In 1858 Savannah businessman Charles Lamar, in violation of U.S. law, organized the shipment of hundreds of Africans on the luxury yacht Wanderer to Jekyll Island, Georgia. The four hundred survivors of the Middle Passage were sold into bondage. This was the first successful documented slave landing in the United States in about four decades and shocked a nation already on the path to civil war.
In 1886 the North American Review published excerpts from thirty of Lamar’s letters from the 1850s, reportedly taken from his letter book, which describe his criminal activities. However, the authenticity of the letters was in doubt until very recently. In 2009, researcher Jim Jordan found a cache of private papers belonging to Charles Lamar’s father, stored for decades in an attic in New Jersey. Among the documents was Charles Lamar’s letter book, confirming him as the author.
This book has two parts. The first recounts the flamboyant and reckless life of Lamar himself, including Lamar’s involvement in southern secession, the slave trade, and a plot to overthrow the government of Cuba. A portrait emerges at odds with Lamar’s previous image as a savvy entrepreneur and principled rebel. Instead, we see a man who was often broke and whose volatility sabotaged him at every turn. His involvement in the slave trade was driven more by financial desperation than southern defiance. The second part presents the “Slave-Trader’s Letter-Book.” Together with annotations, these seventy long-lost letters shed light on the lead-up to the Civil War from the remarkable perspective of a troubled, and troubling, figure.
As a history buff and researcher, this title appealed to me right away. I am from the Brunswick/Jekyll Island area and my family has been there since before we were a country.
Lamar is a reckless and troubled man. Having his livelihood pretty much handed to him by his father, he proceeds to run every business he touches into the ground.
The book give the reader quite a bit of information that even I haven’t seen before. These letters are a valuable piece of history not only for Georgia but for the entire country. I would hope that this information would be widely spread in our schools.
I would highly recommend this book to anyone searching for answers about our beginnings and what almost tore our country apart.