A. B. (Alfred Burdon) Ellis.

A history of the Gold Coast of West Africa online

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attacked the allied camp along its whole front, which
extended for a length of six miles ; but the allies contrived
to hold their position at every point, and after five hours'
fighting the Ashantis fell back. In this action the Houssas
had some 17 killed and wounded, and the allies lost 221
killed and 643 wounded; an exceedingly insignificant loss
considering the numbers engaged, and from which it may
be inferred that the fighting was not very close. Next day
Lieutenant Hopkins urged the chiefs to take the offensive,
but they excused themselves on various pleas, and decided
to await another attack from the enemy; who, however,
astonished at the unexpected resistance they had met with,
also remained quiet.

On April 1 3th great excitement was caused in the allied
camp by a charge which was made against a Mr. G. Blankson
of supplying the enemy with gunpowder and furnishing them
with information. This Mr. Blankson, who was now a



member of the Legislative Council of the Colony, was th
same native merchant of Anamabo who, in 1865, in conse
quence of his friendly relations with Ashanti chiefs, ha
served as a channel of communication between Colone
Conran and the King, and the case against him looke
suspicious. The chiefs demanded his arrest and imprison
ment, and he was sent to Cape Coast, where it was decide
that the investigation of the charges against him should b
postponed till the war was over, with the result that the
were never really investigated at all. It appears that the
accusation was well-founded, for a letter from the King, datec
March I2th, was found on him, and in Kumassi it was saic
that he had sent consignments of powder in bottles, so as t(
avoid detection.

On April I4th the Ashantis again attacked the allie
along the whole line, and the action continued from eight ii
the morning till seven in the evening without any decisiv
result. The fighting principally took place in a deep am
thickly- wooded valley, into which the Ashantis poured i
swarms, the allies advancing to meet them over the cleare
ground in front of their camp. A rocket battery in th
centre of the position did excellent service, and but for
the allied force, estimated at 56,000, would probably hav .
been cut in two. Immense quantities of ammunition wei :
expended, but with a most disproportionate result, for afte
eleven hours' fighting the loss was only trifling. At nightfa I
the chiefs announced their intention of sleeping on the groun I
they occupied and renewing the fight on the folio win j
morning ; but next day they retreated en masse, declarin ;,
with reference to Mr. Blankson, that they could not figl t
while there was treachery in their midst ; but the truth w; 5
that they had had enough fighting. The retreat to Caj z
Coast was covered by the Houssas and volunteers. It afte -
wards transpired that the Ashantis had been so dishearten< I
by the unexpected resistance they had met with that they al :>
had commenced to retreat, and had destroyed much of tht r
baggage, when the news was brought them that their fo s
were running away.


The break up of the allied army caused the greatest
consternation, and an attack on Cape Coast and Elmina was
considered imminent. It was found impossible to persuade
the various chiefs to reunite their forces again, and measures
were therefore adopted for the concentration of the men in
their own districts, to prevent the country from being over-
run by small bands of Ashanti plunderers. Some Houssas
were sent to Anamabo to form a nucleus for a force from
the neighbouring villages; the Assins, Arbras, and Akims
collected at Assi-bo; and some minor chiefs promised to
cover Elmina.

In the meantime the western division of the invading
army, under Adu Boffo, had entered Wassaw, defeating the
inhabitants in a great engagement, and on April I3th
the entry of the Wassaw prisoners into Kumassi was
witnessed by the missionaries. The men, who were tied
together in gangs of ten or fifteen by ropes round the neck,
and presented a pitiable spectacle, were followed by the
women, young and old, some with infants on their backs, and
1 others leading little children by the hand, who crouched in
terror at their mothers' sides, and were threatened and struck
by the cruel spectators. On the day after their arrival
; fourteen Wassaw men were sacrificed at Bantama to the manes
of the former Kings of Ashanti. In the west, Atjiempon,
who had been so unwisely released, had penetrated with
a force of 3,000 men into Appollonia, where he was assisting
chief Amiki against the faithful chief Blay ; and the former
Dutch subjects at Takoradi, Sekondi, and Shamah were
only awaiting the approach of the Ashantis to rebel. The
Elminas were also ripe for rebellion, and on March I2th the
King refused to take the oath of allegiance to the British
Government, saying that he had taken a " fetish " oath to
oppose the English coming to Elmina ; for which he was
arrested and deported to Sierra Leone.

