For Flashman Down Under, Flashman in the Opium War & Flashman and the Kings click HERE For Flashman of Arabia click HERE Balladeer’s Blog now moves on to another Harry Flashman adventure referred to but never completed before George MacDonald Fraser’s death.
Projected Title: FLASHMAN ON THE GOLD COAST
Time Period: Third Ashanti War (1873-1874)
The Setup: Queen Victoria’s Empire – specifically the British Gold Coast – bought the Dutch Gold Coast from Holland in 1871. The nearby Ashanti People of Africa had been at peace with the Dutch for over 200 years but were wary of their “new neighbors” and were protective of their enormous wealth in gold. They invaded the British Gold Coast in May, 1873.
In June the advance of the Ashanti was halted at Elmina and back in England Her Majesty’s Government made plans to send additional troops to the Gold Coast to deal with the situation. By August 13th General Garnet Wolseley was chosen to lead the army.
The Story: Wolseley, personally familiar with Flashman from the Crimean War and the Great Mutiny, would draft the reluctant Colonel-on-Half-Pay into his campaign. Sir Harry’s knack for picking up languages and his years of experience as a colonial officer would convince Wolseley of our hero’s fitness for this type of warfare, no matter what excuses Flashman would try to use.
And so by late September Harry would find himself on the Gold Coast as part of General Wolseley’s forces laying the groundwork for and then carrying out the campaign against the Ashanti. Flashman being Flashman he would no doubt get up to his usual scandalous behavior, even though he’s graying at the temples by this point in his life.
The Third Ashanti War could see Sir Harry trying to sneak a quicky with a willing woman on a traction engine (see below) only to inadvertently set it into rampaging motion, leading to him encountering Ashanti harassing troops in the surrounding jungle. An injury at some point in the war could place Flashman on board one of the hospital ships used in the conflict. A fling with a nurse or two would not be unlikely.
Sir Harry likely would – during some sort of intrigue or reluctant act of derring-do – spot or be shown the legendary Golden Stool. That Ashanti heirloom was an old and revered symbol of the rule of the Asantehene line. Later British demand for the item was central to the War of the Golden Stool in the year 1900.
Ultimately Harry’s lust or other ignoble motives (like looting) would wind up with him barely escaping in time from the Ashanti Royal Palace in Kumasi when the British destroyed it with explosives in February of 1874. The English won the war but continuing disputes over the unpaid gold fees levied on the Ashanti would help lead to the Fourth Ashanti War in the 1890s.
Historical Co-Stars: In addition to Wolseley, Flashman could interact with:
*** War correspondents Winwood Reade, G.A. Henty and THE Henry Morton Stanley (as in “Doctor Livingstone, I presume.”)
*** Ashanti military leader Amanquatia, who wound up killed at the Battle of Amoaful in late January 1874.
*** Asantehene (King) Kofi Karikari, ruler of the Ashanti.
*** Assorted units of Royal Engineers plus the legendary Black Watch.
*** Other officers hand-picked by Garnet Wolseley and all bound for future glory as “the Wolseley Gang” – among them Lt Col John McNeill, Lt John Frederick Maurice and Capt Robert Home.
*** Another Wolseley Gang member, Lt Col Evelyn Wood (really), whose capacity for getting wounded in every war would no doubt have been commented upon by Colonel Flashman.
*** Captain John Hawley Glover, a British colonial man in Lagos. Glover raised an army of Hausas to serve in the campaign to take Kumasi, the capital. His partially effective campaign is considered by some historians to be anything from irrelevant to a nuisance to a rival campaign to Garnet Wolseley’s.
*** Captain Henry Brackenbury, yet another member of the Wolseley Gang, whose lisp would likely have reminded our protagonist of Lord Cardigan, his long-ago friend turned enemy.
*** And Captain William Butler, whose real life and adventures rivaled Flashman’s fictional biography.
Issues Dealt With: In George MacDonald Fraser’s usual way of tweaking both left-wing AND right-wing sensibilities in different ways, the Third Ashanti War could feature Flashman/ Fraser’s trenchant observations on:
++ The advancements in military engineering and the British army’s use of machinery like Traction Engines. This was the first wartime use of Traction Engines, which would likely make Flashman eager to oink and boink on this technological novelty in a proto- “Mile High Club” spirit (see above).
++ The way in which Her Majesty’s Government refused to act against arms dealers making a killing by supplying both sides of the war.
++ The Virtue Signalers of the Nineteenth Century, who went on record to lecture the European Powers about their “obligation” to “civilize” the Africans and “raise them up to modern nation status.” With the benefit of hindsight modern Virtue Signalers lecture about the “evils” of this attitude.
++ Similarly, Winwood Reade and other war correspondents second-guessed Garnet Wolseley, insisting he was TOO LENIENT with the Ashantis. Today, of course, journalists still thrive on being contrarian and would no doubt rip Garnet to pieces for being TOO HARSH with the Ashantis.
++ The manner in which Garnet Wolseley used this campaign to drag the British Army out of its tradition-hindering past and to get more realistic about fighting in areas with intemperate weather. The notorious Red Coats of the Brits, dating back to Cromwell’s New Model Army in the 1600s, began to fall by the wayside.
Other military actions and historical events of the Third Ashanti War that Sir Harry would be involved in:
— Wolseley’s summoning of the non-Ashanti Chiefs in the region to recruit them to the British cause. Some failed to show because they were more afraid of the Ashanti than the Brits. One Chief famously replied “Have got smallpox today but will come tomorrow.” The Chief of Ampeene cut off the head of Wolseley’s messenger.
— The Chief of Essaman taunting General Wolseley to come and get him. On October 13th the General set off from Elmina with a mixed force on a punitive raid. He defeated the Essaman troops and sent Lt Col Evelyn Wood on to Ampeene only to find the Chief and his men had fled.
— Wolseley’s November call for additional troops from England, since the Brits’ allies the Fanti were unwaveringly reluctant to fight the Ashanti. (No doubt Flashman would sympathize.)
— General Wolseley’s shrewd decision to have fairly large accomodations built every few miles to help the troops endure the heat and insect life.
— Plenty of small-scale harassing attacks by the Ashanti as the British advanced toward Amoaful and the Ashanti capital of Kumasi beyond it. Flashman might well be one of the British officers leading African allied troops in these almost daily skirmishes.
— A tailor-made side drama in which inter-tribal feuding resulted in the Hausa allies of the Brits capturing the Queen of Accassi, another ally, just before New Year’s Day 1874 and holding her at Prahsu. Conflicting concerns over the Queen’s honor and some plantains she was tending made this still-hazy incident ideal for Flashman’s odd adventuring.
It’s easy to picture a scenario in which Sir Harry, just to survive, finds himself forced to manipulate events so that the situation is resolved in such a way that pleases the Accassi AND the Hausas in the end, with neither side’s honor wounded.
By March of 1874 Flashman would be on his way back to England and his wife Elspeth for a period of inaction until mid 1875 finds them in America for the “Seventy-Sixer” portion of Flashman and the Redskins.
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FOR HARRY FLASHMAN’S ENCOUNTERS WITH ABRAHAM LINCOLN IN THE NOVEL FLASH FOR FREEDOM CLICK HERE
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