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Hardcover The Wanderer: The Last American Slave Ship and the Conspiracy That Set Its Sails Book

ISBN: 0312343477

ISBN13: 9780312343477

The Wanderer: The Last American Slave Ship and the Conspiracy That Set Its Sails

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Book Overview

On Nov. 28, 1858, a ship called the "Wanderer" slipped silently into a coastal channel and unloaded its cargo of over 400 African slaves onto Jekyll Island, Georgia, thirty eight years after the... This description may be from another edition of this product.

Customer Reviews

5 ratings

Excellent insight into the causes of the Civil War

Let me begin by saying that this is not a book that I would normally have any interest in reading. As a general rule, the topic of slavery is of almost no interest to me, and I tend to avoid the subject due to lack of interest. However, this particular book sounded like it might be interesting, so I decided to read it. Erik Calonius is a career journalist who has had some plum assignments in his journalistic career. The Wanderer is his first book, and he should be very proud of it. The topic got his interest on a visit to Jekyll Island, outside Savannah, Georgia, when he saw an exhibit to the Wanderer. Intrigued, he started looking into it, and decided to tackle a modern telling of the story. The slave trade was made illegal in the United States in 1820. However, some of the Southern firebrands who were pushing for secession also strongly favored reinstating the slave trade. Charles Lamar, a relative of L.Q.C. Lamar and of the second president of the Texas Republic, led the conspiracy. Lamar and his co-conspirators purchased the Wanderer, a magnificent yacht, and took her to Africa to bring back a load of slaves in 1858. His crew managed to evade the British and American naval vessels patrolling the coast of Africa and safely made it back to the United States. Even though their purpose was a very poorly kept secret, Lamar and his co-conspirators managed to evade justice through a combination of corruption and bullying. They made witnesses disappear, tampered with evidence, and made it impossible for the government to convict them of piracy (the crime of importing slaves was designated an act of piracy, and carried the death penalty). In three separate trials in 1859, Lamar and his co-conspirators were all acquitted and escaped justice, in spite of the best efforts of the Buchanan administration to convict and execute them. There was poetic justice: Lamar was killed in action during the Civil War, and the Wanderer, which was seized and sold by the government, ended up in Union service during the war. The book is well-researched and very well-written, which I would expect of a senior journalist of Mr. Calonius' credentials. He has brought a topic which would normally not interest me to life with an engaging writing style that almost reads like a novel. The book does have one of my pet peeves: instead of providing specific end note references, they're lumped together at the end by page, which drives me crazy. If one were interested in further research, or reading the primary sources for oneself, this style of footnoting makes it virtually impossible to do so. I absolutely despise that footnoting style. I suspect that was the publisher's call-and not Mr. Calonius'-so I can't necessarily fault him for it. What I liked best about this book was how it so accurately and amply used the microcosm of this single incident to demonstrate how the agenda of the fire eaters directly caused the Civil War, and how they paid the ultimate price for their ca

A Forgotten Step Toward the Civil War

Though it is obvious to us that slavery is unfair and immoral, it was, of course, not obvious to those who had practiced it as a tradition. Changing away from slavery in America was not done all at once, but involved various steps away from the practice. One of these steps was that in 1820 the federal government made illegal the importation of slaves from Africa. Slavery continued, but only from the stock already present (and exports of slaves continued to other places, notably to Cuba). But why should Southern slave owners pay any attention to federal rules? Indeed, as animosity towards the North grew, the prospect of flouting the law had attractions of rebellion as well as financial gain. There were successful but illegal imports, and the last one known was in 1858, on the ship the _Wanderer_. It is an almost forgotten episode, but Erik Calonius, a journalist, has brought back its history in _The Wanderer: The Last American Slave Ship and the Conspiracy that Set Its Sails_ (St. Martin's Press). It is an important story, and Calonius has told it vividly, casting light on the slave economy, relations with Britain, and the personalities of the radicals that took the South into war. As the South's economy flagged, some were eager to improve it by resuming the importation of slaves from Africa. Many were "fire-eaters", the name for extremists who not only hated Yankee domination, but fired by horrific images of the anarchy and rape that would inevitably occur after emancipation of slaves, urged that the South boost its pride and maintain its customs, at least partially by celebrating its traditions of slavery. One of their number was Charles Lamar, a wealthy and well-connected Savannah businessman who openly declared his defiance of the Constitution and his intention to import slaves. His unsuccessful attempts to do so led him to become a partner with William C. Corrie, a like-minded South Carolinian, who arranged to buy the _Wanderer_, a swift 114 foot pleasure boat, and thereby gain entry into the prestigious New York Yacht Club. It was covertly fitted to hold hundreds of slaves and taken to Africa, where the captain entertained the officers of British Navy ships which were supposed to be keeping the slave trade down, before taking on his cargo and evading them. Aboard were 487 slaves, packed with the heartless minimum of space allotted to each. Eighty of the slaves died, and the rest made it to Jekyll Island, Georgia, for further profitable dispersion. Charles Lamar was used to getting his way by whatever means. He predicted that he could bring the slaves in and suffer no legal consequences, and he was right. Not only were local officials sympathetic to his cause, Lamar used kidnapping, tampering with evidence, and intimidation of witnesses so that neither he nor anyone else in the case was found guilty of the importation. Lamar thought the success of the endeavor was a blow against the union, and he and his fellow fire-eaters

The Wanderer

A fast paced historical narrative about events in the South leading to the American Civil War. It is not the usual yawn-provoking treatise one might expect on a subject usually glossed over in American History class. Calonius brings to life characters and events of the pre-war South and masterfully weaves the tale of how a handful of dedicated radicals plunged Her into civil war. An excellent read, well worth ones time. John R. Lee

An exceptional history

Calonius' book stands out for a history. Most historians can write fairly well, but what they lack are the skills "a writer" can bring to that same event. This is a beautifully written book full of imagery that fills the reader's mind with those images, of characters that have been fully breathed to life. Even without the pictures which accompany the book we can visualize Charles Lamar, the city of Savannah, the Congo River, the boat Wanderer and its miserable cargo confined in a space that allowed four feet by one foot for each of them. I have an eclectic taste when reading history and have reacted as positively only one time before, that being the reading of Nathaniel Philbrook's "In the Heart of the Sea." Neither Calonius or Philbrook are historians, but what they do have in common is an ability to do meticulous research and weave those documents into a story that can and will appeal to even a casual reader. To those who focus on the Civil War, this St. Martin's Press release will add to their knowledge of the swirl of events that brought this nation closer to the precipice of war.

The Wanderer as preamble to the American Civil War

Despite a lifelong fascination with the Civil War, the Wanderer and the events and characters surrounding her were quite unknown to me. My focus had been up north with those trying to save the Union by a means short of war. Calonius has advanced my perspective and understanding of this period in having introduced me to the Wanderer. A very readable book, with consistant devotion to fact and detail.
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