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The Sail Ship Wanderer- an Interesting Story

The Wanderer was a schooner-rigged yacht built in 1857 on Long Island, New York.  She was a beautifully sleek sailing vessel that was built for speed, under full canvas 20 knots.  She flew the pennant of the New York Yacht Club on her first cruise down the Atlantic to Charleston; Brunswick, Georgia; Key West, Florida and New Orleans and return.

Her lines were so striking and her speed so obvious that she was suspected of being intended for the slave trade.  Being that the African slave trade had been made illegal in the US by the Slave Trade Act of 1794 it is interesting to note that there were concerns about this vessel in 1857.  I guess some people never get the memo!!  The original owner sold her to Charleston businessman William C. Corrie who made some modifications to her including the installation of fresh water tanks holding 15,000 gallons.  She was siezed in New york on suspicion of being fitted out as a slaver but released.  Sailing to Charleston the suspected outfitting was in fact completed.  Sailing to Angola she took on a cargo of 487 Africans and upon return to Jekyll Island, Georgia disembarked 409 on November 28, 1858.  This was the last documented cargo of Africans to the United States and the in-voyage loss was not unusual.

Wanderer was impounded at Key West during the bombardment of Ft Sumter and confiscated by the US Navy as a supply ship for the blockading squadron carrying, fuel and, yes, fresh water in those large tanks.  She was armed by the US Navy with one 20-pound Parrott Rifle and two 24-pounder Dahlgren howitzers to carry out her blockading mission with the East Gulf Squadron. She captured two Confederate runners, the Annie B. and the sloop Ranger in the spring of 1863. Assigned to a static mission at Key West and refitted as a hospital ship, the USS Wanderer deterioriated and was eventually sold as “unseaworthy”. 

She was lost on 31 January 1871 off Cuba.

I saw a small sign at the Jekyll Island Museum about the Wanderer and looked up much of the above on the internet and I encourage all of you to do the same.   Jekkyl Island became a resort for the very rich from 1888-1942 and was one of the Golden Islands we visited on our recent cruise.   I thought it was an interesting story and I hope you agree.  For much more interesting information see my book, “Collections of A Civil War Trivia Junkie” by John Nischwitz.




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