Actions of the 1873-74 War

For all discussions relating to the Second, Third, Fourth & Fifth Ashantee Wars fought between 1863 and 1900.

Actions of the 1873-74 War

Postby DavidB » 03 May 2008 22:36

Amoaful – 31 Jan 1874

Before dawn the European Brigade moved out from Kiang Boasu and marched to the advanced posts at Quaraman, reaching that place at 8am. The 42nd were to the fore, followed by the Naval Brigade and Rait’s Artillery, then Wood’s and Russell’s regiments, the Rifle Brigade, and lastly a portion of the 23rd Fusiliers to the rear.

Wolseley’s plan was to seize the village of Egginassie, from which columns were to diverge left and right with the Rifle Brigade acting as support and the 23rd covering the rear. Together with a column in the van down the main road, the troops were to advance in the manner of a giant square thus neutralising the Ashantees flanking tactics through the bush. However the nature of the ground prevented the plan going to order.

The 42nd advanced on Egginassie in skirmish order and started attacking the village before the whole of the force had defiled through Quaraman. The steady firing soon cleared the Ashanti from the village, but their fire from the bush on either side soon resulted in several men hit and a field hospital was set up in the village. Among the first casualties was Captain Buckle RE, mortally hit in the chest while leading a bush-clearing working party.

Meanwhile half the Naval Brigade under Captain Babb plus Russell’s Regt moved left of the main road commanded by Colonel McLeod, led off by a party of sappers and engineers under Lieut. Bell to cut a road through the bush while working by compass. The other half of the Naval Brigade and Wood’s Regt moved in a similar way right of the main road led by Colonel Wood.

The right column got about 30 yards into the undergrowth before being checked by heavy enemy fire. They did however succeed in covering the road’s right flank. The left hand column got approx 300 yards from the main road and started moving parallel to it. While engaged in this work they were attacked by a party of Ashantees who fired on the working party, killing or wounding 7 or 8 labourers and causing progress to be suspended for a time. The column formed up in an open clearing in the bush behing which the labourers gathered for protection. But this clearing was commanded by higher ground from which the Ashantee opened a heavy fire. The Naval Brigade attempted to silence the enemy fire, but efforts proved ineffectual due to the dense bush covering the Ashantee. After a time Major Russell ordered the Houssas forward to clear the area. The Houssas wheeled left, clearing a party of Ashantee enfilading the column, then wheeled right in skirmish order and entered the dense bush. Cutting their way to the enemy with cutlasses and knives, the Houssas drove the enemy from their position but not without loss. However when the Houssas withdrew, the Ashantees reoccupied the area and again opened fire on the British column. The Opobos were then ordered forward and cleared the area a second time. The road-cutting party were then finally able to recommence their labour and the column moved forward once more.

While this was happening to the left column, and while Colonel Wood (severely wounded) held the right, the centre advanced led by the 42nd Highlanders. With major difficulty the regiment extended 150 yards either side of the main road, their left almost in contact with Russell’s column and their right extending beyond Colonel Wood’s position. They would not be denied and pushed against and through the Ashantee lines inflicting heavy loss on the enemy but suffering losses themselves.

The main body of Ashantees were at Amoaful, the headquarters of their general Amanquatia. As the 42nd pressed on, the Ashantee tried their usual flanking tactics but the British dispositions foiled these intentions. As they attempted to circle to the British left, they ran into Russell’s column, who soon drove them back into the bush. Lieut Mundy of the flagship was dangerously hit at this point together with several other men of the Naval Brigade. This left column now mistakenly began heading back towards the main road rather than parallel to it. At one point they came under the fire of the Highlanders, but regimental bugle calls soon allowed for identification and prevented friendly fire inflicting casualties.
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Amoaful - part2

Postby DavidB » 03 May 2008 22:37

At 1pm the 42nd reached the sizeable town of Amoaful, the pipers playing “The Campbell’s are coming”. While the 42nd’s advance continued, Rait’s Artillery fired shells every now and then from the line of the main road. The shells caused great effect in Amoaful, some Ashantees becoming panic-stricken and crowding together. The general Amanquatia hurriedly mounted his palanquin, but a Highlander shot at him killing him instantly and his body was carried away by his slaves. In the centre of the town a large umbrella was found fixed in the ground, leading to the belief that the Asantehene himself has been here, but this was not confirmed.

The Highlanders were ordered to halt and secure their position. In the action to this point they had lost a sixth of their number killed and wounded. Two Highlanders had been decapitated by the enemy who also secured their rifles and equipment. Their companies had been fighting in sections. One section of Major Baird’s company had every man wounded except four, the Major himself being among the wounded. Two of the four carried Baird to safety leaving just two remaining. After being separated in a dense area of bush, one fired repeatedly at a party of Ashantees but fell covered with wounds. His head was immediately cut off and carried away.

