Between the Confederacy and recognition by Great Britain stood one unlikely Englishman who hated the slave trade. His actions helped determine the fate of a nation.
As the United States threatened to break into civil war, the Southern states found themselves in an impossible position: Their economic survival would require reopening the slave trade, banned in America since 1807, but the future of the Confederacy could not be secured without official recognition from Great Britain, which would never countenance such a move. How, then, could the first be achieved without dooming the possibility of the second? Believing their cotton monopoly would provide sufficient leverage, the Southerners publically declared the slave trade dead, even as rapacious traders quickly landed more and more ships on the American coast.
The unlikely man at the roiling center of this intrigue was Robert Bunch, the ambitious young British consul in Charleston, S.C. As he soured on the self-righteousness of his slave-loving neighbors, Bunch used his unique perch to thwart their plans, sending reams of damning dispatches to the Foreign Office in London and eventually becoming the Crown’s best secret source on the Confederacy—even as he convinced those neighbors that he was one of them.
In this masterfully told story, Christopher Dickey introduces Consul Bunch as a key figure in the pitched battle between those who wished to reopen the floodgates of bondage and misery, and those who wished to dam the tide forever. Featuring a remarkable cast of diplomats, journalists, senators, and spies, Our Man in Charleston captures the intricate, intense relationship between great powers as one stood on the brink of war
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
If you are a dedicated history buff, then you have to add this book to your collection. Whilst other books have mentioned Robert Bunch in passing, Christopher Dickey has spent the time and energy to really go in depth in his research and explore the life and career of this interesting historical figure.
I was particularly impressed with the voice the author used when writing this book. It didn’t feel stuffy and academic as so many of these books come across, but rather conversational, and that made me feel like I was right there, walking in Bunch’s footsteps as he navigated the span prior to and during the Civil War.
The overall research that went into this is apparent from the cited sources as well as the completeness of the information provided. There is a unique angle to this book, as most books including the Civil War come from an American perspective, and this one is looked at through the lens of the British consul who experienced it as it was happening.
The sections that deal with slave trade were difficult to read at times, but also informative and really highlighted the different viewpoints on the issue during the time it was occurring.
This is definitely one you don’t want to miss. Excellent.
This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher, provided through Netgalley. All opinions are my own.