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The Wanderer: The Last American Slave Ship…

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

by Erik Calonius

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In 1859 as the nation was on the brink of Civil War a national scandal gripped the nation. A pleasure yacht, The Wanderer, was seized on the American coast and it's owners accused of kidnapping over 400 Africans and shipping them to Georgia for the purpose of enslaving them. The resulting trial caused a sensation, pitting Constitutional law against the South's growing moves towards secession. The history of the Wanderer, from its construction and initial inclusion in the New York Yacht Club, to its eventual use as a slave ship it carefully reconstructed. Also described in much detail are the colorful cast of characters associated with it. Slavers working out of New York, corrupt federal judges and so-called southern gentlemen who were determined to revive the illegal slave trade were all involved.

The Wanderer is a mostly forgotten, but nonetheless, incredibly fascinating sliver of American history. ( )
  queencersei | Jul 28, 2015 |
In 1794, under George Washington's presidency, the first anti-slave act was passed wherein it became illegal for vessels to be equipped within the US, to carry on trade or traffic in slaves to foreign countries. However, it did not prevent slaves being brought into the US on non-US vessels. Further improvements were made on this act until 1820, when not only was it illegal to carry and introduce African slaves into the US on vessels, but individuals working on ships that carried slaves from Africa to the US were now considered pirates, and subject to the death penalty.

Although there were Southern ship owners, after the 1820 act was passed by Congress, who continued to try bringing new slaves into the US from Africa, none were successful after The Wanderer brought the last known cargo of 400 African slaves to Jekyll Island in 1858.

This book doesn't focus only on the horrific slave trade and the conditions they were forced to endure during the sea journey, but the inhuman status they were accorded by 'gentlemen' of the South. The trial of the Wanderer's captain and crew, and the ineffectiveness in the court in bringing the real conspirators to trial highlighted the degree of corruption and power in Savannah held by Charles Lamar and the other 'fire-eaters', a group of pro-slavery individuals.

The trial was the catalyst that Lamar and Leonidas Spratt used to launch plans of disunion. Spratt's fiery speech is captured in full in this book, calling for secession.

For a relatively slim volume, this book packs a punch and provides good researched material into so many fronts, the history of the Lamar family, starting with his father Gazaway Lamar and the Pulaski tragedy, the failed attempts before the group of conspirators' final successful plan with the Wanderer, the Northern pressure on the Southern legal system to mete out the justice they deemed fitting on slave traders, the key individuals involved in this slave trading run, and the secessionists who pushed for disunion.

I wish the author could have provided more research though, on some of the slaves on board the Wanderer. He did allocate the final chapter to a man named Cilucangy, a slave who was renamed Ward Lee, who ultimately became a free man and who gained recognition and some fame in 1908 when an anthropologist from the University of Chicago interviewed him. His family have gone on to include lawyers, teachers and other professionals. ( )
5 vote cameling | Jan 10, 2012 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0312343477, Hardcover)

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 African slave trade had been made illegal. It was the last ship ever to bring a cargo of African slaves to American soil.
       Built in 1856, the Wanderer began life as a luxury racing yacht, flying the pennant of the New York Yacht Club and cited as the successor to the famous yacht America. But within a year of its creation, the Wanderer was secretly converted into a slave ship, and, with the New York Yacht Club pennant still flying above as a diversion, sailed off to Africa. The Wanderer's mission was meant to be more than a slaving venture, however. It was designed by its radical conspirators to defy the federal government and speed the nation's descent into civil war.
       The New York Times first reported the story as a hoax; however, as groups of Africans began to appear in the small towns surrounding Savannah, the story of the Wanderer began to leak out; igniting a fire of protest and debate that made headlines throughout the nation and across the Atlantic.
       As the story shifts between Savannah, Jekyll Island, the Congo River, London, and New York City, the Wanderer's tale is played out in heated Southern courtrooms, the offices of the New York Times, The White House, the slave markets of Africa and some of the most charming homes Southern royalty had to offer.  In a gripping account of the high seas and the high life in New York and Savannah, Erik Calonius brings to light one of the most important and little remembered stories of the Civil War period.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:09:14 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

Describes the history of the Wanderer, a one-time yacht transformed into an illegal ship, including its smuggling expeditions and those involved in smuggling slaves into the South.

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