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  • June 9, 2017

Robert Smalls’ Famous Capture of CSA Gunboat “Planter.”

Harper’s Weekly, June 14, 1862, with illustrations and account of 22-year-old Smalls’ exploits in leading seven of his crew to seize a Confederate steamer, stop to board family members, impersonate his white commander and steer the vessel – heavily laden with munitions scheduled for delivery – through six southern checkpoints and out of Charleston Harbor toward the Union’s naval blockade which very nearly fired upon them. Robert Smalls (1839-1915), was thereafter awarded command of the now “USS Planter,” and served until 1868.

Later that year, the hero was elected a state representative, and then state senator for Beaufort, SC, until 1875 when elected to U.S. Congress, and despite a Jim Crow legislature, serving until 1887. In 1895, Smalls addressed the SC Constitutional Convention which sought to preclude black suffrage with poll taxes and literacy tests, “Since reconstruction times 53,000 negroes have been killed in the south, and not more than three white men have been convicted … [and] I hope that … we have made as good a Constitution as the one we are doing away with.”

At top are Robert Smalls’ Carte de Visite from 1875, and his Congressional Autograph from Washington, DC, c. 1880.

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