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Correspondence of Commodore Jones  

The West African Squadron and slave trade (1/3) (2/3) (3/3)

Commodore Jones' destruction of the barracoons at Dombocorro and elsewhere in February 1845
2: Jones' report of the actions taken

"Penelope," Sierra Leone, February 7, 1845.


l. I HAVE the honour to communicate to your Excellency the following account of my proceedings in pursuance of your requisition of the 20th ultimo, with a view to obtaining satisfaction or the injuries committed on British subjects by the native Chiefs of Gallinas and Seabar.

2. I arrived at Gallinas on the 24th, and Commander Buckle, of the 'Growler,' went in his boat on the following morning, and had a personal interview with Schaffa, the leading Chief of the Rogers family, to whom he delivered your Excellency's remonstrance, and a Letter from myself, demanding reparation for the wrongs which British subjects had been subjected to within his jurisdiction. The interview was unsatisfactory in all respects. The Chief gave no promise of redress, and was sullen and reserved in his answers, pleading the absence of the other Chiefs as a reason why he could do nothing of himself. Commander Buckle gave him notice that I should expect an answer within five days, and rejoined me the following morning off Seabar, whither I had proceeded; but, for the sake of clearness, I will conclude without interruption my narrative of the affairs of Gallinas.

3. On the 31st I was again off that place, and the next morning I received an answer from the Chiefs of the Rogers family, refusing to meet me, and not offering any redress. Their Letter was, besides, so full of insult and falsehood, that I did not think it becoming, in the first instance, to make them any reply; but I sent an officer to the Chief Manna, with a Letter assigning sunset on the 2nd of February as the time after which I should consider myself at liberty to do myself justice, if it were longer withheld. The officer who was taking that message to Guindamar, met Manna coming down the river, and gave it him. This Chief then appeared very reasonable, and inclined to do right, and proceeded on his way to confer with the Rogers family.

4. On the 2nd I thought it advisable to send once more a written demand for satisfaction to the Chiefs, together with an ultimatum of the terms which I considered our wrongs entitled me to demand. These were conveyed by Commanders Buckle and Brisbane, who saw Selepha Rogers only, and took great pains to explain my communications to him; but they obtained nothing but evasive and unsatisfactory answers; and sunset arrived without my receiving another word from them.

5. Neither did I hear again from them at all. Monday, the 3rd, was a stormy day with heavy rain, which deterred me from entering the river as I intended; but it gave the Chiefs another day for reflection, and for considering the justice of our claims, had they been so disposed. But they did nothing, excepting, as I afterwards learnt, to place an ambuscade for me as I should ascend the river. This was to be effected by Manna bringing down from Guindamar, into the mangrove bushes which bordered the stream, the body of fighting men with whom he had just returned from carrying on a slave war up the country. In all these designs and perverseness they acted under the counsel of Don Angel Jimenes, the Spanish slave agent at Dombocorro, who comforted them with assurances 'that I should not dare to molest them, and that they would be protected in London.'

6. Having, on the morning of the 4th of February, received no redress or reparation for our grievances, nor any satisfactory answer whatever from the Chiefs who had committed them, I perceived that the time was arrived when it became imperative upon me to undeceive these Chiefs as to their assumed right of enslaving British subjects.

7. Accordingly I entered the river Gallinas with 286 men, in 18 boats, from Her Majesty's ships 'Penelope,' 'Growler,' and 'Larne.' At 8 a.m., Commander Buckle occupied Dombocorro, where the Spanish agent, Jimenes, received him with cool defiance. He had sent away all the slaves, and had placed a quantity of merchandize in the barracoon, where Peters, a British subject, had been confined in irons. On being confronted with Peters, this Spaniard had the audacity to avow "that it was by his order that the man had been branded with his mark on the breast.' Upon this, all the goods were carefully removed and placed in safety, and when the barracoon, where so great an enormity had been committed, was emptied, it was levelled with the ground, and its materials removed to a short distance and burnt. No other article of property was taken or injured at that place, and our people were withdrawn.

8. In the meantime the rest of our force had taken up a position in front of Tindes, the residence of Schaffa Rogers, who, with the other Chiefs had retired, leaving an armed guard in the town. They kept me amused for about three hours by earnest assurances that the Chiefs were assembling and coming to meet me; but seeing, towards noon, that they only intended to deceive me (and, in fact, I learnt afterwards that they were then forming the ambuscade for us) I ordered the town to be destroyed, and it was speedily reduced to ashes. We were immediately assailed by a fire of musketry from the neighbouring coverts, but this was promptly silenced by our marines and the canonades of the boats. We then moved on against Taillah and Minnah, both of these towns belonging to the Rogers family, and which were in like manner burnt to the ground and utterly destroyed. In all the places we found the inhabitants had acted upon the notice I had given two days before, and had removed not only their women and children, but all their goods, so that I trust the Chiefs will be the only sufferers from their wicked folly. On returning down the river our boats were slightly annoyed by a fire from the mangrove bushes, but sustained no loss, and returned to the ships before sunset without the occurrence of the slightest accident.

