A. B. (Alfred Burdon) Ellis.

A history of the Gold Coast of West Africa online

. (page 26 of 34)
Online LibraryA. B. (Alfred Burdon) EllisA history of the Gold Coast of West Africa → online text (page 26 of 34)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

men from Sierra Leone, 120 Kossus from the Sherbro, n
men from the Gambia, and 53 Opobos and 104 Bonn]
from the Niger Delta.

In October the Ashantis were still in their camps aboi
Mampon and Effutu, where small-pox and dysentery w<
very prevalent, but they had now received permission
return to Kumassi, and were preparing food for the mai
They drew their supplies from the outlying villages
Elmina, chiefly from Ampeni and Amkwana, the line
communication lying through Essaman ; and in order
put a stop to this traffic the headmen of these villages
summoned to Elmina. Instead of coming, they sent ii
suiting messages, being confident that the white men would
not dare to advance into the bush, and the destruction
their villages was consequently determined on. As Caj
Coast and Elmina were said to be full of Ashanti spies, the
expedition was kept secret, and a mixed force of marin<
Houssas, and West India soldiers, amounting in the ags
gate to some 500 men,* was landed unexpectedly
Elmina on October I4th. A short distance from Essaman
the force was attacked, but after a slight skirmish the natives
were routed and the village burned ; and the column then
marched for Amkwana, which it reached after midday,
village was found deserted, and was also burned ; but th<
marines and seamen were now so thoroughly exhausted that
they could go no further, and the West Indians and Houssas
alone continued the march to Akimfu and Ampeni, both of

* The actual composition of this force was 149 marines, 205 2nd West
India Regiment, 126 Houssas, and 29 seamen, with i rocket-tube, and
i 7lb. gun.


which they destroyed. The troops had that day marched
twenty-one miles, and the moral effect of this proof of ability
to cope with the natives in the bush was excellent; but it
had been purchased at some loss, as Colonel McNeil, the
chief of the staff, was seriously wounded, and had ultimately
to be sent to England, and two other officers were also

It was now evident that the Kings and chiefs either could
not or would not induce their men to turn out, for out of
the whole of the tribes of Fanti, Assin, and Denkera, only a
sufficient force was forthcoming to form, in conjunction with
the men brought from other parts of West Africa, two native
regiments and an irregular contingent of some 1,500 men ;
and Sir Garnet Wolseley, therefore, wrote home to urge
the despatch of two British regiments, without which nothing
could be done. One of the newly-formed native regiments
was placed under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel H. E,
Wood, and the other under Major B. C. Russell; they were
called Wood's and Russell's Regiments, and about half the
strength of each consisted of natives of the Protectorate.

About the middle of October the Ashantis broke up their
camps at Mampon and Effutu, and commenced to move
in their usual leisurely manner towards the main road to
the Prah ; one body moving from Mampon through Jukwa,
Ainsa, and Assanchi, to strike the main road at Dunkwa,
and another through Effutu and Ahonton, to strike the
main road at Akrufu.* By this time the main road had
been occupied as far as Dunkwa, where Colonel Festing was
in command with 50 2nd West India Regiment, and about
1,000 natives; and strong posts existed at Akrufu and
Arbrakampa. The column which moved by the Jukwa-
Assanchi road, with which were the sick and prisoners,
marched on October i6th, and the commander, on finding
the road closed by the British occupation of Dunkwa, halted
and encamped at Iscabio, a village some three miles to the
west of Dunkwa. On October 25th the remainder of the

* Akrufu Village folk.



Ashanti army, under Amankwa Tia, left Effutu, movi
slowly along the road towards Arbrakampa, and it
commonly supposed that he intended to strike the mair
road at Akrufu, and so retire to the Prah ; but the Fanti;
asserted that he had sworn the King's oath to destroy Arbra-
kampa, on account of the resistance which had been offeree
by the Arbras during the early part of the campaign. Ac
cording to the Ashantis, both of these notions were incorrect
Their version is that the whole army was intended to move
via Jukwa and Assanchi to Dunkwa, which was the shortes
and best route ; but when the commander of the leading
column reported that the exit of this road was closed b}
the British at Dunkwa, Amankwa Tia determined to attacl
one- of the posts lower down the road, in the expectatioi
that the force at Dunkwa, afraid of being cut off, wouk
retire and leave the road open. It is perhaps needles
to say that all this was discovered after the war, for ii
October, 1873, nobody knew for certain what the Ashanti
were doing.

