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.