The Boy Travelers - Africa by Thomas W. Knox Boy Travelers-Africa by Thomas W. Knox    

Chapter 14: Arrival at Patiko. Frank's Antelope Hunt.

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Baker's Battle with Slave Dealers - Charge of Egyptian Soldiers

While the party was in camp, waiting for the order to move, the conversation naturally turned on previous experiences of travelers in the same region.

Abdul said the Acholis were generally regarded as a friendly race. They usually treated travelers kindly, and welcomed the peaceable merchant who brought goods to exchange for ivory. They had suffered frequently from the raids of slave dealers, and their occasional hostility to strangers arose from this fact.

They are a credulous people, under ordinary circumstances, and sometimes can be made to believe things that are not to their advantage. For example, at the time of Baker's expedition for suppressing the slave trade the slave dealers managed to convince the Acholis that the real object of Baker was to capture the whole tribe and carry it into captivity. In this way they brought about an alliance between the Acholis and themselves, and made an attack upon Baker, with the intention of destroying his entire force.

"This was the way of it," said Abdul. "The slave dealers had a camp near Patiko, and were pretending to be doing as Baker wished, but all the time they were plotting against him. They had gathered quite a band of natives, and when Baker approached with only his little company of the so-called 'Forty Thieves' they felt confident of destroying them.

"Baker sent one of his officers to demand that Abu Saud, the chief of the slave dealers, should come to him and explain certain things. The chief said he would do nothing of the sort, and sent back an insulting message. Thereupon Baker advanced with his men to within two or three hundred yards of the slavers' camp.

"There he stopped, and sent another messenger, who was insulted, as the other had been. As he left the camp some of the slavers fired several shots in the direction of 'The Forty,' so that there was no doubt of their intentions.
Crossing the Plain

"This was enough. The bugler was ordered to sound the charge, and away went the line of trained soldiers right in the direction of the group of tents that formed the camp. The slave dealers and their allies opened fire upon the column, and it looked for a few moments as if they would all be cut down before reaching the camp.

"Not a man halted or hesitated. They kept straight on, and the battle was over in less time than it would take you to write the story I am telling. The soldiers burned the huts, and made complete work before they stopped; they captured three hundred cattle and all the goods belonging to the camp, and released half as many slaves. Not a soldier of the forty was killed, and only seven of them were wounded.

"One of the first shots fired at the slave dealers was by Baker himself; it was aimed at one of the hostile chiefs, Wat-el-Mek, and the bullet cut off one of the fellow's fingers, and destroyed the gun he had in his hands. He was taken prisoner, and brought into camp.

"Wat-el-Mek declared that he had only acted under the orders of Abu Saud, and supposed he was doing right. He carried a great many charms about him, and believed they were certain to protect him from harm. He had been in a hundred fights before, and never received so much as a scratch. His superstitious nature led him to believe that his injury was due directly to Divine interposition, which was the only thing that could have power over his charms and incantations.
Fort Patiko

"The story went about among the officers and soldiers that Baker had determined to cut off the man's finger and smash his rifle, but not to kill him, in order to bring him over to the side of the government and make him useful in future. At any rate, this was the result; he promised to behave properly if allowed to live, and therefore Baker pardoned him, and dressed the wounded hand, so that it healed in a little while. The fellow kept his word, and was always on the side of the government after that.

"Wat-el-Mek immediately set about organizing a small army of natives to cooperate with Baker, and a few days later he captured one of the slave dealers' camps, and seized all the arms and ammunition it contained. In this way he proved of great assistance; and as he was very influential with the natives, he soon had them under control, and the country became peaceful. The slave dealers found they could not cope successfully with the Egyptians, and wisely abandoned the attempt."

Many of the Acholis accompanied the party when it moved from camp, so that the procession was a long one. Where the country was level and open the column extended for nearly a mile, and Frank devoted some of his leisure time to making sketches of the scene. Whenever the bugle was sounded for any purpose the natives in hearing immediately formed a circle for a dance; and during the halts in the middle of the day or in camp in the evening they were perpetually asking for music. The bugler blew himself hoarse in his efforts to supply their demands, and there was a prospect at one time that even the music box would go on a "strike," and refuse to do duty any longer. Happily, it held out, and Frank said it was a fortunate circumstance that the organ was inanimate, and therefore incapable of weariness.

There is a post called Patiko, at the edge of the Acholi country, and Captain Mohammed said they would halt there for a day to rest the men. Frank was not at all disinclined to the slight delay, as it would give him an opportunity to look at the first fort ever built in this part of Africa. He displayed some impatience to get there, and would have gone on in advance of the column, if it had been entirely proper and safe to do so.

