Continuation of the Great Explorer’s Mid-African Work

Henry Stanley

New York Herald/August 10, 1876


Resting from Labor and Picturing the Bright Side of the Niyanza


The Red-Robed King Outwits His People and Lends Canoes


Receiving Aid and Friendship from Mtesa


Port of Dumo, Southwestern Uganda

August 15, 1875

The Anglo-American Expedition has arrived at last in Uganda, but it remains to inform you how we came here, which will make a letter second in interest to none I have yet despatched from Africa. I closed my last letter with a description of our reception at camp by the soldiers and porters of the expedition. When I had given briefly the news of our adventurous exploration I demanded the report of Frank Pocock of what had occurred in camp during my long absence.

The principal items of this report were a rumor that had obtained considerable credence in camp of the boat having been forcibly seized by the natives of Magu two days after we had left camp, upon which day soldiers had been despatched to effect our release, peaceably if possible, forcibly if necessary. This rumor was, of course, false, nothing of the kind having transpired anywhere near any part of the coast washed by the waters of Speke Gulf. The second item was a report of our fight with the Wavuma, considerably exaggerated, and in the main false, because it described the manner of our deaths and the force that attacked us. The third item was the discovery of a conspiracy to attack our camp and capture the goods of the expedition. The conspirators were Kipingiri, Prince of Lutari; Kurrereh, Prince of Kayenzi, and the chief of Igusa. The plot, however, was discovered to the captains of the camp by Kaduma, the prince in whose village of Kagehyi the expedition was encamped. The captains took immediate measures to meet the conspirators, distributed ammunition to the soldiers and sent out spies. The conspiracy, however, was nipped by the death of the chief of Igusa and the continuancy of Kurrereh.

The fourth item was a meeting held by the soldiers and porters of the expedition, at which it was determined that if the “Bana Mkuba” (the Great Master) did not return within fifteen days from that date or the beginning of the new moon they would strike camp and march for Unyanyembe. I arrived at camp the last day of the old moon, within one day of the intended departure. The fifth item was the death of Frederick Barker, ten days before my arrival. Besides Barker, six stout fellows had died of dysentery and fever. Young Barker’s death saddened me very much, as he was a promising young man, with sufficient intelligence to appreciate the work of exploration and likely to continue in it out of mere love for it. I left him enjoying excellent health and to all appearance happy. On my return I found a mound of stones, which his companion, Pocock, pointed out as Barker’s grave.

I could not help contrasting the color of my features with those of my European attendant, Pocock. The latter’s complexion, from living much indoors, was of the color of milk, while mine might be compared to a red Indian’s; the equatorial sun of Africa had painted my face of an intense fiery hue, while my nose was four times peeled, and my eyes were as bloodshot as those of the most savage Andalusian toro ever matador-killed.

Sweet is the Sabbath day to the toil-worn laborer, happy is the long sea-tossed mariner after his arrival in port, and sweet were the days of calm rest we enjoyed after our troublous exploration of the Niyanza. The brusque storms, the continued rain, the cheerless gray clouds, the wild waves, the loneliness of the islands, the inhospitality of the natives, were like mere phases of a dream, were now but reminiscences of the memory — so little did we heed what was past while enjoying the luxury of a rest from our toils. Still it added to our pleasure to be able to conjure up in the mind the varied incidents of the long lake journey; they served to enliven and employ the mind while the body enjoyed repose, like condiments quickening digestion.

It was a pleasure to be able to map at will in the mind so many countries newly discovered — such a noble extent of fresh water explored for the first time. As the memory flew over the lengthy track of exploration how fondly it gazed upon the many picturesque bays margined by water lilies and lotus plants, or by green walls of the slender, reed-like papyrus! Enclosing an area of water whose face was as calm as a mirror, because lofty mountain ridges surround it, with what kindly recognition it roved over the little green islands in whose snug havens our boat had lain securely at anchor when the rude tempest without churned the face of Niyanza into a foamy sheet! With what curious delight it loved to survey the massive gneiss rocks as they towered one upon another in huge fragments, perpendicular and horizontal, as they were disintegrated from the parent mass by the elements!

