When James Honeyman joined the British Army in 1856 he was joining an organization that had just undergone a sea-change in
attitude and was desperate for man power. The cause of these changes had been the Crimean War, which had been raging with
Russia for two years and had both highlighted huge problems with an army that had been almost totally at peace since Waterloo
and caused huge casualties.
James took the Queen’s shilling at Stirling on the 27th of May 1856, he was paid a bounty of £2 for enlisting and the recruiting
party was paid 16 shillings for its good work. After an initial inspection by a medical officer he is sworn in by a Magistrate and on
the same day he becomes Private No. 4309 of the 42nd Regiment of Foot (Highland) and joins the Depot Company of the
Regiment at Stirling Castle, at that time under command of Major F.G. Wilkinson. James at this time was stated as being 18 years
and 7 months old, and 5ft 6 inches tall.
The majority of the Regiment (The Service Companies) were at this time in the Crimea, awaiting the formal declaration of peace
with Russia, the main city of the Crimea (Sebastopol) having fallen in September of 1855. With the peace signed the Army is
evacuated from the Crimea with the 42nd being one of the last units to leave in July of 1856, arriving at Dover in early August.
Having had a basic grounding in drill and musketry, Private Honeyman is among a draft of 20 men who are sent to join the newly
returned Regiment, leaving Stirling on the 19th of August 1856. The men embark on a ship at Granton Pier and arrive at
Gravesend on the 21st, marching from there to Dover on the following day.
There is no more detail in the musters for a period of a year, the 42nd being in garrison at Dover during the whole period. This
period of quiet was about to end however with the outbreak of the Mutiny of the Sepoy army in India in March of 1857, the 42nd
being one of the regiments selected in the rush to reinforce the small standing army in India. The majority of the Regiment
entrained from Dover to Portsmouth on the 30th of July 1857 (806 men) and boarded a host of transports over the following
month to ship them to India. James Honeyman boarded the ‘James Barnes’, but this is a list of the transports and their dates of
embarkation/arrival in Calcutta:-
James Barnes: 6th August – 22nd November (under Major Wilkinson)
Golden Fleece: 7th August – 16th October
Whirlwind: 29th July – 17th November (76 men who travelled to Portsmouth the day before the Regiment)
Australian: 15th August – 1st November (H.Q. Element)
Champion of the Seas: 6th August – 20th November
Candid: 15th August – 5th November
City of Manchester: 27th August – 5th November
Once at Calcutta the Regiment is collected together as quickly as possible, however the first half-battalion is rushed up country and
is at Cawnpore to engage the Gwailor Contingent of sepoys almost before the ‘James Barnes’ had docked at Calcutta. Here we turn
to the ‘History of the Royal Highland Regiment’ by Eric and Andro Linklater:-
The Indian Mutiny is also known to the Indians as the First War of Liberation, and there is merit in both names. It began as mutiny
in March, 1857, when the high caste Brahmans and Rajputs, who largely composed the Bengal Army, refused orders to load their
new Enfield rifles with a cartridge greased with the defiling lard of cows and pigs. The substitution of an innocuous, vegetable
lubricant, coupled with firm action, might have halted the trouble there. From the Punjab, John Lawrence sent a grim telegram,
'Clubs not spades are trumps,' and his methods maintained peace there. But most of the Bengal Army was drawn from the state
of Oudh, which had been annexed just twelve months before,* and the mutiny swiftly spread into the province, where it took on
the character of an independence movement, with native princes providing the leadership. Lucknow, the capital, was besieged, and,
at Cawnpore, Nana Sahib massacred the garrison and their families after promising them safe-conduct. However, the armies of
Madras and Bombay were not affected by mutiny, and they provided valuable reinforcement to the British troops which gathered to
suppress the uprising.