Fort Patiko was built by Baker Pacha, as a defense against the natives, and as a menace to the slave dealers. The natives were opposed to its establishment at first, but soon took very kindly to it when they found the Egyptian troops were their friends, and moreover were good customers for the grain and other things they had for sale.
Ground Plan of the Fort

The fort was about five hundred feet square, and consisted of a strong embankment or earthwork on three sides, while the fourth was a high rock, which was rendered inaccessible on its farther side. The powder magazine and storehouses were on this rock, and there was a flagstaff on the summit, so that the Egyptian colors were visible for a long distance. There was a road from each of the three sides of the earthwork, but none from the rock; so that all entrance and exit was through the heavy embankment. On the southern side of the rock there was a strong zeriba, where the cattle were driven at night; and outside the fort in every direction were fields of grain and garden vegetables, which were cultivated by the garrison or by the natives. Every soldier was allowed a small plot of ground for his own use, and the men were encouraged to add to their scanty pay by the promise of good payment for whatever they could raise in their gardens.

The garrison consisted of fifty regular soldiers from Khartoum, and about a hundred irregulars, under the command of a native chief. The former were armed with Remington rifles, while the irregulars were equipped with the ordinary muskets, such as the merchants bring to the country. The irregulars were not considered entirely trustworthy, and therefore it was not advisable to give them anything but inferior weapons. As long as they were faithful, they would be more than a match for twice or thrice their number of the natives that surrounded them, as their muskets could speedily overpower the spears of the latter, and, in the event of a conflict, the Remington rifles would soon make an end of the muskets and the men who held them.

Frank climbed to the top of the rock fort of Patiko, and found that the view from it was singularly striking. The ground away to the south was a level plain, broken here and there by masses of granite similar to the one on which he stood. The nearest of these was almost large enough to entitle it to be called a mountain. A little village was nestled against its base, and between the village and the fort was the pasture, or one of the pastures, of the stock belonging to the garrison. Goats and sheep occupied the nearest portion of the ground, and beyond them were the horned cattle and horses, grazing under the care of their herders, and protected by a guard detailed for that purpose.
View from the Rockfort of Patiko

On the top of the rock there was a platform of considerable extent, its edge forming a natural rampart, which was a perfect defense against any hostile forces and their weapons. Of course, native weapons would be of little consequence against artillery; but there is not the remotest chance of artillery being brought to bear against it, for the simple reason that the natives have nothing of the kind, and no knowledge of the processes of working metals beyond that of smelting iron ore and shaping it into spearheads and the like.

A soldier was on duty on the top of the rock, with instructions to report any approach of caravans, or even of small groups of men, from whatever direction. The arrival of the escort from Gondokoro made quite a sensation among the members of the garrison, and those who received permission came out on the road to meet the newcomers; in fact, everybody had left except the sentinel on the summit and the men who had been detailed to relieve him, and Frank thought, under the circumstances, it would not have been hard work for him to take the fort, with Abdul's assistance, and keep it for his own use. But he wisely considered that he would not know what to do with a fort if he had one. It would be worse than a "white elephant" on his hands, and so he gave the matter no farther thought, and let the stronghold of Patiko remain in Egyptian hands.

Frank ascertained that the fort was 3587 feet above the level of the sea, and about 300 feet higher than the flat country, which began a few miles farther on. Captain Mohammed told him that from that point to the Somerset River the region was sparsely settled, and they would not encounter many natives. There was no reason to fear hostilities, though it was reported at the post that the King of Bunyoro was at war with one of his neighbors, and the difficulties between these native monarchs might possibly make traveling a trifle unsafe.

"The King of Bunyoro," said the captain, "is friendly to nobody; he is hostile to strangers as well as to neighbors, and, while professing friendship, is quite likely to be plotting your ruin. He has been taught several severe lessons, which have made him more respectful, though no friendlier than before.

"Speke and Grant were detained some time in Bunyoro, and were obliged to use considerable strategy to get away when they did. Since their visit a new king is on the throne, but he is unfriendly much like the former one. The old king compelled Speke to give him his watch and chain, and many other things of his personal belongings, in addition to the presents they had brought him as tribute to an African ruler."
Camp Where Speke was Detained

"I remember," said Frank, "reading in Speke's account of his travels how the King of Bunyoro kept demanding one thing after another, and finally asked for the finger rings that Grant was wearing. Everything that was shown to him he asked for it at once, and the only way to silence him was by saying that in their country the king does not beg for things.

