BLTC Press Titles


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The Diplomatic Background of the War

Charles Seymour


The Worm Ouroboros

E. R. Eddison


The Revolt of the Netherlands

Friedrich Schiller


The Pictorial Key to the Tarot

Arthur Edward Waite


British Nigeria

by Augustus Ferryman Mockler-Ferryman

Excerpt:

F.RK'S theory, that the Niger was an affluent of the Congo, still carried weight in England, as is evident from the fact that, in 1816, the Government equipped a dual expedition. One party, under Captain Tuckey, was to proceed to the Congo, while the other, under Major Peddie, was to follow in Park's tracks and join hands with Captain Tuckey in the centre of Africa. The enterprise was a failure, for although Tuckey navigated the Congo and acquired much valuable information, he died there, and Peddie and his companions succumbed to the climate before making much progress. In 1818, Major Gray and Dr. Dochard endeavoured to follow up the route of Major Peddie's party, but only to meet with the fate of their predecessors.

The next attempt to continue the work of Park was undertaken in 1820, when the Government decided to send an expedition across the Sahara, from Tripoli, by the caravan route to Lake Chad. For this new enterprise were chosen Dr. Oudney, Lieutenant Clapperton, R.N., and Major Denham, and we now enter on the second phase of the exploration of the region which had, so far, swallowed up all travellers who had endeavoured to probe its secrets. The western route—that taken by Park—had been abandoned for several reasons, the hostility of the natives being the principal; while it was thought that the friendly relations that existed between Great Britain and the Pasha of Tripoli might be utilised to ensure the safety of the expedition traversing the country to the south of his dominions with which he had intercourse. Accordingly, in 1821, Clapperton's expedition * started for Murzuk, whence, after a whole year of delay and annoyance, they set out for the Sea of Sudan. The Pasha, after considerable pressure, gave them a letter of introduction to the Sultan of Bornu, and they were accompanied by an escort of two hundred Arab horsemen with their chiefs. The party consisted, besides the three Englishmen already mentioned, of an English carpenter named Hillman and some servants—all natives of Africa except Jacob, a Gibraltar Jew, and Adolphus Sympkins (alias Columbus), who hailed from the island of St. Vincent. The provisions and numerous presents were conveyed on camels, and the kafila journeyed south through Bilma, reaching Bornu without accident, and with no great difficulty in less than three weeks.

They were well received by the Sultan of Bornu at Kuka, the capital, and remained there, enjoying the greatest kindness and hospitality, for nearly a year, though Denham was the only one of the Europeans who was able to visit the neighbourhood of the town. Clapperton and Oudney were, throughout the sojourn in Kuka, too ill to leave their huts, and Hillman suffered from continuous fever and delirium, though between the attacks he worked hard at making boxes, chairs, and other things for the Sultan. His greatest feat, however, was the construction of carriages for two old brass four-pounder guns, which the Sultan had received from Tripoli. They were successfully mounted, a mule-harness was designed by Denham, who also taught the natives to make canister shot, and trained them in working the guns. Denham and the Sultan (who was a most enlightened native) became great friends, and the latter was not slow in utilising the talents of the former for the fortification of his town.

* '-'- Narrative of Travels and Discoveries in Northern and Central Africa in the Years 1822, 1823, and 1824,'1 by Major Denham, F.R.S., Captain Clapperton, and the late Dr. Oudney: London. 1828:

The original intention of the expedition had been to spend but a short time in Bornu, and then to proceed into the Hausa country (to the west) until they hit off the Niger at a point somewhere near the spot where Park lost his life. The Sultan of Bornu was, however, loth to let them leave his capital, averring as his excuse that the letter which they had brought from the Pasha of Tripoli made no mention of their intention to go beyond Bornu. The loss of their camels and horses by disease, and the inability to procure ready money to buy other beasts of burden was a further cause of inaction. To a man of Denham's energy and restlessness this enforced idleness was extremely distasteful, and though, by the Sultan's permission, he visited Lake Chad and the neighbourhood, and spent his time in shooting and hunting, he desired greater excitement—a desire which he was shortly able to fulfil. The Arab escort which had accompanied the party from Murzuk remained idle at Kuka, and after the novelty of the new scenes had worn off they began to find the time hanging heavily on their hands. Accustomed to lead a roving life, and only visiting the towns when a fortunate razzia had provided them with the means of enjoying themselves, these children of the desert chafed under their present circumstances, and soon broke out into mutiny. As a means of curbing these unruly spirits, their head chief proposed that they should accompany the Bornu troops on an expedition against Mandara, and the prospects of plunder and taking slaves soon induced them to join in the enterprise. Denham, who was still in good health and anxious to explore the country, saw in the raid an opportunity not to be lost, and since he had received instructions before leaving England to endeavour to follow any military expeditions of the natives, he determined to accompany the Arabs.

