THE EXPLORATION AND COLONIZATION OF AFRICA, I
Peddie and Campbell in the Soudan—Ritchie and Lyon in Fezzan—Denham, Oudney, and Clapperton in Fezzan, and in the Tibboo country—Lake Tchad and its tributaries—Kouka and the chief villages of Bornou—Mandara—A razzia, or raid, in the Fellatah country—Defeat of the Arabs and death of Boo-Khaloum—Loggan—Death of Toole—En route for Kano—Death of Oudney—Kano—Sackatoo—Sultan Bello—Return to Europe.
The power of Napoleon, and with it the supremacy of France, was scarcely overthrown—the Titanic contests, to gratify the ambition of one man at the expense of the intellectual progress of humanity, were scarcely at an end, before an honourable rivalry awoke once more, and new scientific and commercial expeditions were set on foot. A new era had commenced.
Foremost in the ranks of the governments which organized and encouraged exploring expeditions we find as usual that of England. It was in Central Africa, the vast riches of which had been hinted at in the accounts given of their travels by Hornemann and Burckhardt, that the attention of the English was now concentrated.
As early as 1816 Major Peddie, starting from Senegal, reached Kakondy, on the River Nuñez, succumbing, however, to the fatigue of the journey and unhealthiness of the climate soon after his arrival in that town. Major Campbell succeeded him in the command of the expedition, and crossed the lofty mountains of Foota-Djalion, losing in a few days several men and part of the baggage animals.
Arrived at the headquarters of the Almamy, as most of the kings of this part of Africa are called, the expedition was detained for a long time, and only obtained permission to depart on payment of a large sum.
Most disastrous was the return journey, for the explorers had not only to recross the streams they had before forded with such difficulty, but they were subjected to so many insults, annoyances, and exactions, that to put an end to them Campbell was obliged to burn his merchandize, break his guns, and sink his powder.
Against so much fatigue and mortification, added to the complete failure of his expedition, Major Campbell failed to bear up, and he died, with several of his officers, in the very place where Major Peddie had closed his career. The few survivors of the party reached Sierra Leone after an arduous march.
A little later, Ritchie and Captain George Francis Lyon, availing themselves of the prestige which the siege of Algiers had brought to the British flag, and of the cordial relations which the English consul at Tripoli had succeeded in establishing with the principal Moorish authorities, determined to follow Hornemann's route, and penetrate to the very heart of Africa.
On the 25th March, 1819, the travellers left Tripoli with Mahommed el Moukni, Bey of Fezzan, who is called sultan by his subjects. Protected by this escort, Ritchie and Lyon reached Murzuk without molestation, but there the former died on the 2nd November, worn out by the fatigue and privations of the journey across the desert. Lyon, who was ill for some time from the same causes, recovered soon enough to foil the designs of the sultan, who counting on his death, had already begun to take possession of his property, and also of Ritchie's. The captain could not penetrate beyond the southern boundaries of Fezzan, but he had time to collect a good deal of valuable information about the chief towns of that province and the language of its inhabitants. To him we likewise owe the first authentic details of the religion, customs, language, and extraordinary costumes of the Tuarick Arabs, a wild tribe inhabiting the Great Sahara desert.
Captain Lyon's narrative also contains a good deal of interesting information collected by himself on Bornou, Wadai, and the Soudan, although he was unable to visit those places in person.
The results obtained did not by any means satisfy the English Government, which was most eager to open up the riches of the interior to its merchants. Consequently the authorities received favourably the proposals made by Dr. Walter Oudney, a Scotchman, whose enthusiasm had been aroused by the travels of Mungo Park. This Dr. Oudney was a friend of Hugh Clapperton, a lieutenant in the Navy, three years his senior, who had distinguished himself in Canada and elsewhere, but had been thrown out of employment and reduced to half-pay by the peace of 1815.
Hearing of Oudney's scheme, Clapperton at once determined to join him in it, and Oudney begged the minister to allow him the aid of that enterprising officer, whose special knowledge would be of great assistance. Lord Bathurst made no objection, and the two friends, after receiving minute instructions, embarked for Tripoli, where they ascertained that Major Denham was to take the command of their expedition.
Denham was born in London on the 31st December, 1783, and began life as an articled pupil to a country lawyer. As an attorney's clerk he found his duties so irksome and so little suited to his daring spirit that his longing for adventure soon led him to enlist in a regiment bound for Spain. Until 1815 he remained with the army, but after the peace he employed his leisure in visiting France and Italy.
Denham, eager to obtain distinction, had chosen the career which would best enable him to achieve it, even at the risk of his life, and he now resolved to become an explorer. With him to think was to act. He had asked the minister to commission him to go to Timbuctoo by the route Laing afterwards took when he heard of the expedition under Clapperton and Oudney; and he now begged to be allowed to join them.