Man vs. Nature

“…you have done good service to the State, and have proved that no extent of intervening wilderness, no matter how great may be its difficulties, whether by land or water, can enable men to commit murder or to rebel against Her Majesty’s authority with impunity.”

Sir Garnet Wolseley, Colonel, Commanding Red River Expedition

Ft. Garry, 28 August, 1870


Wolseley did much to consolidate British forces and rally native allies on the Gold Coast to pursue colonial policy on the Gold Coast before burning Kumasi to the ground. He raised thousands of local militia (but had much trouble securing their actual service, blaming, in oh-so-racist language, the “cowardly and lazy” constitution of Africans) and ordered the survey of roads and infrastructure to service the expedition to Kumasi.

Interestingly to my book, he added several officers from the 1870 Red River Expedition in his mission to Kumasi in Jan 1874. The memoirs of Baden-Powell and Rathbone Low especially point to his Wolseley’s meticulous planning, made famous in Manitoba, perfected in Ashanti, and relied upon in future monumental feats of British manoeuvre, such as in Sudan along the Nile.

The real enemy was the forest. The rapids. The heat. The bugs.

The natural boundary separating his force from the enemy in West Africa was the Prah River; and, like on the Dawson Trail to Shebandowan and Lake on the Woods in Manitoba, Wolseley ensured the route to this objective was navigable. He ordered men to build miles of corduroy roads, repair and construct hundreds of bridges, and erect supply and barrack stations from materials gathered from the impenetrable forests.

Cape Coast to Kumasi


At his encampment at Prahsu, along the banks of the Prah, Wolseley enjoyed the company of the advanced British detachment and native levies around a vast night-fire, singing songs like these:

I suggest that, here, while deep in the ‘primordial’ forest of humanity, Wolseley penned a letter for courier to Cape Coast for the next mail ship to Plymouth. He will remember his previous campaign to the Red River, and how victory over the terrain in Canada only proved his abilities and British right to victory against Ashanti. In so many of the records, Wolseley’s real enemy was the environment he faced daily before even firing a shot (Riel evacuated Ft. Garry before Wolseley arrived). WIth him were a core cadre of elite soldiers that Wolseley came to trust and celebrate. Carrying on about the career soldiers who served in Canada and W/Africa and beyond, these men became know later as The Ashanti Ring:

My premise remains that Wolseley and his crew learned and perfected their skills, as we all do, from their previous work experience. And in the case of the Ashanti Ring, become utterly convinced of their abilities and of the need to pursue their callings in service of the  Crown.

Bird's Eye View of Prahsu



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