Clapperton, Hugh (DNB00)
|←Clapham, Samuel||Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 10
CLAPPERTON, HUGH (1788–1827), African explorer, born at Annan, Dumfriesshire, in 1788, was son of George Clapperton, a surgeon, who by his two wives had twenty-one children. Hugh was the youngest son by the first wife, daughter of John Johnstone. He had little schooling, but learnt something of navigation under Bryce Downie. At thirteen he was apprenticed as a cabin boy in a ship trading between Liverpool and America. He showed his spirit by remsing to black the captain's shoes. He was charge a with a petty act of smuggling at Liverpool, and sent on board the tender, which carried him to Plymouth, when he was made cook's mate. In 1806 he was in the Rennomée frigate at Gibraltar. He escaped by swimming and joined a privateer; but after some adventures he was taken as a deserter by his old captain. Sir Thomas Livingstone. He was forgiven on promising not to desert, and having some private interest was made a midshipman, and saw some hard service on the coast of Spain. In 1808 he volunteered into the Clorinde frigate, and joined her in the East Indies. At the storming of Port Louis, Isle of France, in November 1810, under Admiral Bertie, he was the first in the breach and hauled down the French colours. He remained in the East till 1813. Clapperton was one of the select midshipmen appointed to learn the sword exercise from Angelo, and was made drill-master on the Asia, 74, Cochrane*s flagship, then at Spithead. Volunteering for the lakes of Canada, he sailed to Bermuda January 1814. He was full of fun, skilled in painting for private theatricals, and had become a general favourite on the Asia when he reached Canada. Sir Edward Owen promoted him to the rank of lieutenant, and afterwards commander of the Confiance schooner. He succeeded in bringing a disorderly crew under discipline without severity. He did some duty on the coast of Labrador, and once was cast away in a longboat. An heroic attempt to save the life or a boy on a long journey across the ice cost him the practical loss of one hand. He hunted in the woods with the Indians, adopted the Huron badge, and was near to marrying one of their princesses. He thought of resigning his commission, which had not been confirmed by the board of admiralty. This was afterwards done in 1816, with honourable mention of his abilities.
In 1817 the British flotilla on the lakes was dismantled. Clapperton returned to England to be placed on half-pay, and settled in his grandfather's old burgh of Lochmaben. In 1820 he went to Edinburgh, and became acquainted with a young Scotchman (Walter Oudney) whohad just taken hisM.D. degree at the university. Oudney turned Clapperton's thoughts to African discovery. Lord Bathurst, then colonial secretary, appointed Oudney consul of Bornu, and employed Clapperton to accompany him in a journey to Central Africa. Major Dixon Denham [q. v.] volunteered to accompany the travellers from Tripoli to Timbuctoo. Proceeding south from the Mediterranean early in 1822 the travellers reached Murzuk, and by way of Musfeia and Zangalia arrived at Euka in the kingdom of Bornu, on the west of Lake Tchad. Thence after great sufiering they reached Sokota. They failed to ascertain the source and termination of the Niger, but determined the positions of the kingdoms of Mandara, Bornu, and Houssa, and their chief towns ; while Denham, after some other movements, explored Lake Tchad. Clapperton and Oudney journeyed westward to tne Niger. At Murmur in January 1824 Oudney died and was buried by his friend. Clapperton proceeded alone to Kano, capital of Houssa, and to Sokota, the extreme point of the expedition in that direction. Although but five days' journey from the Niger, he was not allowed by the sultan to proceed westward. On 4 May he started on his return, was rejoined by Denham at Kuka, and reached Tripoli in January 1825, and England on 1 June. Denham published an account of their expedition in 1826 as 'Narrative of Travels and Discoveries in Northern and Central Africa in the years 1822, 1823, and 1824, by Major Denham, Captain Clapperton, and the late Dr. Oudney.' Clapperton's contribution to the work is written in a plain, manly, and unaffected style, and is chiefly upon his excursion from Kuka to Sokota, a large city of the kingdom of Houssa. In June l825 he was raised to the rank of commander, and requested by Lord Bathurst to conduct a second expedition, along with Captain Pearce, R.N., Mr. Dickson, a surgeon, and Dr. Morrison, a navy surgeon and naturalist. Clapperton engaged Richard Lander as his confidential servant. The expedition started overland from Badagry in the Bight of Benin, commencing on 7 Dec. Dickson left them and was afterwards killed. Clapperton was seized with fever and ague 10 Dec, Pearce died on the 27th, Morrison on the 28th. Lander, seized with dysentery on the 14th, was carried by Clapperton, who had recovered, across the streams he was unable to swim. The natives treated them very kindly, and Clapperton, Lander, and an English merchant, Houtson, reached Katunga, the capital of Yomba, 15 Jan. 1826. Soon afterwards they crossed the Quorra ^or Niger) at Boussa, where Mungo Park had died. In July they reached Kano, on the route of Clapperton's first expedition. They next reached Sokota, whence, after recovering health| they hoped to visit Tim- buctoo and revisit Bornu. Civil war, however, was 'between Sultan Bello and the sheikh of Bornu, and the sultan, having inveigled Lander to bring the baggage from Kano to Sokota in November, seized the presents intended for his enemy and refused to let the travellers journey to Bomu. Clapperton's journal now breaks off abruptly in the midst of a conversation as to the best means of returning home. Lander tells us from that time his master never smiled again;he felt so keenly the failure of the enterprise. He gradually broke down and was attacked by dysentery on 12 March 1827. His strength was broken, and he died in a small circular clay hut at Chungary. near Sokota, on 13 April 1827. His body, carried on camelback, was followed to the grave by Lander and five slaves only, and a wooden hut built over it. Lander retumed to England after much difficulty in 1828. In 1830 was published ‘Records of Captain Clapperton's Last Expedition to Africa,' by Richard Lander, with the author's subsequent adventures, London, 2 vols. 8vo.
Clapperton had a noble figure; he was six feet high and broad-chest. Lander gives a curious account of the amorous persecution of his master by the rich widow Zuma at Wau, with the best house in the town and a thousand slaves; she had determined to marry ‘the handsome white man,' and, dressed in scarlet and gold, on a white horse, with bands of barbaric music, followed him from town to town, until Sultan Bello fetched her back, fearing a diminished revenue.
'The Travels and Discoveries . . . in 1822-4' were also published ‘with a Short Account of Clapperton and Landers Second Journey in 1825-7',’ London, 1831. The best edition is the 4to one of 1829, ‘Journal of a Recent Expedition . . . to which is added the Journal of Richard Lander,' &c. This work has fine plates, with Clapperton's portrait, painted by Manton and engraved by Lupton. The Travels' will also be found in Fernandez Cuesta’s ‘Nuevo Viajero Universal’ (vol. i.), 1859, 8vo; E. Schauenburg’s ‘Reisen in Central Africa' (vol. i.), 1859, 8vo; and in R. Huish’s ‘Book on African Travels generally,' London, 1836, 8vo.
[Clapperton and Lander's Works; Ann. Reg. 1810, p. 263. and 1828, pp. 210, 495; Gent. Mag. 1828, pt. i. p. 568; Nelson`s Memoirs of Oudney, &c. p. 45 ; McDiarmid`s Sketches from Nature, p. 322; and a Short Sketch by his uncle. Lieutenant-colonel Samuel Clapperton, in the 4to edition of the Travels, l829.]