By Dr. Peter Hammond, 11/17/22
Henry Morton Stanley was one of the greatest explorers of all time. Throughout his incredible life, which was packed with adventure and conflict, he served as a soldier, a sailor, a journalist, an explorer, an empire builder, a statesman, author, politician, and lecturer and finally, he was even knighted by Queen Victoria.
“Dr. Livingstone I Presume?”
Stanley is most famous for having found missionary explorer, Dr. David Livingstone after he had been out of contact with the outside world for many years. His calm and most understated of comments, after having crossed half the continent: “Dr. Livingstone I presume?” must be one of the most famous statements in popular memory worldwide.
Triumph After Tribulation
Throughout his life, Henry Morton Stanley experienced brutality, cruelty, starvation, disease, poverty, affliction, treachery, betrayal and ultimately great honour, success and wealth. Of all the great explorers of Africa, David Livingstone and Henry Morton Stanley stand head and shoulders above all others. Stanley and Livingstone were very different men, but both of them made spectacular contributions to the development of Africa.
Against All Odds
Stanley stands out as the only journalist who founded an Empire. Although his primary occupation was meant to be recording history, he is most famous for having made history. Stanley stands out as extraordinarily tough and persistent, a model of perseverance. Yet, before his 24th birthday, Stanley had a long track record of frustration and failure, defeat and desertion. No one could have predicted how this extraordinary man would develop and rise above all others in his achievements, especially in bringing civilisation to the Dark Continent.
The life of Henry Morton Stanley is full of surprises. The first surprise is that he wasn’t born with the name Henry Morton Stanley, but was baptised John Rowlands. That was believed to be the name of his father. Stanley was born in disgrace, the illegitimate child of Miss Elizabeth Parry. Shortly after his birth, 28 January 1841, his mother abandoned him in the hands of her father, Moses Parry, and ran off to London. Economic disaster had reduced this old gentleman to living with his sons in a small cottage and working in a butchery.
Abandoned in an Orphanage
When John was just 4 years old his grandfather died. His two uncles were unwilling to care for this illegitimate nephew, so he was taken by the hand and walked to a huge stone building surrounded by massive iron fence. At the door John was astonished to be seized and dragged inside. The door slammed and he soon learned that he was now an inmate of St. Asaph Union Workhouse – an orphanage to confine unwanted children. This work house was to be John Rowland’s home for over 9 years. No time was wasted for sympathy for the homeless and unwanted. The life in St. Asaph was hard and grim. It was described as “charity with a vengeance.”
The rigid routine began at 6am each morning and continued until 8pm in the evening, when they were locked in their spartan dormitories. In between there was work. The boys swept the grounds, scrubbed the floors, and worked the fields, shivering in thin, inadequate clothes. The meagre meals consisted of bread, gruel, rice and potatoes, in small rationed portions. Saturdays they were scrubbed and Sundays provided the only relief with two services and no work. The school master was an ex-miner, James Francis, who having lost his hand in a mining accident, had developed “a vicious temper and a callous heart.”
James Francis apparently took savage pleasure in punching, caning, kicking, whipping and beating the children entrusted to his care. John Rowlands received his first flogging for failing to pronounce a word correctly. The institution averaged 30 boys at a time, averaging from 5 to 15 years. The curriculum was described as “primitive”. John vividly remembered the day when a young 11 year old boy, Willie Roberts, strikingly handsome, with curly hair and a delicate face, was beaten to death. It was rumoured that he was the illegitimate child of a nobleman. John saw his corpse in the “dead house”. Willie was covered with dark bruises and deep gashes. All were convinced that James Francis had murdered Willie Roberts.
John recalled that he never missed his mother. In fact he was 12 years old before he even learnt that every boy had a mother. Yet, even in this unforgiving and depressing environment, John managed to distinguish himself with his drawings, mostly of cathedrals which, when presented to the bishop, earned him commendation and a Bible. John was selected to lead the Work House Boys Choir and, because of his exceptionally good memory, he was pronounced the most advanced pupil in St. Asaph by the school inspector. One man who later remembered him described John Rowlands as “stubborn, self willed… uncompromising… unusually sensitive… particularly strong…”
Crisis of Decision
When John was 15 years old, an event occurred that changed the whole direction of his life. Recalling it later, he observed: “But for the stupid and brutal scene that brought about, I might have eventually been an apprentice at some trade or another, and would have mildewed in Wales.” The sadistic tyrant, James Francis, demanded to know who had scratched a certain table. When no one confessed, he seized a cane and announced that he would beat the entire school. As they were commanded to strip, John refused to obey. Francis erupted in a rage: “How is this? Not ready yet? Strip, sir, this minute; I mean to stop this abominable and bare faced lying.”