The main Ashanti army, instead of advancing on Cape
Coast or Elmina, after the dispersion of the allies, had con-
centrated at Dunkwa, and prisoners captured by the Fanti
scouts reported the camp to be in a most wretched condition.

u 2


Small-pox had broken out, provisions were scarce, and th
camp was full of wounded, while its surroundings were fou
in the extreme, and the air poisoned by the stench from deac
bodies which lay scattered through the bush in all stages o
decomposition. Small parties of Ashantis were discovere
foraging for food at Jong distances from their camp, an
several slaves deserted from it in the hope of getting food
As Colonel Harley wrote on May I5th, in any other countn
the position of the Ashanti force would have been very critical
They were a long way from their base of supplies, in a hostil
country, with no provisions left, a swollen river in thei
rear, and the rainy season just commenced; yet the chiefs o
the Protectorate would not take advantage of these favour
able conditions.

About the middle of May the Ashantis broke up thei
camp at Dunkwa, and commenced to move in a westerl]
direction towards Jukwa, the capital of New Denkera. Th
Denkeras at once applied for assistance in arms and am
munition, and requested that the Arbras and Cape Coas
people might be sent to Jukwa to assist in its defence
but the King of Arbra refused to go on the ground that
his own town, Arbrakampa, was threatened, and the chief o!
Anamabo advanced the same plea. The fact was thai
general dissatisfaction prevailed, for the native chiefs, Witt
some reason, thought the assistance lent by the Governmen
was inadequate, as did the traders, both native anc
European ; and the latter, moreover, charged Colonel Harle)
with concealing the critical condition of affairs from th<
Imperial Government. However, better counsels prevailed
and by May 24th most of the Fanti chiefs had concentratec
at Arbrakampa, and commenced to move to Jukwa, whicl
town it was considered most important to hold. On the 3r<
and 4th of June there was some desultory fighting aroun<
Jukwa, and on the 5th the Ashantis attacked it in force
completely routing the Fantis and their allies, who scarcel
offered any resistance. Kwasi Keh, King of Denkera, a
unworthy successor of old Kwadjo Tchibbu, was one of th
first to take to flight ; and when the tribes who had come t


his aid asked for him, he was nowhere to be found. The
routed army and the inhabitants of the bush villages poured
into Cape Coast, and all through the evening and night
of June 5th the roads to it were crowded with fugitive men,
women, and children. At daybreak on the 6th a rumour was
circulated that the Ashantis were at the Sweet River, and
the panic reached its height when the letter-carriers, sent
from Cape Coast to Elmina, returned reporting the road

Affairs were in this condition when, on June /th, H.M.S.
Barracouta arrived at Cape Coast with a detachment of 1 10
marines, under Lieutenant-Colonel Festing, R.M.A., who had
been sent from England on the receipt of Colonel Harley's
despatches reporting the battle of April I4th and its results.
It was now decided that martial law should be proclaimed
in Elmina and the surrounding districts, and that the
Elminas should be called upon to give up their arms; it
having been proved beyond doubt that the inhabitants of
what was called the " King's town " of Elmina were in
daily communication with the Ashantis, and supplied them
with provisions of all kinds. The River Beyah at Elmina
runs for a short distance in a westerly direction nearly
parallel with the sea, and on the sandy plain between it and
the sea stood the King's town, which was thus situated
in the old kingdom of Commani, while the mercantile
quarter of Elmina, where the traders had their dwellings and
stores, lay on the eastern side of the river, and consequently
in Fetu.

