Chief Joseph Surrenders, 1877

2022-10-03T13:15:13-05:00October 3, 2022|HH 2022|

“But they deceived Him with their mouth and lied to Him with their tongue.” —Psalm 78:36

Chief Joseph Surrenders, October 5, 1877

Following the American War Between the States, the United States government reorganized the army after demobilizing a million men. In 1866 due to demands for bluecoats to occupy the conquered but discontented and sometimes rebellious South, and continued conflicts with natives in the West who still resisted the stealing of their lands by pioneers, miners, farmers, and the U.S. government, a little over 50,000 soldiers were kept in the army or recruited for post-war service. Cavalry regiments of twelve companies each, infantry regiments and artillery batteries, were sent to garrison the forts across the western territories and pacify the highly mobile tribes who defied resettlement on “reservations.” The generals who were sent westward to enforce President Ulysses S. Grant’s policies often already acquired savage reputations for suppressing civilian populations, as well as extensive combat experience—William T. Sherman, Phillip Sheridan, George Crook, and the flamboyant insubordinate bon vivant, George Armstrong Custer. The list also eventually included the one-armed Christian General Oliver Otis Howard, known for his humanitarian instincts.

William Tecumseh Sherman (1820-189

Philip Henry Sheridan (1831-1888)

George R. Crook (1828-18

George Armstrong Custer (1839-18

Stories of war with the Sioux, Cheyenne, Modocs, and others filled the Eastern newspapers, and voters pressed for final resolution of the “Indian problem.” Treaties were struck and just as quickly broken by one side or the other. Pioneers murdered natives and vice versa in a seeming never-ending cycle of misunderstanding, revenge and retribution. The wild animals of the prairies, such as the buffalo, were slaughtered with reckless abandon by white hunters, forcing the tribes to remain on the move or submit to being herded themselves onto barren reservations. Given the disparities in numbers and firepower, the defeat of the natives was a forgone conclusion. Nonetheless, some of the independence-minded chiefs and their families did not go quietly. One of the most discomfiting and successful of the group was Chief Joseph and his Nez Perce band.

Two men stand with a mountain of Bison skulls to be processed and used for glue, fertilizer, dye/tint/ink and other industrial products

Chief Joseph (1840-1904)

Chief Joseph was a leader of the Wallowa band in Oregon territory. He was the son of Chief Joseph and popularly known as “Young Joseph” apart from his given name of In-Mut-Too-Yah-Lat-Kekht (literally Thunder Rolling in the Mountains). The Rev. Henry H. Spalding, a Presbyterian missionary who came west with the Whitman missionaries, settled among the Nez Perce. In 1836, four years before the birth of Young Joseph, Old Joseph made a profession of faith and was baptized, but later had a falling out with Spalding and renounced his faith. In 1855 the Nez Perce chief and his son attended a treaty council together at Walla Walla where several of the chiefs agreed to the reservation because it included the Wallowa homeland and most of the other Nez Perce lands in Oregon, Washington and Idaho where the band roamed. Settlers and miners poured into the new Treaty lands, compelling the United States government to call for another treaty in 1863 in which the tribes were confined to a small area on the fringes of their former lands. The treaty was signed by only one chief, named Lawyer!

Hallalhotsoot or “Lawyer” (c. 1797

Chiefs Joseph, Looking Glass, and White Bird with a band of warriors in the spring of 1877

Chief Joseph led the “non-treaty” Nez Perce and returned to Wallowa country where he died and Young Joseph became chief in 1871. Young Joseph was described as a tall handsome man, powerfully built and with a serious look. General Howard met with Joseph and the other chiefs and told them they had to move to the reservation within thirty days or the army would “move them by force.” Joseph took his tribe to Camas Prairie in Idaho to meet one last time with his fellow chiefs. While there, some young Nez Perce warriors rode off to avenge another murder by the miners. Joseph and three other chiefs decided to take their Nez Perce bands and move to Montana where the buffalo still roamed.