“I did not lie, sir, I know nothing of it.”
“Silence, sir. Down with your clothes!”
“Never again!” John was determined. At that Francis assailed and beat him mercilessly, lifting him up and throwing him against a bench with such force that he feared his spine had shattered. As Francis lay into him, John aimed a kick into the schoolmaster’s face, breaking his glasses and knocking him unconscious as he fell backwards onto the stone floor.
As horror swept over the school, John fled over the fence to his paternal grandfather, a prosperous Welsh farmer. After hearing his story he ordered his grandson to leave and never come back. His uncles were also hard-hearted. His cousin, Moses Owen, a school master in Brynford, gave him some board and lodging, but his aunt Mary berated the cousin for taking John in. Moses Owen inspired John with his love for books and learning, but the other boys at school were merciless in teasing and bullying him as an outcast. After 9 months of schooling, he was taken to Liverpool and placed under the care of another aunt, Mary Morris. There he was given a job as a storeman in a Haberdashery.
Across the Ocean
After two months, he was fired and wandered the streets looking for opportunities of employment. One of these jobs led him to carry provisions to a Captain David Harding of the Windermere ship. The captain spoke kindly to him and offered him a job as a seaman. Once on board and sea sick, he learned that the captain’s promise of him serving as a cabin boy was only a scheme to obtain cheap deck hands. He experienced further abuse on board the ship and at the first opportunity in New Orleans, he jumped ship. As the sights and sounds of America fascinated John, he met a kind looking gentleman in front of a store.
A New Life in America
“Do you want a boy, sir?” The man was startled by the question. The businessman was Henry Stanley, cultured, intelligent, prosperous, happily married, but childless. Although John Rowlands was asking for work, the gentleman began to question him closely. He determined to adopt John Rowlands. Mr. Stanley took him off for breakfast, followed by a haircut, kitted him out with decent clothes and employed him as an apprentice to Mr James Speak, merchant. For the first time in his life, John was free. He had money in his pocket, room and board, a good job and he began to add books to the bishops’ Bible that had been his only possession up till then. He started to construct bookcases in his room out of old packing boxes. He spent all his free time reading books.
The beatings and rejection that he had experienced throughout his upbringing had made him something of a social outcast, hypersensitive and uncertain how to behave in any social context. The first friendship he developed was with Alice Heaton, a runaway girl of 16 years old from Liverpool, who had managed to maintain her disguise as a sailor boy, long enough to reach America, as well as Stanley. When Mrs Stanley fell ill, John left his job at the store and devoted every minute to the care of his patroness, the only woman who had shown him any affection. As Mr. Stanley was out of town on business, John was the only person beside her as she died.
Detour up the Mississippi
Feeling dejected, John obtained temporary employment as an attendant for a sick sea captain and then went up the Mississippi to find Henry Stanley in St. Louis. However, he had already departed. John worked on a flat boat back to New Orleans, which was an adventure, avoiding sand bars, steam boats, storms, dangerous currents and whirlpools.
In New Orleans John was reunited with Mr Stanley and in the first tender action he had ever experienced, was embraced by Mr Stanley. The next day Mr. Stanley declared: “As you are wholly unclaimed, without a parent, relation or sponsor, I promise to take you for my son and to fit you for a mercantile carrier. In future you are to bear my name, Henry Stanley.” This was the beginning of what Stanley later described as “The golden period of my life.”
For the next two years, the Welsh boy was educated and mentored by this kind gentleman. He was provided with his first toothbrush, his first nightshirt and his first suits. He was taught table manners, frequent baths and intelligent conversation. The young Henry Stanley was expected to read constantly, often aloud and to discuss what he had read with his father. His father lectured him on morality, faith, work, culture and customs. He taught his son how to think clearly and to live uprightly. He taught him to be alert and observant. He would propose hypothetical problems and challenge Henry to suggest the correct solution.
Henry Stanley proved to have a phenomenal memory and soaked up all the teaching offered him. One night in 1860, as they were travelling down the Mississippi River on a steam boat, Henry was on deck when he saw a man enter his father’s cabin and threaten him with a knife. Henry leapt at the man and grappled with him, putting the, would be, robber and murderer to flight, suffering only a gash in his coat.