When the 42nd arrived in India in November, 1857, Sir Colin Campbell was preparing to attack the rebels in Cawnpore, and half the
Battalion was ordered to join him there. The treachery of Nana Sahib had aroused the fierce god of Victorian retribution as no
other action could, and Private MacKintosh expressed a typical reaction when he wrote in his diarv, "I wanted to have some share in
revenging the horrid atrocities committed there on our women and children by those fiends. Thus spurred on, the half-battalion
began an energetic week by covering seventy-eight miles in two-and-a-half days to arrive in Cawnpore on the 5th December. In
the battle on the following day, they led the pursuit of the defeated sepovs for twelve miles, galloping down the road like surrogate
cavalry, and capturing fifteen guns. When the chase was halted, they marched the twelve miles back to camp, and were ready the
next morning to follow up a rebel contingent which had escaped in the confusion. For nineteen of the next twenty-four hours they
were on the move, and eventually caught up with the rebels as they breakfasted beside the Ganges. Seventeen more guns and
some hot chupattis were added to their haul. The best known of their trophies, however, which the Grenadier Company had
discovered in a dung-cart the previous day, was Nana Sahib's gong; it eventually found its way to the officers' mess where it
boomed the hours of the day, to the confusion of strangers who could not believe the 42nd ate so frequently. The gong still
remains in the Regiment's possession.
The Battalion was reunited before Christmas, and in the New Year Campbell’s army began to sweep through Oudh, re-establishing
order, collecting revenues, and hanging rebels found with arms. After their initial burst of activity, the 42nd slowed to the
measured pace demanded by an army, which on the march began to resemble a race migration; the 25,000 soldiers were
accompanied by 15,000 attendants, 16,000 camels, 12,000 oxen, and sundry mules, horses and elephants. The rebels rarely
waited for them, but on one occasion when they stood their ground, they provided an example of the difficulty Campbell faced in
inflicting decisive defeat upon them.
In January, 1858 the sepoys, gathered in some force on the far bank of the river at Futteguhr. The 53rd was ordered across the
bridge to hold a small perimeter, so that the naval guns could be brought over, while the cavalry circled behind the enemy.
Campbell was widely suspected of favouring his Highland troops, and when the 42nd was sent across to reinforce the 53rd, the
latter charged at once rather than risk sharing the glory. Because neither the guns nor the cavalry were in position, the rebels
escaped with small loss.
In his history of the 42nd, Forbes recounted how the General galloped up to the 53rd 'in high wrath, and objurgated them in
terms of extreme potency', but the precise words of his extremely potent objurgation were lost to history, because the men's
thunderous cheers drowned Campbell’s voice, and presumably reinforced whatever prejudice he had in favour of Highland troops.
The work of subjugating Oudh continued, but in the opinion of Lord Canning, the Governor-General, the province would continue
to flare up while the mutineers held its capital, Lucknow. In March, therefore, Campbell assembled his 25,000 men against the
60,000 rebel soldiers holding the city.
Lucknow was an enormous sprawl of tangled streets, bounded on the eastern side by palaces, courtyards and gardens. It was
from this side that the main attack was made by the infantry, while the cavalry and Artillery patrolled and bombarded from the
north. The 42nd was posted in the palace of the Dilkusha (the heart's desire) where they were shelled for several days by the
sepoys in a large military college, called La Martiniere. Then on the 9th March, Campbell launched his assault with the order, 'The
42nd will lead the attack the men employed will use nothing but the bayonet.'
The Regiment advanced in two lines, with the 93rd on their left, across the thousand yards which seperated them from the line of
defences in front of La Martiniere. The first line under Colonel Priestlev cleared the fortified huts and houses to the left of the
building, while Colonel Alexander Cameron took the second up the parapet to the right, where one of his officers, Lieutenant
Farquharson, led an attack on two guns, which put them out of action and won for the Regiment its first award of that new
decoration, the Victoria Cross. W. H. Russell, The Times correspondent, wrote of the troops which attacked Lucknow, "Most of the
Regiments were in a highly efficient state, but the Highlanders were most conspicuous, not only for their costume, but for their
steady and martial air, on parade and in the field.” They cleared men and artillery from the defences round La Martiniere in a style
which merited the compliment, and by nightfall they were deep inside the complex of parks and courtyards, close to the walls of the
Begum's Palace and the more prosaically named Bank's House.