After Amoaful was taken, the enemy’s fire slackened and gradually died out. However, the flanking troops were kept in position till dark to check any attempt on the flanks. Only at dusk was Russell’s column advanced to Amoaful and Wood’s column retired to Egginassie.

Wolseley’s precaution of the giant square formation with the rear well guarded was also justified by events that day. Sir Garnet established HQ at Egginassie while the battle raged up the road at Amoaful. A party of Ashantee appeared to the rear of Egginassie and opened up a heavy fire on the HQ staff. But the Rifle Brigade advanced through the push to check the enemy. The Ashantee however didn’t retire immediately, and the Bonny contingent of Wood’s Regt were let loose to clear the remainder with their cutlasses.

The Ashantee had done more still to disrupt the British. A separate force was dispatched with instructions to attack the British communications in the rear. The British baggage and stores had been left at Quaraman. This place had been cleared of bush and entrenched by Captain Gordon and was now under guard of 100 men, partly sick, under Captain Burnett, 15th Regt and Lieut. Jones, 2WI Regt. As Amoaful was being captured by the Highlanders, this post came under attack by a large body of Ashantees. Captain Burnett, suffering from fever, had much difficulty organising the defence and was glad when reinforced by the accidental arrival of a supply convoy and escort. On hearing the firing, Wolseley sent a company of the Rifle Brigade back at the double to Burnett’s assistance and thus secured the safety of Quaraman. The Ashantee force also attacked two more convoys on the road.

All firing ceased about 6.30pm and the Ashantee forces moved off. The troops encamped where they happened to be, and went to sleep on the bare turf supperless, in clothes wet from perspiration and swamp and without blankets or rations. To the relief of all, the baggage came up uninterrupted by the enemy early the next morning.
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Re: Ashantee campaigns

Postby DavidB » 04 May 2008 00:00

A sketch map to help place some of the places mentioned.
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Defence of the post at Fommanah

Postby DavidB » 05 May 2008 22:43

Fommanah (or Fomena) 2 Feb 1874
Major Brackenbury takes up the story:

‘On the morning of the 2d [February 1874], he [Colonel Colley*] pushed on to Fommanah, and on his arrival found the place warmly attacked on all sides. The post was in command of Captain Steward, 1st W.I.R., who had a garrison of 1 officer and 38 non-commissioned officers and men, 1st West India Regiment; and Lieutenant Grant, 6th Regiment, with 102 of the Mumford company of Russell’s Regiment. There were also present two transport officers - Captain North of the 47th Regiment, and Captain Duncan, R.A. - three surgeons, and two control officers; and in the palace, which was situated in the middle of the main street of the long straggling town, and used as a hospital, were 24 European soldiers and sailors, convalescents. The picquets had reported Ashantis in the neighbourhood early in the morning, and had been reinforced; but the village was far too large to be capable of defence by this small garrison; and when, about 8.30 a.m., the place was attacked from all directions by the enemy, they were able to penetrate into it. Captain North, in virtue of his seniority, assumed the command, but while at the head of his men was shot down in the street of the village, and was obliged by severe loss of blood to hand over the command to Captain Duncan, R.A. The enemy, as has been said, penetrated into all the southern side of the village, which they set on fire; meanwhile the sick from the hospital were removed to the stockade at the north end of the village, which was cleared as rapidly as possible, the houses being pulled down by the troops and labourers acting under Colonel Colley’s orders.
At half-past two Colonel Colley reported as follows: “We have now cleared the greater part of the village, preserving the hospital and store enclosure. Difficult to judge the numbers of the Ashantis; they attack on all sides, and occasional ones creep boldly into the village, but generally keep under cover of the thick bush, which in places comes close to the houses.” The firing ceased about 1 p.m.; but on a party going down for water an hour later, they were hotly fired upon. No further attack was made upon the post. Captain North was severely wounded, dangerously so, and one of the convalescents in the 42d Regiment severely.
Other Europeans were slightly wounded, among them Captain Duncan, R.A., five West Indians, and three privates of Russell’s Regiment. Colonel Colley reported that he would be unable to move any more convoys on from Fommanah for the present.’

* Colonel George Pomeroy Colley, 2nd Queens Regt. Wolseley's Director of Transport and later ill-fated General in 1st Boer War
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Re: Ashantee campaigns

Postby Mark » 06 May 2008 07:03

Hi amoaful73

This is brilliant stuff, please keep it coming mate.

Mark :D
Mark Simner BA (Hons) MSc | Web: http://marksimner.me.uk | Twitter @marksimner
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Actions of the 1873-74 War

Postby DavidB » 06 May 2008 10:49

Cheers Mark, I'll do my best with the vignettes and random facts.
If I can spark a bit of wider interest in the Ashanti conflicts I'll be happy.

