Exposition 1740

Captain: John Bruce

I shipped myself on board a small snow, belonging to the African Company, John Bruce Commander, bound to the river Gambia; about 200 miles up that river we got our cargo, consisting of 190 slaves., whereof upwards of 100 were remarkable stout men, shackled and handcuffed two and two together. They messed, as usual twice a day on deck; at which times we always stood to arms, pointed through the barricdo, as well to deter as suppress an insurrection, if attempted. Notwithstanding this precaution, it so fell out, soon after our leaving the coast, that some of the men slaves privately loosed their manacles, and rose at noon day; and although our people immediately discharged their loaded muskets among them, yet they quickly broke open the barricao door, forced the cutlass from the centry, and after a few minutes contest with our people, cleared the quarter-deck of them, who retreated as they could up the shrouds into the tops. During this confict, I was sitting quite abast, on one of the stern hen-coops, shifting my cloaths; the fight alarmed me exceedingly, so that I knew not what to do, nor where to go; to advance was certain death, and to retreat seemed impossible. In this dilemma I looked over the stern, if haply I might see a rope fit to suspend me there out of their fight; for either they had not yet seen me, or if they had; did not think me worth their notice; however, by this means I saw the cabin windows were open, kind immediately going that way into it, told Captain Bruce, who then extremely ill in bed, that the Negroes had driven the people all alost, and taken the vessel. On this surprising news, the captain got up, weak as he was and went with me to a loaded armchest in the steerage, where also lay one of our men very ill; he likewise took, each of us, a loaded piece, first removing the ladder to prevent the Negroes coming down. By this time they had surrounded the companion, and being supplied with billets of wood out of the hold, by the way of the main deck, they threw them down at us, as opportunity permitted. On the other hand, we three in the steerage fired at them, as often as we could, from loaded pieces taken out of the arm-chest. By this means, often repeated, many soon lay dead about the companion and shoes who happened to be fettered with them, not being able to get away, of course shared the same fate: this at length to intimidated the rest, that they quitted the quarter-deck, which directly mounted,, and being joined by the rest of our company from alost, the Captain ordered us to fire a volley among the ticket of the Negroes, on which the survivors fled and concealed themselves as they could. As soon as this bloody piece of business was over, a no less dreadful scene insured; the Captain having ordered every wounded slaves to be brought on deck, direct the doctor to examine the wounds, and wherever he pronounced a cure improbable, the poor wounded creature was ordered jump the sea, which many of them did with all seeming cheerfulness, and were drowned. . .

On my next voyage to the coast of Africa was from the West Indies, in 1757, on board a brig I then commanded, to the river Gambia, and from thence to Goree, De Loss Islands, Sierraleon, &c. On my return, I was particularly careful to treat the slaves with all possible tenderness, as well from such a propensity in myself. One night, when at sea, an attempt was made by some of the men slaves to get their irons off; being informed of it, I ordered an officer down to examine them. . .

Source: Some Historical Account of Guinea, it Situation, Produce, and the General
Disposition of its Inhabitants with an Inquiry into the Rise and Progress of the Slave trade, In
Nature, and Lamentable effect, by Anthony Benezet. London, 1788.