The next day the bungalows round the Palace were taken, and the enemy driven out of Bank's House. If the surroundings had
been less palatial, it could have been called street fighting. Russell described a typical scene.
The buildings which surround the courts are irregular - columned fronts and lofty porticoes with richly gilt roofs and domes. You
hear the musketry rattling inside; the crash of glass, the shouts and yells of the combatants, and little jets of smoke curl out of
the closed lattices. Lying amid the orange groves are dead and dying sepoys and the white statues are reddened with blood.
Leaning against a smiling Venus is a British soldier shot through the neck, gasping and at every gasp bleeding to death.
It took another week to capture Lucknow, but after making the break-in, the 42nd was pulled back to guard the camp, and later to
occupy the Begum's Palace.
With the fall of the capital, Campbell obviously expected the spirit of the revolution to die, for he was reluctant to risk his men's
lives in pursuit of the fleeing enemy. But Lord Canning now issued a proclamation that the land of the rebels would be confiscated,
and since all but half-a-dozen princes had at least tacitly supported the revolt, they had little to lose by continuing the fight. To
snuff out this last resistance, flying columns were sent against the forts and cities of the rebellious princes, but Campbell was still
utterly set against unnecessary loss of life, and he issued an order: 'The Commander-in-Chief prohibits columns from moving to
the attack efforts, large or small, without at least two heavy guns.' Campbell's cautious pursuit of the enemy does not compare
well with Sir Hugh Rose's simultaneous campaign in Central India, which was characterised by swift movement and daring battle
against superior forces. It may be argued, how ever, that in the north the war had been won, even though the last battle had not
yet been fought, and if Campbell had wanted justification for his order, a subordinate. General Walpole, soon provided it.
Walpole was sent north-west to clear the province of Rohilkand with two columns, one of which, commanded by Brigadier Adrian
Hope, contained the 42nd. On the 11th April, the column approached Fort Ruhya, a town surrounded by mud walls, and without
waiting for his artillery to come up, Walpole ordered Hope to make a frontal attack across the open plain. The Brigadier advanced
with four companies of the 42nd and the 4th Punjab Rifles. They were soon the targets of fierce firing from the town, by which
Hope was killed and the men pinned down in the open for six hours. At dusk Walpole ordered them to return, but Sergeant
Cooper of the 42nd, in common with many of the attackers, felt certain that the order should have been to storm the fort, and he
recorded in his diary that 'when the order to retire came, nothing was heard but loud and deep cursing'. The General completed his
day of folly by leaving the fort unguarded, so that the enemy slipped away during the night. The Regiment did what it could to
mitigate the waste; two N.C.O.s and two privates went back under heavy fire to bring in the wounded from the plain, and the
award of Victoria Crosses recognised their gallantry.
By early May, the column, much reinforced, was in front of Bareilly, the capital of Rohilkand. It was a city of spreading, undisciplined
suburbs, more than six miles in circumference and far too large to be surrounded. Campbell had come up to take command, and
he now formed his troops into a diamond formation, with the artillery in front, three regiments of infantry in the second line, and
the rear brought up by one infantry regiment and men of the Royal Engineers. Cavalry and skirmishers from the 4th Punjab Rifles
covered the front and flanks. There is some interest in comparing this formation with Wolseley's Imperial Square, in which the
Regiment was later used, where each face was composed of a battalion with the artillery in the corners. Both of them were
designed to cope with a foe technically inferior, but far superior in numbers, and in both cases, the necessity of bringing the guns
to close range while protecting them on all sides, gave the formation the clumsiness and invulnerability of a tortoise.
