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The Art of JAMA
August 4, 2015

March Through a Swamp in Pursuit of SlavesJohn Gabriel Stedman

JAMA. 2015;314(5):434-435. doi:10.1001/jama.2014.11895

Captain John Gabriel Stedman (1744-1797) was a professional soldier in the service of the Dutch colony of Suriname who fought to suppress an 18th-century slave rebellion and subsequently published an account of his experiences. March Through a Swamp in Pursuit of Slaves, by the Italian engraver Francesco Bartolozzi (1725-1730 to 1815), is based on a watercolor made by Stedman while on a campaign against the Surinamese rebels. Stedman was born in 1744 in the city of Dendermonde in the Austrian Netherlands. At the age of 16 he was commissioned as a junior officer in the Dutch Republic's Scots Brigade and subsequently advanced to the rank of lieutenant. In 1772 he sailed with 800 troops to Suriname, on the northern coast of South America, to strengthen local forces against organized bands of escaped slaves called Maroons, who were raiding the colony’s sugar plantations to steal weapons, tools, and ammunition and recruit more slaves to their rebellion. To stop the raids, Stedman’s commanding officer, Colonel Louis Fourgeoud, led expeditions of mercenary soldiers into the jungles of Suriname to kill or capture the rebels and destroy their crops and villages. The Maroons could not hope to defeat Fourgeoud in a pitched battle, so they retreated to safe havens where they could ambush pursuing soldiers.

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