At one place they remind us of the neighborhood of Avila and the Escurial, at another of Stonehenge; in another place they appear as if a race of Titans had collected these masses together and piled them up in their present irregular state with a view to building a regular structure which should defy time and the elements. The memory also cherishes a kindly recollection of the rich grain bearing plains of Ugeyeya, the soft outlined hills of Manyara, the tall dark woods and low shores opposite Namunji Island, as well as of the pastoral plateau and slopes of Uvuma and Bugeyeya. But most of all it clings to Uganda, the beautiful land, its intelligent and remarkable King, and no less remarkable people. Here memory received the deepest impressions; it therefore retains the fondest recollections. For in Uganda imagination, that had hitherto been hushed to somnolence by the irredeemable state of wildness and savagery witnessed between Zanzibar and Usukuma, glowed into warm life, and from the present Uganda painted a future dressed in the robe of civilization; it saw each gentle hill crowned by a happy village and spired church, from which the bells sounded the call to a Gospel feast; it saw the hill slopes prolific with the fruits of horticulture, and the valleys waving fields of grain; it saw the land smiling in affluence and plenty; its bays crowded with the dark hulls of trading vessels; it heard the sounds of craftsmen at their work, the roar of manufactories and foundries and the ever buzzing noise of enterprising industry. What wonder, then, if intercourse with the King of Uganda and his people induced imagination to paint this possible, nay probable picture — that memory should have engraven deep on it the features of the land and the friendliness and hospitality of its people?

As we follow the flights of memory she reminds us also almost too vividly of the scenes of terror and misfortune we have lately gone through — of our adventure with a flotilla of canoes manned by drunken natives who persisted in following us and entertaining us at sea with their beer and intrusive hospitality; of our escape from an ambuscade of Wageyeya; of our fight with the Wavuma and battle of Kajuri; of the miserable churlishness of many a tribe; of days of starvation, tempestuous nights and stormy days. These and a hundred others, now happily past, treasured only in the memory and our journal, serve but to heighten the enjoyment of our rest and to inspire in my heart and in the hearts of my semi-barbarous comates in peril a feeling of devout thankfulness to Divine Providence for our protection.

I deemed it not only necessary, but politic, to remain inactive for some days, for I hoped that the dilatory Grand Admiral Magassa would appear with his canoes. Indeed, I could suggest no reason, despite our experience at Bumbireh, why he should not arrive. He had been to Usukuma on a visit some months previous to my advent in the country, and he was accompanied by two of my best men, who, of course^ would do their utmost to stimulate him to make renewed efforts to reach our camp. But when nine days had passed and Magassa had not made it his appearance it became obvious to us all he would not come. Preparations were therefore made to march overland to Uganda along the lake shore.

As we were almost ready to start there came an embassy to camp from Ruwoma, King of Southern Uzinza or Mweri, bearing a message from him to me. The message ran, according to the interpreter, as follows: “Ruwoma sends salaams to the white man. He does not want the white man’s cloth, beads or wire, but the white man must not pass through his country. Ruwoma does not want to see him, or any other man with long red hair down to his shoulders, white face, and big red eyes. Ruwoma is not afraid of him, but if the white man will come near his country Ruwoma and Mirambo will fight him.”

Here, indeed, was a dilemma. The lake journey to Uganda was impossible, because Magassa proved a recreant to the trust reposed in him by Mtesa; the land journey now became impossible because Ruwoma forbade it. We knew enough of Ruwoma to know that he was able to repulse two such expeditions as ours. He possessed 150 muskets of his own, and had several thousand spearmen and bowmen. Besides, Mirambo was but a day’s march from Urima, and but three days from our camp. To force a passage through Ruwoma’s country was therefore out of the question. Even if the feat were possible it would be bad policy, because the expedition would lose too many valuable lives, without whom the expedition would become a wreck. What was to be done, then? Turn away from the Albert Niyanza, and direct our course for the Tanganyika, leaving the former lake to be explored by Gordon’s officers? Who, then, would explore the debatable land lying between the Albert Niyanza and the Tanganyika? Again the question came — What is to be done?

