Ivory Coast Expedition
Part of the African Slave Trade Patrol

Veterans of the expedition on board USS Saratoga in 1842.
DateJune - December, 1842
 United States Bereby
Commanders and leaders
Matthew C. Perry Ben Crack-O 
50 marines
150 sailors
1 frigate
2 sloops-of-war
1 brigantine

Template:Ivory Coast Expedition

Template:Nineteenth century Atlantic/Mediterranean conflicts involving the United States

The Ivory Coast Expedition was a naval operation in 1842, launched by the United States against the West African Bereby people. After the attacks on the merchant ships Mary Carver and Edward Barley, the American Congress approved the expedition and placed Commodore Matthew C. Perry in command. The expedition was successful in extracting redress by destroying the fortified town of Little Bereby and by killing the chief responsible for the attacks on American shipping.[1]


The expedition to the Ivory Coast began on June 6 of 1842 when Commodore Perry hoisted sail at New York in the twenty-two gun sloop-of-war USS Saratoga. At Porto Grande, in the Cape Verde Islands, Perry later transferred his flag to the thirty-eight gun frigate USS Macedonian, which participated in the operation along with the sixteen-gun sloop USS Decatur and the ten-gun brigantine USS Porpoise. All of the ships, except Porpoise, had a marine detachment aboard. From Cape Verde the Americans headed toward the coast, their mission being to support Liberia, an American protectorate for freedmen, in suppressing the slave trade and [[piracy|piratical] tribes in the region. This meant conducting an investigation of the Mary Carver and Edward Barley incidents. Perry arrived off the Ivory Coast near Sinoe in mid November and his first objective was to gain proof regarding the piracy in that area. Accordingly, the commodore disguised the USS Porpoise as a merchantman and sent her in towards the shore. Almost immediately war-canoes appeared and tried to take contol of the ship but Commander Stellwagen was capable of getting away without firing a shot. Sinoe was selected as a base, partly because the Sinoe tribe was suspected of treachery as well as the Bereby tribe.[2]

It was around this time that the Porpoise left the expedition for duty elsewhere. Early in the morning of November 29, a party of seventy-five marines and sailors landed at Sinoe where Perry had a meeting, or palaver, with Governor Joseph Jenkins Roberts or Liberia and his staff as well as the "twenty kings" to discuss the earlier incidents. During the palaver the African leaders claimed that the American fisherman were the "aggressors" and that the Sinoes attacked in defense of themselves. Either way Commodore Perry ordered that the "Fishmen's town" be burned. Three prisoners were also sent to Monrovia and the landing party then retutned to their ships, taking President Roberts with them. By December 1, the three navy vessels were off Blue Barra where another landing took place to escort Perry for another meeting with African authorities. The party returned later that night after dispersing gifts as a sign of friendship. The shore party made another landing at Setra Koo on December 5 for the meeting with a "principal chief". Again the meeting was successful so Perry sailed for Cape Palmas the same night and anchored off the town of Caval on December 7 where another palaver was held with the African Chief Ben Crack-O who was the overall king of the tribes in the area.[3]

Battle of Little Bereby

A drawing of USS Decatur, circa 1839.

The landing at Caval was a tense one though there was no fighting, Perry stationed sentries at the gates of the royal kraal to help with escape should it be neccessary. Crack-O denied that his people had done anything wrong so he touched his ears and his tounge, with his sword, as a gesture of thruthfulness. President Roberts asked Crack-O if he would attend the "Great Palaver" at Little Bereby and he accepted. Next Perry sailed his squadron for Little Bereby on December 11 and arrived on December 14 and landed his fifty marines and 150 sailors. The meeting was held in a house about fifty yards from the kraal gates, during which President Roberts began discussing with Crack-O the Mary Carver and the Edward Barley affair. It was apparent that the king was not telling the truth so Commodore Perry stepped closer to Crack-O to advise him to stop lying and a scuffle ensued. The chief attempted to drag Perry to his spear but the commodore threw off his attacker who then left the house as fast as he could. But before getting out the door, a marine seargeant opened fire with his musket and hit the king while two others bayoneted him. Simultaneously the native interpreter ran out of the house and skirmishing erupted between the American sentries and some Bereby riflemen.[4]

Now that hostilities had began, Perry ordered his men to burn the town and after carrying out the objective, the expedition was returning to their ships when ambushed by native warriors in the woods. Another skirmish ensued and the marines and sailors charged towards the Africans and routed them. The three American warships also opened fire and helped silence the enemy, a few war-canoes were also captured. When the battle was over, many of the Africans were killed or wounded though the Americans suffered no casualties. Perry then sailed down the coast and the following morning he detected another Bereby settlement. The marines and sailors were again landed that and they destroyed seven villages by burning them and inflicted serious losses upon the natives themselves, without losing any of his men. After this mission the commodore decided that the Bereby people had been punished enough so he ended the expedition and proceeded on with other duties. Chief Crack-O's body was buried at sea and his spear was taken as a prize by Perry, pieces of the Mary Carver and her flag were also found at the kraal, evidence that the Bereby were responsible for the attack.[5]

See Also


  1. ^ Ellsworth, pg. 3-7
  2. ^ Ellsworth, pg. 3-4
  3. ^ Ellsworth, pg. 4-5
  4. ^ Ellsworth, pg. 6
  5. ^ Ellsworth, pg. 7

This article incorporates text from the public domain Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships.