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The Africa Squadron was a unit of the United States Navy that operated from 1843 to 1861 to suppress the slave trade along the coast of West Africa. However, the term was often ascribed to US Naval Counter Slave Actions during the period leading up to the Civil War.

The squadron was an outgrowth of the 1819 treaty between the United States and the United Kingdom that was an early step in stopping the trade, and further defined 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. The squadron also lacked support from the Navy itself: Secretary of the Navy Abel Parker Upshur (1790–1844) was a Southerner and an extreme supporter of States rights and slavery, and assigned only a handful of ships mounting a total of 80 guns between them.

Matthew Perry was the first commander of the squadron, and based himself in Cape Verde.

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


The Africa Squadron's cruising area eventually ranged from Cape Frio to the south (about 18 degrees south latitude), to Madeira in the north. However, the squadron's supply depot was in Cape Verde Island, approximately 2500 miles from the northern-most centers of the slave trade in the Bight of Biafra and southward. The Navy department did not move the depot location until 1859, when it was set up at St. Paul de Luanda, in present-day Angola, about 8 degrees south latitude. At the same time the department put Madeira out of bounds for the squadron.

The majority 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, as well as the Liberians.

Template:AnchorVessels seized by the Africa Squadron

Africa Squadron

Vessel Captor Date Location
Uncas Template:USS 1 March 1844 Gallinas
Spitfire Template:USS 24 March 1845 Pongas R.
Patuxent Template:USS 27 September 1845 Cape Mount
Merchant Template:USS 12 March 1845 Sierra Leone
Pons Template:USS 30 September 1845 Kabenda
Panther Template:USS 15 December 1845 Kabenda
Robert Wilson Template:USS 15 January 1846 Porto Praya
Malaga Template:USS 13 April 1846 Kabenda
Casket Template:USS 2 August 1846 Kabenda
Chancellor Template:USS 10 April 1847 Cape Palmas
Excellent Template:USS 23 April 1850 Ambriz
Martha Template:USS 6 June 1850 Ambriz
Chatsworth Template:USS 11 September 1850 Ambriz
Advance Template:USS 3 November 1852 Porto Praya
R.P. Brown Template:USS 23 January 1853 Porto Praya
H.N. Gambrill Template:USS 3 November 1853 Kongo
Glamorgan Template:USS 10 March 1854 Kongo
W.G. Lewis Template:USS 6 November 1857 Kongo
Brothers Template:USS 8 September 1858 Mayumba
Julia Dean Template:USS 28 December 1858 Cape Coast Castle
Orion Template:USS 21 April 1859 Kongo
Ardennes Template:USS 27 April 1859 Kongo
Emily Template:USS 21 September 1859 Loango
Delicia Template:USS 21 September 1859 Kabenda
Virginian Template:USS 6 February 1860 Kongo
Falmouth Template:USS 6 May 1860 Porto Praya
Thomas Achorn Template:USS 29 June 1860 Kabenda
Triton Template:USS 16 July1860 Loango
Erie Template:USS 8 August 1860 Kongo
Storm King Template:USS 8 August 1860 Kongo
Cora Template:USS 26 September 1860 Kongo
Bonito Template:USS 10 October 1860 Kongo
Express Template:USS 25 February 1861 Possibly Loango
Template:USS Template:USS 21 April 1861 Kabenda
Triton Template:USS 20 May 1861 Kongo
Falmouth Template:USS 14 June 1862 Kongo

Template:AnchorVessels seized by other squadrons

Brazil Squadron

Vessel Captor Date Location
Porpoise Template:USS 23 January 1845 Rio de Janeiro
Albert Template:USS June 1845 Bahia
Laurens Template:USS 23 January 1848 Rio de Janeiro
A.D. Richardson Template:USS 11 December 1848 Rio de Janeiro
Independence Template:USS 13 December 1848 Rio de Janeiro
Susan Template:USS 6 February 1849 Rio de Janeiro

Home Squadron: Off Cuba

Vessel Captor Date Location
Putnam Template:USS 21 August 1858 Cuba
Cygnet Template:USS 18 November 1859 Cuba
Wildfire Template:USS 26 April 1860 Cuba
William Template:USS 9 May 1860 Cuba
Bogota Template:USS 23 May 1860 Cuba
W.R. Kibby Template:USS 23 July1860 Cuba
Joven Antonio Template:USS 14 August 1860 Cuba
Toccoa Template:USS 20 December 1860 Havana
Mary J. Kimball Template:USS 21 December 1860 Havana

Source: Canney, D.L., "Africa Squadron", Potomac Books, 2006, pp. 233–234

See also


  • Richard Andrew Lobban, Jr. and Peter Karibe Mendy, Historical Dictionary of the Republic of Guinea-Bissau, 3rd ed. (Scarecrow Press, 1997 ISBN 0-8108-3226-7) pp. 66–68

Template:US Squadrons

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