Open Library logo
New Feature: You can now embed Open Library books on your website!   Learn More
Last edited by Jacquie V Noland
March 19, 2015 | History

Loss of the American brig Commerce 1 edition

Cover of: Loss of the American brig Commerce | Riley, James
Read eBook

Download Options

Prefer the physical book? Check nearby libraries with:

Buy this book

Add an ISBN in order to
link to booksellers

About the Book

About the Author: James Riley (1777, Middletown, Conn. – 1840 at sea) was the Captain of the United States merchant ship Commerce. Riley led his crew through the Sahara Desert, after they were shipwrecked off the coast of Moroccan Western Sahara in August 1815, and wrote a memoir about their ordeal. This true story describes how they came to be shipwrecked and their travails in the Sahara Desert. The book, published in 1817 and originally titled Authentic Narrative of the Loss of the American Brig 'Commerce' by the "Late Master and Supercargo" James Riley, is modernly republished as Sufferings in Africa.The book struck the nineteenth century reader because it was a startling switch on the then-usual master-slave relationship, which was white owners and black slaves.

Lost in this unknown world, Captain Riley felt responsible for his crew and their safety. He told of the events leading to their capture by marauding Sahrawi natives who kept them as slaves. Horribly mistreated, they were beaten, sun-burnt, starved, and forced to drink their own and camel urine. A slave would be worked until close to death and then either traded or killed.

Once back on shore, Riley devoted himself to anti-slavery work but eventually returned to a life at sea, where he died of sickness in his sixties. The lives of his crew were foreshortened, no doubt, from complications caused by their hardships in the African desert. The last surviving crewman was the cabin boy, who lived to be 82.

In 1851, G. Brewster published the Sequel to Riley's Narrative: Being a Sketch of Interesting Incidents in the Life, Voyages and Travels of Capt. James Riley, from the Period of His Return to His Native Land, After His Shipwreck, Captivity and Sufferings Among the Arabs of the Desert, as Related in His Narrative, Until His Death.

Captain James Riley's story has served as the basis for several relatively recent published books: "Skeletons on the Zahara: A True Story of Survival" by
Dean King, published in 2004; and "Sufferings in Africa: The Incredible True Story of a Shipwreck, Enslavement, and Survival on the Sahara" published in 2007.

There is only 1 edition record, so we'll show it here...  •  Add edition?

Loss of the American brig Commerce
wrecked on the western coast of Africa, in the month of August, 1815. With an account of Tombuctoo, and of the hitherto undiscovered great city of Wassanah.
By James Riley.

Published 1817 by J. Murray in London .
Written in English.

Edition Notes

Edited by Anthony Bleecker.


Library of Congress
DT189 .R5 1817

The Physical Object

xvi, 618 p.
Number of pages

ID Numbers

Open Library
Internet Archive
LC Control Number


Download catalog record: RDF / JSON
March 19, 2015 Edited by Jacquie V Noland Added description.
December 6, 2010 Edited by Open Library Bot Added subjects from MARC records.
May 6, 2010 Edited by EdwardBot add Accessible book tag
April 28, 2010 Edited by Open Library Bot Linked existing covers to the work.
December 10, 2009 Created by WorkBot add works page