Business required Mr Stanley to travel to Cuba. His last words to Henry were to hold fast to Christian principles and to be “fearless in all manly things.” Working in Arkansas, the young Henry was laid low with malaria and fever. At about this time the War between the States was erupting and he received a parcel addressed by a feminine hand containing a petticoat. Stunned by the implication of cowardice, he took immediate action by joining the Confederate Army to resist the coming Yankee invasion.
Life as an Infantryman
In July 1861, Stanley joined other confederate volunteers in Arkansas as they were issued flintlock muskets and embarked on a steamboat bound for Little Rock. During his time in Little Rock, he bought a colt revolver and a bowie knife. When the day came to march out, with the bands playing and the women cheering, Stanley was exuberant and eagerly looked forward to battle. Soon, with aching shoulders, blistered feet and sweat-soaked body, he began to discard half the contents of his pack and learned the elementary rule of the infantryman, to carry only what is absolutely essential. For the first nine months of his military service, Stanley’s regiment marched across Georgia, Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama and Mississippi. In April 1862, after marching for days in the rain, they arrived at what was to become the bloodiest battlefield of the American War between the states: Shiloh. Confederate generals Johnston and Beauregard were about to throw 40,000 exhausted troops against 50,000 fresh Union soldiers under General Grant. Most of the Southerners were armed with old flintlock muskets, whereas the Northerners had modern breach-loading rifles with cartridges.
Soon Stanley’s regiment, the 6th Arkansas Regiment, was ordered to march straight towards the centre of the Union lines. The sound of musketry increased in volume and intensity and artillery shells were soon flying overhead bringing down branches and debris on their heads. Soon they could see nothing in front of them but the enemy. The order was given: “Fix bayonets! On the double quick!”The men in grey gave a great battle cry and surged forward. As the blue figures began to flee before them, Stanley experienced the exhilaration of victory. He thought the battle won. Actually it had only begun. Soon they encountered even more Yankees. Volleys of deadly fire tore through the grey ranks. The ground seemed to erupt beneath him. The roar of gunfire was so intense he could barely make out any of the orders being shouted. The air was filled with flying metal. The sound of ricochets was all around. It did not seem possible that anyone could survive in the face of such a deadly barrage of lead. The command to dive for cover was given and Stanley saw many of the men around him mangled and mutilated by the bullets and bombs. Then the officers ordered the men to stand and charge. The Confederates leapt to their feet and with a great battle cry surged forward. Although pounded by artillery and decimated by rifle fire, the men in grey charged on, sweeping through a second Union regiment.
Prisoner of War
Then Stanley was knocked to the ground. When he had recovered his breath, he discovered that his belt buckle was bent and cracked. It had stopped a Union bullet, but he was not injured. Many more charges were ordered and time and again the Arkansas volunteers sent the Yankees reeling back in retreat. Then torrential rain fell upon the battlefield. As they took stock of their situation, they realised that there were barely 50 men left in their Regiment. As another advance was ordered, Stanley found himself isolated and surrounded by Union troops who took him prisoner. He was startled by the wild-eyed hatred and fury of the Yankees who cursed and threatened to bayonet him. He ended up in a boxcar shipped to Camp Douglas, on the outskirts of Chicago. The camp was a disgusting disease factory, more like a great cattle pen where wounded and malnourished men were left to die in the filth. The prisoners were denied even the most basic of hygiene and medical needs. Fleas, flies and rats infested the filthy barracks. He saw vast numbers of prisoners debilitated, dying of dysentery, typhoid and fever without the slightest aid from their heartless captors.
The Commissary, Mr Shipman, persuaded Stanley to save his life by enlisting in the Union army. This he did, but three days after his release from prison on 4 June 1862, he came down with fever so severely that he was discharged for health reasons.
Across the Ocean
He walked to the coast and worked on farms, and on a ship bound for Liverpool. Then he set out to find his mother, who told him that she wanted nothing to do with him! His mother’s cold hostility left him in even darker despair than her abandonment of him as a child. Stanley worked his way back across the ocean to try to find his adoptive father in Cuba. There he was devastated to learn that his father had already been dead nearly two years.
Stanley’s situation could hardly have been worse. He was homeless, penniless, without friends or relations. Afflicted by parasites he had picked up in prison, he did not even have a country. Stanley determined that he would never again consciously seek, or expect, human affection. Stanley enlisted as a sailor and worked on merchant ships, travelling to the West Indies, to Italy and Spain. He survived a shipwreck off Barcelona.