The Battle of the Big Hole was fought in Montana Territory, August 9–10, 1877, between the United States Army and the Nez Perce tribe

Joseph became the camp chief in charge of about 800 women and children as they braved the cliffs, mud and rugged Bitterroot Mountains. They agreed not to molest any whites, even stopping for several days at Stevensville to trade and rest. Soldiers under command of Colonel John Gibbon caught up to the fleeing natives where the peace was shattered at the Battle of Big Hole. In the surprise attack the soldiers fired into the tepees killing eighty Nez Perce, including fifty women and children. Chief Joseph said after the wars that the Nez Perce never killed women and children, for “they would be ashamed to do so.” Gibbon lost thirty-four men. The chase resumed, and Joseph led them on a trail that lasted a thousand miles.

Map of the 1877 flight of the Nez Perce under Chief Joseph

The Indians entered the Yellowstone National Park where they ran into several parties of tourists, and two of them were killed by angry young warriors. Joseph eluded his captors by crossing the Absaroka Range in places deemed impassable by their pursuers. It was now September of 1877 and the Nez Perce had gotten within a few miles of the Canadian border, when General Miles caught up to them. Two hundred made it into Canada, the rest, exhausted and starving and dragging their wounded on travois, stopped, and Joseph met Miles and Howard on October 5. He handed over his rifle. His words to the generals were written down by a translator, now considered one of the great speeches of American history:

An emaciated and grieving Chief Joseph, three weeks after the surrender

“It is cold, and we have no blankets; the little children are freezing to death. My people, some of them, have run away to the hills, and have no blankets, no food. No one knows where they are—perhaps freezing to death. I want to have time to look for my children, to see how many I can find. Maybe I shall find them among the dead. Hear me, my chiefs! I am tired; my heart is sick and sad. From where the sun now stands, I will fight no more forever.”

He surrendered his tribe after General Miles promised they would be returned to their reservation. The ailing and wounded band were then escorted to North Dakota, then to a camp in Kansas and finally, in 1878 to exile in Indian Territory in Oklahoma, far far from Oregon and Idaho. Joseph, the last of the Nez Perce chiefs, was lionized and admired across the United States, even meeting President Rutherford B. Hayes and members of Congress. In 1885 Joseph and 118 other exiles were packed in a train and shipped to the Colville Reservation in central Washington, where he died, in his tepee, in 1904.

Nelson Appleton Miles (1839-1925)

The Great Jamaica Revival, 1860

2022-09-29T17:44:13-05:00September 29, 2022|HH 2022|

“So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls. They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.”
—Acts 2:41, 42

The Great Jamaica Revival, September 28, 1860

“I would affirm that much of the modern approach to evangelism, with its techniques and methods, is unnecessary if we really believe in the doctrine of the Holy Spirit and His application of God’s message…Should we not concentrate more, as the church has done through the centuries, upon praying for, and laying the basis of Christian instruction for, revival as it is described in the Bible?” —D. Martin Lloyd Jones, 1989

On September 28, 1860, a German Moravian missionary to Jamaica, Theodor Sonderman, entered his chapel in Clifton, Jamaica, expecting to lead a typical Moravian worship service. What took place then and for about two years following, changed the island colony, perhaps for centuries, and for many individuals, forever. Like previous true spiritual awakenings, the “Great Jamaica Revival” began with the prayers of the saints. Although Jamaican Christians could not follow the example of the churches in New York City, where God was bringing thousands to Christ in 1857-59 and where thousands met at lunch time across the city to pray for continued revival, devout saints in Jamaica got up at the “peep of day” to hold prayer meetings for revival before going to the fields to work, and they prayed earnestly on Sundays for the Holy Spirit to visit their island with revival in the churches. “Soon the pattern of earnest prayer, followed by the conviction of sin and painful penitence, and then outright conversions, commenced. What began with small revival prayer meetings became an awakening of the masses.”*

The Fulton Street Prayer Meeting of 1857 in New York was the initial event that led to a season of revival in America and beyond

It began in the Moravian congregation when, after Pastor Sonderman’s prayer, others of the congregation began praying, including children. He saw tears streaming down everyone’s faces, and hardened sinners crying out for God’s mercy. The pastor had to stop the service to deal with all the convicted people, many who were in great distress over their souls. Many others moved to a nearby schoolhouse to continue praying. For four weeks almost non-stop, Rev. Sonderman counseled and prayed with the hundreds of respondents. The revival spread quickly to the Anglican, Baptist, Congregationalist, Methodist, and Presbyterian congregations from Montego Bay to St. Thomas and from St. Ann’s Bay to Savanna-la-Mar, the entire island. The churches were packed with repentant worshippers, with Bible reading, prayer, praise and preaching taking place almost every day in one place or another, for two years! The eighty Baptist churches recorded 12,000 conversions over the next years, the Presbyterians more than 4,700 in the next two years. In Montego Bay, the Methodist Chapel of 800 members added another 547.