If canoes could be obtained anywhere else than Uganda the lake route to Uganda would at once resolve the question. But what country or king could supply me with thirty or forty large canoes on demand other than Uganda? I instituted inquiries respecting the maritime power of each tribe and nation bordering on Speke Gulf, by which I obtained some curious statistics; but the most valuable result of my inquiries was the information that Lukongeh, King of Ukerewe, would be the most likely person to do me the necessary service. Falling seriously ill, the result of exposure on the lake, added to the present anxiety, I was obliged to send Frank Pocock and Prince Kaduma to the King of Ukerewe with a suitable gift to request the loan of forty canoes to convey the expedition to Uganda along the Uzinza coast. After an absence of twelve days Frank and Kaduma returned with fifty canoes and some 300 Wakerewe, but they came according to the King’s instructions to convey the expedition to Ukerewe. The King’s brother, who had charge of the canoes, was told by me that if Lukongeh gave me all his land and slaves and cattle the expedition should never go to Ukerewe; that Lukongeh must lend me canoes to go by my road, and no other, and that I was going myself to see Lukongeh, and he (the King’s brother) might return to Ukerewe as soon as he pleased.

Being sufficiently restored to health I set sail for Ukerewe, and on the second day from Kagehyi landed near Lukongeh’s capital. Not ignorant of the importance of first impressions I was furnished this time with proper gifts and the best apparel my wardrobe afforded, and, equipped with the best arms, the expedition possessed. The second day after our arrival was fixed for audience day. When the hour had come the crew of the Lady Alice were mustered, dressed in their smartest, and the bugle sounded the order to march. Ten minutes brought us to a plain, on a knoll in which Lukongeh was seated in state, surrounded by hundreds of bowmen and spearmen. The King, an amiable, light-colored young man, was conspicuous from his robe of red and yellow silk damask cloth, and, though he did nothing at first but good-naturedly stare at me, I perceived that he was a man disposed to assist me.

A private message beforehand had informed him of the object of my visit, but my interpreter requested that I should be permitted to state it in person to himself and a few select chiefs. Assenting to this request, he stepped forward to a pole of stones a short distance off, whither he invited his most select chiefs and my party. Here the object was stated clearly, with everything that concerned it, the number of canoes required, the distance we had to travel and the gifts that were to be given by me to the King should he assist me. The King listened attentively, was very affable and kind, depreciated the value of his canoes, said that they were rotten, unfit for a long voyage, and he feared that if he gave them to me I should lose a great many things, and then I would certainly blame him and say, “Ah! Lukongeh is bad; he gave me rotten canoes that I might lose my people and property.” I replied that if I lost people and property I might blame the canoes, but I should certainly not think of blaming him. At the end of the conference he said that he should give me as many canoes as I wanted, but in the meantime the white man’s party must rest a few days and taste of Lukongeh’s cheer.

It were well, perhaps, to enter here into a description of Ukerewe, its king and people, and into its history, which is very curious and instructive, and well explains the history of all the black races of Africa from Kaffraria to Nubia; but I have no time nor space to do them justice. At a future time, if nothing between happens, I promise to attempt the subject.

Lukongeh, the very amiable King of Ukerewe, was no niggard in his hospitality. Beeves and goats, chickens and milk and eggs, bananas and plantains, ripe and green, came in abundance to our camp; neither were large supplies of native beer wanting to cheer the crew during our stay in the land.

Finally, on the fifteenth day, Lukongeh came to my tent with his chief councillor and imparted to me his secret instructions and advice. He said he had ordered fifty canoes to depart with me to Usukuma, but he doubted much whether that number would leave his country, as his people had heard it reported that I was going to Uganda, to which country no one was willing to go. As he desired to assist me to the utmost of his power he had been obliged to have recourse to a little strategy. He had caused it to be reported that he had prevailed on me to come and live in his land; it was therefore necessary for me to second his strategy.