In the US Navy
On 19 July 1864, Stanley enlisted in the United States Navy in New York. The Navy records describe him as 5 feet, 5 inches in height, with hazel eyes, dark hair and birth place, England. He served on board the USS North Carolina and the USS Minnesota. As he was given the task of being the ship’s writer, he kept the log and wrote reports on land and sea battles, some of which ended up being published in the newspapers. His vigorous eye-witness accounts of action and his attention to detail was remarkable. Due to the positive comments he received and the success of having these reports published, Stanley began to think of becoming a journalist. On 10 February, 1965, Stanley deserted the Navy and became a roving reporter in the Wild West.
A Trail of Defeat and Desertion
It is remarkable that a man who throughout the rest of his life developed the reputation as the most persistent and relentless of explorers, the man who never gave up, no matter what, against all odds and in the face of any danger, that before he was 24 years old, Stanley had run away from school, jumped ship, deserted the Confederate cause by changing sides, and deserted the United States Navy in a time of war. No one at this stage of his life could have anticipated what he would accomplish in later life.
Adventures in the West and the East
He travelled to Missouri, Salt Lake City, Denver and Omaha. He built a flat bottom boat, which capsized twice. He experienced some of the Indian wars. Then, in July 1866, Stanley set sail for Smyrna in Turkey. There he was betrayed by a treacherous guide into the hands of thieves who severely beat him and stole all his money and papers. After being arrested for not having his papers, Stanley wrote an account of the abuse he experienced in the Orient.
In the Wild West
Then, returning to the United States, he joined the expedition into Indian country by General Winfield Hancock. He was impressed at how Hancock negotiated with the Comanche and Kiowa Indians in Nebraska and Kansas. He had expected to see the Indians severely dealt with after the atrocities they had committed against settlers. Instead, he saw how General Hancock sought peaceful resolutions and negotiations to extend civilisation, rather than to punish the savages.
At one point Stanley met Wild Bill Hickock and interviewed him. When he asked how many men he had killed, Wild Bill replied that he had killed “considerably over 100 white men” to his certain knowledge. He added that: “I never killed one man without good cause.” Hickock and Stanley became friends and when another made an insulting remark to Stanley, Wild Bill picked the man up and threw him over a billiard table.
Stanley also reported on General William Sherman’s dealing with the Indians in Omaha and Kansas. He later reported that he learned a great deal about how to deal with primitive people from Hancock and Sherman. He noted that they dealt with them as both warriors and as children, who must be taught and corrected. Stanley noted that he learned to do the same when dealing with savage tribes in Africa.
While being the special correspondent of the Missouri Democrat, Stanley also contributed articles to the New York Herald, the New York Times, the Chicago Republican and the Cincinnati Commercial. He also noted that despite frequenting bars and taverns where drunkenness was common, he remained true to his pledge of abstinence, with only one exception which he bitterly repented of. He also lived a very disciplined life and saved most of what he earned. Hearing of the upcoming British war with Abyssynia, Stanley persuaded James Gordon Bennett, of the New York Herald to hire him as their special correspondent to Africa.
The Abyssinian Expedition
Stanley joined the British Expeditionary Force at the Red Sea port of Zula, Eritrea. King Theodoro had killed the former king and had provoked the kingdom to rebellion through his cruelty and tyranny. Then he antagonised the British Empire by assaulting their Consul Cameron and an English Missionary, Stern. When envoys carried letters of protest from Queen Victoria, Theodoro threw the envoys into prison. The English diplomats were tortured and treated in most horrendous ways. After unsuccessful attempts to ransom the prisoners, Britain declared war on King Theodoro. In 1869, Britain dispatched an Expedition Force of 12,000 troops of the Indian Army under Sir Robert Napier, to secure the release of the hostages, and to suitably punish Theodoro. It was a 400 mile march to Theodoro’s stronghold at Magdala. Stanley wrote of the colourful sight of English and Irish Regiments of weather beaten veterans in red coats, colourful regiments of Punjab’s, Sepoys, Indian cavalry, English sailors with rockets and horse-drawn artillery, elephants, camels, horses and mules.
The Battle of Magdala
On 9 April, the Abyssinian Expeditionary Force arrived at Magdala, the fortress capital of Abyssinia. Apparently undaunted by the impregnable appearance of this stronghold perched on the top of a granite mountain, the British military marched across a river and proceeded up the mountain. Theodoro launched 3,500 well-armed warriors down the slopes in a wild charge against the British. Calmly Napier ordered the naval brigade to take their positions: “Action front!” The naval brigade launched their rockets into the midst of the charging Abyssinians who were thrown into terror and confusion by these strange weapons. Then 300 men from the Fourth were ordered forward and the command was given: “Commence firing!” The British surged forward. The Abyssinians attempted a flanking movement, but they were wiped out by the bayonets of the Sepoys. At the end of the day 560 dead Abyssinians were counted on the field, but not a single British soldier had been lost, although 32 were wounded.
