Looking for an excerpt about throwing rocks at people with guns
November 30, 2018 10:44 AM   Subscribe

I read a short review of Skeletons on the Zahara once. The review excerpted a scene in which a British man/men was riding a camel, with a muzzle loading rifle, and was surrounded by an angry local tribe. The tribe picked up rocks and threw them at the men. The men fired their rifles, killing some of the tribe members. Then, as the British reloaded, the tribesmen threw more rocks, killing them all. I've even purchased the book and can't find this. Did this happen in some other book about British adventurers trekking across the desert?
posted by mecran01 to Human Relations (3 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Sorry, no British adventurers:

"Skeletons on the Zahara: A True Story of Survival is a 2004 nonfiction book written by maritime historian Dean King. It is based on two of the survivors' journals, primarily Captain James Riley's memoir Sufferings in Africa."

In 1815, American sailors are shipwrecked of the coast of Western Sahara, and are enslaved; in the early 2000s, an American journalist retraces their steps. The other survivor's account is "A Journal: Comprising an Account of the Loss of the Brig Commerce," by Archibald Robbins.

On slashdot, in 2004, Neal Stephenson recounts:
...I am reminded of a history book I read recently entitled "Skeletons on the Zahara" by Dean King. It is about some American sailors who get shipwrecked on the Atlantic Coast of Africa and go through hell. Eventually most of them make it back to freedom with the help of some Arab traders based in Morocco. These traders range across the Sahara on incredibly arduous journeys. They are just about the toughest and meanest hombres you can possibly imagine. They've been through all kinds of fights and ambushes, plagues of locusts, sandstorms, etc. and come out on top. Because of their success they have acquired camels, horses, and weapons: not only swords and daggers but rifles and shotguns too. After having rescued the Americans, these guys go out on another journey in the desert, and find themselves surrounded by a few dozen people who are wretched even by the standards of the Sahara: no animals, little in the way of clothing, and no weapons except for bags containing stones. A fight breaks out. The traders discharge their weapons and kill everyone they shoot at: maybe half a dozen. Then before they can reload they are all killed by flying stones.
Bolding mine. So, if you're not seeing a similar anecdote in the book "Skeletons on the Zahara," maybe it appears in the source material? On that wikipedia page for Sufferings in Africa: Seti Hamet, his former master, promised to return to the desert to look for Riley's missing crew members.... Riley heard of two Arabs who were stoned to death out in the desert by marauders. He was convinced they were his former master, trying to keep his word, together with his brother.

Sufferings in Africa is available online at Google books. (I did a quick skim, but only found a story about Riley himself, along with traders and company, running into stone-throwing, would-be robbers; pgs 164-166.)

Final idea - "Sequel to Riley's Narrative," published after the captain's death, might contain the scene you describe.
posted by Iris Gambol at 5:46 PM on November 30, 2018 [2 favorites]

For some reason, Iris' Google Books search for "stone" doesn't turn this up, but searching for "stones" does. Page 452, in the Postscript (which is not included in the archive.org copy):
Porter further states that on the third day after they went down from the desart about the middle of the day they fell in with a company of about fifty men who looked like Arabs: they came running on foot like the wind before his company and stopped their camels that his master and company were ready to defend themselves in a moment; they sprang from their camels and ran forward to meet the assailants, who were not armed either with muskets or swords but had each a leathern bag in his left hand supported by a kind of belt over his right shoulder and neck. These robbers insisted on Porter's master giving up his slave and goods without fighting but he would not consent and all his party fired their guns as quick as possible among the robbers, several of whom fell at the first fire; but at that instant the robbers began to throw stones from their bags as large as a man's fist with such force and precision, and in such quick succession, that in the space of one minute his master and his whole company lay sprawling on the ground, killed, and literally knocked to pieces with those stones.
Like, searching for "stone" does return some results with "stones", and searching for "stones" returns one result with "stone", chosen seemingly at random. It bugs me.
posted by serathen at 8:43 PM on November 30, 2018 [2 favorites]

Excellent research, thank you very much. I want to invoke this in the hockey puck debate.
posted by mecran01 at 1:51 PM on December 1, 2018

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