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1843 Perry Expedition

In 1843, Commodore Matthew Calbraith Perry, who was credited with opening up Japan to the West a few years later, landed on Kru Coast and Cape Palmas with over 700 American marines, in the vessels, MACEDONIAN, SARATOGA, and DECATUR. The expedition was intended to punish the Kru and Grebo people for their alleged attacks on American shipping, and to assist Liberia and Cape Palmas in their struggle against the indigenous people in Kru Coast and Cape Palmas. In November 1843, Commodore Perry, then in charge of the African Squadron, landed in Liberia with a force of Marines and sailors to check into the reported murders of Americans. During the investigation, Perry was physically attacked by one of the local chieftains. A Marine sergeant shot the chieftain, and a fight started between the natives of the village and Perry's force. The fight ended with the natives fleeing and the village being put to the torch.

The first important mission for Perry in 1819 was to transport freed slaves to Africa during the founding of Liberia. After that, Perry succeeded in the settling of blacks in areas that had been established in Nigeria by the American Colonization Society in 1843. At that time, he had enough abilities to so impress the uncooperative tribesmen that the coast was made safe, the missionaries suffered no more violence and commerce grew.

The series of battles was sanctioned by Governors J.J. Roberts of Liberia and John Russwurm of Cape Palmas. In the latter part of 1843, Governor Roberts went with Commodore Perry to visit the coastal settlements. Upon reaching Sinoe, they called a council of Kru chiefs to decide a murder case. As a result of the Council, the chiefs agreed to give up slave trading, to admit and protect missionaries, to allow the Liberian Government to settle disputes between tribes, and not to permit any foreign nation to gain title to their land.

The third Saratoga, a sloop of war laid down in the summer of 1841 by the Portsmouth Navy Yard, Portsmouth, N.H., was launched on 26 July 1842; and commissioned on 4 January 1843, Comdr. Josiah Tattnall in command. The ship sailed from Portsmouth on 16 March 1843 but was dismasted in a gale the next day and forced to return to Portsmouth for repairs. She got underway again on 3 May and proceeded down the coast to New York Harbor to prepare for service on the west coast of Africa protecting American citizens and commerce and suppressing the slave trade. On the morning of 5 June 1843, she was towed to Sandy Hook, N. J., where, at noon, Commodore Matthew C. Perry came on board and broke his broad pennant as Commander of the Africa Squadron. At mid-afternoon, the ship stood out to sea, proceeded via the Canary and the Cape Verde islands.

The Saratoga reached Monrovia, Liberia, on 1 August 1843. Saratoga operated along the coast of west Africa protecting American citizens and commerce and suppressing the slave trade. She occasionally returned to Cape Verdes for replenishment and rest for her crew. At Porto Grande, in the Cape Verdes, Saratoga rendezvoused with Decatur and Macedonian on 9 September 1843, and Perry shifted his flag to the latter two days later.

Saratoga sailed from Monrovia on 21 November 1843, and Perry followed two days later with the rest of the squadron bringing along as a guest, Liberian Governor Joseph Jenkins Roberts. The American warships assembled at Sinoe on the 28th. The next day, a large force of sailors and marines accompanied the Commodore and governor ashore for a conference with an assembly of tribal kings. First on the agenda was the Edward Burley incident. Governor Robert's questioning of a number of witnesses divulged the following story: After the schooner's skipper, Captain Burke, had paid a Krooman in advance for serving in the ship's crew, the native deserted. Burke retaliated by recapturing two canoes and taking their crews prisoner. Then he despatched two of his own men after a third canoe, but these sailors were themselves captured. After cruelly torturing the two Americans, they killed them. Once he felt sure of the story, Perry held that, while the homicides were unjustified, the Americans had been the aggressors. Perry then stated that the United States government wished to remain friendly with all African tribes but had sent him to protect American lives and property and to prevent Americans from wronging natives. He then dropped the matter, but remained in the area while Liberian colonists aided by friendly tribes drove trouble-making natives back into the hinterland.

In mid-December 1843, the squadron sailed to Little Berebee to investigate the plundering of trading schooner, Mary Carver, and murder of her entire crew. During the ensuing palaver, when Perry refused to accept the far-fetched explanation of King Ben Krako, a native fired a musket at the American party. The king and his interpreter, who was known to be one of the murderers, bolted in an attempt to escape. Comdr. Tattnall of Saratoga felled the treacherous interpreter with a rifle shot and the king was also killed in attempting to flee.

After demonstrating the determination and ability of the United States to maintain American honor along the coast of Africa, being generous with friend and firm but fair with enemies, the squadron got underway late in the year for Madeira where it arrived on 18 January 1844. She returned to the African coast via the Cape Verdes and reached Monrovia on 2 March. The late spring was devoted to a cruise eastward along the coast to the Bight of Biafra. Yellow fever plagued the crew during the summer. Then ship sailed for the Cape Verdes on 8 July and reached Porto Praia on the 21st. The ship returned to Liberia in September for a last visit before leaving the African coast in mid-October and heading home. She reached Norfolk on 22 November and Decommissioned there on 10 December 1844.

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Page last modified: 05-07-2011 02:34:20 Zulu