Description

Albert Augustus Gore was a surgeon general in the British Army and acted as sanitary officer during the 1873–74 Ashanti War. This extract comes from his Medical History of our West African Campaigns, a book that details some of his medical findings from his time in West Africa. In this extract Gore discusses the differences between the various troops of African descent that were serving during the Ashanti War as well as the differences between these troops of African descent and white troops. He states that in comparison to local African troops, the West India Regiments were trained more in accordance with the European style and ‘were steady in action, and followed their officers, and liked those who treated them with firmness, kindness, and consideration’. They were equipped and administered as European troops were, and saw themselves as very different from their local African counterparts whom they ‘looked [upon] with supreme contempt’. Like white British troops, they often grumbled when serving in West Africa, ‘and looked forward to a return to the West Indies much as the European thought of a homeward voyage’. Unlike local African troops who ‘slept upon a mat’ and carried their belongings on their heads, Gore believed that black troops of the West India Regiments could not adapt as well to life in the jungle.

Transcript

[Relevant extract begins]

The Houssas and men of the West Indian regiments were the more
regular coloured troops, and also the best drilled. The former, Maho-
medans, were quiet and orderly in barracks, very fond of games of
chance and of their dames d’amour, suffered little from sickness, and
soon picked up the irregular drill and discipline required of them.
Under fire, however, they were sometimes wild and excitable, as for-
merly noticed, wasting their ammunition, which, previous to the com-
mencement of a fight, they removed from their pouches and placed in
the fez, the rim of which, when turned up, retained it in situ. Much
ammunition was in this way lost. The men of the West Indian regi-
ments were trained more in accordance with our pre-conceived notions
of military discipline; they were steady in action, and followed their
officers, and liked those who treated them with firmness, kindness, and
consideration. Still they were constant grumblers, noisy and talkative
on the march, disliked African service and surroundings, and looked

  1. Transcript

    [Relevant extract begins]

    The Houssas and men of the West Indian regiments were the more
    regular coloured troops, and also the best drilled. The former, Maho-
    medans, were quiet and orderly in barracks, very fond of games of
    chance and of their dames d’amour, suffered little from sickness, and
    soon picked up the irregular drill and discipline required of them.
    Under fire, however, they were sometimes wild and excitable, as for-
    merly noticed, wasting their ammunition, which, previous to the com-
    mencement of a fight, they removed from their pouches and placed in
    the fez, the rim of which, when turned up, retained it in situ. Much
    ammunition was in this way lost. The men of the West Indian regi-
    ments were trained more in accordance with our pre-conceived notions
    of military discipline; they were steady in action, and followed their
    officers, and liked those who treated them with firmness, kindness, and
    consideration. Still they were constant grumblers, noisy and talkative
    on the march, disliked African service and surroundings, and looked

  2. Transcript

    forward to a return to the West Indies much as the European thought
    of a homeward voyage. “This country no good for we," was a frequent
    expression. Although clothed, fed, and treated in every respect as
    white troops, their social ideas were entirely those of the Negro. Upon
    their African confreres they, however, looked with supreme contempt.
    As compared with the Houssas they were, as a corps, expensive—not in
    themselves, for they would get on upon a very simple diet, but owing to
    their being officered and supplied as regular, not irregular, regiments.
    While the Houssa received one shilling and three pence a day, from
    which he provided his own subsistence and not very elaborate kit, the
    West Indian soldier had to be supplied with his rations after European
    fashion, necessitating a large and expensive administration, was subject
    to a variety of complex regulations, and obliged to wear full dress
    uniform, which might have well been dispensed with, with the effect of
    increasing his inefficiency. The semi-semiatic negro, Houssa, or Yoruba
    slept upon a mat, lived chiefly upon vegetables, had strong sensual
    appetites, gratified without being incontinent, carried his belongings on
    his head, and was, comparatively speaking, free from impedimenta. The
    West Indian soldier had become so accustomed to have all his wants
    supplied, that he grumbled immediately if his usual requirements were
    not at once forthcoming.

    [end of relevant extract]