• Si Biggs

Taking of Lagos - War on the Slave Trade

Unit/ Formation: Royal Marines


Location: West Africa


Period/ Conflict: War on the Trans Atlantic Slave Trade


Year: 1851


Date/s: 26th - 27th December 1851


The taking of Lagos by boats of HMS Bloodhound and HMS Tartar, Lieutenant J.W.C. Williams RM and E, McArthur RMA were present with 27 RMA and 47 Royal Marines, taking part.


Lieutenant Williams was wounded.


There were actually two naval actions; one in November 1851 and the second in December 1851.

Battle of November 25, 1851

The first attack on November 25, 1851 was hastily organized and led by Commander Forbes who underestimated Oba Kosoko's defenses of about 5,000 men armed with muskets. Forbes' attack party consisted of 306 officers, men, marines and sailors aboard HMS Bloodhound along with 21 boats. Although Bloodhound sustained heavy cannon fire from the shore, a landing party went ashore but met stiff resistance. By nightfall, the British had sustained two dead and ten injuries; Commander Forbes ordered a retreat.



Image from the Illustrated London News of 1852 depicting the attack

Battle of December 26, 1851

British Men o' War Attacked by the King of Lagos

The battle of December 26, 1851 was termed by Lagosians Ogun Ahoyaya/Ogun Agidingbi (translated, "The Boiling Battle"). Captain Jones led the attack party consisting HMS Bloodhound, HMS Teaser, a flotilla of boats including The Victoria and The Harlequin equipped with overwhelming fire power engaged Kosoko in a battle lasting three days.


Kosoko put up a stiff resistance, but the Royal Navy's superior firepower won the day. Kosoko and his leading chiefs fled Lagos for Epe on December 28, 1851. According to Samuel Davies, a Saro and younger brother of JPL Davies who participated on the British side aboard HMS Bloodhound, Kosoko would have inflicted great losses on the Royal Navy if he had deployed his war canoes with their swivel guns.


However, he relied solely on static defenses which were overwhelmed. On the British side 15 men died and 75 were wounded.


Akitoye was taken ashore on December 29 to assess the bombarded town. He accepted the loyalty of the chiefs and was installed as Oba of Lagos. On December 30, the Royal Navy dismantled all Kosoko's batteries and dumped 46 of his war guns at sea


St Ann's Church - Lagos Engagements - TO THE MEMORY OF THE OFFICERS, SEAMEN AND ROYAL MARINES WHO WERE KILLED OR MORTALLY WOUNDED IN THE ENGAGEMENTS AT LAGOS ON THE WEST COAST OF AFRICA AD 1851 THIS TABLET IS ERECTED BY THEIR SHIPMATES AND COMPANIONS IN ARMS JOHN G.F. DYER AND HENRY H. HALL, MATES OF HMS "NIGER", KILLED 25TH NOV. 1851. FREDK.R. FLETCHER MID: JNO. McDONALD, WM. LAWS, FREDK HUNN, THOMAS SUTTON, JAMES WEBB, THOS.DAVIS, SAML. PITT, BENJN. TRACEY AND RICHD PEACOCK, SEAMEN FRANCIS BONE, THOS. NONELY AND WM. WILSON. ROYAL MAR.ARTY., AND KING GEORGE. KROOMEN OF HMS "PENELOPE" KILLED 26 TH DECEMBER 1851. HY.M. GILHAM. MASTERS ASSISTANT. GEORGE E. HOWELL, GUNNER AND W. BOTTERS RMA. HMS "PENELOPE". MORTALLY WOUNDED, THOMAS RICHARDS, MID: HMS "SAMPSON" KILLED 26TH DECEMBER 1851.

The power of the Royal Navy was subsequently used to suppress the slave trade, and while some illegal trade, mostly with Brazil, continued, the Atlantic slave trade would be eradicated by the middle of the 19th century.


The West Africa Squadron was credited with capturing 1,600 slave ships between 1808 and 1860 and freeing 150,000 Africans who were aboard these ships.


Action was also taken against African leaders who refused to agree to British treaties to outlaw the trade, for example against the usurping King of Lagos, deposed in 1851.


More here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reduction_of_Lagos

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