Friday, August 7, 2015

Book Review: "Our Man in Charleston: Britain's Secret Agent in the Civil War South" by Christopher Dickey

This is going to be a short-ish review, because I don’t really know what to say about it.

Right before and during the civil war a man named Robert Bunch was a British man who was serving the British government as a consul in Charleston, South Carolina. Charleston kind of boggles his mind. He has to schmooze with the “upper crust” people of Charleston but he soon gets really irritated by all of their hypocrisies. What drives him really crazy is that so many of them are slave owners and think that they are doing the slaves a favor. Their reasoning is all kinds of insane. Like “hey, without us they wouldn’t even know how to (insert whatever thing they are enslaved to do). We’re teaching them something!” Like I said, madness.

Anyway, so Bunch kept writing letters to his people in England and be like “we need to keep an eye on these Southern people. They’re totally going to start sneaking slaves into this country again.” Apparently there was a time that slavery was allowed in the states, but you weren’t allowed to bring any more Africans into the country. You could already own the people already over here, and their children. (That’s an unsettling sentence to write.) But the reproduction rates of slaves were not keeping up with the demand for more workers in the south and so skeevy types were trying to think of ways and places to sneak boat loads of people into the country.

So eventually this does start happening, though not many boats get from Africa to America and offload their human cargo successfully. One of the most horribly shocking things that I read in this book was the fact that one boat had a 75% fatality rate.

Sometimes Bunch’s people listen to him, sometimes they don’t.

It was too long at 400 pages. It was interesting in parts, but I had a hard time keeping myself interested in the book. I think the epilogue might have been the most interesting part. (There was a guy who had always been really mean to Bunch and he ended up having a cancerous tumor on his face. In the 1800’s you don’t want any kind of cancer, let alone face cancer). I gave the book 2 stars. Meh.
I recieved this book in exchange for an honest review from blogging for books


  1. Interesting time period. Have you seen Amistad? That helped me get my head around the bit of history that allowed slavery but not transportation of enslaved people from Africa. Shades of morality within evil are hard to untangle.

    1. I know almost nothing about this chapter of our history. It's not good!

  2. This sounded like an interesting story to me, so I appreciate you sharing your experience and warning me off! Did you find it too long because you weren't enjoying it or was the topic too specific for the length? I've made the mistake of picking up large books about very narrow topics before and ended up bored myself.

    1. You hit it right on the head, a large book on too narrow of a subject. If it was, 250 pages I probably would have been okay.


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