Andrew Battell was an English trader who spent a very long time as a prisoner and conscript in Portuguese West Africa. He made multiple failed escape attempts.
After Battell’s first attempt to escape by stowing away aboard a Dutch ship, he was sentenced to military service. He spent six years in Fort Massangano before making a plan with some of the Portuguese and Egyptian soldiers to desert.
The fifth day, at night, we came to the river Dande, and travelled so far to the eastward that we were right against the Serras, or mountains of Manibangono, which is a lord that warreth against the King of Congo, whither we intended to go. Here we passed the river, and rested half the night. And being two leagues from the river we met with negroes, which asked us whither we travelled. We told them that we were going to Congo. These negroes said that we were in the wrong way, and that they were Masicongos,and would carry us to Bambe,where the Duke of Bambe lay
So we went some three miles east, up into the land, till we perceived that we were in the wrong way, for we travelled by the sun, and would go no further that way, and turned back again to the westward; they stood before us with their bows, arrows and darts, ready to shoot at us. But we, determining to go through them, discharged six muskets together and killed four, which did amaze them, and made them to retire. But they followed us four or five miles, and hurt two of our company with their arrows.
Battell was captured again two days later, and again sentenced to life in military service.
At that time the governor sent four hundred men, that were banished out of Portugal, up into the country of Elambe. Then I was with proclamation through the city banished for ever to the wars, and marched with them to Sowonso, which is a lord that obeyeth the Duke of Bamba; from thence to Samanibansa, and then to Namba Calamba, which is a great lord, who did resist us. But we burnt his town, and then he obeyed us, and brought three thousand warlike negroes to us. From thence [we marched] to Sollancango, a little lord, that fought very desperately with us, but was forced to obey; and then to Combrecaianga, where we remained two years. From this place we gave many assaults and brought many lords to subjection. We were fifteen thousand strong, and marched to the Outeiro, or mountain, of Ingombe. But first we burnt all Ingasia, which was his country, and then we came to the chief town of Ingombe, which is half a day’s journey to go up.
This lord came upon us with more than twenty thousand bows, and spoilt many of our men. But with our shot we made a great spoil among them, whereupon he retired up into the mountain, and sent one of his captains to our general, signifying that the next day he would obey him.
Battell is frustratingly brief in describing this long campaign, especially the battle against the twenty thousand archers. I would like to find another eyewitness for this battle, but I’m not sure it even has a name. The translator notes that “Battell seems to have been among the reinforcements despatched after the disastrous campaign in the spring of 1596. The “General” of Battell was João de Velloria, a Spaniard, who was Capitâo mór do Campo.”
Battell’s Portuguese comrades soon abandoned him as a hostage to the “Jagas”, a predatory warband, but Battell’s skill with the musket won him the respect of the Jaga’s leader.
We entered into the province of Casama, and came to one of the greatest Lords, which was called Langere. He obeyed the great Gaga, and carried us to a Lord called Casoch, which was a great warrior, for he had some seven years before overthrown the Portugals camp, and killed eight hundred Portugals and forty-thousand negroes, that were on the Portugals side. This Lord did stoutly withstand the Gagas, and had the first day a mighty battle, but had not the victory that day. So we made a sconce of trees after their fashion, and remained four months in the wars with them. I was so highly esteemed with the great Gaga, because I killed many negroes with my musket, that I had anything that I desired of him. He would also, when they went out to the wars, give charge to his men over me. By this means I have been often carried away in their arms, and saved my life. Here we were within three days’ journey of Massangano, before mentioned, where the Portugals have a fort: and I sought means, and got to the Portugals again with merchant negroes that came to the camp to buy slaves.