Robert Smalls and The Planter

150 years ago yesterday, May 13, 1862, around 3:00 am, Beaufort's native son, Robert Smalls, a slave owned by John McKee, planned, executed, and piloted The Planter, a converted cotton steamer, through Confederate lines surrounding Charleston Harbor to the U.S.S. Onward, a federal ship and surrendered the vessel.

Admiral Samuel Francis DuPont was very favorably impressed and wrote the following to U.S. Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles:

"This man, Robert Smalls, is superior to any who has yet come into our lines, intelligent as many of them have been. His information has been most interesting, and portions of it of utmost importance.... I shall continue to employ Robert as a pilot on board The Planter for inland waters."

Read more about Robert Smalls and his exceptional feat in our local history pages. []

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