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Anglo-Ashanti War of 1893-1896

The treaty arranged between the British authorities and the Ashantis after the expedition of 1873–74 had remained practically a dead letter. The road from Kumasi to Cape Coast Castle had not been kept open to trade. The indemnity had only been paid in part. Human sacrifices continued. Under King Prempeh the Ashanti power became more and more a disturbing influence in the hinterland of the Gold Coast colony, and an obstacle to trade and civilization.

It was impossible to permit the reign of murder within a short distance of the British frontier, and demands made for the complete fulfilment of the terms of the treaty produced no result. The king declined to treat with the governor of the Gold Coast, and despatched informal agents to England, whom the Secretary of State refused to receive. To put an end to the misgovernment and barbarities carried on at Kumasi, and to establish law, order, and security for trade, an expedition was at length decided upon.

The force, placed under Colonel Sir Francis Scott, consisted of the 2nd West Yorkshire Regiment, a “special service corps,” made up of detachments from various regiments in the United Kingdom, under specially selected officers; the 2nd West India Regiment, and the Gold Coast and Lagos Hausas. The composition of the special service corps was much criticized at the time; but as it was not called upon for fighting purposes, no inferences as to its efficiency are possible. The details of the expedition were carefully organized.

Before the arrival of the staff and contingent from England the native forces were employed in improving the road from Cape Coast Castle to Prahsu (70 miles), and in establishing road stations to serve as standing camps for the troops. About 12,000 carriers were collected, the load allotted to each being 50 lb. In addition, a force of native scouts, which ultimately reached a total of 860 men, was organized in eighteen companies and partly armed with Snider rifles to cover the advance of the main column and to improve the road.

The king of Bekwai having asked for British protection, a small force was pressed forward and occupied this native town, about 25 miles from Kumasi, on 4th January 1896. The advance continued, and at Ordahsu a mission arrived from King Prempeh offering unconditional submission. On 17th January Kumasi was occupied, and Colonel Sir F. Scott received the king. Effective measures were taken to prevent his escape, and on the 20th Prempeh made submission to Mr Maxwell, the governor of Cape Coast, in native fashion. The king, with the queen mother and the principal chiefs, was then arrested and taken as a prisoner to Cape Coast Castle, where they were embarked on board H.M.S. Racoon for Elmina.

The fetish buildings at Bantama were burned, and on 22nd January Bokro, a village 5 miles from Kumasi, and Maheer, the king's summer palace, were visited by the native scouts and found deserted. On the same day, leaving the Hausas at Kumasi, the expedition began the return march of 150 miles to Cape Coast Castle. The complete success of the expedition was due to the excellent organization of the supply and transport services, while the promptitude with which the operations were carried out probably accounts in great measure for the absence of resistance. Although no fighting occurred, a heavy strain was thrown upon all ranks, and fever claimed many victims, among whom was Prince Henry of Battenberg, who had volunteered for the post of military secretary to Colonel Sir F. Scott.

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Page last modified: 07-03-2017 18:28:28 ZULU