At Bareilly the 42nd was on the left flank, and they, had just moved up alongside the artillery in two lines, right wing leading, when
a heavy fire was opened on them. Suddenly the skirmishers in front ran back through the Regiment's ranks hotly pursued by
Mohammedan cavalry, called Ghazis. Sergeant Cooper described the attack:
Uttering loud cries 'Bismillah, Allah, deen, deen’ about 150 of these fanatics, sword in hand with small circular bucklers on the left
arm, and green cummerbund on, rushed out after the Sikhs and dashed at the left of the right wing. With bodies bent and heads
low, waving their tulwars [swords] with a circular motion, they came on with astonishing rapidity. At first we took them for Sikhs,
whose passage had already disordered our ranks. Fortunately Sir Colin, close at hand, cried out, "Close your ranks, bayonet them
as they come.' Some of them got in rear of the right wing. Three dashed at Colonel [Alexander] Cameron, pulled him off his horse,
and would have hacked him in pieces, but for Colour Sergeant Gardiner, who, stepping out of the ranks, drove his bayonet
through two of them, and the third was killed by Private Gavin.
There was fierce bayonet and sword fighting, and the Ghazis came within ten yards of the guns before the last of them was killed.
While the battle was in progress, the second Rohilkand column entered on the far side of the town, providing an anvil to the
hammer of the main force, and the next day Bareilly was in British hands. Although the hot season had arrived, and indeed eight
men of the Regiment died of heatstroke during the battle, patrols were immediately sent out to cordon off the rebel strongholds.
Each wing of the Regiment spent a month on patrol, followed by a month in Bareilly, and this pattern was largely maintained during
the two years the 42nd spent there.
Towards the end of 1859 three companies were sent to guard the river border between Rohilkand and Oudh. Steep bluffs rose up
from the river, but they were broken by occasional gaps, and one such opening, Maviem Ghat, was guarded by Captain Law son
commanding Number 6 Company and some Indian levies. On the 15th January, 1860, 2,000 rebels crossed the river into the deep
jungle in Maylem Ghat. An ensign with half the Company was sent out as a picquet, but they lost touch with the others, and
Lawson had only thirty-seven men and the not too reliable levies to face the attack. When it came in, Lawson was wounded, and
later died, the N.C.O.s were all killed, but Privates Cook and Miller "went to the front and took a prominent part in directing the
Company, and displayed a Courage, Coolness and Discipline which was the admiration of all who witnessed it.' Such is the Victoria
Cross citation, and of the eight awarded to the Regiment during the Mutiny, none was better earned. They held off the attack until
evening, when reinforcements arrived to drive the rebels back across the river. The pipe tune 'Lawson's Men' commemorates this
action, and the survivors were paraded before Sir Hugh Rose, who had succeeded Campbell as Commander-in-Chief, when he
presented new Colours to the Regiment.
In the now customary fashion, the 42nd provided itself with recreation to fight the demon drink and break the boredom of barrack
life. In hot weather the troops were confined to barracks for eighteen hours out of the twenty-four, so the problem was
particularly acute. The library was begun again, and amateur theatricals and concerts were organised. Private Mackintosh found two
concerts especially memorable, 'A Nicht wi' Burns’ by Mr. Black, and Signor Pompie 'who-played several soloes on the Hobo, and
sang several songs, but we did not know one word he was saying.'
Private Honeyman’s part in these great events is not clear from the musters, certainly he wasn’t at Cawnpore in December 1857,
but was certainly at Lucknow in March of 1858. James is with a large detachment at Moradabad in June 1858 under Major E.R.