9. And thus, for the present, has closed the lesson given to the faithless Chiefs of Gallinas, who had dared to insult our Sovereign, in the persons of her subjects, and to set her power at defiance. It was too late on the 4th to proceed against Guindamar, and if I had done so I should have been obliged to detain our people in the dangerous air of the river through the night; I therefore sent a letter to Manna, warning him of what he might expect if he did not within three days comply with my just demands.

10. I moved up to Seabar during the night, and arrived here on the morning of the 5th, having previously arranged a meeting with the Chiefs of the Sherbro country for the 5th February; but instead of finding, as I had every reason to suppose, that the Chiefs had assembled, and that the meeting agreed upon would take place the following day, I received the accompanying letter from Henry Tucker, to which I beg leave to refer your Excellency. I forbear to characterize this production, which speaks for itself. It left me no doubt that redress and reparation were refused for the enormities which we had complained of, and that every promise made by Tucker in order to gain time to remove his goods, had been broken. And in his letter insult was added to injury. Our account, therefore, stood thus - Elizabeth Eastman, an Englishwoman, who had committed no offence against the laws of the country, had been shackled by the legs, and cruelly flogged with 60 stripes, by Luiz, a foreigner, residing at a slave establishment at Seabar, and in the presence of Charles Tucker, the son of the Chief Ruler of the country. For this enormity reparation was denied. Proof was adduced that three British subjects had been taken by the 'Growler,' on board the 'Enganador,' a slave vessel, fitted out, owned, and equipped by the Tuckers. For this insult to the British Crown, and iniquity to its subjects, satisfaction was refused, and it was coolly assumed that this was an ordinary transaction in the regular course of business. This view of the matter rendered the positions of the inhabitants of the colony of Sierra Leone too critical to be received with indifference. It left them at the mercy of the savage Chiefs who infest our borders, and if this were assented to it would be to cherish in full security the handful of Spanish slave dealers on the coast, and their man-stealing agents, at the expense of those who had a right to our protection. This could no longer be endured, and I was left to seek a remedy.

11. Harry Tucker and his son Charles having repeatedly declared to Commander Russell and two officers of this ship, that Luiz, the foreigner, who had ill-used Elizabeth Eastman, was their agent, and in their service, and that no part of the property in the slave establishment at Seabar belonged to him, BUT WHOLLY TO THEMSELVES, I determined to inflict the first blow of the vengeance due to them, upon their property at that place.

12. Accordingly I passed the bar and entered the Boom Kittum on the morning of the 6th February, with the boats of the 'Penelope,' 'Ardent,' and 'Eclair,' under their respective Commanders. We found the slave establishment abandoned, the slaves removed, and only some articles of small value left in the factory. All were destroyed by fire. A small village in the neighbourhood, belonging to the Tuckers, was spared, in pity to the poor inhabitants. Some armed natives were seen in the bush, but no resistance was attempted. I had partly intended to proceed up to Kaw-Mendi, the residence of Harry Tucker, but the tides served very ill for that purpose, and I judged it to be more prudent not to expose my people to the night air of the river, and for the present to watch the effect of our proceedings on the Chiefs of the country. I have good reason to believe that it will be wholesome. Before I repassed the bar I had a friendly conference with the Chief Henry Cleveland, who blamed the conduct of the Tuckers, and accepted a present. I also received an amicable letter from Sy-Cummah, Chief of Ti-boom, who is, I believe, the titular King of the Sherbro country. I have the honour to enclose copies of all the correspondence which I had at Gallinas and Seabar, for your Excellency's information. May I be pardoned for adding, that the conduct of the officers and men who accompanied me on both expeditions was steady beyond all praise? No booty was taken. I have only to hope,that the result of our exertions will prove to be a salutary lesson to those who forget the respect due to our Sovereign, and a discouragement to the Slave Trade.

I have, &c.

(Signed) W. Jones,
Commodore, and Senior Officer commanding.

His Excellency the Lieut.-Governor,
&c. &c.

"Penelope," off Gallinas, February 18, l845.


l. I HAVE the honour to inform your Excellency of my further proceedings, in compliance with your requisitions, with a view to obtaining satisfaction for the injuries inflicted on British subjects by the chiefs of Gallinas and Seabar.

2. I arrived off Gallinas on the 15th ultimo, and not finding the letters which I found there from the chiefs satisfactory, I resolved no longer to delay my intended operations against Guindemar.