The marines were marched over to Elmina from Cape
Coast on June I2th, and by daybreak next morning the
King's town was surrounded. A line of boats from the
Druid, Seagull, Argus, and Barracouta was stationed in the
river, to prevent any escape across it ; the ships guarded
the sea front ; the Castle, garrisoned by marines, closed
the eastern side ; and a cordon of marines, Houssas,
and soldiers of the 2nd West India Regiment was formed
on the western side, in front of a dense thicket of
prickly pear. Martial law was then proclaimed, and a


proclamation issued requiring the surrender of arms with
two hours ; but though many armed men were seen
the town, and some of the chiefs came with excuses
gain time, no arms were given up ; and at half-past t
a second proclamation had to be issued, granting one houi
respite for the removal of women and children, after which
should the arms not have been surrendered, the town woulc
be bombarded. At a little past noon, no submission having
been made, the bombardment commenced from the Castl<
and the boats in the river, and in twenty minutes the towi
was completely destroyed. A number of armed Elmina
succeeded in breaking through the cordon on the west
and, assembling in the bush, where they were joined by som
Ashantis, fired on the boats; but they were soon pu
to rout and chased along the beach, and about 3 p.rr
the troops returned to the Castle. The enemy were suppose
to have lost some thirty men ; the British loss was one kille
and three wounded.

At about 5 p.m. the boats of the squadron were o
their way back to their ships, when a Dutch pensions
ran into the town and informed Mr. Von Hamel, th
Dutch Vice-Consul, that the Ashantis were advancin
towards the loyal quarter of Elmina across the grass
plain which lies to the north, their intention being t
revenge the destruction of the King's town by that of tr
loyal quarter. The troops hastened out to meet the enem
whom they found, to the number of some 3,000, advancir
in good order in a long line, that was covered by a clot
of skirmishers. The Ashantis pressed on very boldl
and were beginning to outflank the small force, when i
unexpected fire was opened on them in flank from tl
wall of the Government Garden by the seamen and marin a
of the Barracouta, whom Mr. Von Hamel had inforrm d
of the situation, just as they were pushing off in th( r
boats from the beach. This fire was so destructive th .t
the enemy, after a little hesitation, began to fall bac :,
and an advance being ordered by Colonel Festing, a ru -


ning fight was continued across the plain ; the Ashantis,
however, retiring in good order till they reached the bush,
into which they were not followed. The British loss was
only one killed and four wounded, but the Ashantis left
more than two hundred dead on the field, and this lesson
was quite sufficient to prevent the renewal of any attempt
upon the loyal quarter.

The Ashantis, who after their victory at Jukwa had
moved to the south and encamped at Mampon and Effutu,
now remained quiet for some time, but repeated alarms
occurred in Cape Coast, the condition of which was
most deplorable. The rains had set in with unusual
severity, and the streets were crowded with fugitives who
had no shelter, while the mud roofs of numbers of houses
fell in, burying many people in the ruins. The natives
dared not venture into the bush for provisions or fuel,
and famine raged in the town, where hundreds of gaunt
and emaciated wretches were encamped in the streets,
under the flimsy shelter of a cotton cloth supported on
sticks, shuddering in the incessant downpour. Night alarms
were frequent, and the Ashantis were on several occasions
reported to be rushing into the town. One night a party
of them advanced to within three miles and burned a
village, the glare of the flames of which was plainly seen,
and the greatest terror prevailed, an immediate attack
being expected. The Ashantis might have made an easy
prize of the town had they been acquainted with its weak-
ness, for the Government had made no preparations for
its defence, and the merchants had been obliged to fortify
their houses and arm their servants. The natives seemed
to have abandoned all hope of defending themselves, and
every time an alarm occurred there was a rush for the
Castle. Universal panic and confusion reigned, and it is
impossible to imagine a state of affairs more discreditable
to a civilised Government.

The Ashantis at Mampon and Effutu were now much
better off for food than they had been when encamped


at Dunkwa, as they drew supplies regularly from the
outlying villages of Elmina; but on the other hand the>
suffered severely from the rains, and small-pox and dysentery
carried off many. The chiefs, too, were tired of the cam
paign, and dissatisfied with the general, Amankwa Tia
who was now rarely sober; so they brought pressure tc
bear on him, and compelled him early in July to send tc
Kumassi for permission to return, without which no Ashant
army may go back to the capital.