Montego Bay, Jamaica as it appeared in 1820

As the historian and theologian Ian Murray has pointed out in the important book Revival and Revivalism, wherever there is true Holy Spirit awakening and widespread conversions, there is usually found an accompanying strong resistance and mockery, as well as spurious claims of conversions and heretical counterfeit preaching and manipulation. In pursuit and evaluation of claimed revivals of the past, the historian can investigate resulting changes that took place in the culture and the record of increased church membership, both characteristic of true revival. Jamaica provides ample evidences to assess the genuiness of the claims. A Congregationalist minister summarized the practical results of the revival thusly:

“It closed the rum shops and gambling houses, reconciled long-separated husband and wives, restored prodigal children, produced scores of bans to be read for marriage, crowded every place of worship, quickened the zeal of ministers, purified the churches, and brought many sinners to repentance. It also excited the rage of those ungodly people whom it had not humbled.”

Cambridge Church, Jamaica

Many Jamaicans had cast off their superstitions and demonic influences that had passed through generations from African origins, others abandoned sinful relationships for marriage, the crime rate dropped dramatically and the pastors recorded genuine long-term change in the lives of their congregants. It seems every soul in Jamaica was affected, some in hardening their hearts against the Gospel, but most embracing the Christian Faith whole-heartedly, and knew how to express it in song, prayer, and obedience to the Holy Scriptures. There was no “getting up a revival,” or appeal to a mythical “autonomous free will.” With the Holy Spirit changing hearts, the divine gifts of repentance and faith brought a Pentecost like none in the Caribbean had ever witnessed before in history.

Hampden Church, Jamaica: Scottish missionaries worked at Montego Bay in the 19th century and in 1836 the first presbytery of the Jamaican Church was constituted here

Although the counterfeits and evil undercurrents of culture exist there today, abundantly in some places, the multi-generational faithfulness of the true Christian Faith also still flourishes in places of the island that God has reserved for His kingdom.

Mandeville, Jamaica today

Birth of Shinzo Abe, Prime Minister of Japan, 1954

2022-09-19T17:58:11-05:00September 19, 2022|HH 2022|

Birth of Shinzo Abe, Prime Minister of Japan,
September 21, 1954

Americans tend to ignore Japan as a nation, even less the men who have served there as Prime Minister in the post-WWII era. Unless a tsunami has wiped out a few thousand people or swamped a nuclear plant, Japan and its history are not on our contemporary concern list. The Second World War still ranks in first place in American historical interest regarding the Land of the Rising Sun, but of little consideration after the bombing of Nagasaki in 1945. Ichiro Suzuki and Shohei Ohtani have name recognition because they lead the list of American Major League Baseball All-Star players from Japan. It is thus no surprise that athletes receive the most attention from Americans, who paid little mind to the recent assassination of former PM Shinzo Abe on July 8 this year. He was the greatest and most important prime minister of Japan, and the most politically conservative PM, since the end of WWII.

Shinzo Abe (1954-2022) was Prime Minister of Japan and President of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) from 2006 to 2007 and again from 2012 to 2020 (the longest-serving prime minister in Japanese history), and Chief Cabinet Secretary from 2005 to 2006

Born on September 21, 1954 to a prominent political family, his national and family heritage informed and molded Abe’s political ideology as he matured. His father had volunteered as a kamikaze pilot in the Second World War but the war ended before his training. As Providence would have it, he served in four national offices from 1958-1991, including minister of foreign affairs under Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone, a close confidant of Ronald Reagan. Abe’s maternal grandfather, Nobosuke Kishi, served in the cabinet of Hideki Tojo during the war, and was wrongly imprisoned as a suspected “Class-A” war criminal during the occupation. He helped found the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) in the 1950s and served three years as Prime Minister. PM Abe credited the influence of father and grandfather for his own political philosophy and success. Also, like them, he has had a favorable connection with the Unification Church, usually considered a heretical Christian-influenced cult led originally by Korean preacher, Sun Myung Moon, whose strong anti-communism stance and publication of the “conservative” Washington Times newspaper in the U.S., placed their political views on the right.

