This illustration of the Ashanti War (1874) comes from The Graphic, a popular British weekly illustrated newspaper. This newspaper was published every Saturday and included articles and illustrations about some of the week’s biggest news stories. This particular illustration details a bush fight between the West India Regiment, who are led by a white British officer, and Ashanti fighters. The difference between the dress worn by the two groups is great. The Ashanti fighters wear traditional clothing that leaves most of their body uncovered whereas the men of the West India Regiment are fully covered apart from the bottom of their legs. None of the black troops from either side wear shoes. In his reflections about the war, British sanitary officer Albert Augustus Gore wrote that the men of the West India Regiment often walked bare foot. He stated that ‘on the march in the bush they [shoes] were often not used: it was by no means uncommon to see a private of one of these regiments trudging along with his shoes slung to his rifle’. In contrast, the white officer wears large heavy boots.
The focus of this illustration is the white officer, who is presented as an effective leader and points his gun in the direction of movement through the bush. The enemy seem to be the only ones who have suffered casualties in this battle. At the front of the picture one man kneels down clutching his thigh with an expression of pain on his face. Close to him, two Ashanti warriors lie dead on the floor.
- Article by:
- Melissa Bennett
Melissa Bennett explores the West Indian Regiment’s presence in West Africa, their involvement in the Anglo-Ashanti War in the 1870s, and its immediate consequences for both the regiment and the British Empire at large.