On July 6th the troopship Himalaya arrived at Capt
Coast with 1 3 officers and 360 men of the 2nd West Indie
Regiment, which had been ordered from the West Indies a
the same time that Colonel Festing's detachment of marines
had been sent from England. Every movement of the troops
was at once known in the Ashanti camp, and the arrival o:
this reinforcement was made known to the enemy even
before the men landed ; but no information could be gainec
concerning the movements of the Ashantis, the native scouts
being utterly worthless. Indeed, the majority of them nevei
went near the enemy, but lay down in the bush all day anc
returned to Cape Coast in the evening with such information
as they thought would best suit. In July and August recon-
naissances were made to the northward of Elmina, and a
redoubt was thrown up on the Sweet River at Napoleon,
about five miles to the north-west of Cape Coast. From this
point it was ascertained that the Ashantis were still at Mampon
and Effutu, that a body of them held the village of Simeo, some
miles in advance of the main body, and that it was from Simeo
that they communicated with Elmina. In the meantime re-
inforcements had to be sent to Axim, Dixcove, and Sekondi,
which were threatened by Adu Boffo and the natives who
had joined him ; while two of chief Blay's towns had been
destroyed by Amiki and Atjiempon in Appollonia.

In consequence of a rumour that the Ashantis were trying
to cross the Prah to the west, to effect a junction with Adu
Boffo, Commodore Commerell, R.N., proceeded on August
1 3th to Sekondi, and next morning left that place with a


number of armed boats to hold a palaver with the chiefs of
Shamah, who, it was believed, were supplying the Ashantis
with provisions. He was accompanied by Captain Helden,
Civil Commandant of Sekondi, and Commander Luxmore of
the Argus ; and it was intended, if all went well, to ascend the
Prah a short distance, and learn something of the nature of
the river. At the palaver which took place the Shamah chiefs
denied that they had rendered any assistance to the Ashantis.
They expressed their intention of remaining neutral during
the war, and, on learning that the commodore was going up
the Prah, advised him to keep close to the right bank, or
Shamah side of the river, for safety. The commodore un-
fortunately took their advice and fell into their trap, for he
had not proceeded more than a mile and a half up the stream
when, without warning and without a single native being
seen, a volley was suddenly poured into the boats from the
bush on the right bank, and he, Captain Helden, and Com-
mander Luxmore were severely wounded. The boats put off
into mid-stream, and the small-arm men opened fire ; but
so many of the seamen were disabled that they could not
continue the engagement, and it was all they could do to
get the boats out of the river. While this had been taking
place up the river another affair had occurred on the beach
in front of Shamah, where a party of ten Fanti policemen, who
were being landed to garrison the deserted fort, were fired
upon by the natives, one European sailor, two of the police, and
a Kruman being killed. In these two unfortunate affairs four
men were killed, and sixteen wounded, including four officers.
On Commodore CommerelPs return to his ship it was cleared
for action, the town of Shamah was bombarded, and in about
two hours completely destroyed.

Towards the end of August a second redoubt was
completed' at Abbeh*, in the Sirwi valley, and garrisoned by
fifty men of the 2nd West India Regiment; the volunteer
company, composed of native clerks and shopkeepers from

* Abbeh Palms.


Cape Coast, having, with one or two honourable exception
shown itself quite unworthy of trust. Cape Coast being now
covered from attack on the north-west, the labourers who had
been employed in the construction of the redoubts were
removed to Akrufu, to improve the road between that place
and Cape Coast, and a detachment of fifty men of the 2nd
West India Regiment was posted there for their protection.



Arrival of Sir Garnet Wolseley Captain Glover's command Sir Garnet's
instructions Palaver at Cape Coast Expedition to the Elmina
villages The Ashantis break up their camps Reconnaissances
from Dunkwa Defence of Arbrakampa Amankwa Tia's retreat
Skirmish at Faisowa Return of the army to Kumassi.

THE Ashantis were still quietly encamped at Mampon and
Effutu, awaiting the long asked for permission to return
to Kumassi, when, on October 2nd, Major -General Sir Garnet
Wolseley arrived at Cape Coast. In spite of the efforts
made by the local authorities to minimise the serious state
of affairs, the Imperial Government had at length gained
some inkling of the true facts, and a policy more worthy
of a great nation than that which had hitherto been pur-
sued was now to be inaugurated. Sir Garnet Wolseley had
instructions to take the civil and military command upon
the Gold Coast, to organise a native army, to drive the
Ashantis out of the Protectorate, and, should he deem it
necessary, to march to Kumassi. Two British regiments
were held in readiness, but it was hoped he might be
able to defeat the enemy, and establish an enduring peace,
without requiring their aid.