"He visited their tents one day, and everything he saw he admired, and what he admired he wanted at once. It made no difference whether an article would be of any use to him or not: he probably reasoned that if it was valuable to the foreigner it must be good, and therefore he coveted it. One of the most mysterious things to him was a pocket compass, as he had been told by his officers that it was a magic horn, by which the foreigner could travel anywhere."

"Yes," replied the captain; "the compass has never ceased to fascinate the people in the interior of Africa; we are careful not to let them know its principles, so it is not at all surprising that they cannot comprehend it.

"Once when I was among the people of the Bahr-el-Azrek I obtained great control over the chief by the use of the compass. I told him I knew how to direct myself in the darkest night or in the thickest forest, and left him to suppose it was done by supernatural aid.

"He disbelieved me; and I then offered to prove the truth of my assertion. I was to go out in the middle of the plain near his village, and there be placed under a canopy and blindfolded. His men might walk me around in a circle, or in any other way, for a quarter of an hour, and then remove the bandage while I was under the canopy in such a way that I could not look out. With a magic stone in my hand I would walk in any direction he indicated, and if I failed I was to forfeit a large amount of cloth and other things that in Africa are equivalent to money.

"All was arranged to suit the ideas of the chief, and he effectually prevented my seeing the sun or getting any other indication of my position. When the bandage was removed I simply looked in my hand, where the pocket compass was partially concealed, and as he asked the direction of the sun I indicated it to him, and also the course I would take to return to the village. He could not understand it; and as I allowed him to believe that I worked by magic he had a great respect for me from that moment."

The expedition left Patiko the second morning after its arrival, and continued on its journey to the south. Frank observed that the country was in many places flat and covered with tall grass, a change that was not at all agreeable after the undulating region through which they had been traveling. Abdul said that in the rainy season these flat areas became marshes, through which it was not at all easy to force one's way. "You have to do a great deal of wading," said he, "and sometimes the feet of the porters and animals of a caravan convert the road into a mass of mud. This was the case when Colonel Long made his journey to Uganda; he frequently fell into mudholes so deep that he was completely covered and plastered from head to foot, and when he went into camp at night there wasn't a dry or clean thread about him."

This region is a favorite hunting ground of the natives, as it contains few inhabitants, and the wild animals that roam over it are allowed to have their own way, except in the season of the chase. Hunting can only be carried on in the dry season, as neither animals nor man can get about when the rains are falling. The country abounds in game, from the largest size downward. Herds of elephants are numerous, though less so than formerly, owing to the persistency of the hunters and the improved methods of killing the huge beasts since the invention of elephant rifles and explosive balls.
N'samma Antelope

An accident to some of the baggage caused a detention of a couple of hours, and Frank improved the opportunity to go on a tramp of a mile or more, in the hope of bagging something in the way of game.

Just as he was ready to turn about to go back to camp he saw a couple of horns above the grass, and, looking closely, traced out the animal to which they belonged. Motioning to Abdul and the gunbearer who accompanied them to keep perfectly quiet, he crept noiselessly forward, and soon obtained a good position for an effective shot.

He fired, and the animal, after giving a single bound in the air, tumbled to the ground. While Frank paused to reload Abdul ran forward and secured the prize.

"It's a N'samma antelope," said he, "one of the finest of the many varieties of antelope in Africa. It is well known to hunters in all the equatorial regions wherever there are wide plains, and is closely allied to the hartebeest, which belongs farther south, but is not uncommon here."

"Yes," responded Frank, "we saw one on the day of the great hunt with the Acholis, and I thought this was the same kind of animal when I spied his horns through the grass."

"The name hartebeest was given to him by the Dutch colonists of the Cape of Good Hope," said Abdul, "and the proper name for it is kaama. In scientific works the hartebeest of South Africa is called the Antilope caama, while that of the central and northern regions is the Antilope bubalis."

Frank was impressed by the scientific knowledge on the part of his dragoman. He had previously found the dragoman intelligent, but this dissertation on natural history was beyond his expectations. He learned, on inquiry, that Abdul had been using his spare time in examining the books in Frank's possession, and his latest achievement had been to read up on the antelope question.

The gunbearer was sent to bring help for transporting the antelope to camp; but he had not gone far when he met half a dozen men, who had been sent out to see if their services were wanted. Captain Mohammed knew the country was full of game, and told the men to start immediately on hearing Frank's shot.

"Keep a sharp lookout for something more than an antelope," said Abdul at starting, repeating the caution as they set out for the return.

"It was not far from here," he continued, "that Sir Samuel Baker had a narrow escape from the jaws of a lioness.
Charge of a Lioness

"He was out with a party of natives, who were driving the prairie with fire, as we did the other day among the Acholis, and had half a dozen of the people near him, armed only with spears.

