DIXON DENHAM (1786-1828), English traveller in West Central Africa, was born in London on the 1st of January 1786. He was educated at Merchant Taylors' School, and was articled to a solicitor, but joined the army in 1811. First in the 23rd Royal Welsh Fusiliers, and afterwards in the 54th foot, he served in the campaigns in Portugal, Spain, France and Belgium, and received the Waterloo medal. In 1821 he volunteered to join Dr Oudney and Hugh Clapperton, who had been sent by the British government via Tripoli to the central Sudan. He joined the expedition at Murzuk in Fezzan. Finding the promised escort not forthcoming, Denham, whose energy was boundless, started for England to complain of the "duplicity" of the pasha of Tripoli. The pasha, alarmed, sent messengers after him with promises to meet his demands. Denham, who had reached Marseilles, consented to return, the escort was forthcoming, and Murzuk was regained in November 1822. Thence the expedition made its way across the Sahara to Bornu, reached in February 1823. Here Denham, against the wish of Oudney and Clapperton, accompanied a slave-raiding expedition into the Mandara highlands south of Bornu. The raiders were defeated, and Denham barely escaped with his life. When Oudney and Clapperton set out, December 1823, for the Hausa states, Denham remained behind. He explored the western, south and south-eastern shores of Lake Chad, and the lower courses of the rivers Waube, Logone and Shari. In August 1824, Clapperton having returned and Oudney being dead, Bornu was left on the return journey to Tripoli and England. In December 1826 Denham, promoted lieutenant-colonel, sailed for Sierra Leone as superintendent of liberated Africans. In 1828 he was appointed governor of Sierra Leone, but after administering the colony for five weeks died of fever at Freetown on the 8th of May 1828.
See Narrative of Travels and Discoveries in Northern and Central Africa in the years 1822-1824 (London, 1826), the greater part of which is written by Denham; The Story of Africa, vol. i. chap. xiii. (London, 1892), by Dr Robert Brown.
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