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©1994-2018 Bill Armintrout
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Personal logo Editor in Chief Bill The Editor of TMP Fezian08 Aug 2012 2:37 p.m. PST

Anyone know of a good book or two for background, campaign info, painting info on the Mandinka Empire of the late 19th Century in Africa?

Personal logo Dye4minis Supporting Member of TMP09 Aug 2012 2:04 p.m. PST

Besides the obvious first choice, Peter Abbott's Foundry book "Colonial Armies Africa 1850 to 1918", I can recommand "African Arms and Armour" by Christopher Spring. There are many color photos of surviving relics, hisotrical reenactors (yes, there are many cultural groups that try to preserve their history) and historical background materials.
The ethnic group you seem to be asking about spans from Senegal thru Burkina Faso, Mali, Ivory Coast and Ghana. There are several others that also exist in those regions at the same time, thus causes for "internal strife".

When the colonial powers divided Africa into separate geographical countries, it was not in regards to the ethnicity of the populations (and probably done so with purpose).

Bill, can you be a bit more specific as to which leader you are studying and in which region he mainly operated from? There are many. If just doing a "drive by for period flavor" then these two books will help you decide what to focus upon.

Tom Dye

Personal logo Dye4minis Supporting Member of TMP09 Aug 2012 2:09 p.m. PST

Sorry, the bug had misplaced my reply after I corrected some spelling.

Personal logo chicklewis Supporting Member of TMP11 Aug 2012 6:48 a.m. PST

Hmm, I thought Colonial Armies in Africa dealt with the armies of the Europeans, not the locals like the Mandinkas. My copy is not at this location, so maybe I'm mis-remembering.

Personal logo chicklewis Supporting Member of TMP11 Aug 2012 6:55 a.m. PST

Here's the best book I know of, along with my review written for the Red Shadow Page. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED !

The military response to colonial occupation
Michael Crowder

A review by Chick Lewis

I've been reading it and it is just fascinating. An excerpt from the jacket blurb:

"West African Resistance is a study by nine historians of West Africa, three of whom are themselves African, of the military response to the colonial occupation of West Africa. Apart from the fact that the extent and effectiveness of African resistance to European invaders has been largely underestimated by historians, those studies of the African campaigns which have been made have been primarily concerned with the military strategy and problems of the European invaders. Very little attention has been paid to the way African military commanders reoriented their military strategies and deployed their armies against the better-armed European invaders.

The nine case studies in this volume have been selected to give readers, both general and specialist, an indication of the wide range of types of resistance offered the Europeans. Successes as well as failures are studied. Small states like that of Bai Bureh in Sierra Leone are given the same detailed treatment as the mighty Ashanti."


Senegambia-Mahmadou Lamine
Sierra Leone-Bai Bureh
Nigeria-Sokoto Caliphate

This volume is packed with details certain to gladden the heart of any wargamer.

Extracts from the book – to whet your appetite


Ghana-Asante (Ashanti) – Siege of the British fort in Kumasi 1899 – pg 47

" – - – A corps of crack shots, composed of professional hunters, was armed with rifles including a few .303 carbines and .22 rook rifles captured in Kumasi. The bulk of the Asante warriors, however, still had their ancient muskets. The extraordinarily heavy fire brought to bear on the British columns was usually achieved by a fighting formation of three lines, each consisting of a company commanded by its own captain. The first line would fire and double to the rear for freshly loaded guns while the second line ran forward, discharged a volley, and was replaced by a third line, after which the first company was ready to begin the cycle again. For hand to hand fighting the Asante carried long knives in skin scabbards at their girdles, but usually they preferred the gun using their forest craft to remain hidden from the enemy. During the night the Asante camps kept up a morale-boosting ritual of question and answer by drums, roughly resembling the traditional claims and counter claims of prowess exchanged elsewhere by European regiments."

Guinea-Samori – regarding the arms of Samori's soldiers – page 122

"Even before the 1888 crisis there were developments in the way Samori's men were armed. Apart from the individual European weapons which were the personal property of the combatants, Samori provided them with guns and he took great care that every man in the army had one. Up to 1875 or 1876 these were guns obtained from traders, easily repaired by local blacksmiths who also made the ammunition for them. But when he reached the borders of the Fouta-Djallon he took care to import more modern weapons from Sierra Leone. This was a time when arms manufacture in Europe was developing very rapidly from the technical point of view and Samori set himself to study and understand the rapid succession of different models. For instance, he
distributed a number of Chassepot rifles among his men but soon noticed their defects – the big cardboard cartridge was heavy and soon rotted in the humidity. From 1885 he systematically replaced these weapons with Gras rifles which had a light-weight metal cartridge and Kropatscheks which were really Gras repeaters (known as "data", ten mouths). In his last years he was interested in the Lebel rifles, but could never obtain them in sufficient numbers. A technical reason obliged him to stay faithful to the Gras and Kropatschek guns; he had managed to build up groups of workmen who were able to copy these rifles extremely well so it was obviously sensible to go on using them. Constant changes in the rifles meant, of course, that it would
have been difficult for these village craftsmen to keep up with developments and the work in any case could not go beyond a certain level of precision.