Some random facts then:
1. The 1873-74 war was referred to by the local people of the Cape Coast as the Sargrenti War. Sargrenti was a corruption of "Sir Garnet"
ie Wolseley.

2. The timing of the march to Coomassie was dictated in part by the climate. Dec/Jan/Feb was the main dry season, the spring rains coming in April/May and the second rainy season in Sept/Oct. In both these seasons, campaigning would have been vastly more difficult for European troops.

3. The Ashantee were armed with old "long Dane" muskets, some of which dated to Napoleonic times. The British had a massive superiority in firepower with their Snider rifles.

4. The Ashantee king Kofi Kakari was, with certain inevitability, named King Coffee by the British.

5. In the 1895-96 war, the 2nd West Yorks Regt earned the distinction of being the last British infantry regiment ever to wear red tunics on active campaign.
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Re: Actions of the 1873-74 War

Postby Berkshire Dragon » 09 Jun 2008 00:25

Hi amoaful73,

Am I right in assuming that the 2/23rd are the Royal Welsh Fusiliers?

If so, do you know if they were they involved with any other actions besides the one at Amoaful?


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Re: Actions of the 1873-74 War

Postby DavidB » 09 Jun 2008 23:34

Hello Mark,

Am I right in assuming that the 2/23rd are the Royal Welsh Fusiliers?

Yes indeed, 2nd Bn RWF. Do you have any particular interest in this regiment?

30 officers and 651 other ranks of the 2/23rd are named on the medal roll, with 20 officers and 287 other ranks receiving the Coomassie clasp (for which service North of the Prah river was the basic qualification)
The reason comparatively few served north of the Prah was through no fault of their own. Wolseley's force lacked sufficient numbers of reliable native porters and bearers, and hence some of the army were obliged by lack of transport to remain to the south in the British Cape Coast territory.

They landed at the Cape Coast on 1 Jan 1874. One company was involved in the attack on the village of Borborassie, and those in Wolseley's column were at Amoaful, Becquah, Ordahsu and the entry into Coomassie.
The RWF have the battle honour "Ashantee 1873-74" as do the other infantry regiments involved.
Hopefully a bit more detail for you here (the 23rd are mentioned a few times)
http://www.athelstane.co.uk/kingston/so ... ldrs12.htm

I don't have the full casualty figure to hand for the battalion in this campaign right now, but 1 officer, 6 privates and a surgeon are commemorated on a memorial at St Giles Church, Wrexham:
“In memory of Lieutenant W A Johnson
Privates J Brooks - W Phillips
J McCue - J Tourish
G McPherson - C Baker
23rd Royal Welch Fusiliers
also of
Surgeon E T McCarthy
formerly of the regiment
who died serving their country
during
the Ashanti campaign
1873-1874
erected
by their comrades of all ranks”
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Re: Actions of the 1873-74 War

Postby Berkshire Dragon » 10 Jun 2008 22:56

Hi amoaful73,

No, no particular interest apart from the fact that i have a medal in my collection to a man from the RWF and I was wondering what kind of action he may have seen in the campaign. Thanks for the link.

Cheers.


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Re: Actions of the 1873-74 War

Postby DavidB » 10 Jun 2008 23:03

..........i have a medal in my collection to a man from the RWF.........


Can I ask his name? I'll check my copy of the medal roll and see if it gives anything specific if you like.
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Re: Actions of the 1873-74 War

Postby Berkshire Dragon » 10 Jul 2008 22:00

That is very kind of you. Here is my man:

Private W Glass, No 874, 2nd Battalion Royal Welsh Fusiliers

It will be very interesting if you find anything out about him. Cheers.


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Re: Actions of the 1873-74 War

Postby DavidB » 11 Jul 2008 17:22

Private W Glass, No 874, 2nd Battalion Royal Welsh Fusiliers


As it happens, not a great deal I can add.
Confirmed on roll (no clasp)
His first name was William
The "remarks" column tells us he was still with the battalion in Gibraltar when the roll was compiled in June 1874
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Re: Actions of the 1873-74 War

Postby Berkshire Dragon » 11 Jul 2008 19:20

Hi amoaful73,

As you say not a great deal but as I had nothing before this has increased substantially now what I know about him so that is great! :)

Haven't as yet looked at the link you gave but will do so now which will also help round out the general picture of the kind of campaign and conditions that he would have been involved with/put up with etc.

Thanks very much for your help.


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Re: Actions of the 1873-74 War

Postby buxton_blade » 06 Jun 2016 17:43

Hi

Looking into the 2nd Batt Rifle Bde involvement in the ashantee campaign.

(I have a medal to 2258 Pte W. Taylor who was in Csgt Fergussons G Coy!!)

Any hints on where to find info online?

Cheers

Wayne
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