By Major R. S. S. Baden-Powell
13th Hussars, Commanding The Native Levy.


Background of the Ashanti Campaign of 1895-96 and Subsequent Events.
From: Encyclopaedia Britannica, 11th Edition, 1910.

A British Protectorate Established.

One result of the war of 1873-74 was that several states dependent on Ashanti declared themselves independent, and sought British protection. This was refused, and the inaction of the colonial office contributed to the reconsolidation of the Ashanti power. Shortly after the war the Ashanti deposed Kofi Karikari, and placed on the golden stool-the symbol of sovereignty—his brother Mensa. This monarch broke almost every article of the Fomana treaty, and even the payment of the indemnity was not demanded. (In all, only 4000 oz. of gold, out of the 50,000 stipulated for, were paid.) Mensa’s rule was tyrannous and stained with repeated human sacrifices.

In 1883 a revolution displaced that monarch, who was succeeded by Kwaka Dua II, a young man who died (June 1884) within a few months of his election. In the same month died the ex-king Kofi Karikari, and disruption threatened Ashanti. At length, after a desolating civil war, Prince Prempeh—who took the name of Kwaka Dua III—was chosen king (March 26, 1888), the colonial government having been forced to intervene in the dispute owing to the troubles it occasioned in the Gold Coast. The election of Prempeh took place in the presence and with the sanction of an officer of the Gold Coast government. Prempeh defeated his enemies, and for a time peace and prosperity returned to Ashanti. However in 1893 there was fresh trouble between Ashanti and the tribes of the protectorate, and the roads were closed to traders by Prempeh’s orders. The British government was forced to interfere, more especially as the country, by inter­national agreement, had been included in the British sphere of influence.

A mission was despatched to Prempeh, calling upon him to fulfill the terms of the 1874 treaty, and further, to accept a British protectorate and receive a resident at Kumasi. 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 the demands of the British mission relative to the acceptance of a protectorate and other matters, Prempeh made no reply in the three weeks’ grace allowed, which expired on the 31st of October 1895.

To enforce the British demands, 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 and West Yorkshire regiment, a "special service corps," made up of detachments from various regiments in the United Kingdom, under specially selected officers, the West India regiment, and the Gold Coast and Lagos Hausa. 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 (December 1895) the native forces were employed in improving the road from Cape Coast to Prahsu (70 m.), 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, which started on the 27th of December, 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 m. from Kumasi, on the 4th of January 1896. The advance continued, and at Ordahsu a mission arrived from King Prempeh offering unconditional submission. On the 17th of 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 (afterwards Sir W. E.) Maxwell, the  governor of Cape Coast, in native fashion.

Prempeh Deposed.
After this act of public humiliation, the king and the queen mother with the principal chiefs were arrested and taken as prisoners to Cape Coast, where they were embarked on board H.M.S. "Racoon" for Elmina. The fetish buildings at Bantama were burned, and on the 22nd of January Bokro, a village 5 m. from Kumasi, and Maheer, the king’s summer palace, were visited by the native scouts and found deserted. On the same day, leaving the Hausa at Kumasi, the expedition began the return march of 150 m. to Cape Coast. 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.

After the deportation of Prempeh no successor was appointed to the throne of Ashanti.

Siege and Relief of Kumasi.

A British resident, Captain Donald W. Stewart, was installed at Kumasi, and whilst the  other states of the confederacy retained their king and tribal system the affairs of the Kumasi were adminis­tered by chiefs under British guidance. Mr and Mrs Ramseyer (two of the missionaries imprisoned by King Kofi Karikari for four and a half years) returned to Kumasi, and other missionaries followed. A fort was built in Kumasi and garrisoned with Gold Coast constabulary. Though outwardly submissive, the Kumasi chiefs were far from reconciled to British rule, and in 1900 a serious rebellion broke out. The tribes involved were the Kumasi, Adansi and Kokofu; the other tribes of the Ashanti confederation remained loyal. The rebels were, however, able to command a force reported to number 40,000. On the 28th of March, before the rebellion had declared itself, the governor of the Gold Coast, Sir F. Hodgson, in a public palaver at Kumasi, announced that the Ashanti chiefs would have to pay the British government 4000 oz. of gold yearly, and he reproached the chiefs with not having brought to him the golden stool, which the Kumasi had kept hidden since 1896.

