Robert Smalls Research Paper THE LIFE

Table of Content


The United States of America was founded on the rules of equality and chance for all. In the 1800 ’ s these rules were non purely adhered to by all and a enormous conflict ensued. That conflict was the United States Civil War in which Northerners, wishing an terminal to bondage, found themselves at war with Southerners, who wanted bondage to stay in topographic point. The Civil War was a struggle that saw the rich and the hapless, the celebrated and the unknown, and the black and the white pitted against each other in mortal combat. During the war, it was non uncommon for person to lift from obscureness to being recognized as a war hero. This research paper discusses the life of one of those persons, a black adult male named Robert Smalls.

This essay could be plagiarized. Get your custom essay
“Dirty Pretty Things” Acts of Desperation: The State of Being Desperate
128 writers

ready to help you now

Get original paper

Without paying upfront

Robert Smalls was born a slave on April 5, 1839, in a slave quarters behind a house at 501 Prince Street, in Beaufort, a coastal town in the Sea Islands of South Carolina. Smalls was known as Small during his early old ages and until shortly after the Civil War. His female parent, Lydia, was a house retainer for her proprietor, John McKee. Although there is great difference as to who his male parent was it is by and large agreed that he was white. ( Miller 7 ) Upon McKee ’ s decease, Smalls and his female parent were inherited by his boy, Henry McKee. Henry McKee, harmonizing to Smalls, was a really kindly adult male toward his slaves. Although he did non promote so, he didn? T sharply forbid his slaves from larning to read and compose. McKee even made an agreement with Smalls that gave Smalls the freedom to obtain employment.

In 1861, McKee sold the Prince Street house and fled the country, fearing it’s business by Union forces. With his mandate to obtain employment in manus, Smalls moved to Charleston and hired out as a labourer, foremost as a server at the Planter hotel, so as a lamplighter for a metropolis contractor, and, eventually, as a loader on the Charleston docks. It was his occupation as a loader that led him to employment with John Simmons, who hired Smalls as a ship rigger in the winter and a coastal

vas crewman in the summer. It was during this employment that Smalls became an expert pilot of boats along the seashores of South Carolina and Georgia.

In 1858, Smalls married Hannah Jones, a slave that was working as a hotel amah. Harmonizing to Smalls, the matrimony was non a bonding as a affair of love on his portion, but as a affair of the family services a married woman would render to him. ( Miller 9 ) A girl, Elizabeth Lydia, was born to the twosome in 1859 and a boy, Robert Jr. , was born in 1861. Smalls made an understanding with his married woman ’ s proprietor to buy his married woman and girl for the amount of $ 800. It is non known whether this or any other understanding included the purchase of his boy. When Smalls had saved about $ 700 toward the purchase, he fled Charleston with his household, holding ne’er made payment toward the understanding.

In 1861, Smalls accepted a occupation as a deck manus aboard the Planter, a cotton soft-shell clam. When the Civil War began, the Planter was pressed into service for the Confederacy. Smalls was shortly promoted to wheelman. His place was really that of pilot, but at the clip Southerners did non delegate this rubric to inkinesss. Smalls, seeking to obtain freedom for himself and his household, began be aftering to steal off with the Planter and turn it over to Union forces. On the eventide of May 12, 1862, the Planter docked in Charleston. District standing orders, at the clip, stipulated that at least one white officer remain aboard the boat at all times to forestall an rebellion of black slaves and sailors. On this peculiar dark, nevertheless, Captain C. J. Relyea and all of his white officers had gone ashore to go to a party. This provided Smalls and his fellow plotters with the chance they had been be aftering for. They rapidly loaded their households who had been waiting in concealing on other vass. At about 3 ante meridiem on May 13th, the Planter got up steam, Smalls hoisted the Palmetto and Confederate flags and headed to the north Atlantic pier to pick up his household and some others. His experiences gained under the employment of John Simmons and in

flying the Planter served him good in voyaging the trade. He successfully navigated down the South Channel, giving the right steam whistling at Fort Johnson and once more at Fort Sumter, past Confederate forces. In a dare move, Smalls really wore Captain Relyea ’ s straw chapeau and stood in apparent position in the pilothouse to increase their opportunities of success. Finally, in the early hours of the forenoon, the Planter and her blowout crew approached the Union war vessel U.S.S. Onward of the obstructing fleet stationed off the Charleston seashore. Smalls surrendered the ship to the Onward ’ s commanding officer, Acting Volunteer Lieutenant J. F. Nickels stating “ Good forenoon, sir! I ’ ve brought you some of the old United States guns, sir! ” ( Miller 1 ) The Planter was considered to be a valuable award as she could transport as many a 1,000 military personnels, and her shoal bill of exchange allowed her to safely voyage most of the coastal Waterss. The actions of Smalls were considered particularly make bolding as the Planter had served as the central offices ship for Brigadier General Roswell S. Ripley, commanding officer of the Second Military District of South Carolina, and Smalls had stolen the ship from right in forepart of Ripley ’ s place office. Smalls had won freedom for himself and his household and his actions won him instant national celebrity.

Smalls was shortly commissioned as a Second Lieutenant, Company B, 33rd Regiment, United States Colored Troops where he served as pilot to the Planter. He was subsequently assigned to the ironclad Keokuk for an onslaught into Charleston Harbor. During the onslaught the Keokuk was struck by over 90 shells and shortly sank. Smalls managed to last and was transferred back to the Planter. In November of 1863, the Planter was under such terrible onslaught that the white captain of the ship wanted to give up. Smalls, nevertheless, fearful of the intervention he knew he would have from Confederate capturers, alternatively urged the artillerymans to go on to conflict the enemy. The captain took screen in the coal bin during the conflict, while the crew fought on under Smalls ’ leading. As a consequence of these events, the captain of record was dismissed, and

Smalls was promoted to the place of Captain.