While Sir Garnet Wolseley was thus to clear the Pro-
tectorate of the enemy and establish a lasting peace,
Captain Glover, R.N., the Administrator of Lagos, was to
operate against them from the Volta with a native force,


and make a diversion in favour of the Protectorate b
threatening the rear of the Ashanti army. Captain Glover'
dealings were to be confined to the eastern tribes of the
Protectorate, and the Houssa police, increased to a thousand
strong, was to form the nucleus of his force. He had thus,
supposing no European troops were sent out, by far the
best of the arrangement, for the eastern tribes were the
only ones who, from a military point of view, were worth
anything. When Sir Garnet Wolseley, arrived at Cape
Coast, the whole of the Houssas had, under this plan,
already been sent to Captain Glover at Accra, so that the
disciplined force he found at his disposal consisted only of
the 2nd West India Regiment and a small body of Fant
police ; and as the former was garrisoning Axim, Dixcove
and Sekondi, the entire force available for the defence ol
Elmina, Cape Coast, and the outposts was less than 40:
men. It was under these unsatisfactory conditions tha
he commenced his administration, and the superiority oi
Captain Glover's position was so generally admitted, that
it was expected by everybody that he would be in Kumassi
long before the General could cross the Prah.

In Sir Garnet Wolseley's instructions he was directed
to summon the Ashanti King to withdraw his forces, and
to threaten, in the event of non-compliance, that he would
be compelled to ; but if he withdrew his army, negotia-
tions for a treaty of peace might be commenced forthwith
The notion that the Ashanti King might be influencec
by threats, showed how little the authorities in Englanc
understood the situation. At this time the natives o
the Gold Coast had no idea that Great Britain was ;
military power, and an army of white men would hav<
appeared to them impossible ; for in their eyes all whit'
men were chiefs, men of rank, who rode in hammock
and ruled the blacks. Consequently threats would hav>
appeared ridiculous to the King, since he would have be
lieved that they could only be backed up by the nativ<
levies, and these his troops had already defeated in thre<
general engagements. The manifesto, however, summoninj



him to withdraw his army, never reached the King, it being
taken by Amankwa Tia, who replied by a counter manifesto,
to the effect that the King had no quarrel with the white
men, and that they could have peace by surrendering
Denkera, Wassaw, Assin, and Akim to Ashanti.

On October 4th, Sir Garnet Wolseley held a palaver
with the Kings and chiefs of the Protectorate, at which the
old fallacy that the war was not an English war, but a
native war, was repeated, and the chiefs were informed that
they would receive no assistance unless they were prepared
to help themselves ; but if they united to fight the Ashantis,
the General promised to drive the enemy out of the Pro-
tectorate, and to inflict such a punishment upon them that
they would never again return. The chiefs were promised
ten pounds a month for every thousand fighting men
furnished by them, and the men themselves would receive
sevenpence halfpenny per diem if they were warriors, and
one shilling per diem if they were employed as carriers.
The chiefs reserved their reply till the 6th, and when they
reassembled it was evident that they were not at all eager
for war. The fact was they knew the invasion was at an end,
and that the Ashanti army was about to return to its own
country ; and they thought it better to allow it to go away
unmolested, than to engage in fresh operations which might
only have the effect of making it stay longer. They
were also profoundly dissatisfied with the conduct of Colonel
Harley, who had not supported them with such regular
troops as he had at hand, and who, by not bringing the
Accras and other eastern tribes to the assistance of the
western, had allowed the latter to be defeated in detail.
The rates of pay offered to fighting men and carriers also
gave dissatisfaction. From their point of view it was unjust
that the men who would have to incur the risks of war
should only receive sevenpence halfpenny a day, while those
who would be engaged in the comparatively safe duties
of the commissariat should receive one shilling. However,
not daring to express their real feelings, they said they
were willing to accept the terms offered, and ready to


proceed at once and collect their men, all, probably, secretl]
intending to do nothing at all as soon as they had got cl<
of Cape Coast. A number of officers were sent to
bush with the different Kings and chiefs ; and, as it
intended to raise, if possible, some native irregular regimenl
other officers were sent along the coast between the Garni
and the Niger. These efforts did not meet with muc
success, and in the end, all that were obtained were a few

Online LibraryA. B. (Alfred Burdon) EllisA history of the Gold Coast of West Africa → online text (page 25 of 34)