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Wed, 04.20.1859

The Africa Squadron Is Created

The Africa Squadron

*On this date in 1859, The Africa Squadron was created. The Squadron Unit was an outgrowth of the 1819 treaty between the United States and the United Kingdom that was an early step in suppressing the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade.

It was further paralleled by the Webster–Ashburton Treaty of 1842. Although technically coordinated with a British West Africa Squadron based in Sierra Leone, in practice, the American contingent worked on its own. They were a division of the United States Navy to defeat the slave trade along the coast of West Africa leading up to the American Civil War. Matthew Perry was the first commander of the Squadron and based himself in Portuguese Cape Verde.

The Africa Squadron's cruising area eventually ranged from Cape Frio to the south, to Madeira in the north, with their supply depot in the Cape Verde archipelago. Most of the Squadron's cruising in its first decade was along the coast of Western Africa, with particular attention to Liberian interests. By the 1850s, much of the slave trade in this area had been eliminated by the British, based in their colony at Sierra Leone and the Liberians.

The Squadron was generally ineffective, not enough ships, and much of the trading activity had shifted to the Niger River delta area (present-day Nigeria). In the two years of Perry's leadership, only one slave trader was reported to have been captured, and a New Orleans court later acquitted that ship. In the 16 years of squadron operation, only the crews of 19 slave ships went to trial. These slavers were acquitted or only lightly fined. Other commanders, however, were more successful. 

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