CLAPPERTON, HUGH (1788-1827), Scottish traveller in West-Central Africa, was born in 1788 at Annan, Dumfriesshire, where his father was a surgeon. He gained some knowledge of practical mathematics and navigation, and at thirteen was apprenticed on board a vessel which traded between Liverpool and North America. After having made several voyages across the Atlantic he was impressed for the navy, in which he soon rose to the rank of midshipman. During the Napoleonic wars he saw a good deal of active service, and at the storming of Port Louis, Mauritius, in November 1810, he was first in the breach and hauled down the French flag. In 1814 he went to Canada, was promoted to the rank of lieutenant, and to the command of a schooner on the Canadian lakes. In 1817, when the flotilla on the lakes was dismantled, he returned home on half-pay.
In 1820 Clapperton removed to Edinburgh, where he made the acquaintance of Walter Oudney, M.D., who aroused in him an interest in African travel. Lieut. G.F. Lyon, R.N., having returned from an unsuccessful attempt to reach Bornu from Tripoli, the British government determined on a second expedition to that country. Dr Oudney was appointed by Lord Bathurst, then colonial secretary, to proceed to Bornu as consul with the object of promoting trade, and Clapperton and Major Dixon Denham (q.v.) were added to the party. From Tripoli, early in 1822, they set out southward to Murzuk, and from this point Clapperton and Oudney visited the Ghat oasis. Kuka, the capital of Bornu, was reached in February 1823, and Lake Chad seen for the first time by Europeans. At Bornu the travellers were well received by the sultan; and after remaining in the country till the 14th of December they again set out for the purpose of exploring the course of the Niger. At Murmur, on the road to Kano, Oudney died (January 1824). Clapperton continued his journey alone through Kano to Sokoto, the capital of the Fula empire, where by order of Sultan Bello he was obliged to stop, though the Niger was only five days' journey to the west. Worn out with his travel he returned by way of Zaria and Katsena to Kuka, where he again met Denham. The two travellers then set out for Tripoli, reached on the 26th of January 1825. An account of the travels was published in 1826 under the title of Narrative of Travels and Discoveries in Northern and Central Africa in the years 1822-1824.
Immediately after his return Clapperton was raised to the rank of commander, and sent out with another expedition to Africa, the sultan Bello of Sokoto having professed his eagerness to open up trade with the west coast. Clapperton landed at Badagry in the Bight of Benin, and started overland for the Niger on the 7th of December 1825, having with him his servant Richard Lander (q.v.), Captain Pearce, R.N., and Dr Morrison, navy surgeon and naturalist. Before the month was out Pearce and Morrison were dead of fever. Clapperton continued his journey, and, passing through the Yoruba country, in January 1826 he crossed the Niger at Bussa, the spot where Mungo Park had died twenty years before. In July he arrived at Kano. Thence he went to Sokoto, intending afterwards to go to Bornu. The sultan, however, detained him, and being seized with dysentery he died near Sokoto on the 13th of April 1827.
Clapperton was the first European to make known from personal observation the semi-civilized Hausa countries, which he visited soon after the establishment of the Sokoto empire by the Fula. In 1829 appeared the Journal of a Second Expedition into the Interior of Africa, etc, by the late Commander Clapperton, to which was prefaced a biographical sketch of the explorer by his uncle, Lieut.-colonel S. Clapperton. Lander, who had brought back the journal of his master, also published Records of Captain Clapperton's Last Expedition to Africa . . . with the subsequent Adventures of the Author (2 vols., London, 1830).
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)