Theodoro, now terrified of the British firepower that he had witnessed destroying his best troops the previous day, attempted to appease the British by releasing all of his prisoners. Stanley noted with surprise the lack of emotion expressed by both the captives who had endured years of torment, and their liberators who also seemed amazingly calm about the whole matter. The next morning the British marched up the mountain and began an artillery barrage on the stronghold. This was followed with an assault and soon British flags were hoisted on the walls and the bands were playing: “God save the Queen!”
Incredibly no British soldiers died in this final assault either. Two days later, Magdala was blown up by the engineers and on 18 April 1868, the British Expeditionary Force started back to the coast. “And thus the modern Crusade became numbered with past events, to be remembered of all men, in all lands, among the most wonderfully successful campaigns ever conducted in history.” wrote young Stanley. When Stanley arrived in Suez, he had his story wired to London and then on to the New York Herald. It was the first news story of the campaign to be published and it established his reputation world wide. Stanley was made a journalist of the New York Herald with US$2,000 a year salary.
War in Spain
Stanley’s next assignment was to cover the rebellion in Spain. From there he was tasked to find the great African explorer and missionary, Dr. David Livingstone. No word had been heard of him since he last entered the Dark Continent, on what became known as his third missionary journey.
Books, Duty and Action
Stanley noted that the thing he hated the most was waiting. “The more tasks I receive, the happier is my life. I want work… so that there will be no time for regrets, and vain desires, and morbid thoughts. In the interval books come in handy.” Although Stanley loved absorbing knowledge, he admitted that he also had “a craze for action”. He observed that his sufferings drove him to prove himself on the path of success. Stanley noted that “By intense application to duty, by self-denial,” he drove himself “that I might do my duty thoroughly.” “Stern duty commands me…”
Stanley had come through the fires determined to succeed, no matter what the odds. He had a tenacious and insatiable desire to succeed. With his quick mind and retentive memory, languages came easily to him. He taught himself French, Swahili, some Arabic and dozens of African dialects.
The Most Extraordinary Assignment
On 27 October 1869, he received one of the most extraordinary assignments ever entrusted to a newspaper reporter. James Gordon Bennet, Jr., of the New York Herald, commissioned Stanley to go to central Africa and to learn anything and everything that he could about Dr. David Livingstone and to find him. But first, he tasked Stanley to go and cover the Inauguration of the Suez Canal, and then to proceed up the Nile and find out about Sir Baker’s expedition. To travel to Jerusalem, and to Constantinople, to visit the Crimea, the Caucasus, Baghdad and Persepolis, and after that to India. Then to go to Zanzibar and from there to find Dr. David Livingstone.
“Draw a thousand pounds now; and when you have gone through that, draw another thousand, and when that is spent, draw another, and when you finished that draw another thousand, and so on, but find Livingstone.”
Stanley declared that he would do everything that a human being could possibly do and beyond that he would trust in God to enable him to do even more. Stanley immediately, that night, set out on his whirlwind tour of the Middle East, covering the opening of the Suez Canal at Port Said, the Holy places in Jerusalem, he walked over the old battlefields of the Crimean War, reported on the Russians’ civilising mission in Baku. Then to the exotic bazaars of Teheran in Persia, to the ruins of Persepolis, to India and then off to Zanzibar in Africa.
To the Dark Continent
Throughout this incredible journey, Stanley read everything he could find about Livingstone and other explorers of Africa. He arrived in Zanzibar on 6 January 1871. Despite the tremendous discoveries of Dr. David Livingstone, the vast interior of the continent was still mostly unknown at that stage. Most of its mountains, lakes, rivers and forests were unexplored. Most of the tribes inhabiting the interior of Africa were still unknown. Many maps of that time had words like Unknown and Unexplored territory written across huge sections of the interior of Africa.
Slaves and Ivory
Stanley immediately saw that slaves and ivory were the primary export of Africa being brought out of the interior by unscrupulous Arab traders. The Arabs on Zanzibar regarded Africa as a source of seemingly unlimited numbers of slaves and elephant tusks.
Speke, Burton and Grant
In June 1856, Richard Burton and John Hanning Speke had set out from Zanzibar to find the source of the Nile. When Burton had fallen sick, Speke set out on his own and discovered, and named, Lake Victoria as the source of the Nile. Burton became Speke’s bitter enemy and disputed his findings. Therefore Speke set out with James Grant in 1860, to confirm that Lake Victoria was indeed the source of the Nile. Burton, Speke, Grant and Baker had all established their reputations as African explorers, but the explorer that had surpassed them all was the Scottish Missionary, Dr. David Livingstone.
