had been collected at Mansu had
remained quite inactive, though if properly handled it might
have cut off the retreat of the enemy. The Governor, who
showed the greatest activity, soon succeeded in collecting a
second native force at Adjumako, and having inspired Major
Cochrane with some of his own spirit, at last prevailed upon
that officer to agree to a simultaneous movement being made
by both forces upon the Ashantis at Akim Swaidru. Major
Cochrane, however, was so very dilatory, that before the
preparations for the advance were completed, intelligence
was received that the Ashantis had retired into their own


country. In fact, after having received the Governor's
message, Awusu Kokkor had decided to defer further
operations till the next dry season ; for the rains were now
approaching, and being fully aware of the disastrous effects of
keeping the field at such a time, he sent most of his men back
to their homes, leaving only a few detachments quartered in
the towns on the main road to Kumassi. Thus disgracefully
terminated the campaign of 1863. Through mismanagement,
to use no harsher term, the Ashantis had been allowed to
attack the allies in detail and win two battles, and to remain
for over eighty days in one of the most fertile districts of the
Protectorate, burning, ravaging, and slaying. The disappoint-
ment and shock to Governor Pine were so great that he was
taken seriously ill in the camp at Denkari, near Adjumako,,
where he had gone to inspire and encourage the natives, and
he was brought down to Cape Coast almost lifeless. The
regular troops returned to the forts for the rainy season, and
the native levies dispersed.

This abortive expedition was followed by a great out-
break of feeling amongst the protected tribes, the chiefs
and influential members of which, by petitions and indigna-
tion meetings, clamoured for the removal of Major Cochrane.
Numerous petitions were forwarded to the Governor praying
him to urge upon the Home Government the necessity for
adopting prompt and adequate measures for relieving the
Protectorate of all future apprehension of an Ashanti in-
vasion ; and at the various meetings that were held very
strong language was used concerning the action of the Dutch
authorities, who had freely allowed the Elminas to supply
the Ashantis with arms and gunpowder while they were
actually in occupation of a portion of the territory of a
friendly power. The Dutch Governor, Colonel Elias, it
seems, had even been in direct communication with Awusu
Kokkor while the Ashanti army was in the Protectorate^
for one of his letters had been intercepted.

This political agitation soon bore fruit. Governor Pine
made strong representations to the Government of Lord
Palmerston, and the 4th West India Regiment was ordered



from the West Indies to the Gold Coast, where it arrived,
some eight hundred and fifty strong, under Lieut-Colonel
Conran, on August I3th, 1863. The Gold Coast Corps,
which had proved to be thoroughly useless and unreliable,
was disbanded, and preparations for taking the field were
recommenced. The Imperial Government in sending this
reinforcement had in view the clearing of the Protectorate
of all hostile bodies of Ashantis, but Governor Pine wanted
far more than this. With a clear-sightedness and a perfect
appreciation of the necessities of the case which the lapse of
a few years proved to be perfectly just, he urged upon the
Government the necessity of invading Ashanti territory, and
striking a final blow at the Ashanti power. He wrote : " It
is with the deepest regret that I find myself involved, in
spite of all my precautions, in a serious and, I fear, lingering
war ; but such being the case, I will not conceal from your
Grace the earnest desire that I entertain that a final blow
shall be struck at Ashanti power, and the question set at
rest for ever, as to whether an arbitrary, cruel, and san-
guinary monarch shall be for ever permitted to insult the
British flag, and outrage the laws of civilisation. This
desirable object can be attained only by the possession of
such a force as I fear the Governor of these settlements
can never hope to command, unless your Grace should be
pleased to urge upon Her Majesty's Government the policy,
the economy, and even the mercy, of transporting to these
shores an army of such strength as would, combined with the
allied native forces, enable us to march to Kumassi, and there
plant the British flag. To a stranger the course I point
out may appear a visionary one ; but I am convinced that,
even with all the disadvantages of climate, the expedition
would not be so dangerous, so fatal, or accompanied by
such loss of life as have attended expeditions in other and
apparently more genial climes; and with 2,000 disciplined
soldiers, followed by upwards of 50,000 native forces, who
require only to be led and inspired with confidence by the
presence of organised troops, I would undertake (driving
the hordes of Ashanti before me) to march to Kumassi."


The soundness of Mr. Pine's views were fully vindicated
by the Ashanti War of 1873-4, but the Ministry, either
because they considered the project too hazardous, or be-
cause they did not wish to engage in operations of such
magnitude, withheld their assent, though at the same time
they sent orders to the West Indies for a further reinforce-
ment of three hundred men of the 1st West India Regiment
to be despatched to the Gold Coast.