Shinzo as a young boy (center, seated in the lap of his grandfather, Japanese Prime Minister Nobusuke Kishi, who greatly influenced Shinzo’s beliefs), and surrounded by family

At the end of the War, a team of U.S. Army judge advocate generals under the direction of General Douglas MacArthur drafted the Constitution of Japan, mandating Japan renounce standing armed forces, eliminate the divine status of the emperor and give women the right to vote, thus weakening national identity and erasing centuries of tradition and honor. Young Abe’s respect for Grandfather Kishi’s continuing nationalism and respect for Japan’s cultural past, minus the militarism of the 1930s and 40s, motivated Abe to fight the cultural battles of the 1990s and 2000s as he rose in the political world. Not one to shy away from controversy, Abe pushed his conservative views forward, for instance opposing the left-wing party’s “excessive sexual and gender-free education” policies. He supported nationalist efforts to rid the country of its postwar pacifism, secularism, and dependence on the United States “security umbrella.” As a rising star within the LDP, Abe eventually secured the role of chief cabinet secretary of the prime minister in 2005. He served one year as prime minister in 2006 and revealed his antagonism to globalism.

Prime Minister Abe and his wife Akie hosting the 2017 Cherry Blossom Viewing Party— a celebration of strong, ancient, traditional Japanese culture

In the intervening five years before his return as PM, he “quietly built strong relations with Taiwan,” in the face of increasing Communist China’s ties with the U.S. In 2012 Abe became prime minister again and held on to the office for eight years, the longest in Japanese history. His nationalistic instincts met with general approval as he refused resettling Middle Eastern and African refugees and continued to promote Japan’s traditional cultural heritage, including Shinto values. He supported changing the use of “liberal Western-style” textbooks in schools. Abe was a vocal opponent of progressive efforts to allow women to ascend to the Chrysanthemum Throne. He stopped apologizing to Korea and China for the Second World War and ended sending them billions in reparations.

Prime Minister and Mrs. Abe attending a memorial service for Japanese soldiers of WWI

The U.S. allowed Japan to create the Japan Self-Defense Force (JSDF) during the Cold War, without calling it an army. With a quarter of a million active-duty personnel today, they are still restrained from over-seas military operations and they have a restricted budget. Abe had to fight against pacifist parties and the communist party who want the nation to eliminate the defense force altogether. In 2015, Abe was able to get new security legislation passed to allow Japan to participate in “collective self-defense,” enabling them to come to the aid of an ally attacked by Red China or North Korea. Having unified the LDP, his success as a reformer, a nationalist, and a revisionist in the face of international progressive influences on his country, he was able to return a “spark of patriotic life back to Japan.” He resigned in 2020 due to health issues.

President Trump and PM Abe in 2017 with a set of autographed MAGA-style hats that read “Donald & Shinzo, Make Alliance Even Greater”

On the 8th of July this year, 67-year-old Abe was assassinated during a political rally by a gunman with a homemade weapon. He was shot in the heart at close range. The murderer claimed Abe’s association with the Unification Church warranted the act. The result has been that “his party has coalesced around his vision” and Abe’s reputation is more popular than ever. Some believe he will become a legend for people to revere in Japan for generations, a Samurai who died in battle.

Resources for Further Study

For further information outside of the internet resources, see the article Remembering Shinzo Abe in the September issue of Chronicles Magazine.