Moreover, the spread of quick-firing rifles (which does not necessarily mean repeating rifles) was very slow at first. As late as 1888 Samori had only a few hundred of these and it was only in anticipation of the conflict with
France that he began to buy them in increasing numbers. in the end he had about 6,000 modern weapons at his disposal in 1893 when he retreated towards the east, and this total, which was never to be repeated, lasted him until his defeat. At first these precious weapons were reserved for the very best fighters, that is for the cavalry and especially the sovereign's personal body-guard. Before 1888 the latter was the only section of the army to have a uniform inspired by that of the French riflemen: blue clothing with red belt and tarboosh. "

Dahomey – the origin of the Amazons – page 148

"By the 1880s a substantial part of the Dahoman army was made up of female soldiers – the famous Amazons. In the eighteenth century the Dahoman Kings had, in emergencies, enlisted some of their wives as soldiers. It was, however, only in the early nineteenth century that the system became institutionalized. The Amazons became a permanent part of the royal forces as a result of the fact that after a dynastic revolution in 1818 the usurping monarch, King Gezo (1818-58), felt his position to be so insecure that he created from amongst the women of his palace a permanent body of soldiers who would defend him in any civil conflict. At the time the Amazons' personal loyalty to the ruler was assured by the fact that only young non-Dahoman captive girls were selected as members of the corps. After Gezo's death, however, this selection policy broke down and Amazon officers were recruited even from the important Dahoman families. They were therefore as heavily involved in Dahoman politics as were their male counterparts. In the last decade of the nineteenth century the Amazons no longer satisfactorily fulfilled their role as the monarch's civil guard. They had, however, developed into one of the most important units in the Dahoman army. They probably first became involved in Dahomey's foreign wars in the 1840s, when the first of the major Fon wars with the Egba necessitated the employment of every available soldier. The Amazons soon became the most warlike, and the most feared, of all the Dahoman troops. It was they who tended to suffer most severely when the Fon either won a Phyrric victory or sustained a costly defeat. During the most desperately fought of all Fon wars, the struggle against the French, their losses were so severe that as a fighting force they were completely destroyed. These female soldiers had all the privileges of important royal wives: they lived in the royal palaces; they had their food prepared for them; anyone who met them on the roads had to make way for them. They had also to obey the regulations which governed the lives of the King's wives. The most onerous of these was that although they obviously could only enjoy the favours of their royal spouse infrequently, they were forbidden any relations with other men. Any deviation from this rule was punishable by death. No doubt this enforced state of chastity does a good deal towards explaining their ferocity. "

Dahomey – modern armaments for the Dahomans – page 158

"At the beginning of their campaign, as the haphazard nature of their attacks on Cotonou showed, the Fon had thought that the expulsion of the French would be an easy matter. This fits in with later rueful admissions that they thought of the Europeans as traders, or sailors, who would not, or could not, fight. This illusion was destroyed by the events of the 1890 war when it was realized that the French were exceptionally powerful adversaries. The defeats of the 1890 war did not, however, produce a peace at any price movement. The only group in the Fon leadership which had deviated from the general line was one which refused to make peace at all. The realization that the French were powerful adversaries did not alter the obligation to guard and preserve Dahomey. Indeed, in order better to protect their country, the Fon set about equipping their army with more efficient weapons. Between January 1891 and August 1892 they bought 1,700 rapid-firing rifles*, six Krupp cannon of various bore, five machine-guns, 400,000 assorted cartridges and a large quantity of shell. These they bought from German firms trading at Whydah. It is more than likely that they bought other armaments from Germans operating in Lome."

*(A. L. D'Albecca, La France au Dahomey, Paris, 1895, Annex I p. 216. They purchased the following types of rifle: 300 Peabodys; 133 Winchesters; 648 Chassepots; 200 Albinis; 240 Sniders; 200 Spencers.)
- Amazons with Machine guns !!! I've GOT to work those into a game against the French Foreign Legion ! Does anybody know the make of these "machine guns?"-Chick!

Nigeria-Ijebu – The 1892 British expedition to subdue the Ijebu – page 178

"The force immediately available to the Lagos Government consisted only of the local constabulary, the 'Lagos Hausa', whose numbers Carter had recently raised from 250 to 500. Of these only some 150 could be spared to take part in the expedition, and the Colonial Office agreed with the Governor that reinforcements were needed. These were to consist of, first, an equal number of constables from the Gold Coast – the 'Gold Coast Hausas' – and secondly a company from the West India Regiment stationed in Sierra Leone, the Colonial Office having thought it 'safer that some regular forces should be engaged'. Permission was then obtained to add a number of Ibadan 'war boys' who had volunteered their help and who were to be used as either troops or carriers. The commander of this mixed force of Africans and West Indians was to be the Inspector-General of the Gold Coast Police, Colonel F. C. Scott, C.B, a veteran who had fought against the Ashanti eighteen years before. In addition to the four officers already attached to these forces, seven Special Service officers from England were seconded to the expedition, one a cavalryman, another a gunner, and the rest infantry of the line.
The armament of the force was as heterogeneous s its composition. The Gold Coast constables were equipped with Martini-Henry rifles whereas their Lagos counterparts had Sniders. The West Indians seem still to have been using Martini-Henry's rather than the Lee-Metfords now issued to regular British units. The Ibadan auxiliaries were armed with ˜trade guns', the majority of these being presumably the flint-lock muskets known on the cost as ˜Dane guns', although a few may have had Sniders provided by their chiefs. The expedition was also allotted three seven-pounder guns, one Maxim machine-gun, two Nordenfelt machine-guns, and three rocket troughs."