On reaching Usukuma, as soon as all the canoes had been drawn on shore, I was to seize them and secure the paddles, and having rendered the Wakerewe unable to return, I was to explain to them what I wanted. Having promised that I would implicitly obey all his instructions he sent his Prime Minister and two favorites to assist me in the project, and after an earnest of what I promised was given we were permitted to depart. On arriving at our camp in Usukuma I found only twenty-three canoes come ashore, and though these were quite inadequate to convey the expedition at one time, I resolved to make the best I could of even this small number, and accordingly whispered orders to the captains of the expedition to muster up their men and seize the canoes and paddles. This was done, and the canoes drawn far on land; but the Wakerewe, on being told why we had so acted, declared war against us, and being as strong in numbers as we were, and armed with bows and sheaves of arrows, were very likely to do some damage if I did not take energetic measures to prevent them. Accordingly every soldier of the expedition was summoned by bugle sound to prepare for battle, and having seen each one properly equipped, I drew the men in line, charged on the Wakerewe with the muzzles of our guns, and forcibly ejected them out of camp and the vicinity of the port.

A few harmless shots were fired, and the people of Lukongeh suffered no other injuries than a few sore ribs from our gun muzzles. On the third day after the bloodless affair I embarked two-thirds of the expedition and property in the canoes, and five days afterward arrived safely at Refuge Island, two days’ sail from Bumbireh and half way to Uganda. The mainland was about six miles off; and as, on my solitary journey in the boat the natives of the mainland were not very friendly disposed, I built a strong camp on the rocks, taking advantage of each high rock as positions for sharpshooters, so that the camp, during my absence, would be impregnable. I then returned to Usukuma after leaving fifty soldiers to defend that island, and after an absence of fifteen days saw Kagehyi once more. I now prepared myself to defeat the projects of Kaduma, Prince of Kagehyi, who was more than half inclined to second his brother Kipingiri to seize on me and hold me as his prisoner until I should pay a heavy ransom, probably half of our entire property. I spoke Kaduma fair each day, made small presents to his favorite wife until the day came for departing, as I sincerely hoped forever, from Kagehyi and Usukuma. On that day Kaduma and Kipingiri came to the water’s edge with a strong force, but, pretending to see nothing of their evil intentions, we made merry and laughed while we loaded the canoe and embarked the men.

When the work of embarkation was nearly concluded I proceeded leisurely to the boat, and shoved off from the shore with my guns and those of the boat’s crew ready. Kaduma, seeing that I had got away, left the port, leaving Kipingiri to act as he pleased; but this treacherous man, perceiving himself covered with our guns, permitted the last canoe to depart without molesting it; and, having seen all safely off, I waved the treacherous people a last farewell, and followed our miniature fleet. The rotten canoes, buffeted by storms and waves, fast gave out, so that, on arriving again at Refuge Island, we only had fifteen left. Nothing had occurred on the island to mar my joy at seeing my people all safe, but much had happened to improve it. The King of Itawagumba and Kijaju, his father, Sultan of all the islands from Ukereweh to Ihangiro, perceiving our island too well garrisoned and too strong for invasion, made friends with us and provided the soldiers with abundance of food at little cost. At my request also they furnished us with a guide to Ihangiro, who was to accompany us to Uganda; they also sold us three canoes. After a few days’ rest on Refuge Island we proceeded once again on our voyage, and halted at Mahyiga Island, five miles south of Bumbireh, and one mile south of Iroba, which lay between Mahyiga and Bumbireh. Remembering the bitter injuries I had received from the natives of Bumbireh, the death by violence and starvation we had so narrowly escaped, I resolved, unless the natives made amends of their cruelty and treachery, to make war on them, and for this purpose I camped on Mahyiga Island and sent the canoes back for the remainder of the expedition, which in a few days safely arrived.

I sent a message to the natives of Bumbireh to the effect that, if they delivered their King and the two principals under him to my hands, I would make peace with them. At the same time, not trusting quite the success of this, I sent a party to invite the King of Iroba, who very willingly came, with three of his chiefs, to save his people from the horrors of war. Upon their arrival I put them in chains, and told the canoemen that the price of their freedom was the capture of the King of Bumbireh and his two principal chiefs. The natives of Bumbireh treated my message with contempt, but the next morning the people of Iroba brought the King of Bumbireh to me, who was at once chained heavily, while the King of Iroba and his people were released, with a promise that neither his island nor people would be touched by us. A message was also sent to Antari , King of Ihangiro, on the mainland, to whom Bumbireh was tributary, requesting him to redeem his island from war. Antari sent his son and two chiefs to us, who told us so many falsehoods and had treachery written on their faces, to treat with us.