Three days afterwards the Kumasi warriors attacked a party of Hausa sent with the chief object of discovering the golden stool. (In the previous January a secret attempt to seize the stool had failed.) The Kumasi, who were longing to wipe out the dishonour of having let Prempeh be deported without fighting, next threatened the fort of Kumasi. Mr Ramseyer and the other Basel missionaries, and Sir F. and Lady Hodgson, took refuge in the fort, and reinforcements were urgently asked for. On the 18th of April 100 Gold Coast constabulary arrived. On the 29th the Kumasi attacked in force, but were repulsed. The same day a party of 250 Lagos constabulary reached Kumasi. They had fought their way up, and came in with little ammunition. On the 15th of May Major A. Morris arrived from the British territory north of Ashanti, also with 250 men. The garrison now numbered 700. The 29 Europeans in the fort included four women. Outside the fort were gathered 3000 native refugees. Famine and disease soon began to tell their tale. Sir F. Hodgson sent out a message on the 4th of June (it reached the relieving force on the 12th of June), saying that they could only hold out to the 11th of June. However, it was not till the 23rd of June that the governor and all the Europeans save three, together with 600 Hausa of all ranks, sallied out of the fort. Avoiding the maul road, held by the enemy in force, they attacked a weakly held stockade, and succeeded in cutting their way through, with a loss of two British officers mortally wounded, 3o Hausa killed, and double that number wounded or missing. The governor’s party reached Cape Coast safely on the 10th of July.

A force of 100 Hausa, with three white men (Captain Bishop, Mr Ralph and Dr Hay), was left behind in Kumasi fort with rations to last three weeks. Meantime a relief expedition had been organized at Cape Coast by Colonel James Willcocks. This officer reached Cape Coast from Nigeria on the 26th of May. The difficulties before him were appalling. Carriers could scarcely be obtained, there were no local food supplies, the rainy season was at its height, all the roads were deep mire, the bush was almost impenetrable, and the enemy were both brave and cunning, fighting behind concealed stockades. It was not until the 2nd of July that Colonel Willcocks was able to advance to Fumsu.

On the next day he heard of the escape of the governor and of the straits of the garrison left at Kumasi. He determined to relieve the fort in time, and on the 9th of July reached Bekwai, the king of which place had remained loyal. Making his final dispositions, the colonel spread a report that on the 13th he would attack Kokofu, east of Bekwai, and this drew off several thousands of the enemy from Kumasi. After feinting to attack Kokofu, Colonel Willcocks suddenly marched west. There was smart fighting on the 14th, and at 4.30 P.M. on the 15th, after a march since daybreak through roads " in indescribably bad condition," the main rebel stockade was encountered. It was carried at the point of the bayonet by the Yoruba troops, who proved themselves fully equal to the Hausa. "The charge could not have been beaten in elan by any soldiers." Kumasi was entered the same evening, a bugler of the war-worn garrison of the fort sounding the " general salute " as the relieving column came in view. Most of the defenders were too weak to stand. Outside the fort nothing was to be seen but burnt-down houses and putrid bodies. The relieving force that marched into Kumasi consisted of 1000 fighting men (all West Africans), with 60 white officers and non-commissioned officers, two 75-millimetre guns, four seven-pounder guns and six Maxims.

Kumasi relieved, there remained the task of crushing the rebellion. Colonel Willcocks’s force was increased by Yaos and a few Sikhs from Central Africa to a total of 3368 natives, with 134 British officers and 35 British non-commissioned officers. In addition there were Ashanti levies. On the 30th of September the Kumasi were completely beaten at Obassa. Thereafter many of the rebel chiefs surrendered, and the only two remain­ing in the field were captured on the 28th of December. Thus 1901 opened with peace restored. The total number of casualties during the campaign (including those who died of disease) was 1007. Nine British officers were killed in action, forty-three were wounded, and six died of disease. The commander, Colonel Willcocks, was promoted and created a K.C.M.G.


    The Authors Apology to the Reader.
    Sketch Map of the March to Kumassi
I.   Reasons For The Ashanti Expedition of 1895-96.
II.   Preliminaries To The Expedition
III.   Local Preparations.
IV.    At Cape Coast Castle (with a note on the British Royal Family).
V.   The Levy Starts
VI.   In the Bush
VII.   Pioneer Work
VIII.   The Scouts
IX.   The Bekwai Column
X.   Forward Movements
XI.   In Kumassi
XII.   Preparing the "Coup"

The Downfall

XIV.   After Events
XV.   The Coastward March
XVI.   Homeward Bound
XVII.   The Formation of the Native Levy
    Sir George Baden-Powell, "Policy And Wealth In Ashanti, 1895"

Colonel R. S. S. Baden-Powell.
The Downfall of Prempeh, 1895-96.
Chapter I. Reasons For The Ashanti Expedition of 1895-96 .
Lessons from the Varsity of Life
Chapter V: Soldiering
"With a Native Levy in Ashanti"
Eileen K. Wade,
The Piper of Pax: The Life Story of Sir Robert Baden-Powell, 1924
Chapter VIII. Ashanti.
The Baden-Powell Library. A Selection of excerpts from the works of Lord Baden-Powell and works relating to his life and career.
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