Smalls ’ epic wartime record, his ability to talk the Gullah idiom of Sea Islanders and the solidly Republican electorate around Beaufort opened the manner for a post-war calling in political relations. Equally early as October 1862, Smalls traveled to New York to derive support for the Port Royal Experiment for settling freed slaves, and he joined a deputation of free inkinesss sent to the Republican convention in June 1864.

Following the Civil War, he was elected a delegate to the 1868 province constitutional convention and, in April, 1868, was elected to the province house of representatives, functioning until 1870. He later was a member of the province senate from 1870 to 1874. His political calling culminated in 1874, with the election to Congress from the Fifth District over Independent campaigner J.P.M. Epping.

Smalls took his place in the Forty-fourth Congress on March 4, 1875, and served on the Agriculture Committee. He succeeded in holding the seaport at Port Royal, South Carolina, designated as the southern rendezvous for the United States Navy. He fought against the transportation of federal military personnels from the South to the Texas frontier, warning that their remotion would promote private reserves groups to take the jurisprudence into their ain custodies and declare unfastened warfare on citizens loyal to the Reconstruction authoritiess. He besides opposed racial favoritism in the armed services.

Smalls won reelection in 1876, over Democrat George D. Tillman. During the run he resisted Democratic efforts to “ deliver ” South Carolina by driving inkinesss from public life. Smalls managed to retain his place despite attempts by Tillman to hold the House overturn the consequences. During the last session of the Forty-fourth Congress in February 1877, Smalls delivered a major reference naming for an “ honest ballot, ” praising the Republican province authorities of South Carolina and deploring attempts to strip inkinesss of their political and economic rights.

After recovering control of the province, Democrats seeking Smalls ’ surrender from Congress gained his strong belief on false charges of holding received a $ 5,000 payoff while in the province senate. Smalls was jailed briefly but pardoned by Democratic governor William D. Simpson, who acted on confidences from the United States territory lawyer that South Carolinians accused of go againsting election Torahs would non be prosecuted. The abolishment of voting precincts in counties with a Republican bulk and the presence of armed Whites that harassed the mostly black audiences at his election meetings doomed Smalls ’ command for reelection in 1878. Although Tillman beat him, he stood for election to the place once more in 1880.

Narrowly defeated, he successfully contested the consequence and was eventually seated in the Forty-seventh Congress on July 19, 1882, and served on the Committee on Agriculture and the Committee on the Militia. In September, Smalls was defeated for the Republican nomination at the Seventh District convention by Edmund W.M. Mackey. When Mackey died in January, 1884, Smalls was elected to make full the vacancy and took his place in the Forty-eighth Congress on March 18, 1884, where he was a member of the Committees on Manufactures and on the Militia. Later that twelvemonth, he was reelected to a full term over William Elliott, and in December was nominated for the United States Senate by black legislators. He lost the Senate nomination to Wade Hampton by a ballot of 3l to 3.

In the Forty-ninth Congress, he served on the Committee on War Claims and tried to procure for South Carolina a full refund of money collected from the province during the war old ages. He supported an amendment to interstate commerce statute law sponsored by Representative James E. O ’ Hara of North Carolina, necessitating equal adjustments for all railway riders irrespective of their colour, and southern statute law vouching integrating of eating topographic points in the District of Columbia. Smalls asked the House to withstand President Cleveland and O.K. a fifty-dollar monthly pension for the widow of General David Hunter, who in 1862 had issued an order liberating slaves in Florida,

Georgia, and South Carolina, and had authorized the elevation of one of the earliest black regiments, the First South Carolina. Smalls besides reaffirmed his party trueness by opposing Democratic-sponsored proposals for civil service reform.

By 1886 President Cleveland, Governor John P. Richardson, Senator Wade Hampton, and First District Congressman Samuel Dibble were determined to unseat Smalls. Aided by their attempts and a weakening in Republican solidarity, Elliott won the election. Once more Smalls took his instance to the House, which declined to unseat Elliott. Smalls remained politically active and joined other black leaders in their vain battle against disfranchisement at the province constitutional convention of 1895.

He besides advised South Carolina inkinesss against fall ining the “ Exodusters ” immigrating to Kansas.

In 1889, President Harrison appointed Smalls aggregator of the port of Beaufort. He held this station

about continuously until the resistance of South Carolina senators Benjamin Tillman ( brother of

George D. Tillman ) and Ellison D. Smith forced him to step down in June 1913. Smalls died in

Beaufort on February 22,1915.

As Robert Smalls is an illustration, the United States genuinely became a land of chance after the Civil War. Where else in the universe could a adult male born into slavery achieve such feasts as rise to war hero and successful politician.



Cooper, Michael L. From Slave to Civil War Hero: The Life and Times of Robert Smalls

( A Rainbow Biography ) . New York: Lodestar Books, 1994.

Jones, Kevin K. “ African American Warriors. ” Captain Robert Smalls 8 Nov.1997. Online. 19 Sep.1998.

Meriwether, Louise. The Freedom Ship of Robert Smalls. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall,


Miller Jr. , Edward A. Gullah Statesman: Robert Smalls from Slavery to Congress 1839 – 1915.

Columbia: University of South Carolina Printing, 1995.

Uya, Okon Edet. From Slavery to Public Service: Robert Smalls, 1839 – 1915. New York:

Oxford University Press, 1971.

Cite this page

Robert Smalls Research Paper THE LIFE. (2017, Jul 14). Retrieved from

Remember! This essay was written by a student

You can get a custom paper by one of our expert writers

Order custom paper Without paying upfront