Our Man in Charleston

Our Man in Charleston

Britain's Secret Agent in the Civil War South

Book - 2015 | First edition
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"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. When Robert Bunch arrived in Charleston to take up the post of British consul in 1853, he was young and full of ambition, but even he couldn't have imagined the incredible role he would play in the history-making events to unfold. In an age when diplomats often were spies, Bunch's job included sending intelligence back to the British government in London. Yet as the United States threatened to erupt into Civil War, Bunch found himself plunged into a double life, settling into an amiable routine with his slavery-loving neighbors on the one hand, while working furiously to thwart their plans to achieve a new Confederacy. As secession and war approached, the Southern states found themselves in an impossible position. They knew that recognition from Great Britain would be essential to the survival of the Confederacy, and also that such recognition was likely to be withheld if the South reopened the Atlantic slave trade. But as Bunch meticulously noted from his perch in Charleston, secession's red-hot epicenter, that trade was growing. And as Southern leaders continued to dissemble publicly about their intentions, Bunch sent dispatch after secret dispatch back to the Foreign Office warning of the truth--that economic survival would force the South to import slaves from Africa in massive numbers. When the gears of war finally began to turn, and Bunch was pressed into service on an actual spy mission to make contact with the Confederate government, he found himself in the middle of a fight between the Union and Britain that threatened, in the boast of Secretary of State William Seward, to 'wrap the world in flames.' 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 on the brink of war"-- Provided by publisher.
"The little-known story of a British diplomat who serves as a spy in South Carolina at the dawn of the Civil War, posing as a friend to slave-owning aristocrats when he was actually telling Britain not to support the Confederacy"-- Provided by publisher.
Publisher: New York : Crown Publishers, [2015]
Edition: First edition
ISBN: 9780307887276
Branch Call Number: B BUNCH Dick
Characteristics: 388 pages : illustrations, map ; 25 cm
Contents: An Englishman of the Americas
Observations on the price of Negroes
First shots
Wicked designs
The reign of error


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Jul 04, 2016

This is a very good book about the diplomatic and political intrigues in Charleston, South Carolina, and the whole South in general in their relationship with the British. The author does an excellent job of providing details of the story of the British Console, and the changes taking place in the South before and in the early parts of the Civil War. This is an excellent book for explaining how the British thought and perceived the South during the American Civil War.

inthestacks Nov 09, 2015

Robert Bunch served as the British Consul in Charleston, SC from 1853 until 1861. He managed to insinuate himself into the ruling class of Charleston society and was treated as a friend and confidante by many of the State’s most ardent pro-slavery secessionists. Despite this, Bunch was as equally opposed to slavery as those who he knew were in favour. He gathered information about secessionists’ activities including the smuggling of African slaves into the South, despite the slave trade being outlawed in 1807. He reported the information he gathered to Lord Lyons, the British minister in Washington and to the government in London. He was so successful at concealing his true motives that William Seward, Lincoln’s Secretary of State, suspected him of being a secessionist and forced the British minister to relieve Bunch of his post and remove his diplomatic credentials. He remained in Charleston, relaying information to his government until 1863, leaving when it seemed imminent that Union forces would take Charleston. In this peripheral slice of Civil War history, author Dickey details how intransigent the South was when it came to slavery, particularly South Carolina, the first state to secede from the union.


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