For over 20 years, he had walked across Africa, from coast to coast, crossing the Kalahari dessert, discovering Lake Ngami, Victoria Falls, one of the greatest cataracts in the world, Lake Malawi and many other previously unknown features of the continent. Dr. Livingstone was a tireless crusader against the slave trade. At 52 years old Livingstone had left England for the last time, 14 August 1865. Starting from Zanzibar, he proceeded to the mouth of the Rovuma River and from there went up to explore Lake Malawi. In December 1866, some deserters from his porters returned to Zanzibar with news that Livingstone was dead. The world mourned his passing, although some doubted the reports. When letters from Livingstone, dated February 1867 and July 1868 were brought out of the interior, it created a sensation. James Gordon Bennet believed that it would be a tremendous news story if this famous missionary explorer could be found and interviewed.
Preparing the Expedition
Henry Morton Stanley was only 29 years old when he began the expedition to find Livingstone. He had never before led, or organised, an expedition. Nor had he ever been a leader, or an employer, of men. Yet his wide reading and varied experiences and travel all seemed to have prepared him for this challenge. He spent over $20,000 on the expedition including purchasing millions of beads, and miles of wire and cloth needed for payment to cross tribal territories and to barter for food and other items in the interior. He located 6 Africans who had served explorers Burton, Speke and Grant, including Mabruki and Bombay, who was made captain of the askaris. Stanley purchased 20 donkeys, two boats, and tents, vast quantities of food, medicine, clothing, arms and ammunition.
Supplies for Africa
The supplies were packed in bails, bags and boxes, each weighing no more than 30kg. As everything had to be carried by porters, and as the supplies needed to last for at least two years, great pains and foresight was shown in every aspect of the preparation. Six tonnes of material needed to be carried into the interior. Ujiji, on the shores of Lake Tanganyika, over 742 miles inland from the coast, was the last location where Livingstone had been heard from, that was Stanley’s first target. Stanley recruited two other white men, 23 askaris, 157 pagazis (porters), 4 chiefs and 5 additional men with different duties, such as cook, Arabic interpreter, etc. A total of 192 men. At the beginning there were 2 horses and 27 donkeys. The baggage was: 116 loads. The weaponry was: 1 shot gun, 2 carbines, 4 rifles, 8 pistols, 24 flintlock muskets, 2 swords, 2 daggers, 2 axes, 24 hatchets, and 24 long knives.
At first the terrain was rough savannah. The climate was hot and humid with temperatures over 128°F. As the rainy seasons came the rivers swelled and animals and men bogged down in marsh and mud. Every river crossing required much ingenuity and hard work. Tsetse flies, mosquitos and every other kind of insect afflicted the men and animals of the column. In the 13 months of the expedition Stanley was laid low by fever on 23 occasions. Dysentery, smallpox, malaria and many unknown fevers afflicted all on the expedition. The first casualty was one of the white team members: William Farquhar, who died early on the expedition.
Leadership on the March
Every day presented new problems to be solved. Stanley soon learned that leadership required discipline, organisation, morale, motivation, conflict resolution and much communication. Many of the men contracted as porters deserted, stealing, or losing, the goods they were carrying. It was a never ending struggle to keep the column together and to keep them moving forwards. Every chief demanded tribute for the travellers to pass through their territory. Yet, despite the many frustrations and delays, Stanley’s column achieved a rapid advance twice as fast as the column of Burton and Speke.
Conflict and Mutiny
There was a battle at Mirambo and most of his men were so frightened that they refused to go any further. The other white man on the expedition, Shaw, became demoralised and completely worthless at this point. Many men deserted the column. Mutiny erupted. Stanley loaded both barrels of his shotgun, adjusted his revolvers for ready action and walked towards the rebellious men who had picked up their muskets in a threatening way. Stanley raised the shotgun, aiming directly at their heads and commanded them to instantly drop their weapons. Asmani did not obey and Stanley knocked him to the ground. In this way the mutiny was quelled. Stanley compelled all those who would remain with him to swear a solemn promise to remain faithfully under his command until they found Livingstone. Despite many other troubles and starvation which plagued the expedition, the men remained faithful to this thereafter.
A Promising Report
Then they met a native caravan coming from Ujiji. They spoke about a white man with grey hair who had just arrived at Ujiji. “Was he ever at Ujiji before?” Stanley asked.