It being reported at Cape Coast that the Ashantis w
at Assanchi and Iscabio, Colonel Festing received ord
to march his force along the road to the latter place, a
find qut what he could regarding the enemy's movemen
t . On October 2/th he accordingly marched out with 13 officer
and 701 men, 73 of whom were West Indians, and ad
vancing undetected during a drenching thunderstorm, sue
ceeded in surprising a camp on the summit of a hill abou
a mile from Iscabio. The enemy, who were completel;
taken by surprise, were at first thrown into some confusior
but they soon recovered themselves and opened a heavy fir
from the bush, to which the West Indians replied wit!
spirit ; but the native levies had to be thrashed into actior
and numbers of them disappeared altogether. After a
hour and a half the force was marched back to Dunkw;
having burned a portion of the camp ; but the enemy ha
not abandoned their position. Next day Sir Game
Wolseley advanced, with a force which he had collecte
at Arbrakampa, to Assanchi, hoping that Colonel Festing


of whose affair of the previous day he was ignorant, would
advance from Dunkwa, and that the Ashantis in and around
Iscabio might thus be attacked in front and in rear. But
Colonel Festing was unable to move because the native
levies absolutely refused to turn out ; and Sir Garnet,
finding no enemy at Assanchi, rested his men a couple of
hours, and then returned to Arbrakampa. On this day
Amankwa Tia was actually moving along the road from
Effutu towards Arbrakampa, and might, had he known of
the Major-General's movement, have taken him in flank.

On November 3rd Colonel Festing made a second recon-
naissance in the direction of Iscabio, with a force of eighty
men of the 2nd West India Regiment and about one
thousand natives. This time the Ashantis were not sur-
prised, and made a stubborn resistance, while the native
levies behaved even worse than usual. Whole tribes deserted
and rushed pell-mell into Dunkwa, and even beyond it; and
but for the staunch behaviour of the West Indians, who
stood their ground well and engaged the Ashantis for two
hours, there would have been a serious disaster. Lieutenant
Eardley Wilmot, R.A., was severely wounded early in the
action, but would not fall to the rear, and about an hour
later was shot through the heart. Colonel Festing brought
in his body from where it was lying in the extreme front of
the action, and after two hours' fighting, withdrew his men
to Dunkwa. No appreciable impression had been made
upon the enemy, while out of nine officers who had gone
into action, one had been killed and five wounded.

On the afternoon of November 5th Amankwa Tia, in
accordance with his alleged plan for clearing the road at
Dunkwa, attacked Arbrakampa, which had been put in
a thorough state of defence, and was garrisoned by 60
of the Naval Brigade, under Lieutenant Wells, a small
party of West Indians, 100 Houssas, 200 of Russell's
Regiment, and about 500 native allies. The attack
commenced about 4 p.m. to the west of the village, by the
Ashantis driving in the picquets and firing upon the ad-
vanced skirmishers. They then lined the bush and kept up


a hot fire until 5 p.m., when a most furious attack was made
on the west and south-west of the village, the Ashantis
suddenly rushing out into the open, but being driven back
by the West Indians and Houssas, who lined the shelter
trenches on that side. After this an incessant fire was kept
up with great violence for about two hours, when it slackened,
but was again repeated and continued till midnight, after
which occasional shots only were fired, and at 4 a.m. on the
6th these ceased. At 1 1 a.m., however, the Ashantis again
attacked the village, on three sides at once, but they did not
show the same spirit as on the previous afternoon, and never
came beyond the edge of the bush, whence they kept up a
continuous fusillade, which only ceased at dusk. At sunset
a reinforcement of 141 seamen and marines arrived, who hac
been landed at Cape Coast the previous evening, when the
news] of the attack on Arbrakampa reached there. A tota
force of 22 officers and 303 men had been put ashore from
the men-of-war, and had marched from Cape Coast thai
morning ; but owing to their not being supplied with helmets
or any covering to protect the head from the sun, only the
number above-mentioned succeeded in reaching Arbrakampa,
more than ten per cent, of the whole force failing even tc
reach Assibo,* less than ten miles from Cape Coast.

