Friday, July 24, 2015

A Look at Pre-Civil War Charleston from a Different Perspective

The new British Consul, Robert Bunch, was not happy with his placement in Charleston. He hated the weather, detested slavery, found the town provincial, and the people arrogant. He'd been stationed there with the assignment to get a repeal of the Negro Seaman Act. Under this act, British sailors who were Negros were taken off their ship when it was in port and jailed. Britain wanted this law repealed and felt Bunch was the man to do it.

In spite of his dislike of Charleston and it's elite, Bunch had to become not only friendly with them, but a member of their society. He managed this very well, so well in fact that as war approached some in the North distrusted him as a secessionist. His reports to London and Lord Lyons, the ambassador in Washington, were some of the best intelligence they received on the Southern position. However, Bunch was playing a dangerous game,and in the end it almost caught up with him.

This is an excellent book about the Civil War. It is well researched including much of the correspondence from Bunch with the tensions in the South as background. In Bunch's mind and in the mind of Lord Palmerston, Prime Minister, the issue was slavery and the potential reopening of the African slave trade. It is very clear in this book that in fact reopening the slave trade and conquering territory in Central and South America for more land to support their cotton based economy was a major consideration in the minds of many in South Carolina.

I highly recommend this book. Bunch is a fascinating character. Although the book is serious history, the description of his activities makes the book as interesting to read as a novel. If you're a Civil War buff, don't miss this one.


I reviewed the book for Books for Bloggers.