Stanley’s March in Africa

Henry Stanley

New York Herald/March 1, 1875

Rapid and Successful Advance of the Herald and Telegraph Expedition

Mpwapwa, the Country of Usagara

Twenty-Five Days Out From Bagamoyo

Pleasing Reminiscences of Former Travel

Scientific Observations

The Great Dogs, Castor and Captain, Due from the Effects of the Heat

District of Mpwapwa, Country of Usagara

Dec. 13, 1874

Uncouth as the name of the district and the cluster of villages whence I date my letter may appear in writing, it is not at all discordant to the ear. Nay, the sweet voice of an Msagara damsel can even give it a pleasant sound, and, as near as I can make it, it ought to be written Mbambwa. I can hardly describe my feelings as I revisited this spot after an absence of two years. I first experienced a sharp throb of regret as I recollected that it was the scene of the death of my Scotch assistant, William Farquhar, who perished here in 1871, and as I cast my eyes toward the west over the sere expanse and autumnal leafage of miles and miles of undulating plain, I verily believe that my next feeling was one of sorrowful foreboding at the momentary suggestion that perhaps one, if not all, of the white men on this expedition might find similar unhonored graves in this strange land. These feelings were not of long duration, however, for the cheery voices of the guides were heard loudly proclaiming that we were approaching Mpwapwa, and the view of high towering mountains, slopes all green with wide shadowing mimosa and tamarind, hollows dark with the verdant globes of foliage of sycamores, and the broad bed of the Mpwapwa stream, washed with crystal water, dispelled evil presentiments and all melancholy prognostications. Thoughts of misfortune and dark days to come fled like a sick man’s fancies before the spring coloring of noble mountains and the refreshing verdure of well-watered slopes.

Honestly, no man has less right to begin a letter in this strain than I have; for no man, however lucky his star may be, has more right to be proud and happy and cheerful than I have this day. For I have had an unprecedentedly successful march from the Indian Ocean, and surprisingly favorable influences have attended the expedition ever since we left Zanzibar. Nothing of the blight and misfortune that I predicted in my last letter from Zanzibar, nothing whatever of the vexatious delays, frequent desertions, half-hearted conduct of the armed escort, and various annoyances I surmised would befall us. On the contrary, we have arrived at the “half-way house” to Unyamwezi in an incredibly short time, as I will presently show you. We have suffered less sickness, less trouble, and, altogether, have had more good fortune than any expedition which ever came into Africa.

The expedition left Bagamoyo on the 17th of November and arrived here yesterday, the 12th day of December, which makes a period of only twenty-five days! This fact, stated thus briefly, might not surprise those uninitiated with the usual time required for this march; but if I state that on my expedition in search of Livingstone the same march occupied me fifty-seven days, and that it occupied Lieutenant Cameron’s party four months, even the most superficial reader will not fail to perceive that I have every reason to be devoutly grateful and extremely cheerful. And, while considering this rate of speedy marching, it must be remembered that this is a very large expedition, bearing such cumbersome things as the pontoon Livingstone and the cedar boat Lady Alice, and that since leaving the coast we have been travelling along an entirely new route, much north of any yet adopted.

Though I may look now with pleased expression on the distance traversed so speedily, as auguring well for the further prosecution of the march to the unknown lands north, and thence to the Nile sources, the day we left Zanzibar, with its wild disorder, did not promise much success. Nearly every member of the expeditionary force was either drunk, tipsy or elevated, or, as some would say, “a little the ‘better’ for the liquor.” Many were absent from muster, and a few had deserted with their advance. I consoled myself with thinking, as I noticed the confusion and insolence of some of the most inebriated, “All right, my sable gentlemen; to-day is your day; to-morrow the reign of discipline and order begins.”

After disembarking at Bagamoyo matters were not mended. The men had not as yet expended all their advance, and the consequence was that they betook themselves into the vile liquor shops of the Goanese at Bagamoyo, and after brutalizing themselves with the fire-water retailed there they took to swaggering through the streets, proclaiming that they were white men’s soldiers, maltreating women, breaking into shops and smashing crockery, some even drawing knives on the peaceable citizens, and in other ways indulging their worst passions.

Of course, as long as I remained at Bagamoyo this state of things would continue; a few might be arrested and severely punished, but it would be too great a task to watch about 300 such men scattered among the houses of so large a town as Bagamoyo. I was so engrossed with the novel duties of suppressing turbulence and debauchery that I had not much time left for anything else. On the fifth day, however, after arriving at Bagamoyo, the bugle announced the march, and although we had some trouble in collecting the laggards, by nine a.m. the last man had left the town.