Nigeria-Ijebu – Armaments of the Ijebu in 1892 – page 181

"Precise information about the weapons of the Ijebu forces can no longer be obtained, but it is possible that all the warriors were equipped with some kind of firearm. From early in the century Ijebu traders, profiting from
their contact with Europeans at the coast, had been able to obtain muskets,and the Ijebu had used these on a large scale in the Owu war about 1820, at a time when firearms were scarce among other Yoruba. Just as they had been foremost in obtaining muskets, so they had also pioneered (with the Egba) the use in their wars of the greatly superior breech-loading rifles which were available on the coast from about 1870, and many, perhaps most, of their warriors in 1892 were armed with Sniders. Apart from the riflemen, the rest of the army must have carried Dane guns, firing shot or slugs, and also half-inch bolts of iron of which four could be discharged at a time. After the battle of Yemoji a large quantity of ammunition (presumably ball cartridges) for the Sniders was found in the Ijebu camp, with gunpowder in barrels marked with the name of Regis Aine, the Marseilles traders with a branch at Palma (Orimedu) between he lagoon and the sea. In addition to their firearms, most warriors probably also carried swords or cutlasses as auxiliary weapons for close fighting, but in the event these cannot have been used in this war. Despite their long acquaintance with firearms, the Ijebu (like other Yoruba)
never evolved any drill for their efficient handling, and after the introduction of rifles they continued to load and fire these weapons from a standing rather than a prone position, sacrificing a major advantage of the breech-loader over the muzzle-loader. Moreover, it is unlikely that they were using the recently-introduced smokeless cartridges in their rifles, while the Dane guns were packed with banana fibre as wadding, greatly
increasing the smoke from the discharge. Thus, neither protection nor concealment could be hoped for in any defensive position, however well-chosen.

Despite the fact that the Ijebu are reported as having used ˜cannon (akka); that is, small bronzee pivot guns for the defence of their towns in the early years of the century, they paparently brought no artillery into the field. Nor had they obtained any form of machine-gun, a surprising improvidence, especially if the report is true that their neighbours and allies the Ijesa were using a Gatling aginst the Ibadan in the Kiriji war during the early 1889s."
Another "Must run" Darkest Africa scenario ! The Ijesa surprise the Ibadan
with a Gatling. Not a European figure on the table. – Chick

Nigeria-Ebrohimi – Reconnaissance of the Trader Nana's defenses – page 221

"It had become clear that a full scale offensive would have to be mounted against Nana if he was to be broken. Heugh, therefore, against the express instructions of Moor, decided to reconnoitre the Ebrohimi creek with a view to discovering whether the town could be taken through a naval operation. He armour-plated his boat before setting out apparently not expecting anything more than desultory firing by wandering rifle men. He miscalculated badly. After going up the creek for some hundred yards, the British party ran into heavy fire from a masked battery of twenty-three heavy cannon somewhere in the mangrove swamp. Heugh's boat was pierced through in a number of places by shot which Heugh' described in an exaggerated report as averaging 7-9 pounds. The British casualty list included two dead; one man lost a foot and another an arm; four others were injured. The boat was all but sinking by the time the survivors managed to get it back to the ship.
Frederick Lugar, who was then in the service of the Royal Niger Company, was in the district when the above incident took place. His impressions recorded in his diary are an interesting commentary on the state of affairs at the time. There was, according to Lugar, considerable levity about the impending encounter with Nana. He thought little of the leadership of the British forces, noting that Captain Evanston, commanding the militia, was an officer with ˜no experience at all'. Lugard had learnt enough about Nana and his town to reach the conclusion that Nana would be 'a hard nut to crack', but the British forces were 'looking forward to a great picnic', praying that Nana would not give in after all their preparations. Heugh's reconnaissance was a foretaste of the expected 'picnic'. The outcome, Lugard noted, was 'a great scare' and a considerable cooling of the marital ardour of the British forces. "

Personal logo Editor in Chief Bill The Editor of TMP Fezian11 Aug 2012 8:20 p.m. PST

Bill, can you be a bit more specific as to which leader you are studying and in which region he mainly operated from?

Samori Toure and his "Mandinka Empire", late 1900s

Personal logo chicklewis Supporting Member of TMP11 Aug 2012 9:14 p.m. PST

"Samori Toure and his "Mandinka Empire", late 1900s"

You DO mean late 1800s, don'cha?

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