It was fully expected that the Ashantis would rene\v
the attack next day, but the morning passed without any-
thing being seen of the enemy, and at 2 p.m. Colonel Wood
was sent out with about one thousand natives, who hac
arrived with him from Cape Coast, to endeavour to ascertair
their position and intention. The natives advanced to th(
edge of the bush, but when ordered to enter it and search fo
the enemy, lay down on the ground and refused to stii
The Kossus, however, went in and presently returned witl
two or three heads, which they had obtained from the bodies c
Ashantis who had been killed in the fighting of the previou
day. When the Arbras saw that the Kossus were not fire*
upon, they suspected the truth, namely, that the Ashanti arm

* Assi-bo " Under the rock."


had already decamped ; and they at once rushed in search of
plunder down the road towards Anasmadi, where they came
npon a small bivouac, with a few Ashantis who had been left
o clear out the remaining baggage. These were soon driven
>fF, and a number of Fanti prisoners, who had been kept
pack to carry the baggage, were released. Among these
vas a young woman whose throat her master, seeing that
pe would not be able to carry her off, was actually in the act
)f cutting, when he was shot by the Arbras ; and she was
Drought into Arbrakampa with a broad cut on her neck, from
.vhich the blood was still flowing. The loss suffered by the
garrison of Arbrakampa during the attack was very trifling.
Dne officer and one private of the 2nd West India Regiment
>vere slightly wounded, one seaman severely, and about
sixteen natives slightly. This small loss was partly due
to the garrison having acted purely on the defensive and
oeing under cover, but chiefly to the fact that, as the bush
lad been cleared for some distance round the village, and
the Ashantis would not leave its cover, the range was too
^reat for their muskets. An escaped prisoner said that the
Ashantis complained that the defenders shot at them through
holes in the houses, and that when they fired back they only
struck the houses.

On withdrawing from before Arbrakampa the Ashantis pro-
ceeded to the north-west, to Ainsa and Assanchi, and thence
to Iscabio; where Amankwa Tia, instead of finding, as he had
hoped, that the garrison of Dunkwa had marched to the
assistance of Arbrakampa, learned that the road to the Prah
was not only still closed at Dunkwa, but that posts had been
established as far as Mansu. He accordingly ordered paths
to be cut through the bush, parallel with the main road, and
some three or four miles to the west of it ; but this was a
work that required several days to complete, and it would
then take some time to pass the army, encumbered with sick,
wounded, and prisoners, and a large quantity of baggage,
'along it. Hence, when on the 8th the native levies were
ordered out to follow up the retreating Ashantis, they came
up with them, with the result that ought to have been fore-

X 2



seen, for the rear is the post of honour in an Ashanti arm
and the best troops are placed there. The Ashantis wen
first felt at Ainsa, where they turned upon their pursuers, am
the levies were ordered to retire ; but they were followed uj
so closely by the Ashantis, who began to surround them, tha
they were seized with a sudden panic, and, rushing headlon
down the path, knocked down a party of Houssas who we
in the way. The stampede was continued till Arbrakam
was reached, where the bulk of the men quietly disband
themselves and returned to Cape Coast. Fifty of their numb
were said to have been killed in this affair, which was call
by the natives " a sacrifice to Amankwa Tia," and wa
considered by them to quite compensate him for his failure
at Arbrakampa.

After this, touch of the enemy was lost completely until,
on November i6th, a small party of Ashantis fired upon
Surgeon-Major Gore between Dunkwa and Mansu, killing
one of his escort, and wounding him and four others. It was
then supposed that Amankwa Tia intended to strike intc
the main road at Adda Warra, a mile and a half north o
Mansu, where a road branches off in a south-westerly direction;
and the garrison of Mansu was increased, and the native
allies echeloned along the road for some miles north and south
of that post. However, reconnaissances made from Mansu
on November 2oth and 2ist, established the fact that the
Ashantis had already passed to the north of it, and on the
25th it was ascertained that Amankwa Tia, with the bull
of the army, was at Sutah, a village on the main road. Th(
army had, it appeared, moved through the bush to the wes
of Mansu in three columns, marching at the rate of four o
five miles a day ; and the column nearest the main road, witl
which was Amankwa Tia, had debouched upon the main roac
at Sutah on the night of the 24th. The centre columi
struck the road at Faisowa, the third still farther to the norl-
and the whole retreat had been conducted in a manner tha
would be creditable to a civilised power.

