The Massacre at Digby
This blood-chilling story is from the diary of Captain Theodore Canot, a European trader in gold, ivory, and African slaves. It’s a first-hand primary source on the nature of the Africans that slave traders brought to North America, who almost invariably had already been enslaved by their fellow Blacks before being sold to the Jews or Europeans who purchased them. As you read about Jen-ken’s brutal assault, think of the Black gang “turf wars” in Chicago, 2017. Then think of a future America in which Whites are no longer a majority.
AT DIGBY, a few miles from Monrovia, there were two towns, governed by cousins who had always lived in harmony. I had lately established a slave factory, stocked with such trade-goods as would tickle the negro taste and guarded by a clever young sailor, in the jurisdiction of the younger cousin. This partiality outraged the elder. His town could boast of neither of merchandise nor a white man; there was no profitable tax to be levied on foreign trade, and, in a very short time, a bitter feud had risen between the two noble kinsmen.
In each town, preparations were made for defence and hostility. Both were stockaded and carefully watched by sentinels, day and night. At times, forays were made into each other’s suburbs, but as the chiefs were equally vigilant and alert, the extent of harm was the occasional capture of women and children, as they wandered to the forest and stream for food and water.
This dalliance did not suit the ardour of my angry favorite. After wasting a couple of months, he purchased the aid of certain bushmen, headed by a notorious scoundrel named Jen-ken, who had acquired renown for his barbarous ferocity throughout the neighborhood. Jen-ken and his chiefs were cannibals, and never trod the war-path without a pledge to return laden with flesh to gorge their households.
Several assaults were made by this savage and his bushmen on the dissatisfied cousin, but as they produced no significant results, the barbarians withdrew to the interior. A truce ensued. Friendly proposals were made by the younger to the elder, and again a couple of months glided by in seeming peace.
Just at this time business called me to Gallinas. On my way thither I looked in at Digby, intending to supply the displeased chieftan with goods and an agent if I found the establishment profitable.
It was sunset when I reached the beach; too late, of course, to land my merchandise, so that I postponed furnishing both places until the morning. As might fairly be expected, there was abundant joy at my advent. The neglected rival was wild with satisfaction at the report that he, too, was favored with a white man. His town immediately became a scene of unbounded merriment. Powder was burnt without stint. Gallons of rum were distributed to both sexes; and dancing, smoking, and carousing continued until long after midnight, when all stole off to maudlin sleep.
About three in the morning, the sudden screams of women and children aroused me from profound torpor. Shrieks were followed by volleys of musketry. Then came a loud tattoo of knocks at my door, and appeals from the negro chief to rise and fly. “The town was besieged — the head-men were on the point of escaping — resistance was vain — they had been betrayed — there were no fighters to defend the stockade!”
I was opening the door to comply with his advice, when my Kroomen, who knew the country’s ways even better than I, dissuaded me from departing, with the confident assurance that our assailants were unquestionably composed of the rival townsfolk, who had only temporarily discharged the bushmen to deceive my entertainer. The Kroos insisted that I had nothing to fear. We might, they said, be seized and even imprisoned; but after a brief detention, the captors would be glad enough to accept our ransom. If we fled, we might be slaughtered by mistake.
I had so much confidence in the sense and fidelity of the band that always accompanied me — partly as boatmen and partly as bodyguard — that I experienced very little personal alarm when I heard the shouts as the savages rushed through the town murdering everyone they encountered. In a few moments our own door was battered down by the barbarians, and Jen-ken, torch in hand, made his appearance, claiming us as prisoners.
We submitted without resistance, for although fully armed, the odds were so great in those ante-revolver days, that we would have been overwhelmed by a single wave of the infuriated crowd. The barbarian chief instantly selected our house as his headquarters, and dispatched his followers to complete their task. Prisoner after prisoner was thrust in. At times the heavy mash of a war club and the cry of strangling women, gave notice that the work of death was not yet ended. The night of horror wore away. The gray dawn crept through our hovel’s bars, and all was still save the groans of wounded captives, and the wailing of women and children.
By degrees, the warriors dropped in around their chieftain. A palaver house, immediately in front of my quarters, was the general rendezvous; and scarcely a bushman appeared without the body of some maimed and bleeding victim. The mangled but living captives were tumbled in a heap on the centre, and soon every avenue to the square was crowded with exulting savages. Rum was brought forth in abundance for the chiefs.
Presently, slowly approaching from a distance, I heard drums, horns, and war-bells. In less than fifteen minutes, a procession of women, whose naked limbs were smeared with chalk and ochre, poured into the palaver house to join the beastly rites. Each of these devils was armed with a knife, and bore in her hand some cannibal trophy. Jen-ken’s wife — a corpulent wench of forty-five dragged along the ground, by a single limb, the slimy corpse of an infant alive from its mother’s womb. As her eyes met those of her husband the two fiends yelled forth a shout of mutual joy, while the lifeless babe was tossed in the air and caught as it descended on the point of a spear. Then came the refreshment, in the shape of rum, powder, and blood, which was quaffed by the brutes till they reeled off, with wrinkled hands, in a wild dance around the pile of victims. As the women leaped and sang, the men applauded and encouraged. Soon, the ring was broken, and with a yell, each woman leaped on the body of a wounded prisoner and commenced the final sacrifice with the mockery of lascivious embraces.
In my wanderings in African forests I have often seen the tiger pounce upon its prey, and, with instinctive thirst, satiate its appetite for blood and abandon the drained corpse! but these African negresses were neither as decent nor as merciful as the beast of the wilderness. Their malignant pleasure seemed to consist in the invention of tortures that would agonize but not slay. There was a devilish spell in the tragic scene that fascinated my eyes to the spot. A slow, lingering, tormenting mutilation was practised on the living, as well as on the dead; and in every instance the brutality of the women exceeded that of the men. They passed from body to body, digging out eyes, wrenching off lips, tearing the ears, and slicing the flesh from the quivering bones; while the queen of the harpies crept among the butchery, gathering the brains from each severed skull as a bonne bouche for the approaching feast.
After the last victim yielded his life, it did not require long to kindle a fire, produce the requisite utensils, and fill the air with the odour of human flesh. Yet, before the various messes were half-boiled, every mouth was tearing the dainty morsels with shouts of joy, denoting the combined satisfaction of revenge and appetite. I now heard a fresh cry of exultation, as a pole was borne into the apartment, on which was impaled the living body of the conquered chieftain’s wife. A hole was quickly dug, the stake planted, and fagots supplied; but before a fire could be kindled to burn her alive, the wretched woman was dead.
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Source: Captain Canot, or Twenty Years of an African Slaver (1854), Chapter XLVII: The Massacre at Digby; transcribed by Chris Rossetti
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