"While his attention was drawn toward an antelope that was moving in his direction, and promising to give him a good shot, he suddenly discovered a large lioness rising out of the grass within a few yards of the less dangerous animal. She came straight toward his position, and he made ready to fire.

"When she was within forty yards or so he fired, and rolled her over in the grass; but she was up again in a moment, and charged at two of the Africans, who managed to evade her jaws.

"Then he fired again at her, and an officer who was with him did likewise; but all the lead they poured into her sides did not kill her. She lay down in the grass so that she could not be seen. Her loud growling revealed her position, and the natives proposed to go with their spears and stir her up, if Baker would stand by with his guns and shoot on the first opportunity.

"Baker would not consent to this, as it would place the spearmen in great danger, since the lioness would certainly charge upon them the instant a spear was thrown. They sought for the beast, and at length saw a yellowish mass, into which Baker fired a charge of buckshot, intended for small antelopes.

"She sprung out, with a terrific roar, and Baker managed to put in a couple of shots, but without stopping her. Everybody had to run to keep out of her reach, and she again disappeared in the grass. Baker then went in search of her. She was sitting up like a dog, and happened to be looking in a direction opposite to the side on which he approached. He crept to within twelve yards of her before firing, and this shot at close quarters finished the work. She was an unusually large animal, and her fierceness was quite in proportion to her size."

"It was very brave of the natives to offer to go to where she lay in the grass and throw their spears," Frank remarked.

"It certainly was," replied Abdul. "Many Africans are very brave. The Acholis, for example, will attack any animal that comes in their way, and, as they are armed only with spears, they must act at very close quarters to use their weapons. Occasionally they have severe accidents in their hunting excursions, and sometimes when a lion runs into their nets he kills or wounds several of his assailants before he is dispatched or escapes."

They reached the camp without farther incident, and in a little while the men came bringing the meat which was obtained in the morning hunt. The most of the column was already on the road, and it took only a few minutes to divide the quarters of the antelope among the porters and send them to follow the rest. They were instructed to go at once to the place selected for the noonday halt and deliver their burdens to the chief cook. That individual understood his business, and Frank made up his mind for a savory stew when the hour for luncheon should arrive.

During the march an antelope fell to the rifle of the captain, and Frank managed to get a shot at another, but without effect. A herd of elephants was seen to the east of their route, but too far away to render it advisable to pursue them. The wind was blowing from the herd, and not toward it; had it been otherwise the elephants would have taken the alarm almost as soon as the column appeared, and the prospect of reaching them would have been exceedingly doubtful. Like many other wild animals, the elephant can "take the scent" of man at a surprisingly long distance, and when he obtains it he generally loses no time in seeking a place of safety.

    The Boy Travelers - Africa by Thomas W. Knox Boy Travelers-Africa by Thomas W. Knox    

Chapter 14: Arrival at Patiko. Frank's Antelope Hunt.


Study the chapter for one week.

Over the week:

  • Read and/or listen to the chapter.
  • Review the vocabulary terms.
  • Complete the enrichment activities.


Credulous: Excessively ready to believe things; gullible.
Bugler: Someone who plays a bugle, a simple brass instrument consisting of a horn with no valves.
Magazine: An ammunition storehouse.
Storehouse: A building for keeping goods of any kind, especially provisions.
Flagstaff: A pole on which a flag is raised.
Regular Soldier: Permanently organized; being part of a set professional body of troops.
Irregular Soldier: A soldier who is not a member of an official military force and, often, does not follow regular army tactics.
Covet: To desire possession of, often enviously.
Undulate: To move in a wavelike motion.


Activity 1: Narrate the Chapter

  • Narrate the events aloud in your own words.

Activity 2: Study the Chapter Pictures

  • Study the chapter pictures and describe how each relates to the story.

Activity 3: Observe the Modern Equivalent

  • Examine the chapter setting in modern times: See the ruins of Fort Patiko, which remain in Uganda today. The walls are of the grain stores.

Activity 4: Map the Chapter

Find the following on the map of Uganda:

  • Trace the railroad lines through the country.
  • Find the Albert Nile and the Victoria (Vic) Nile.

Activity 5: Map the Chapter on a Globe

  • Repeat the applicable mapwork from Activity 4 on a three-dimensional globe.


  1. 'Korosko.' Wikipedia. n.p.
  2. 'Cataracts of the Nile.' Wikipedia. n.p.
  3. 'Image Showing Fort Patiko by Keitsist (CC BY-SA 3.0).' Wikipedia. n.p.