On the 26th, Colonel Wood, who now had charge of th


advance, moved his force, some 1,100 strong,* to Sutah,
which was found deserted, though fires were still burning in a
camp in its neighbourhood ; and later on in the day a party
which was sent to reconnoitre along the road saw fires lighted
near Faisowa. Next morning Colonel Wood received orders
to harass the enemy in his retreat, and he accordingly
marched out towards Faisowa, with 23 West Indians, 93
Houssas, 104 Kossus, and 53 natives, the Elmina Company
of Wood's Regiment. About noon they reached Adubiassi,
where an Ashanti prisoner advised Colonel Wood not to
continue his march, as Amankwa Tia and other chiefs were
at Faisowa, and, it being an Adae day, they would not retire.
South of Faisowa the Ashantis opened fire, and, upon the
Houssas and Kossus being extended through the bush,
retired across the open ground at Faisowa into the bush
beyond. The Elminas and Kossus were then sent in after
them, but the enemy's fire soon increased, and Colonel
Wood, finding his force was being outflanked, ordered the
Elminas and Kossus to retire through the Houssas. The
retreat was carried on in an orderly manner till a sudden
panic seized the Houssas, who rushed in upon the Kossus,
who in their turn ran into a company of Wood's Regiment
which, in defiance of orders, was coming up, each man with
his bundle on his head. The men, crowded up in the narrow
path, became an unruly mob, and when the Ashantis, who
were pressing on closely, fired a few shots, the disorder be-
came complete, and the whole party took to their heels. A
considerable quantity of baggage was lost as well as a box of
ammunition, and the flight was only stopped at Adubiassi,
where Colonel Wood was joined by seventy-seven West

The Ashantis now continued their retreat without further
molestation, and crossed the Prah at Prahsu, Attassi, and
Kohea. The greater portion of the army crossed in canoes,

* This force was composed as 'follows : 134 2nd West India Regi-
ment, 93 Houssas, 207 Wood's Regiment, no Kossus, and 620 native
! allies.


of which they had thirteen ; but the river was much swollen
and to expedite the passage an attempt was made to bridg
it by felling on each bank an enormous silk-cotton tree, i
the hope that their branches would interlace in mid-strea
and form a kind of bridge. The trees however did not quit
meet, and many men who tried to pass the chasm wer
swept away by the current and drowned.

On December 22nd the army re-entered Kumassi, havin
lost about half its number, for the captive missionaries esti
mated that 40,000 men had marched to the coast, of whom onl
20,000 returned. These enormous losses must be attribut
to the epidemics of small-pox and dysentery which h
devastated the Ashanti camps, for their losses in actio
were comparatively small, and, judging from those suffer
by the natives of the Protectorate in the early part of the
war, probably did not exceed 3,000 men. The capital was
filled with lamentation when the army returned, and nearly
every one appeared painted red, the sign of mourning. Twc
hundred and eighty chiefs had fallen in battle or succumbed
to disease ; and captains who went out in command o:
twenty men returned alone with their baggage on theii

The affair at Faisowa had so terrified the scouts tha*
they could not be induced to advance, and the whole Ashant
army had crossed the Prah before any news was brought tc
Colonel Wood which would justify a fresh move beyonc
Sutah. The first reliable information was furnished by tw(
soldiers of the 2nd West India Regiment, who, havim
volunteered to go on to the Prah and reconnoitre, cam'
back and announced that all was clear to the river, on th
bank of which they had posted their names on a tre<
Colonel Wood's force now pushed on, and found the roa
and the bush on each side of it strewn with dead and dyin
Ashantis, the victims of small-pox and dysentery. A
Prahsu sixteen dead bodies were seen, and as the rive
went down, other corpses were found caught in the branch^
of the trees with which the Ashantis had tried to bridg
the stream. Now that the enemy had withdrawn, the


camp at Mampon was examined. It was nearly a mile
square, cleared and covered with huts ; and the whole area
was so dotted with graves, skulls, and human bones, that
thousands of men must have perished of disease while they
were here encamped.

This closed the first phase of the war, so far as the main
army under Amankwa Tia was concerned, and in England
it was not properly appreciated. No European regiments
with well-known names had been employed, and the public
thought little of operations in which only a West India
Regiment and a few marines and sailors had been employed ;
but it may unhesitatingly be said that the difficulties sub-
sequently experienced north of the Prah were as nothing in
comparison with those that had already been met and

, >




Affairs in the West Arrival of the European troops Difficulties with
the commissariat The plan of operations Captain Glover's pro-
ceedings His trans-Volta campaign Ultimatum sent to the
King Alarm in Kumassi Release of the Europeans Further
correspondence with the King Movements of the auxiliary columns.