Duke of Marlborough Wins at Malplaquet, 1709

2022-09-13T10:49:52-05:00September 13, 2022|HH 2022|

Duke of Marlborough Wins at Malplaquet,
September 11, 1709

Sir Winston Churchill, MP (1620-1688) fathered eleven legitimate children, fought for Charles I in the English Civil War, paid a huge fine for serving on the losing side, and died the year his beloved patron James II lost the throne of England to William and Mary. He served as a Colonel, fighting against Oliver Cromwell, who never lost a battle in which he commanded. John (1650-1722), the eldest son of Sir Winston, served as the highest ranking General of Great Britain in a war that changed the face and destiny of Europe, ironically becoming the second of the two English generals in history who never lost a battle. As the most illustrious ancestor of the 20th Century Winston Churchill, his accomplishments, if not his full title, distinguished him above all his peers: John Churchill, 1st duke of Marlborough, marquess of Blandford, earl of Marlborough, Baron Churchill of Sandridge, Lord Churchill of Eyemouth, Reichsfurst (Imperial prince).

General John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough, 1st Prince of Mindelheim, 1st Count of Nellenburg, Prince of the Holy Roman Empire, KG, PC (1650-1722)

Sarah Churchill, Duchess of Marlborough, Princess of Mindelheim, Countess of Nellenburg (née Jenyns, spelt Jennings in most modern references) (1660-1744)

John Churchill, duke of Marlborough had “married for love” a woman without enormous wealth, and thus against his father’s wishes. He was forced to maintain his fortune and livelihood through effort, a man with the character and perseverance to do just that. He found time to father seven children with Sarah Churchill, the (now) Duchess of Marlborough. His descendant Winston Churchill was forced to make his own way in the world also, although for different reasons; his parents were spendthrifts who wasted their fortune on entertainments, (but he also married for love).

Winston and Clementine Churchill, shortly before their marriage in 1908

James Scott, 1st Duke of Monmouth, 1st Duke of Buccleuch (1649-1685) commanding the English against the Dutch in 1672

John Churchill began his military service with a commission in the foot guards in 1667. In the third Dutch War (1672-74) he earned a promotion to Captain, and then served with distinction under the Duke of Monmouth, steering clear of association when the duke attempted a clandestine and tragically failed overthrow of his step-brother James II. That monarch made Churchill a lieutenant general and a peer of the realm. When James was expelled from the English throne for his Roman Catholicism, Churchill deftly landed in the camp of the new Protestant monarch, King William of Orange, who awarded Sir John the earldom of Marlborough and membership in the Privy Council. He served in effective command in both Ireland and Flanders. Falsely implicated in plots to restore James II to the throne, Churchill spent time in the Tower of London in 1691. Although eventually released, he experienced three more years out of favor for leading a “substantial faction” opposed to William’s favoring his Dutch associates over English.

James II (of England and Ireland) and VII (of Scotland), (1633-1701)

William III “of Orange” (1650-1702)

Louis XIV of France—the longest serving monarch in European history (reigning more than seventy-two years, beginning in 1643)—had advanced French interests through war and diplomacy, allied with England for five years then against England for the next hundred and forty. Upon the death of William III (the new English monarch), Queen Anne (the last of the Stuart line), confirmed Marlborough’s appointment as supreme commander of English and Dutch troops on the continent, initiated by William in the year of his own death, to oppose Louis’s ambitions of conquest. Marlborough crossed to Holland and undertook the first of ten successful campaigns against France. The English commander proved a genius at deception and maneuver, and master of both strategy and tactics. He also put his considerable diplomatic skills to use as he created and maintained “The Grand Alliance” of the War of Spanish Succession (1701-1714). Descendant Winston paid close attention to his illustrious ancestor.

Louis XIV of France (1638-1715)

Queen Anne of England, Scotland and Ireland (1665-1714)

That war, known by some military historians as “the first world war of modern times,” lasted thirteen years and resulted in battles in Spain, Hungary, France, the Netherlands, Italy, America, Austria, and on the high seas, as well as trade wars in India and South America. The war concerned who would succeed to the throne of Spain; France wanted an heir to the Bourbons, and Austria to the Hapsburgs. Combined with the most complex political maneuverings by all the countries in Europe, the Grand Alliance was again assembled against France. England’s goal was to maintain the balance of power in Europe and protect her trade routes around the world.