Although the Ashanti forces had entirely evacuated the
Protectorate, the protected tribes had so nearly lost all
belief in British protection, that the Governor found it
necessary to undertake some defensive measures in order
to restore confidence. A supply depot was accordingly
formed at Mansu, and on February 5th, 1864, an advance
to Prahsu was made by the troops from Cape Coast under
Colonel Conran. Simultaneously with this movement the
detachment from Accra moved to Akim Swaidru. While
these movements of troops were taking place the Governor,
in reply to his protestations, received from the Home Govern-
ment a conditional sanction of the scheme he had proposed.
If he found that he could not make a lasting peace without
invading Ashanti territory, he might march to Kumassi.

At first sight it seemed as if there was now nothing to
hinder an immediate advance across the Prah, but when
seriously considered, such a movement was found to be
impossible. The entire force of regular troops on the Gold
Coast consisted only of 1,200 West India soldiers, and
deducting from this number the sick, and such detachments
as it would be necessary to leave at Mansu and Prahsu,
there would not be more than 1,000 men left for the forward
movement. This number was far too small to fcrce its way
to Kumassi, and as the native levies were not yet ready.
it was decided to await the arrival of the reinforcements
which were daily expected from the West Indies. In the
meantime the troops at Prahsu were to be employed in
fortifying that post, in convoying supplies, and in clearing
the forest round their camp and on the further bank 01
the river.


Week after week passed by without the arrival of the
promised reinforcements, and the unhealthy climate at last
began to tell upon the men at Prahsu, who were encamped
under shelter tents on wet ground. Still, the novelty of the
situation kept them in health and spirits, and, being con-
tinuously employed, they remained in fairly good health
till the commencement of March, when the rains set in, and
all work was necessarily suspended. Then the troops,
planted under an incessant downfall of rain in the midst
of a tropical forest, on the banks of a swollen and mias-
matic stream, and without occupation of any kind, rapidly
succumbed to fever and dysentery, and by March 3 1st
twenty-five per cent, of the force was in hospital. In con-
[uence, three out of the six companies at Prahsu were
withdrawn to Cape Coast, and when, on April Qth, H.M.S.

Tamar arrived with the long-expected reinforcements, it
decided to send the new-comers to the front, and with-

Iraw the detachment which had been so long exposed to

ill the evil influences of the bush.

Unfortunately, this measure, which at first sight appeared
well-advised, was really the worst that could have been
adopted. The native of the West Indies, on first arriving
in West Africa, is affected by the climate in the same
way as is the European, though much less seriously ; and
it is only after a residence of a few months that he be-
comes acclimatised. The new comers, then, from the West
Indies were much more likely to suffer from exposure to the
rains in the bush, than were those West India soldiers who
had already been eight months in the country, and so the
sequel proved. Towards the end of April the detachment at
Prahsu was relieved by two companies of the 1st West India
Regiment, who marched to their destination through torrents
of rain ; and before they 4 had been encamped a month, 4
officers and 102 men were sick out of a total of 7 officers
and 2 14 men. The hospital accommodation was so insufficient
that the sick had to lie on the wet ground, surrounded by
pools of water; the rains were unusually severe, the camp
speedily became a swamp, and the troops had food of a


poorer quality than they were accustomed to. The rain was
so continuous that it was impossible to light fires for cooking
except under sheds made of branches ; and night after
night the men turned into their dripping tents, hungry
and wet to the skin. Not any enemy had been seen since
the formation of the camp in February, and news there was
none, for communication with Cape Coast was slow and un-
certain. Under these circumstances it is not surprising that
a general despondency set in, and as the sickness continued
to increase, it was decided to reduce the force at Prahsu to
one hundred men, the remainder marching for Cape Coast
on June 6th.

In the meantime the Home Government, alarmed at the
great loss of officers and men, somewhat hastily decided that
all operations against Ashanti should cease, and that the
troops should be withdrawn. This intelligence reached the
Gold Coast in the middle of June, and was received with the
greatest consternation. It was hard upon Governor Pine,
whose theory as to the practicability of invading Ashanti was
now generally held to have been proved to be incorrect, and
whom many people did not hesitate to charge with the
responsibility of the loss of life that had taken place ; it was
hard upon the troops, who after months of weary waiting saw
the reward of patience close at hand, only to be deprived ol
it ; and it was particularly hard upon the protected tribes, whc
saw themselves about to be once more abandoned to thei]
foes. In truth the failure of the expedition was due to th<
vacillation of the Home Government, and that alone. Firs
it would not sanction an advance into Ashanti territory, am
then it accorded a conditional sanction. Troops were sen
over in driblets, so that the first arrivals had to wait, doinj
nothing, for those who were still to come. Then, having b;
its lack of decision made an expedition before the com
mencement of the rains impossible, it impatiently put ai
end to the operations because sickness prevailed during th
rains. There was no reason why the original scheme shoul
not have been adhered to. As the rains ceased the troop
would have recovered in health and spirit ; the hardest part c 1


