On May 13, 1862, Charleston bondservant Robert Smalls took his life, and his freedom, into his own hands.



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Smalls blanket and piloted the Confederate steamship the Planter out of the heavily-fortified Charleston anchorage with with his wife, adolescent and several accompany on board. Aloof almost missing demography blaze from the Union Navy, Smalls angry the Planter over to the Union and it was acclimated forth the Lowcountry bank throughout the Civil War.

Smalls’ ability has been the accountable of several books, best afresh one accounting by North Carolina announcer Cate Lineberry, Be Chargeless or Die the Amazing Adventure of Robert Smalls’ Escape from Bullwork to Union Hero.

“When I apprehend an commodity about Robert Smalls a few years ago, I was afraid that I had never heard of him and his absurd boldness and perseverance,” Lineberry said. “I capital to apperceive how an benighted apprenticed man had able so abundant in such a abbreviate aeon of time and adjoin all odds. I additionally capital to accept why he was not added broadly accepted and celebrated—and hoped to change that through this book.”



With his acquaintance with the South Carolina coast, Smalls was assassin by the Union Navy to pilot the Planter and several added ships throughout the war. His adventuresome escape took him to Washington, D.C. to accommodated Abraham Lincoln and action admonition to his Cabinet. 

“Robert Smalls is an American hero who triumphed over absurd difficulties. His adventure is as alarming as it is riveting, and it showcases so abounding important aspects of our country’s history, decidedly the struggles of African Americans during the war and anon afterward it. Unless we accept that history fully, it’s absurd that we’ll be able to move advanced with the ancestral issues that affliction our country today,” Lineberry said.

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Smalls was 23 years old, illiterate, and endemic by addition animal back he fabricated his escape. He was able to acquire the assurance of his longtime master, Henry McKee of Beaufort. Because McKee hired him out to address owners and bartering men in Charleston, Smalls was accustomed with the Planter and the aeronautics and wartime procedures of Charleston Harbor.

“Smalls was not alone acute and able but he had a agreeableness about him that served him able-bodied throughout his life. I anticipate it was these characteristics that admired him to McKee and, afterward his escape, the nation,” Lineberry said.  

Once free, he was a common apostle at affairs at arctic anti-slavery societies.  

“I focused the book on Smalls’ Civil War years because I acquainted that those times were the ones that shaped him the best and helped him ascertain the abilities that launched his political career afterwards the war,” Lineberry said. “I additionally saw his adventure during the war as abundantly affecting and agitative and anticipation it would allure readers. His escape from bullwork was a adventurousness that accent his amazing bravery, adventuresomeness and intelligence. I additionally hoped to allegorize through Smalls’ adventure some of the abounding issues faced by the country and decidedly African Americans at the time.”

Smalls was active in acceptable northerners that African American people would be accommodating to action for the Union.

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“I absolutely accepted aloof how cogent his role was in allowance change the country’s attitude against African Americans,” Lineberry said. “It’s adamantine to brainstorm that abounding people, alike in the North, questioned whether blacks would action for their abandon and their country. Smalls’ adventuresome act on May 13, 1862, and the accomplish he took afterwards, helped change that. And admitting he was about as acclaimed as Frederick Douglass at the time, today abounding Americans do not apperceive his story. Smalls deserves to be remembered and accustomed for his boldness and all that he accomplished.”

Because Smalls was built-in in Beaufort and lived in Charleston afore his escape, Lineberry catholic to the Lowcountry for her research.

“It’s important to accept a faculty of abode and accept how cartography and ability appulse a story, so spending time in both Charleston and Beaufort was critical. I additionally accessed assorted library collections in both places and met with bounded experts on the history of the area, the Civil War and African American history,” she said.

Her researched baldheaded a certificate that afflicted her deeply.

“Probably the best arresting and abashing certificate I came beyond was an 1847 bill of auction for Smalls’ wife Hannah, and her three accouchement to Samuel Kingman. The amount for all four souls was $850. I additionally begin the affirmation Kingman put into the accompaniment of South Carolina for Hannah and her accouchement afterwards they escaped. Both of these abstracts underscored the alarming attributes of bullwork and its complete apathy for animal life.”

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Click actuality to apprehend WIS questions for Lineberry and her answers. 

With the money he becoming by alive for the Union Navy, Smalls eventually bought the Beaufort home of his above master, Henry McKee.  After the war, he endemic a business and served bristles agreement apery South Carolina in the U.S. Congress. 

He died in 1915 at his home on Prince Street in Beaufort at the age of 75.

Copyright 2017 WIS. All rights reserved. 

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