Priestly and arrived in Bareilly in February of 1859. Honeyman was on detachment at Sisseya Ghaut in April 1859 and is back at
Bareilly in May. The musters show James is in the Regimental Hospital in September and that he was appointed as Piper on the 3rd
of January 1860 with the discharge at Calcutta of 2976 Piper Angus McLeod. There were, at that time, but 5 pipers in the
Regiment, so the position would have been a privilege to hold. The 42nd continue in garrison at Bareilly throughout 1860 (during
which, in October, James gains his first long service & good conduct badge and 1 penny a day pay rise) until March 1861 when the
Regiment is on the march for it’s new station of Agra. Here again we turn to the History by Linklater:-
In March, 1861, however, the Regiment moved to Agra, where everyone was suitably impressed by the Red Fort and the Taj Mahal,
and where the town sewage flowed unnoticed into their water supply. At the end of the hot season, when the water in the tanks
was low, cholera struck the Regiment. It was endemic in the Ganges valley, and periodically swept across Asia and into Europe, the
previous occurrence coinciding with the Crimean War. The connection between sewage and the disease was at least partly
understood in the 1860’s, for that was when the present sanitation system in British towns was installed, thus ridding the country
of cholera. Its treatment, however, remained a mystery. Continuous diarrhoea and vomiting drained the body of fluids, and as
dehydration began, severe cramps convulsed the legs and stomach. 'I have seen both the Doctor [McMann] and the Colonel
[Priestley] with their coats off' rubbing those in agony with the cramps,' wrote Mackintosh. Massage probably eased the pain, but
Dr McMann, making his rounds with bottles of whisky to pour down the men's throats, may unwittingly have found the right
solution, which was to replace the lost fluid. Despite his ministrations, 46 men died in a month, but at its worst almost 500 men
were in hospital or convalescing. When it was over, Dr Murray, the Surgeon General, presented a set of pipes to the Regiment to
commemorate the calm ‘Heroism of the 42nd', and it was indeed a notable form of courage to remain calm in the midst of plague,
nor was it the last time they were tested.
Fortunately for Piper Honeyman, he was not at Agra at this time. James was part of No.4 Company, which along with the 1st and
2nd Companies had marched for Futtehghur at the same time the majority of the 42nd left Bareilly. These three companies under
Major John Drysdale remained at Futtehghur for almost a year, leaving in February of 1862, two months after most of the 42nd
had left Agra to march for it’s new station at Dugshai, via Karnaul and Umballa. The Futtehghur detachment rejoins the rest of the
‘Black Watch’ (as the 42nd have just been titled) by April of 1862 at Dugshai.
The musters are then quiet for 18 months, the only occurrence being a month long detachment in March 1863 at Kurreepur under
Major John McLeod. The Black Watch leave Dugshai in November of 1863 and are at Rawalpindi by the end of December, their stay
was to be short however as they on the march again in January of 1864 and are back at Dugshai by February. During the march
back to Dugshai, James is promoted to the post of Pipe Major (with the pay and authority of a Sergeant) after the Pipe Major
(4318 Angus Campbell) is reduced to Piper by authority of a Regimental Court Martial on the 4th of January 1864. James is to hold
this post for less than a year, for his own reasons he is permitted to resign by Authority of the Major General Commanding the
Division on the 14th of December 1864, at which point he reverts to Piper with 2 good conduct badges. He is replaced by No.432
The 42nd had left Dugshai in November of 1864 and arrived at Rawalpindee in the following month. These North West Frontier
posts were hard on all soldiers, they were hot, dusty and bastions of disease. Rawalpindee was to be the station of the Black
Watch for a year, until they moved to the nearby station of Peshawar in November of 1865. Here the boredom of garrison life
continued with little incident. Having originally signed for a 10 year period of service in 1856, 1866 brought about a time of choice
for James Honeyman. Plainly James decides he does not wish to re-enlist with the Regiment to continue his service to 21 years,
and notifies his officers of this fact. James is removed from the rank and post of Piper on the 29th of October 1866 at Peshawar
and is on route to Kurrachee in January of 1867. Here at Kurrachee, the 1 Corporal (No. 85 Thomas Delaney) and 13 Privates
board transport on the 25th of February 1867 which arrives at Portsmouth on the 1st of May 1867. From Portsmouth the small
party travel by train to join the Depot Company (under command of Captain F.C. Scott) at Aberdeen. After 2 periods of furlough
(16th to 24th of June and 26th to 29th of June), Private Honeyman is discharged as Time Expired on the 1st of July 1867 at
Stirling, he is paid 5 shillings discharge expenses and gives his intended place of residence as Stirling, at that time he is shown as
having been born in Falkirk and being a moulder by trade.