“Yes, he went away a long time ago.”
Stanley was overwhelmed with excitement and impatience.
A Date with Destiny
Stanley pulled out his new flannel suit, had his Wellington boots polished and his helmet chalked, and then folded a fresh puggree around it. On Friday 10 November 1871, on the 236th day of his expedition, after having departed from Bagamoyo, on the coast, Stanley ordered the flag unfurled. With Asmani leading with the American flag, Stanley ordered guns fired to announce their arrival. Susi and Shumah, the faithful servants of Livingstone, met them on the path and ran back to inform Dr. Livingstone that a white man with a strange flag was coming to see them.
“Dr. Livingstone, I Presume?”
As the only two white men in all of Equatorial Africa, from the Zambezi to the Nile, met, Stanley walked deliberately towards the older man, took off his hat and said: “Dr. Livingstone, I presume?” “Yes,” replied Livingstone with a smile. He lifted his cap slightly, and then Stanley shook hands declaring: “I thank God, Doctor that I have been permitted to see you.” Livingstone replied: “I feel thankful that I’m here to welcome you.”
Catching up on News
Stanley offered Livingstone a packet of letters from his family and friends at home, expecting him to read them immediately. However, Dr. Livingstone put them to one side and said: “As I have waited years for letters, I have been taught patience. I can surely afford to wait a few hours longer. Now, tell me the general news: how is the world getting along?” Stanley gave him an update on the opening of the Suez Canal. General Grant was now President of the United States. The Pacific railroad across the continent of America had been completed. The Spanish Revolution had driven Queen Isabella from the throne. Prussia had defeated Denmark and France in war. The first transatlantic cable had been laid, permitting immediate communication between North America and Europe.
A Most Opportune Time
From his side, Dr. Livingstone reported that Henry Morton Stanley had arrived at a most opportune time. Arab slavers had robbed him of all his supplies. Livingstone was desperate, sick and destitute. The friendship which began so formerly grew and deepened over the next four months where they were in daily contact.
Stanley later reported that he was surprised and captivated by the courtesy, dignity, patience and high morals of Dr. David Livingstone. Writing of Livingstone later in life, Stanley noted: “Lowly of spirit, meek in speech, merciful of heart, pure in mind and peaceful in act… during health or sickness… he was, consistently noble, upright, pious and manly, in all the days of my companionship with him.” Livingstone’s patience and perseverance impressed Stanley the most.
A Firm Resolve
Stanley felt convicted of the fact that up until then he had tended to solve his problems by running away from them. However, this time, he had succeeded in facing his difficulties boldly and overcoming them. Stanley determined to never again run away from anything.
Exploring Lake Tanganyika
Together Livingstone and Stanley undertook an expedition by boat around Lake Tanganyika. Finally when Stanley had to return, Livingstone entrusted him with a box filled with his letters, diaries, scientific and geographical research, and many other papers. On 14 March 1872, they parted.
After resupplying Livingstone with all the trading goods he could need, Stanley’s column had much less to transport back to the coast. They marched in rain, trudged in mud up to their knees, crossed innumerable rivers and streams, and finally on 6 May, only 54 days after leaving Tabora, they reached Bagamoyo on the coast. Stanley had walked 2,250 miles in 411 days. 20 members of the expedition had died during this epic journey. At the coast Stanley met Lt. William Hen of the Royal Navy, leading the Livingstone Search and Relief Expedition, sent out by the Royal Geographic Society. This expedition was abandoned before it even began.
Praise and Criticism
Stanley was completely unprepared for the responses he would receive in Europe. The Paris Geographical Society condemned him as an imposter, but many French newspapers hailed his achievement in extravagant terms, comparing it to Napoleon’s march through the Alps! The people in England responded to Stanley’s exploits with intense interest and excitement. The Standard and the Spectator expressed suspicions and misgivings over the genuine-ness of his report. Some claimed that Stanley had not even been to Africa at all! Sensational stories and speculations abounded. The sudden fame, unexpected suspicions and vicious attacks upon his character, and unfair criticism of David Livingstone, disillusioned Stanley and made him want to recoil from society even more. Stanley wrote that his belief: “that toil, generosity, devotion to duty and righteous living would receive recognition at the hands of my fellow creatures…” was “shattered”.