They brought a few bunches of bananas as an earnest of what the King intended to give; but I thought that such a bird in my hand as his son would be worth a thousand tedious promises, and accordingly his son and his two chiefs were seized as hostages for the appearance of the two chiefs of Bumbireh. In the meantime seven large canoes from Mtesa, King of Uganda, en route to Usukuma, to convey an Arab and his goods to Uganda, appeared at Iroba. The chief was requested not to proceed to Usukuma until we had taken our expedition to Uganda.

This chief, Sabadu, informed me that Magassa, the dilatory Grand Admiral, had returned with the boat’s oars to Mtesa and the news that I and my crew were dead, for which he had been chained, but subsequently released and sent by land, with a large party, to hunt up certain news of me. Sabadu was induced, after a little persuasion, to accede to my request.

Two days after his arrival Sabadu sent his Waganda to Bumbireh to procure food. The savages would not give them any, but attacked them, wounding eight and killing a chief of Kattawa’s, a neighbor of Antari, which gave me another strong reason why Bumbireh should be punished. Accordingly next morning I prepared a force of 280 men, 50 muskets, 230 spearmen, and placed them in eighteen canoes. About noon we set off, and, as Bumbireh was eight miles off, we did not reach the island until two p.m. The natives of Bumbireh seemed to know by instinct that this was to be a day of trouble, for every height had its lookout ready, and when they saw the force I had brought with me no doubt many of them regretted that they had been so prone to attack peaceable strangers. Through my field glass I observed messengers running fast to a plantain grove that stood in a low hill commanding a clear open view of a little port at the southern end of the island, from which I concluded that the main force of the savages was hidden behind the grove. Calling the canoes together I told the chiefs to follow my boat and steer exactly as I steered, and by no means to attempt to land, as I did not intend that a single soul with me should be hurt. I wished to punish Bumbireh, not to punish myself; and if a subject of Mtesa was lost how should I present myself to him? And I could not afford to lose a single soldier of my own.

Accordingly I rowed straight to the port, the canoes following closely, and we became hid from view of those in the plantain grove and of all lookouts; then, turning west, we skirted close to the land for a mile, until we came to a cape, after rounding which we came in view of a noble bay, into which we steered. By this manoeuvre I managed to come behind the enemy, who was revealed in all his strength. Perceiving that the savages of Bumbireh were too strong for me to attack them in the plantain grove I steered for the opposite shore of the bay, where there were bare slopes of hills covered with short green grass. The savages, perceiving my intention to disembark on the opposite shore, rose from their coverts and ran along the hill slopes to meet us, which was precisely what I wished they would do, and accordingly I ordered my force to paddle slowly so as to give them time. In half an hour the savages were all assembled on the bare slope of a hill in knots and groups, and after approaching within 100 yards of the shore I formed my line of battle, the American and English flags waving as our ensigns. Having anchored each canoe so as to turn its broadside to the shore I ordered a volley to be fired at one group which numbered about fifty, and the result was ten killed and thirty wounded. The savages, perceiving our aim and the danger of standing in groups, separated themselves along the lake shore, and advanced to the water’s edge slinging stones and shooting arrows. I then ordered the canoes to advance within fifty yards of the shore, and to fire as if they were shooting birds. After an hour the savages saw that they could not defend themselves at the water’s edge, and retreated up the hill slope, where they continued still exposed to our bullets.

Another hour was passed in this manner. I then caused the canoes to come together, and told them to advance in a body to the shore as if they were about to disembark. This caused the enemy to make an effort to repulse our landing, and, accordingly, hundreds came down with their spears ready on the launch. When they were close to the water’s edge the bugle sounded a halt and another volley was fired into the dense crowd, which had such a disastrous effect on them that they retired far up the hill, and our work of punishment was consummated.

About 700 cartridges were fired, but as the savages were so exposed, on a slope covered with only short grass, and as the sun in the afternoon was directly behind us and in their faces, their loss was very great. Forty-two were counted on the field, lying dead, and over 100 were seen to retire wounded, while on our side only two men suffered contusions from stones slung at us. Thus I had not only the King and one chief of the Bumbireh in my power, but I had the son of Antari and an important chief of his also, besides punishing the natives so severely.

