The Wanderer (slave ship)
The Wanderer was the last ship to bring slaves from
Africa to the United States.
The importation of slaves to the United States was outlawed in 1808, but the law didn't completely prevent people from profiting from slave trade. The Wanderer was built in 1857, and in 1858 it was outfitted for hauling slaves. The ship was inspected as it was leaving New York, but there was no conclusive evidence that it was to be a slave ship, so it was allowed to pass. It sailed to Africa where 490-600 slaves were loaded on the ship. Many of the slaves died on the six-week journey across the Atlantic Ocean. The Wanderer reached Jekyll Island, Georgia on November 28, 1858 and delivered 460-490 slaves.
A prosecution of the slave traders was launched but the defendants were found not guilty and the laxity in prosecution was a contributing cause to the American Civil War. During the war the ship was seized by Union troops and used for the Naval blockade of the Confederate States of America.
The Wanderer was built in a Long Island shipyard in 1857 as a pleasure craft yacht for Colonel John Johnson. She was built to be one of the most impressive pleasure crafts in the world. This was clearly demonstrated as her simple and streamlined design allowed the ship to achieve speeds of up to 20 knots, making the Wanderer one of the fastest ships of the day. While on a trip to New Orleans, Johnson stopped in Charleston and subsequently sold the Wanderer to William C. Corrie. The Wanderer returned to New York and was being prepared for a long voyage when she was accused of being a slave ship. The ship was inspected and cleared; however, public rumors of being involved in the slave trade were thereafter permanently associated with her name.
Arrival at Jekyll Island
After a six-week voyage across the Atlantic, the Wanderer arrived at Jekyll Island, Georgia around sunset on November 28, 1858. Different reports list the ship arriving with a cargo of 350 to 600 slaves. The tally sheets and passenger records from notebooks of the ship's crew suggest that 487 slaves were loaded in Africa and that 409 of these arrived alive at Jekyll Island. These figures present a slightly higher mortality rate than the estimated average of 12 percent during the illegal trading era.
End of Slave Trade
Upon ending the slave trade in all British colonies in 1808, the British began pressuring other nations to end their slave trades. At the same time, the British began pressuring the African rulers to stop exporting people as slaves. The United States also officially outlawed the slave trade in 1808 but did not actively enforce the law until 1859 when U.S. naval ships joined British patrol ships in the Caribbean.
The arrival of the Wanderer prompted the Buchanan Administration to strengthen the United States' role in anti-slave-trade efforts. In an address to Congress on December 3, 1860, President James Buchanan reported that since the arrival of the Wanderer, carrying its slave cargo, there had been no more African slaves imported into the United States. This conclusion had been reached following the administration's decision to send Benjamin F. Slocumb into the South as a secret agent in late 1859. Slocumb's time traveling throughout southern cities confirmed that the stories of the revived slave trade all were traceable to the Wanderer and that no subsequent ships had arrived carrying slaves.
Distribution of Wanderer Slaves
The slaves who arrived to the United States on the Wanderer gained a mild celebrity status. They were the only group of slaves who came to be frequently identified with the ship that they arrived on. The tendency of newspapers and private correspondence to identify the slaves in this way supports the conclusion that there were no other large-scale importations of African slaves in this period.