Honours and Awards
However when Livingstone’s family confirmed beyond question the authenticity of the letters and papers which Stanley had brought back, all charges of forgery were withdrawn and the Times, the Daily News, the Daily Telegraph and Punch declared Stanley a true hero. Lord Granville, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, presented Stanley with a gold box with five dozen diamonds as a gift from her Majesty Queen Victoria “In recognition of the prudence and zeal displayed by him in opening communication with Dr. Livingstone.” He was later received by Queen Victoria. He was also honoured by the Royal Geographic Society, presented with the Victoria Medal, and offered public apology for their earlier conduct towards him.
In Scotland, Stanley was awarded another medal and made an honorary citizen. The completion and publication of Stanley’s book: How I Found Livingstone in Central Africa, was achieved only three months after his arrival in Europe. It became an instant bestseller. Stanley began to receive a flood of letters from strangers, relatives and acquaintances from his early years, who were suddenly affectionate towards this orphan whom they had once spurned.
Fame and Jealousy
Sailing into New York, Stanley was received with great fanfare and warm welcome by the entire staff of the Herald. The only person missing from the welcome was the proprietor, James Gordon Bennett, Jr., the one who had actually sent Stanley to Africa. His reporter’s fame provoked a deep displeasure which developed into jealousy and later hatred as Stanley returned from other expeditions and achieved even greater exploits. Bennett’s hatred lasted as long as Stanley lived.
Tour of America
Receptions, banquets, cheers and applause resounded throughout Stanley’s triumphal procession through the United States. Dr. Livingstone’s elder brother, John, came to New York, to thank Stanley personally for what he had done for his brother. Author Mark Twain praised Stanley extravagantly, even comparing him to Christopher Columbus.
War in Spain
When Bennett sent Stanley to cover the war in Spain he found it a welcome relief from the round of banquets, lectures, receptions, honours, controversy and criticisms, which had come at him relentlessly since his return from Africa.
The Ashantee Campaign
Then England embarked on another military expedition to Africa, this time to punish the Ashantees who had massacred 600 British citizens. Major General Sir Garnet Wolsely was in command of this expedition to what is today, Ghana. The year was 1873 and Stanley wrote: “The people are as barbarous, untutored and superstitious, as wild in appearance, as naked in body, as filthy in their habits as any tribe of savages I have ever seen.” Stanley described the grisly march, encountering human sacrifices and severed heads on poles in every village they passed through.
At Coomassie, Stanley located the killing fields of King Coffee of the Ashantee, a sacred grove where prisoners and slaves had been sacrificed. The terrible stench of decomposing corpses was overwhelming. Thirty, or more, decapitated bodies in the last stages of decomposition were immediately visible. Skulls were piled high and Stanley calculated that the grove contained the skulls of over 120,000 people.
Commendation from General Wolsely
The British army fought three battles against the Ashantee, but while nothing in Stanley’s account of the expedition indicates that he took any personal share in the fighting, Lord Wolsely’s Memoirs described Henry Stanley: “A thoroughly good man, no noise, no danger ruffled his nerve, and he looked as cool and self-possessed as if he had been at target practice. Time after time, as I turned in his direction, I saw him go down to a kneeling positing to steady his rifle as he applied the most daring of the enemy with a never failing aim… the close shut lips and determined expression of his manly face… told plainly… no danger could appal… the cool unflinching manliness (gave) fresh courage. I’d been previously somewhat prejudiced against him, but all such feelings were slain and buried at Amoaful, ever since I have been proud to reckon him among the bravest of my brave comrades.” Stanley published his account of the British Military Campaigns in Abyssinia and Ashantee under the title: Coomassie and Magdala.
The Death of David Livingstone
It was while returning from the Ashantee war that Stanley heard of the death of Dr. David Livingstone. He wrote: “Dear Livingstone! Another sacrifice for Africa! His Mission, however, must not be allowed to cease; others must go forward and fill the gap. …may I be selected to succeed him in opening up Africa to the light of Christianity… may Livingstone’s God be with me… may God direct me as He wills. I can only vow to be obedient, and not to slacken.”
Dedication to Livingstone’s Mission
Stanley saw Africa as a challenge, Livingstone as his example and inspiration. Stanley dedicated his life to serving Africa by developing Christianity and civilisation throughout its vast and unexplored interior. On 18 April 1874, Henry Morton Stanley was one of the pallbearers for the funeral of Dr. David Livingstone at Westminster Abbey. Stanley was given the foremost position on the right. Shortly after that the Daily Telegraph of London and the New York Herald united to fund an expedition to Central Africa under the leadership of Henry Stanley: “To complete the work left unfinished by the lamentable death of Dr. Livingstone; to solve, if possible, the remaining problems of the geography of Central Africa; and to investigate and report upon the haunts of the slave traders…”