When our force saw that the savages were defeated the chiefs begged earnestly that I would permit them to land and destroy the people altogether; but I refused, saying that I had not come to destroy the island, but to punish them for their treachery and attempted murder of myself and the boat’s crew, when we had put faith in their professed friendship. It was dark when we arrived at our camp, but at the sound of our bugle lights flew all over the island camp, where we presently arrived, and where we were received with shouts and songs of triumph.

The next morning, more canoes having arrived from Uganda, I embarked the entire expedition, and sailed from Mahyiga Island. Our fleet of canoes now numbered thirty-two, and as we steered close to Bumbireh I had an opportunity of observing the effect of the punishment on the natives, and I was gratified to see that their boldness and audacity were completely crushed, for one bullet put to flight over 100 of them, whereas the day before they had bravely stood before a volley. Others who came down to the shore begged us to go away, and not to hunt them any more, which gave me an opportunity to preach to them that they brought the punishment on their own heads for attempting the murder of peaceful strangers. In the evening we camped on the mainland, in the territory of King Kattawa, who treated us most royally for avenging the murder of his chief by the people of Bumbireh.

After stopping with him a day we camped on Msira Island, where the Waganda, under the Grand Admiral Magassa, so shamefully deserted me. This island is nearly opposite Makongo, where the natives had thought to attack us on our first journey. But the fame of what I had done at Bumbireh compelled them on this occasion to bring me five cattle, four goats and 100 bunches of bananas, besides honey, milk and eggs, as a propitiatory offering. Kayozza, the King of Usongora, also sent word to me that he had given his people orders to give me whatever I desired, even to 100 cattle. I told him I needed none of his cattle, but if he would lend me ten canoes to carry my people to Uganda I would consider him as a friend. Ten canoes were accordingly brought the next day to me, with their crews. Sabadu, the Waganda chief, earnestly requested that I would attack him, as Kayozza had committed several murderous acts on the Waganda; but I refused, saying that attacking black people when they desired peace was not the custom with white people, and that I would not have attacked Bumbireh had they shown that they were sorry for what they had done to me, with which Sabadu was satisfied.

Five days after leaving Bumbireh, the expedition landed and camped at Dumo, Uganda, which is two days’ march north of the Kagera River and two days south of the Katonga River. This camp I selected for the expedition because it was intermediate, whence I could start on a northwest, west or southwest course for the Albert Niyanza, after ascertaining from Mtesa which was best. For between the Victoria Niyanza and the Albert Niyanza are very powerful tribes, the Wasagara, Wa Ruanda, and Wasangora especially, who are continually at war with Mtesa.

Our loss on the lake during our travel by water from Usukuma to Dumo, Uganda, a distance of nearly 220 miles, was six men drowned, five guns and one case of ammunition. Three of the riding asses also died from being bound in the canoes, which leaves me now but one. Ten of our canoes became wrecks also. The time occupied by the lake journey was fifty-six days; but as 200 miles of the journey were traversed three times it will be seen that we travelled in fifty-six days over 720 miles of water. During fifty-one days the corn I had brought from Usukuma in the canoes was almost entirely the means of sustaining the expedition; for though we received food from Itawagumba and Kijuju of Komeh, we received it because it was their good will that gave it us. Excepting twenty doti of cloth given to these two kings no other cloth was used, so that we lived nearly two months on the bale of cloth which purchased the corn in Usukuma. I have, therefore, every reason to feel gratified at the result of this long journey by water, though the loss of my men and guns gives me serious regret, and the loss of all the riding asses is a calamity. On the other hand, had I forced my way overland through Mirambo and Ruwoma, I should have been either dead or a ruined fugitive.

After arranging the camp I intend to visit Mtesa once more, who may be able to give me guides to the Albert Niyanza, for doubtless he has several men who have traded with the natives bordering that lake. My European servant, Frank Pocock, enjoys his health amazingly, and seems to have become acclimated to Africa.

(Source: “Stanley’s Despatches to the New York Herald,”