In the early morning of May 13, 1862, several enslaved crewmembers of the Confederate steamer CSS Planter boarded the vessel along with their families. Taking advantage of the fact that their white officers had left the ship against regulations, they successfully maneuvered the ship through the Charleston harbor, past Confederate fortifications, and to the Union fleet blockading the city.
The architect of this daring escape to freedom was Robert Smalls, whose leadership and courage would go on to make him important to the Union war effort and, afterwards, one of the most influential Black political leaders of the 19th century.
Written by Paul McAllister. Narration by Dr. Nicholas B. Breyfogle. Video production by Laura Seeger and Dr. Nicholas B. Breyfogle.