The change from soldier to civilian was plainly a difficult one for James, but for whatever reason he decides that the life of a soldier
was the better one, and he chooses to re-enlist less than 6 weeks later. At Andersier on the 6th of August 1867 he re-enlists for
9 years and 329 days to complete his 21 years service, at that time he is shown as being 29 years and 9 months old. James is paid
£2 & 9 shillings re-enlistment pay and re-numbered as No.1562 (the original numbering system had begun from 1 in November of
1856). James joins the Depot at Aberdeen a few days later and remains there for the rest of the year.
After 10 years in India the Black Watch had left from Bombay on board the ‘Urgent’ on the 1st of February 1868 and were in
barracks at Stirling 2 months later (the Suez canal having reduced passage time from 4 months to 6 weeks). No. 1562 Private
Honeyman joins the Regiment at Stirling from the Depot on the 1st of April 1868, having forfeited his good conduct badge on the
16th of February, no reason was given for this on the musters. James is re-appointed as a Piper on the 23rd of May 1868 vice No.
380 Piper Alexander James who was discharged as Time Expired two days previous.
The 42nd move from Stirling to Edinburgh around the 10th of October 1868, and it was here that James takes a furlough from the
10th of December to the 9th of January 1869. Piper Honeyman is in hospital in June 1869 and joins a detachment under 3609
Colour Sergeant John Barr at Greenlaw from July to the first week of November. On the 9th of November the majority of the Black
Watch under Lt. Col. McLeod board the ‘Orontes’ Troopship and three days later disembark at Portsmouth. The following day the
608 men entrain for Aldershot, the train fare being a massive £140, 2 shillings and 11 pence!
There is a quiet period at Aldershot for the next 18 months, the 42nd taking part in several camps of exercises and maneuvers in
that period, James regaining his good conduct badge on the 17th of June 1871. On the 26th of September 1871 the main body of
the Black Watch (704 men) entrain at Aldershot and take up station at Raglan Barracks, Devonport. Piper Honeyman has been at
Devonport for less than a month when he goes AWOL for 2 days (24th and 25th of October 1871), the only punishment
seemingly being to yet again remove his good conduct badge and associated pay. Another 2 years were to pass quietly at
Devonport whilst the 42nd continued garrison duty with occasional exercises on Dartmoor and route marches to keep the men fit.
On the 22nd of August 1873 the Black Watch marched from Raglan Barracks, Devonport, and made their way the short distance
to the docks. There they boarded ship for the short passage to Portsmouth, marching to Clarence Barracks in that City on the
James goes AWOL again on the 28th and 29th of October, but compared with what was to come this was but a small problem. The
42nd were not to have much peace at Portsmouth as they were chosen as one of the 3 Battalions for service in the Gold Coast.
They boarded the ‘SS Samaritan’ at Portsmouth on the 13th of November 1873 and arrived off the Gold Coast on the 2nd of
January, here we turn again to the history by Linklater:-
By 1873 the Regiment's linked battalion was The Cameron Highlanders, and 126 of them were transferred to bring The Black
Watch up to strength when it sailed to join Wolseley on the Gold Coast in November. Although the Ashanti campaign established
Wolscley's military reputation, it was no more than a punitive expedition, which, it would not be too much to say, the Regiment
rescued from the brink of failure.