At Shamba Gonera, my former first camp, the men manifested a disposition to stop, in order to make “one more night of it” at Bagamoyo; but by this time, as you may imagine, I had had enough of such scenes, and they were bodily driven on by the armed guard, not without considerable violence. Arriving at the Kingani River, the sections of the Lady Alice were screwed together, and her powers of transportation and efficiency here were well tested. I ascertained that the utmost she could bear in ferrying across the river were thirty men and thirty bales of cloth, or the weight of three tons, which was perfectly satisfactory to me. The Livingstone pontoon was not uncovered, as the Lady Alice proved expeditious enough in transporting the force across the river. When the ferriage was completed we resumed the journey, and long before sunset we encamped at Kikoka.

The intense heat of the Kingani Plains lying on either side told severely on those men who were unaccustomed to travelling in Africa, and who had indulged their vicious propensities at Zanzibar and Bagamoyo before departure, which compelled us to remain a day at Kikoka. I had, however, taken the precaution to leave a strong guard at the river to prevent the men from returning to Bagamoyo, and another on the hills between Bagamoyo and the Kingani Plain, on the eastern side of the river, for a similar purpose.

During the afternoon of this day, as I was preparing my last letters, I was rather surprised at a visit paid me in my camp from a party of the Sultan’s soldiers, the chief of whom bore a letter from the Governor of Bagamoyo, wherein he complained that my people had induced about fifteen women to abandon their masters.

On mustering the people and inquiring into their domestic affairs it was discovered that a large number of women had indeed joined the expedition during the night. Most of them, however, bore free papers accorded to them by the political agent at Zanzibar; but eleven were, by their own confessions, runaway slaves. After being hospitably received by the Sultan of Zanzibar and the Arabs it was no part of a stranger’s duty, unless authorized by some government likely to abide by its agent’s actions, to countenance such a novel mode of liberating the slaves. The order was, therefore, given that these women should return with the Sultan’s soldiers; but, as this did not agree with either the views of the women themselves or their abductors, the females set up a determined defiance to the order, and the males seized their Snider rifles, vowing that they should not return. As such a disposition and demonstration of hostility was not politic nor calculated to deserve my esteem, or to win for me the Arab’s good will, this disposition was summarily suppressed and the women returned to their masters.

The first victim on this expedition has been the noble mastiff Castor, presented to me by the Baroness Burdett Coutts, who died between the Kingani and Kikoka, from heat apoplexy. The second was the mastiff dog Captain — a very fine though ferocious animal — who died a few days after. I still have three dogs — the retriever Nero, the undaunted bulldog Bull and a well-bred bull terrier Jack, who so far have borne the fatigues of the march very well, though the latter is considerably exercised in his mind by the numbers of grasshoppers he meets in the country while en route.

Our course since leaving Rosako has been mainly west-northwest, until approaching Mpwapwa we travelled due west. For several days we journeyed along the southern bank of the Wami River, making the discovery that the Wami can never be navigable during the dry season, as its channel for many miles is choked with granite boulders. During the rainy season very large craft could ascend as far as the Usagara Mountains; there is a rise of over sixteen feet in the river. On crossing the Wami we entered Nguru, which is north of Useguhha — a country studded with tall peaks and mountains, the highest of which is a truncated cone, Mount Kidudwe, having an altitude of about 12,000 feet above the sea. As we journeyed through Nguru we crossed the several tributaries of the Wami, which are the Mwehweh, the Mkindo, the Mvomero, the Usingwe, the Rudewa and Mukondokwa.

From Nguru we entered Northern Usagara, over ground which the aneroids indicated was 4,475 feet above sea level. Then we descended into lower ground about 3,400 feet above sea level until we came to Mpwapwa, which, I have ascertained, has an altitude, according to boiling point and two barometers, of 3,575 feet. Three days from here we crossed three tributaries of some river flowing east north of the Wami, which may probably be the Pangani. The most extreme north which we reached on our journey here from the coast has been south latitude 5 deg. 49 min., which I ascertained by taking double altitudes. This was at the village of Kitangeh.

We intend to prosecute our journey tomorrow, but before leaving the Unyanyembe road for the land of discoveries and the sources of the Nile, which I am eager to reach, I will drop you a short letter informing you of our march through inhospitable Ugogo.

P.S. I have omitted to state that the white men, Edward and Francis Pocock and Fred Barker, are enjoying excellent health and spirits. The three have gone through their seasoning fevers without much trouble.

(Source: “Stanley’s Dispatches to the New York Herald, ” from;