Anglo-Ashanti War Route?

Mel Richardson has written with the following information and queries, and would welcome the feedback of interested readers – either post it as a comment here, or email me and I’ll forward it to Mel:

I’m trying to find out about the actual route of the modern road and the expansion of the communities along it.  Why ? I hear you ask.  Well unlike South Africa Ghana seems to ignore the tourism potential of battlefield tours.  In particular those of the Anglo-Ashanti conflicts.  So having a degree in history with archaeology that has, to date, never been any use to me, along with my experience of being a special interest tour leader in north Wales years ago, I decided to look at how these conflicts could be used to benefit todays Ghanaians.  So I’m trying to put a tourism project together which will then be sent to various people to see if anything can be set up.

 

Starting in 1806 at Anomabu and rumbling on until after the siege of Kumasi in 1900 there have been several that are little known to people in Britain ( or the rest of the world ).  The 1873 / 74 campaign led by Sir Garnet Wolesley involved the building of a road wide enough for soldiers to march 4 abreast from Cape Coast to Kumasi.  This was partly completed in approx 3 months from Cape Coast to Prasu by the Royal Engineers and local workers.  Well over 200 bridges had to be built.  The Bridge at Prasu was a pontoon bridge with special girders brought with them from Chatham(?).  Along this route there were fortified bases large enough to accommodate 400 troops and a garrison of 50 each built where possible on an area of dry land and with a supply of clean water.  There were at least 6 bakeries and 4 abattoirs, some had small hospitals.  Mansu was larger and was a supply depot.  Prasu was large enough for 2000 European troops and had a 60(?) bed hospital.  Along the route for the road there were some running battles with the retreating Ashanti army which was suffering from dysentry and smallpox.  However they still pulled off an orderly retreat.  Once over the Pra River and into the Ashanti confederation the battles intensified  The largest began at the village of Eginassie (Ejinse ?) and extended onwards towards Amoaful (Amoafo?).  There is a description of the actual geography of the battlesite in a couple of books, which is useful.  This is where a certain journalist H.M. Stanley is found rifle in hand protecting Sir Garnet Wolesley when the Ashantis launched an attack on his H.Q. (They very nearly managed it as well)  A further ferocious battle took place at Ordahsu (Odasu?) where the entire allied force was surrounded.  It was only by using the 42nd Highlanders (the Black Watch) to break out and rush at full speed for Kumasi that the situation was saved.  During the battle a V.C. was won by one of the Royal Engineers (Lt. Bell?)

Back along the route the Ashantis attacked the supply line and bases, especially Fommanah (Fomena?), which later became the site where the Asantehene’s envoys signed a peace deal with Wolesley.

How many tourists to Ghana know of this engineering achievement or these battlesites ?  Besides this there is a connection with the Anglo-Zulu war of 1879.  Five of the officers from this conflict fought in the Zulu war.  Wolesley took over from Chelmsford, Wood and Buller were in the northern column in Zulu territory and fought in major battles, Colly came over from India, and Lord Gifford was the one who found Chetswayo.

Just as we have long distance paths in Britain, Offa’s Dyke Path, Hadrian’s Wall  etc why not produce a long distance route along the course of the advancing British and allied tribal warriors.  The types of huts are recorded, even the materials and the layout and height of beds within the huts.  Using archaeology and metal detectors to locate the exact sites of some of these fortified bases a partial reconstruction could be built.  With the battlesites, metal detectors could locate the spent musket balls from the Ashanti Dane guns (made in Birmingham) and the spent cartridge cases of the Snider rifles, 7-pounder shell cases or shrapnel from exploded shells 

However, all this may have been lost.  Hence my need for info on the road.  The route I have is from Leigh Maxwell’s book The Ashanti Ring.  The place names may not be spelt as they are today.  The Route is:-

Cape Coast, Inqudbim, Assayboo, Butteyan, Accroful, Dunquah, Yankumasi Fanti, Mansu, Sutah, Faysowah, Yankumasi Assin, Barraco, Prasu, across the Pra River to Attobiassie,Essiaman, Ansah, Accrofoomu, Qweeramassi Quantah, Moinsey, Quisah, Fommanah, Dompoassie,  Kiang Boassu, Ankankussie, Insarfu, Quarman, Egginassie, Amoaful, Jarbinah, Assiminia, Aggemmamu, Adwabin, Ordahsu, Karsi, Kumasi. 

There is a Heritage Village at Assin Prasu and a museum.  Does anyone know if it has anything to do with the allied camp?

Another place is Abrakrampa  (is the church used as a stronghold still there ? 

 

Sir Charles Macarthy was reportedly killed during the battle on the Bonsa river near the village of Bonsaso in 1823.  But according to the website of the Wassa Fiase Traditional Area it took place at a location named Mahamamo and is called the Battle of Nsamankor.  Apparently they actually have a tour of the battlefield.  

One of the other columns of the 1873 / 74 campaign went up the Volta and then westwards to Kumasi.  There was a fight between the tribal allies and another tribe on the east bank of the Volta somewhere opposite the village and staging post of Blakpa on the west bank.  I cannot find Blakpa on the map I have, although it’s supposed to be about halfway between Kpong and Ada. 

Any help would be gratefully received.

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4 thoughts on “Anglo-Ashanti War Route?

  1. Bob Dowsett says:

    My interest in this route relates to the zoological collections made along it early in the 20th C. There is a map of the route followed by the Kumasi Relief Column in the ornithological journal “Ibis”, 1902, p. 279. It will be seen that some of your localities are on it, plus a few extra ones. I have accurate coordinates for most of these. Could not Blakpa be Biakpa at 6°51’N, 0°25’E? Further north than you suggest, but a possible way of getting to Kumasi.

  2. Kofi Adu says:

    I’m just wrapping up a book called “The Fall of the Ashanti Empire”, written by Robert B. Edgerton. I would recommend it to you as in goes in to great detail (with maps) about the various routes and villages that the Asante and British both used in the wars.

    However, as an Asante myself, I can agree with you on the premise that these battles should be memorialized if nothing more than to showcase the utter brutality and greed of the then British imperialists.

    As the two forts which stand on the coast of Ghana today currently symbolize the evils of mankind, so too can these battles once relived.

    • Mel Richardson says:

      Kofi, just to update you, the Chief of Staff at the Manhiya Palace has been in touch and apparently the Palace Museum is going to be updated, and it is hoped that it will display items dealing with the Anglo-Ashanti ‘disputes’.

      I’ll look forward to reading that book, as Lloyd’s book has left out a huge amount of information. If you are interested in reading some of the original accounts by Brits involved in the various conflicts have a look on http://www.archive.org . You’ll also find some of the drawings made at the time of the 1873 / 74 campaign on the Illustrated London News website. The accuracy of those drawings is always questionable and reflects a less ‘enlightened’ attitude.

      I’m always happy to share info if you’d like to get in touch.

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