Oudney and Clapperton, who were still too ill to get about, disapproved of Denham's intentions, considering that it would prejudice the natives of the neighbouring districts when it became known that an Englishman, whose king disapproved of slavery, had taken part in an expedition the sole object of which was the capture of slaves. Denham was not, however, to be dissuaded, and, although the Sultan at first put obstacles in his way, he succeeded in overtaking the force before it had gone very far. He was received by the Arab contingent with wild shouts of joy—the whole camp turning out to greet him—but, by the Sultan's orders, he was placed under the protection of the Bornu commander, Barca Gana, who treated him with all honour. The troops numbered some 3,000 men, of whom only the small body of Arabs were armed with firearms, and, after several days of arduous marching, the towns of the Fulahs, or Fellatahs, were reached, when the fighting commenced. Everything was left to the Arabs, in whose weapons the Bornu commander placed the greatest confidence, and Bu Khaloom, the chief of the Arabs, led the attack in person. The first two towns were carried without difficulty, and quickly burnt. The third offered more resistance, but the defenders were soon driven out, only, however, to rally, and, with a fierce onslaught, completely rout the Arabs and Bornus. Poisoned arrows and spears rained through the air; Barca Gana had three horses killed under him; Bu Khaloom and his steed were mortally wounded, and Denham was wounded in the face and lost his horse. The whole army fled in confusion, the Fellatah horsemen pursuing, and killing all whom they overtook. Denham, endeavouring to escape on foot, was quickly caught; his last hour, he thought, had come, but the clothes which he wore were too much for his enemies, who refrained from damaging them with their weapons. He was seized and. stripped, and though wounded in two or three places during the operation, he contrived, while his captors were disputing over the possession of his garments, to give them the slip. Shortly after this he fell in with Barca Gana and Bu Khaloom, who, with half-a-dozen Arabs, were resisting the charges of a party of Fellatahs, in rear of the retreating army. He was quickly placed behind one of the horsemen, covered with a bournouse, and conveyed away at a gallop. The rout was complete, Bu Khaloom dropped dead from his poisoned wound, and any unfortunate man whose horse gave in was immediately slaughtered by the pursuing enemy. Few of the Arabs escaped, and those who succeeded in reaching Kuka were all more or less severely wounded. Never had an expedition been more signally defeated, yet Denham, who, besides losing everything he possessed, had several wounds, and was suffering from the terrible hardships of his flight, writes: "Such events, however, must sometimes be the consequence of exploring countries like these. The places I had visited were full of interest, and could never have been seen except by means of a military expedition, without still greater risk."

Ten months after their arrival in Kuka, Clapperton and Oudney left for Kano and the Hausa States, while Denham remained behind in order to take part in another expedition. During the six or seven months which had elapsed since his unfortunate visit to the Mandara country he had not been idle; he had accompanied an expedition, led by the Sultan in person, to the Munga country, and he had made many short excursions in the neighbourhood of the capital, and had collected an immense amount of information about the country and its people. His actions in taking part in these slave-raiding expeditions have been severely criticised, but his particular mission was of a military nature, his instructions being, as we have said, to make full inquiries into the fighting capacities and armaments of the various tribes of Central Africa. The Bornu people were at that time a warlike nation, and Denham consequently considered it advisable to see more of their prowess in arms, and thus, perhaps not too willingly, separated for a time from his companions. Fortune for once smiled on him, for barely a week of his solitude had passed, when a kafila arrived from Tripoli, and with it stores and provisions for the mission, under the charge of Ensign Toole, of the 8oth Regiment. This unexpected delivery gave Denham new life. "I had now,"


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