3. Accordingly on Monday morning 17th of February, I entered the river Gallinas with 18 armed boats, and 260 men from the 'Penelope,' 'Growler,' and 'Larne.' We advanced upon Guindemar as rapidly as the state of the river, which was very shallow and winding, would permit, until we came to a part where it was so narrow that only one boat could pass abreast; and here we found trees felled across at various intervals for several miles, which presented very serious obstruction to our progress. They were, however, removed by great labour and perseverance, and the boats arrived within three or four miles of the town by water, when we were met by a flag of truce from Manna, who had sent his son and brother-in-law with a submissive message; but immediately after (by mistake, as there is reason to believe) a fire was opened upon us from the mangrove bushes, by which one of our kroomen was killed. The enemy were quickly silenced, and we sustained no further loss, though it was evident that a regular ambuscade was laid along the banks of the river, under cover of the thick mangrove bushes which bordered it. But the cries of Manna's son proclaiming his father's orders kept everything quiet. Finding at the point where the firing took place that there was a road leading to Guindemar, which was by land about two miles distant, I requested Commander Buckle, who had hitherto led the advance, to march upon the place with 60 marines. That able officer, assisted by Lieutenant Schomberg, R.M., passed through a close and difficult country, the path bordered by jungle and high grass, and the armed natives swarming numerously on his flanks; but be successfully reached Guindemar without opposition, and found it to be a considerable town strongly stockaded. No resistance being attempted, the place was entered and remained in our power, although it contained a garrison of 150 men.

4. In the mean time the boats continued to ascend the river until within half a mile of the town; their further progress was stopped for want of water. They had been much impeded by the felled trees, which Commander Brisbane, who now led the boats, removed with great energy. Lieutenant Smith, of the 'Penelope,' spiked two loaded iron guns, to which trains were laid, and threw them into the river. The whole force got up in safety, and was soon after in communication with Commander Buckle.

5. Prince Manna and his people were evidently struck with terror at our arrival, and the steadiness of the advance, which had set at naught all his means of defence. These, in more skilful and determined hands, would have been very formidable, as the river, with its wooded banks and crossed by felled trees, formed a dangerous defile.

6. It was with some difficulty that the fears of Manna could be so far overcome as to induce him to come to an interview. Finding, however, that we were preparing to destroy Guindemar, while on the other hand he received every assurance from us for his personal safety, he finally consented to meet me at a boat-shed near where the boats had taken up their position. To give him the more confidence I ordered the town to be evacuated after it had been about two hours in our possession; and Guindemar was thus restored unharmed to its grateful inhabitants, who confessed, both Prince and people, that it had been entirely at our mercy.

7. Manna soon gave me much reason to be satisfied with the decision which I had come to. In the first place he produced the two Sierra Leone women, whom he was represented to your Excellency as holding in slavery. These women, Mary Ann Turner and Phyllis, voluntarily declared to me that, so far from being slaves, they were there with their husbands of their own free choice. Secondly, on confronting Manna with Tom Peters, who had sworn to his having sold him, the latter evidently prevaricated, and to the strong denials of the Chief could only answer in a way which convinced me that he had been mistaken on the point, the rather as Manna declared that he would produce the man who had sold Peters at our next meeting. Lastly, with respect to our undoubted grievance, Manna professed an earnest desire to do us justice and to fulfil the treaties. We therefore parted mutually satisfied, engaging to hold a conference with all the Chiefs at Matemah in four days. I moved the force down the river without any further serious difficulty, and, passing the bar about sunset, all the boats were safe on board soon after.

8. Thus closed our operations with respect to Guindemar; and I hope that your Excellency will remain satisfied that, in refraining from the severe course which I first intended, I followed that which was the most prudent and advisable. Not to mention that all the purposes of stern justice had been fully accomplished at the three towns which had been previously destroyed, and which had evidently filled the country with dismay, I felt great pity for Guindemar, which was a place much larger and superior to what we had yet seen. We had proved that it was within our reach at any time; and it might be well to leave the natives something to lose, and not to drive to despair Manna and his people, who amounted to several hundred armed men, and by some accounts to not leas than 1,000 firelocks. I also considered the policy of encouraging the power of Manna, who possessed friendly feelings towards us, in opposition to the Rogers family, the Chiefs of which were undoubtedly the great abettors of the Spanish Slave Trade. Finally, when Manna succeeded in disproving the main charges which I had to urge personally against him, I found that every consideration of justice and policy obliged me to treat him with lenity,

9. It is my gratifying duty, in conclusion, to bear witness to the admirable conduct of all the officers and men employed through this day of fatiguing and arduous service. They supported me throughout with the steeliest zeal and courage, and left me no doubt of final success, even if our opponents had turned their natural advantages to better account.

I have, &c.

(Signed) W. Jones,
Commodore, and Senior Officer commanding.

His Excellency the Lieut.-Governor,
&c. &c.

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