the work, the collection of supplies and munitions of war at
Prahsu, was already done ; at the commencement of the dry
season an immediate advance to Kumassi could have been
made ; and had it been made, all the miseries suffered by the
inhabitants of the Gold Coast during the invasion of 1873
would in all human probability have been spared.

The transport of the stores which had been collected at
Prahsu had cost the Government so much, that it was con-
sidered better to destroy them than to incur further expense
in their removal. The detachment at Prahsu was therefore
engaged for several days in destroying munitions and supplies
of all kinds ; the guns were buried secretly, so that no
information as to their place of sepulture might reach the
Ashantis, and on July I2th the troops finally turned their
backs on the Prah. On the 2/th the detachments of the 1st,
2nd, and 3rd West India Regiments embarked for the West
Indies, and the 4th West India Regiment was left to garrison
the forts. Thus terminated the campaign of 1864, in which
not a shot had been fired, and which left the question in a
worse state than ever, since Kwaku Dua had really gained a
moral victory. The Ashantis, in fact, lost almost all respect
for the British power, and there grew up a belief that the white
man ceased to be formidable as soon as he left the shelter
of his forts. Kwaku Dua said : " The white men bring many
cannon to the bush, but the bush is stronger than the can-
non." Fortunate was it that that King was of an eminently
peaceful disposition, otherwise the year 1865 would probably
have witnessed another Ashanti invasion, and^the Protectorate
would have been once more deluged with blood.

This abortive expedition provoked so much discussion in
England that Parliament found it necessary to appoint a
committee to investigate thoroughly the condition of the
British Protectorate. Many persons recommended the entire
abandonment of the Gold Coast, while others strongly
advocated a more enlightened and energetic management of
it. A middle course was eventually adopted. It was
recommended that the government should be gradually left
more and more in the hands of the natives, and that the


British should carefully avoid any further increase of territory,
and make no more treaties with the native tribes; so that the
protecting power might, as soon as it was possible without
breach of honour, withdraw entirely. In the meantime the
governments of the Gold Coast, Lagos, and Gambia were
placed under a Governor-in-Chief, who resided at Sierra
Leone ; the local Governors were termed Administrators, and
could only communicate with the Colonial Office through
the Governor-in-Chief, who visited his dependencies once a

This was the effect of the expedition as far as England
was concerned ; its local effects were worse. The apparent
proof of the utter incapacity of the Government to conduct
military operations in the bush weakened British prestige to
an enormous extent, and an official announcement which soon
followed, to the effect that in the event of a future invasion
the inhabitants were not to expect any assistance from the
Government, caused it to be regarded almost with a feeling
of contempt. This announcement, which amounted to a
renunciation of the obligations that had been voluntarily
assumed by the treaty of 1852, caused intense dissatisfaction,
and several chiefs of the Protectorate showed signs of dis-
affection. They could scarcely be blamed for this, for they
had only submitted to British control on the understanding
that they would enjoy British protection ; and if they were
now to be deprived of the latter they had certainly a claim
to be relieved of the former; but the Government evidently
did not take this view, for they for once acted with
vigour, and the insubordinate chiefs were soon called to
order. Later on, Aggri, chief of Cape Coast, came into
conflict with the Government concerning the ownership of
some land within a few yards of the Castle, and became
insulting and offensive. The Government consequently re-
fused any longer to recognise him as chief of Cape Coast,
and Colonel Conran, who had succeeded Mr. Pine, had him
removed to Sierra Leone. The Home Government approved
f Aggri's deposition, and since 1865 there has been no chief
of Cape Coast.


During the year 1865 several abortive attempts were
made by the Government to arrive at some understanding
with Ashanti ; but at the close of the year, in response to
overtures made on behalf of the Government by Mr. Blank-
son, a native merchant of Anamabo, who was on friendly
terms with several influential Ashantis, messengers were sent
down from Kumassi to consider terms of peace. No peace
was definitely concluded, but, on the strength of the arrival
of these messengers, Colonel Conran, on January i6th, 1866,
issued a proclamation setting forth that the Ashanti King
having solicited peace between his kingdom and the British
Protectorate, peace was therefore declared and proclaimed.
The King was very indignant when he heard of this procla-
mation, and at once repudiated it, declaring that it was not
he who commenced negotiations, but the Governor, through
his agent ; and he now refused to hold any further com-
munication with the Government till Djanin was given up.

