Volume 28

Wolseley and Ashanti

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The Ashanti (Asante) War of 1873–74 in West Africa was the first Victorian colonial campaign really to catch the British public’s imagination since the Indian Mutiny, being reported upon by war correspondents such as Henry Morton Stanley and G. A. Henty. Widely seen as a model campaign, it was won at modest cost in expenditure and in lives; proving white troops could operate effectively in the tropics. Sometimes seen as a triumph for the military reforms of Edward Cardwell, it certainly marked a new phase in British policy towards empire and the projection of military power. It also made a household name of Sir Garnet Wolseley, Gilbert and Sullivan’s ‘very model of a modern Major General’, and saw the emergence of Wolseley’s celebrated ‘Ashanti Ring’ of followers such as Redvers Buller, William Butler and Evelyn Wood. For all these reasons, the campaign is especially significant. Wolseley’s unpublished campaign journal and correspondence provides a rich and compelling account of the difficulties of Victorian campaigning, as well as new insight into the complex character of ‘our only General’.