WHILE the events narrated in the last chapter had been
taking place in the centre of the Protectorate, chief Blay
had in Appollonia still been fighting chief Amiki and the
Ashantis ; and as the whole of Ahanta, except Dixcove,
had joined the enemy, Axim, Appoassi, Aboadi, and
Takoradi had been bombarded by the ships of war. At the
last-named place a detachment had been landed in August
to destroy some canoes, and three officers and twelve sea-
men of the Argus\\\%.& been wounded. Chief Amiki's town
in Appollonia had been bombarded in September, and
constant skirmishing had continued near the forts till the
close of the year, when the Ashantis withdrew.

A little affair was now undertaken for the punishment of
the people of Shamah, who,' since the bombardment of their
town, had been living in the bush villages a few miles inland.
The Kommendas, whose town had been destroyed by the
Elminas and Shamahs early in the war, and who had been
taken off in ships to Cape Coast for safety, had now returned
home, and they were directed to attack the Shamahs. The
Active, Encounter, and Merlin sailed for the mouth of


the Prah, and on the morning of December 24th about
700 Kommendas, who appeared on the left bank of the
river, were taken across in the boats. They set fire to
the ruins of Shamah, and had a slight skirmish with the
enemy ; but next day they asked to be ferried back to the
safe side of the river, declaring that they had neither food
nor ammunition left, and when this was done they at once
returned to their homes, so that the expedition effected
nothing of importance.

On December Qth H.M.S. Himalaya arrived at Cape
Coast with the 2nd Battalion of the Rifle Brigade, and on
the nth H.M.S. Tamar, with the 23rd Fusiliers; while on
the 1 7th the hired transport Sarmatian also arrived with
the 42nd Highlanders, which regiment had been sent out
in compliance with a request made by Sir G. Wolseley for
a third European battalion; These troops arrived either too
late or too soon ; they were too late to take part in the
operations south of the Prah, and too early for those which
were to be undertaken north of that river; for it was im-
peratively necesssary, having in view the deadly nature of
the climate, that the Europeans should not be landed until
all was ready for a forward movement. At present this was
far from being the case, for, in spite of every effort, the road
to Prahsu had not yet been made suitable for the passage of
troops, and the eight camps, which it had been decided to
make for the accommodation of the troops during the march
from Cape Coast to Prahsu, had not yet been formed ; but
it was hoped that all would be ready by the first week in
January, and the transports were accordingly ordered to sea
till the end of the year.

Great difficulties were now experienced in the transport
of supplies and munitions of war, for the carriers deserted
by thousands. This was chiefly due to the faulty arrange-
ments ,of the commissariat officers, who, instead of forming
the men into gangs under their own chiefs and headmen,
mixed natives from all parts of the Protectorate indiscrimi-
nately, and then selected for the charge of parties men who
could speak a little English, who generally were not natives


of the Gold Coast, and in no case had any authority ove
those they were supposed to control. There was no one t
attend to the complaints of the carriers, who were not pai
with regularity, or fed, and it is certain that hundreds deserte
through hunger. The ordinary plan of giving subsistenc
money to carriers in lieu of rations answers well enoug
in ordinary times, provided that the number is not large, i
which case the villages cannot supply the food required ; bi
it was absurd to adhere to it now when thousands of me
were concerned, and provisions were unusually scarce throug
the destruction of the plantations by the Ashantis. Larg
numbers deserted from this cause alone, and in addition
men were often overworked ; for there was no general systen
and men were directed to take loads without any inquii
being made as to whence they had come or what was t
become of them after the loads were delivered. There b<
came such an absolute dead-lock, that the whole of the nativ
levies had to be disarmed and turned into carriers; but
was not until the transport was taken from the commissaric
and placed under Colonel Colley and a body of combatat
officers, that any real improvement was effected.

The plan of campaign now was to invade Ashanti ten
tory on January I5th, 1874, from as many points as possibl
The main body, consisting of the three European battalior
the Naval Brigade and Wood's and Russell's Regiments, w
to advance from Prahsu directly upon Kumassi ; while, <

Online LibraryA. B. (Alfred Burdon) EllisA history of the Gold Coast of West Africa → online text (page 26 of 34)