An accurate and entertaining account of Sir Francis Scott's Ashanti Expedition of 1895-96, vividly portraying the obscene killing fields, the treachery and the debauchery that characterised this gold-rich outpost of the Empire, and building to the final scene when King Prempeh had to undergo the ultimate humiliation in the sight of his chiefs and subjects. Even after Kumassi had been occupied by the British troops, the Ashanti continued to proclaim the invincible greatness of their King. But there could be no more self-deception when the King and the Queen-mother had to kneel before the Governor and embrace his feet. The final denouement followed when Prempeh refused to pay the indemnity that had been owed to the British for more than twenty years, at which point the Royal family was seized, deported to the Coast as prisoners and exiled to the British colony of Sierra Leone.
The official reason for our military intervention was that the Ashanti had turned down an offer to become a British protectorate in 1891 and had failed to pay the fines levied on them by the 1874 Treaty of Fomena. Wanting to keep French and German forces out of Ashanti territory, and anxious to retain control over the gold fields, the British were determined to conquer the Ashanti once and for all, but the Ashanti King Prempeh refused to surrender his sovereignty and sent a delegation to London offering concessions on its gold, cocoa and rubber trade. Some commented, however, that Lord Salisbury's government had a hidden agenda and had already made its mind up on a military solution to keep other European forces out of Ashanti territory. Sir Francis Scott's expedition was on the way and the Ashanti delegation only returned to Kumassi a few days before the troops arrived.
The British force marched 140 miles through jungle, dense forest and deadly swamp, fraught with perils more to be dreaded than the arms of the savage Ashantis, leaving numbers on the road, sick of fever and dysentery. These heroes invested the capital; captured the King and his chiefs; destroyed the bloody fetish power; then, sadly reduced by sickness, returned to the coast, having freed a large district from the tyranny of a bloodthirsty despot and opened up a vast territory to trade and civilization. The campaign itself was bloodless yet lives were lost in Kumassi. Twenty three of our number, including Prince Henry of Battenberg, succumbed to the fever and the register of our sick swelled to an alarming extent.
The lands of Ashanti had stood as the great barrier to the development of our African territories and the expedition had been a brilliant success in fully accomplishing its object. Following a final parade and salute for His Excellency Governor Maxwell, the Headquarters at Cape Coast Castle was embarked, and quietly the Expeditionary Force left for Old England, having brought to a close the most peaceful, but also the most successful and best managed campaign that has ever graced the annals of English History.