From Slavery To The US House of Representatives-Representing South Carolina-He Became A Naval Hero at The Same Time He Freed Himself and His Family in May 1862
Robert Smalls was born a slave in South Carolina. During the Civil War, Smalls steered the CSS Planter, an armed Confederate military transport. On May 12, 1862, the Planter’s three white officers decided to spend the night ashore. About 3 am, Smalls and seven of the eight enslaved crewmen decided to make a run for the Union vessels that formed the blockade, as they had earlier planned. Smalls dressed in the captain’s uniform and had a straw hat similar to that of the white captain. The Planter stopped at a nearby wharf to pick up Smalls’ family and the relatives of other crewmen, then they sailed toward Union lines, with a white sheet as a flag. After the war, he went on to serve in the United States House of Representatives, representing South Carolina. (LOC)
Photo: Library of Congress description: “Robert Smalls, S.C. M.C. Born in Beaufort, SC, April 1839”.