The Wanderer (Paperback)

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

By Erik Calonius

St. Martin's Griffin, 9780312343484, 320pp.

Publication Date: February 5, 2008

List Price: 23.99*
* Individual store prices may vary.


On Nov. 28, 1858, a ship called the Wanderer slipped silently into a coastal channel and unloaded a cargo of over 400 African slaves onto Jekyll Island, Georgia, fifty 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.

The Wanderer began life as a luxury racing yacht, but within a year was secretly converted into a slave ship, and--using the pennant of the New York Yacht Club as a diversion--sailed off to Africa. More than a slaving venture, her journey defied the federal government and hurried the nation's descent into civil war. The New York Times first reported the story as a hoax; as groups of Africans began to appear in the small towns surrounding Savannah, however, 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 from New York City to Charleston, to the Congo River, Jekyll Island and finally Savannah, the Wanderer's tale is played out in the slave markets of Africa, the offices of the New York Times, heated Southern courtrooms, The White House, 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.

About the Author

ERIK CALONIUS is a former reporter, editor and London-based foreign correspondent for the Wall Street Journal. He served as Miami Bureau Chief for Newsweek. The Wanderer is his first book. He lives in Charleston, SC with his wife and son.

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

“Rich in atmosphere, sprung with surprises, The Wanderer is my favorite kind of history: a voyage into the turbid waters of a past we thought we knew, a past we scarcely could have imagined.” —Hampton Sides, author of Ghost Soldiers and Blood and Thunder

“A spell-binding page turner, opening with a shipwreck and never letting up...Narrative history rarely rises to these heights.” —Eileen Mackevich, Executive Director, Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission

“Seldom is history presented in so exciting and informative a way as in The Wanderer…This is a book that even those weary of Civil War studies will find gripping and profound.” —Bertram Wyatt-Brown, Pulitzer finalist and former president of the Southern Historical Society

“A fast paced narrative... Calonius has a terrific eye for atmospheric details.” —Publishers Weekly

“A compelling and heartrending record of a journey that helped push the nation to the brink of the Civil War.” —The Washington Times

“Historical reporting at its best.” —The Tuscon Citizen

“Calonius brings to life this extraordinary story, from the luxurious yacht club salons and Southern courtrooms to the Congo, in an account that reveals the complicated legacy of slave trading, one that has yet to be sorted out in contemporary America.” —Booklist

“Written in a style more reminiscent of thrillers than history books, the highly accessible text digs deep into the motivations of the Civil War and illuminates some of the darkest corners of our nation's past.” —School Library Journal

“A fascinating and revealing story, told with authority and literary grace.” —John Boles, Professor of History, Rice University, and Editor of the Journal of Southern History

“This is a beautifully written book, full of imagery…I have reacted as positively and enthusiastically only one time before--that being to Nathaniel Philbrick's 'In the Heart of the Sea'.” —Donald Thompson, author, "The Civil War Research Guide."

“The Wanderer is a must-read for anyone interested in the causes of the Civil War.” —Eric Wittenberg,

“Facts and imagination add up to a revealing, well-written account of a virtually little known yet important story of international slave trading--sometimes evil key men involved, the ship, The Wanderer, the backgrounds, and the dialogue all add up to an informative read. Erik Calonius has a bright future as an author.” —Brooks Davis