An Anglo-Dutch squadron captures a Spanish treasure fleet in 1702,
during the War of Spanish Succession

Defending the Dutch Republic was key to the strategy. In his first campaign, Marlborough captured Kaiserswerth in 1702 and cleared the territory between the Rhine and Meuse Rivers, for which triumphs he was created Duke of Marlborough. In order to assist Austria—whose armies were engaged in Italy and along the Rhine—Marlborough attacked along the Moselle River and feinted toward Alsace to draw off Bavarian forces that had been committed to the French. In August of 1704, the Anglo-Dutch army fought the great battle of Blenheim, in which he lost 12,000 men but inflicted more than 36,000 casualties on the French. After a full year of one success after another, the other coalition countries sat back on their laurels, against the offensive strategies planned by Marlborough.

The Duke of Marlborough writing the Blenheim despatch to his wife, Sarah, after the Battle of Blenheim

The French attacked on all fronts to win back territory and probably sue for peace. At Ramillies, Marlborough very nearly lost his life but in the end, inflicted an enormous defeat of the French, who lost five times the number of troops. As the years passed and the war engulfed more men, and expanded around the world’s oceans, Marlborough’s political enemies increased their numbers in Parliament and called for negotiated settlement along Whig lines, rather than the Tories, who had brought the war on and demanded ultimate victory on the battlefield. Peace talks collapsed in 1708 as the Allies invaded France, looking for that killer blow that would end the war.

The Battle of Ramillies between the French and the English, 1706

On September 11, 1709 one of the bloodiest battles of the century was fought at Malplaquet, another Marlborough victory, but at too steep a cost. The French commander, the Duke of Villars, under desperate orders from King Louis and motivated by the potential loss of Mons and a final capitulation of the war, fought an inspired battle from good defensive positions. Although the Allies lost more than 20,000 and the French, 11,000, Marlborough prevailed. The battle featured Swiss mercenaries on both sides and the Irish Brigade took large casualties on behalf of France. Nonetheless, the French left the field, their honor restored, and significant negotiating power in hand.

Claude Louis Hector de Villars, Prince de Martigues, Marquis then Duc de Villars, Vicomte de Melun (1653-1734) was a French military commander and an illustrious general of Louis XIV of France

The Duke of Marlborough and Prince Eugene entering the French entrenchments at the Battle of Malplaquet, 1709

Although the war dragged on for five more years, featuring more Marlborough triumphs before ending with the Treaty of Utrecht, the government had lost all interest in keeping Marlborough in charge. Whig allies were all defeated at home and the Tories in power, and the Queen turned against him, the Great General was replaced and retired to the continent. He died in 1722 after suffering four strokes in three years. Once again, he had kept his feet in two political camps as needed—when Queen Anne died, he joined the Hanover succession, but kept a keen eye on the Jacobite (Stuart) cause while it lasted. Following the shifting political winds did not die with John Churchill. When Winston Churchill, Prime Minister, said that he was an ancestor, not a descendant, he was not including the duke, perhaps because he thought he himself was a reincarnation of Marlborough.

Sir Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill (1874-1965) was a direct descendant of John Churchill, Duke of Marlborough, and a renowned British statesman, soldier and writer who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1940 to 1945, during the Second World War, and again from 1951 to 1955, as well as serving as MP for many decades

Sickness Plagues the Niger Expedition, 1841

2022-09-05T15:09:27-05:00September 5, 2022|HH 2022|

“For I am with thee, and no man shall set on thee to hurt thee: for I have much people in this city.” —Acts 18:10

Sickness Plagues the Niger Expedition,
September 4, 1841

West Africa has long been known as “the white man’s graveyard,” and for obvious and deadly reasons—fatal tropical diseases have plagued Europeans along those coasts for five hundred years. Until modern times, to visit a trading post, fort, naval port of call, or missions station along the central African Atlantic shore, risked acquiring fevers, parasites, hostile natives, and diseases for which the white man had neither immunity nor reliable cure. Nevertheless, Europeans were willing to risk all to acquire slaves for the Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, and English colonies in the Americas.

The Niger Expedition of 1841: the SoudanAlbert and Wilberforce

Protestant missionaries began tentative evangelistic efforts among the tribes of West Africa beginning in the early 19th Century, and suffered the same hardships and diseases long endured by the traders and military men who docked along the Atlantic seaboard of the Dark Continent. When the movement in England to put an end to the slave trade finally reached fruition—primarily under the direction of aggressive and influential Christians and the organizations they formed for the purpose—practical steps were taken to make good the new policies of the British government. In 1840, three streams of Christian British concern, established missionary endeavor, humanitarian relief and reform, and abolition of the slave trade came together in an unprecedented expedition up the Niger River, sponsored and financed by the English government in conjunction with private ministries and interests.