The Ashanti were the dominant tribe in the Gold Coast interior, and under their king, Kofi Karikari, they had established a form of
feudal suzerainty over their neighbours by force of arms, and in so doing they had intimidated some coastal tribes, who were
nominally under the protection of the British. Wolseley was sent out to raise a Gold Coast army, but when his training failed to
convert the coastal tribes into reliable soldiers, three British battalions were sent out at the end of 1873.
The administrative problems were immense. West Africa was 'the white man's grave, that dreaded bourne whence few return'. 'The
bush is so dense,' wrote H. M. Stanley, who reported the campaign in flowery prose, 'that one wonders how naked people can
have the temerity to risk their bodies in what must necessarily punish their unprotected cuticles.' The supplies for almost 3,000
men had to be transported through 130 miles of jungle, suitable weapons, clothes and tactics had to be produced, and the
expedition had to be concluded by February, when the rains began making rivers impassable.
Wolseley and his 'ring' a staff which included nine future generals and a field marshall - were masters of logistics: the weapons,
short Enfield rifles converted to breech-loading; the clothes, Wolseley cork helmets, and grey norfolk jackets and breeches; and
the tactics, 'like fighting in twilight', were all designed for the bush. Seventy miles of jungle roads were constructed by cutting
down trees, bridging 276 rivers, and laying corduroy and logs over the marshes. Along the road thousands of porters carried 400
tons of biscuits, rice and bully beef in tins, and a million rounds of ammunition.
Kofi had retreated precipitately during the preparations, fever rather than fear being the cause, and from his capital of Kumasi,
sent placatory messages to the coast. On the 2nd January, Wolseley sent back an impossible demand for hostages and gold,
failing which he would attack Kumasi; on the same day the great Kuma tree in the capital's market-place, heavy with symbolism and
termites, slowly toppled over and crashed to the ground.
Two days later the army advanced and, on the 30th January, some sixty miles from Kumasi, it deployed into battle formation. In a
booklet on bush warfare, Wolseley stressed the difficulty of communication and support, but he now adopted a square-shaped
formation singularly unsuitable for thick jungle. A battalion made up each face, The Black Watch, 'my best battalion' according to
Wolseley, taking the leading face. On the 2nd February they encountered the Ashanti at Amoafu, where the road descended into a
swampy, heavily overgrown defile and then climbed up to a plateau. The enemy were posted in the valley and on the hills
The three leading companies entered the valley at 8 a.m. Fifteen minutes later, Stanley, back with Wolselev's headquarters, heard
the Enfield rifles' 'cracking, ripping sound varied by the louder intonations of the Ashantis' overloaded muskets.' Over the next two
hours. Brigadier Allison, commanding the advance, sent all but one of the remaining companies up in support. 'As company after
company descended with their pipes playing into the ravine, they were almost immediately lost sight of in the bush,' Allison
reported. "Where a company was sent to support another, it saw nothing but bush in front, and speedily came under fire from the
enemy. In these circumstances the men wanted to open fire, which would have taken their own men whom they were sent to
support, directly in the rear.' In these conditions subalterns and N.C.O.s had to exercise individual fire control which they did so
effectively that the Regiment was afterwards commended for the small amount of ammunition used.
Neither wing of the square was in a position to support them, and when Allison sent word that he might need reinforcements,
Wolseley had only one company that he could have spared from guarding supplies. But gradually the Ashanti were driven to the
slope beyond the valley's swampy floor, and the guns under Captain Rait could be brought forward. They fired several rounds up
the hill, and the Regiment drove the Ashanti to the crest of the hill. Another salvo, another charge, and this time the soldiers were
on the high ground, and the front was broken. Through sporadic firing from the bush, they moved swiftly on to take the enemy
camp with a final rush.