During the Ashanti invasion the Eastern Districts of the
Gold Coast had remained perfectly tranquil, but a few days
after the publication of Colonel Conran's peace proclamation,
the Awunas, a tribe who inhabit the country to the east of
the Volta, made war upon the Addahs. This outbreak was
caused by the machinations of a native slave-trader, com-
monly known as Geraldo de Lema, and as we shall hear
more of this man later on, it will be as well to here give some
account of him, if only for the purpose of showing the
complications which persons, who in a civilised land would
be totally insignificant, are able to create in a country like
the Gold Coast

Geraldo de Lema, whose real name was Geraldo de
Vasconcellos, was one of the domestic slaves of Cosar
Cerquira Lema, a Brasilian slave-dealer who lived at Voji,
a village about three miles to the east of Kittah, and who
died in 1862, leaving a large fortune. The bulk of his wealth
was in London and Bahia, but he had considerable sums
of money at Voji, and also at Addah, at which place Geraldo
was his agent for the purchase of slaves ; and these sums,
when Lema died, Geraldo contrived to seize, together with


his master's native wives, and, adopting the late slave-trader's
name, continued the same business. In 1865, being still at
Addah, he grossly ill-treated one of the principal chiefs of
the town, and the Addahs in revenge drove him out of the
place and plundered his property. He then went to Voji,
where he induced the Awunas to adopt his quarrel, and,
led by Geraldo, an Awuna force of four thousand appeared
suddenly on the banks of the Volta opposite Addah. Being
frustrated in an attempt to cross the river by the boats of
H.M. ships Dart and Lee, he proceeded further up the river,
where he sacked and burned Kpong, the great emporium
for trade, and completely put a stop to the navigation of
the Volta.

The trade of Accra greatly suffered by these acts, and
strong representations were made by the merchants to
Colonel Conran to interfere and to demand the surrender
of Geraldo de Lema, who was the cause of all the disturbance.
Colonel Conran accordingly tried to open negotiations with
the Awunas, but without success, and the Accras, who were
closely allied to the Addahs, were then allowed to declare
war against the Awunas, and were supplied with arms and
ammunition by the Government. The men of Accra, Chris-
tiansborg, and the neighbouring villages, who were placed
under the command of Lieutenant Herbert, 4th West India
Regiment, marched to the Volta and formed a camp at
Kanar, * a village about fifteen miles higher up the river than
Addah, and some two hours' journey from the town of
Mlantfi,t opposite to which, on the left bank, was the Awuna
encampment. Here, by March I2th, a force of some 9,000
men was gathered, including a fairly well disciplined volunteer
force of 200 men, that had been raised by two English
merchants, Messrs. Irvine and Clayton, and two native
gentlemen of the name of Bannerman.

On i;th March, Lieutenant Herbert marched to Mlantfi,
the inhabitants of which crossed the river, here only four
hundred yards broad, to join the Awunas as he approached ;

* Kanar - Corner. f Mlantfi Leopard.


and the camp of the latter being plainly visible on the
opposite bank, the guns and rockets opened fire and
destroyed a great part of it. Up to this point the expedition
had been conducted strictly in accordance with the new
policy of the Government, viz., that the natives were to
manage their own wars and look for no assistance from
the troops quartered in the colony; but, on the 1 8th, Captain
Humphrey arrived with a detachment of the 4th West
India Regiment, and, by virtue of his seniority, assumed the
command. Next day, under cover of a fire from the guns,
a force of Accras was sent across the river to seize the
canoes of the enemy, which were drawn up on the bank.
They crossed without much loss, but, instead of carrying
out their orders, followed up the retreating Awunas, and
were drawn into an ambuscade, where they were throwri
into confusion ; and, being driven back to the river, lost more
than sixty men, among them the chief of Addah, while
recrossing it.

On the 2 1st, Kwow Dadi, King of Akwapim, and Tacki,
chief of Dutch Accra, having arrived with a reinforcement
of seven thousand men, the Volta was crossed in force, and
the Awuna camp being found to be abandoned, a pursuit
was ordered by Captain Humphrey. But now a conflict of
authority arose. Tacki was the recognised King of all the
eastern littoral, and the natives, regarding him as their leader

Online LibraryA. B. (Alfred Burdon) EllisA history of the Gold Coast of West Africa → online text (page 20 of 34)