The expedition was the brainchild of Sir Thomas Fowell Buxton (1786-1845), 1st Baronet, Member of Parliament, brewer, abolitionist, and reformer. Buxton had succeeded William Wilberforce in the House of Commons as leader of the abolition of the slavery in the British colonies. As head of the Church Missionary Society and also the Society for the Extinction of the Slave Trade, and then through his book The African Slave Trade and Its Remedy, Buxton inspired the British government to send the expedition to the Niger River delta in 1841.

Sir Thomas Fowell Buxton (1786-1845)

Boats along the Niger River

The grandiose plan of the enterprise was to establish trade connections, anti-slavery trade treaties, and a missionary headquarters, with the tribes along the Niger River, the main river of western Africa and third largest on the continent. It traverses about 2,600 miles and drains more than 800,000 square miles; the river begins in the highlands of Guinea and flows through current nations of Benin, Guinea, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger and Nigeria. The first successful exploration of the Niger River had been led by an outspoken Christian Scottish physician/botanist, Mungo Park, in 1796 and 1803. He drowned while being attacked by natives, after rowing more than a thousand miles up the river. This new work would build on the knowledge acquired by Park and those who followed him, such as his son who died of fever searching for his father.

Mungo Park (1771-1806)

The Exeter Hall Meeting of June 1, 1840

The expedition was “put into motion” on June 1, 1840 at the “Exeter Hall Meeting”, chaired by none other than Prince Albert himself, husband of the Queen. About 4,000 people attended and were addressed by Sir Robert Peel, soon to become Prime Minister. William Lamb, Viscount Melbourne, the current PM, was not entirely pleased with the project but used government funds to purchase an island from Spain, strategic to the coastal trade of Africa, to use as the launching pad for the expedition.

Sir Robert Peel (1788-1850)

William Lamb (1779-1848)

Three state-of-the-art iron steamers were laid in the docks of Laird in Liverpool for the project: AlbertWilberforce, and Soudan. Liberated slave interpreters joined the expedition in Sierra Leone, for they were going to come in contact with many different tribes in a country with more than five hundred languages (although their official language today is English!). They purchased land for a mission and trade station at Lokaja, at the confluence of the Niger and the Benue Rivers, a center of trade and settlement to at least four major tribes, today home to 90,000 people out of about 218 million in Nigeria. All of Britain followed the expedition in the press.

The Benue River

The officials on board were able to sign anti-slave trade agreements at three cities along the route before being swept by disease, especially malaria. One hundred fifty Europeans were on board for the expedition, including two missionaries, J.F. Schon and Samuel Crowther. They arrived on the river in mid-August, but on September 4, the chief physician Dr. McWilliams recorded that “fever of a most malignant character” had broken out, and the sick had to be loaded on the Soudan followed by the Wilberforce, returning to the coast. There were 130 fever cases, and forty-two died quickly. The Albert forged ahead, full of sick men, some of whom threw themselves into the river in their delirium. The missionaries buried them in the muddy banks. The missionaries ended up steering the ship and carrying the survivors back to the coast.

Rev. Samuel Crowther (1769-1829), missionary to Niger

Bishop Samuel Ajayi Crowther (c. 1809-1891)—pictured with his son Dandeson Crowther (1844–1938)—took this name at his baptism in honor of the missionary

In a little known outcome, often overlooked by modern historians, a group of Baptist missionaries awaited the expedition on the island of Fernando Po, which had been purchased by the government. They missed the rendezvous but decided to remain, evangelizing that island and all those around it. Other missionaries established a base at Fourah Bay where liberated slaves were evangelized and trained as missionaries, to return to their tribes with the Gospel. Some have noted that when civil governments subsidize activities rightly belonging to the Church, controls and tragedy often follow. In this case God used the expedition to plant the Gospel along the Niger River for future successful endeavors unconnected to government partnership. The Kingdom of God marches on in difficult and unlikely places, sometimes with significant casualties along the way.

The Island of Fernando Po (now known as Bioko)

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