Almost 25 per cent of the men had been hit by slugs, but owing to the ineffectiveness of Ashanti muskets only eleven of them
died. As this first block on the road to Kumasi was broken, raiders cut the army's line of supply behind them, but Wolseley had no
time to deal with this threat. The first rain had begun to fall, and he had to gamble that his present supplies would suffice for the
advance to Kumasi. On the 4th February, his troops crossed the Ordah river, which was already rising, but on the other side the
60th Rifles, the leading battalion, came to a halt in the face of continuous ambushes.
Wolseley ordered up The Black Watch. Colonel MacLeod reported: 'I advanced rapidly, 50 paces at a time, passing the skirmishing
companies [on either side of the road] through each other. The enemy met us persistently, and at first men fell, but pressing
steadily on his flanks with my skirmishers, and storming his ambuscades on the road, he gave way before us.' Allison took up the
account: "Without stop or stay, the 42nd rushed on cheering, their pipes playing, ambuscade after ambuscade was successfully
carried, village after village won, until the Ashantis broke and fled in wildest disorder.' The Regiment entered Kumasi peacefully to
be greeted by many of their enemies still carrying muskets, but of Kofi there was no sign and, when Wolseley arrived later, the
Ashanti disappeared, leaving an empty capital to the victors. For two days they waited for Kofi to surrender, and while they waited,
they toured his palace and famous death-pit, where, in an acre-sized hollow, a mound of skeletons was covered with layers of
bodies in successive stages of decomposition, 'the whole mass living and writhing with the worms that live on corruption'.
Thunderstorms broke over the town, flooding the square, and Wolseley could wait no longer. The palace was blown up, the town
burned, and through torrential downpours, the expedition raced back to the coast.
The psychological impact of the triumph was out of all proportion to its importance. When the Regiment returned, they received a
rapturous reception, and were greeted with garlands and a flood of McGonegalloid poetry of which one verse may illustrate the
Yes home again, my gallant boys
I'm but a Scottish lassie,
But ah that I had been with you,
The day you burned Coomassie!
Parliament was grateful that honour had been maintained and military reform justified at a cost of less then £800,000, and the
Queen decorated Lance-Sergeant Samuel McGaw with the Victoria Cross for his gallantry at Amoafu, giving rise to more verse, but
a good song.
The Ashantees, when they saw the shanks of Jock McGaw,
They turned aboot an' ran awa'.
The rain may rain, an' the snaw may snaw,
The wind may blaw, an' the cock may craw,
But ve canna frichten Jock McGaw,
He's the stoutest man in the Forty Twa.
The adulation tended to obscure how close the expedition had come to failure, and Wolseley had ample justification for the praise
which he later poured upon the Regiment in his autobiography.
The 42nd left the Gold Coast on the ‘Nebraska’ on the 20th of February 1874 and arrived back at Portsmouth on the 22nd of
March. Once back in barracks a lot of the men are allowed on furlough (including James from the 8th of April to the 9th of May
1874). The next 6 months at Portsmouth are without incident before the Regiment is again sent overseas, this time to the
Mediterranean Island of Malta. The Black Watch board the ‘HMS Himalaya’ on the 14th of November 1874 and land at Malta only 9
days later on the 25th.
Piper Honeyman is in Hospital at the end of February 1875 and is restored to a good conduct badge and his 1d a day extra on
the 30th of October 1875. This is the last entry specific to James in the musters for some time. He continues with the Regiment in
Malta, being promoted to Corporal on the 9th of April 1877. Only a month later, having reached his 21 years service (and thus his
pension date) he is put on a ship at Malta on the 19th of May 1877 for passage to Scotland. James Honeyman is eventually
discharged from the army sometime over the next two months, sadly however the musters of the 5th Brigade Depot at Perth
(where he would have been discharged) do not exist for this period, and his Chelsea Pension papers are not filed at the P.R.O.,
‘History of the Royal Highland Regiment’ by Eric and Andro Linklater
PRO Musters WO 12/ 5531-5553
|James Honeyman, 42nd Foot, 1856-1877.