Robert Smalls Fact 1: He was born in 1839 in Beaufort, South Carolina in the United States.
Robert Smalls Fact 2: He was born into slavery. His master was called Henry McKee and he lived at 511 Prince Street, Beaufort, South Carolina.
Robert Smalls Fact 3: His mother was called Lydia Polite, she too was a slave to her master Henry McKee.
Robert Smalls Fact 4: At the age of 12, Henry McKee sent Robert Smalls to Charleston to be hired out. He began working in a hotel and later worked on Charleston's streets as a lamplighter.
Robert Smalls Fact 5: During his teen years, Robert Smalls worked on the docks of Charleston and his love of the sea grew. He became a dockworker and eventually managed to progress to a wheelman. A wheelman was basically a pilot, however, the title could not be given to a slave.
Robert Smalls Fact 6: He married Hannah Jones on December 24, 1856. She was a hotel maid who was five years older.
Robert Smalls Fact 7: Robert Smalls and his wife Hannah had children together including a daughter called Elizabeth Lydia who was born in 1858 and a son called Robert Jr. who was born three years later but sadly died at the age of 2 years.
Robert Smalls Fact 8: He was very knowledgeable, particular with his familiarity with Charleston harbour. He was assigned to steer the CSS Planter in 1861; Confederate military transport which was lightly armed.
Robert Smalls Fact 9: In 1862, Robert Smalls planned his escape. He waited until a night when the white officers decided to stay ashore. Robert and eight crewmen who were also slaves made a run for the Union blockading ships. He posed as the captain, wearing a uniform and straw hat, and sailed the CSS Planter out of the Southern Wharf.
Robert Smalls Fact 10: He continued to sail the planter to another wharf close-by where their families were hiding. He picked them up and continued with their escape which was successful!
Robert Smalls Fact 11: He was able to give the correct Confederate signals when passing the forts that protected the harbor as the code book and a map had been left onboard.
Robert Smalls Fact 12: He headed for the Federal fleet. He flew a white sheet to signal his surrender. The USS Onward spotted the planter, the white sheet was also noticed and when the captain of the USS Onward boarded the planter, Robert Smalls asked to raise the US flag. He surrendered the Planter to the US Navy.
Robert Smalls Fact 13: Robert Smalls and his crew were awarded prize money for surrendering the Planter. The bill for $1,500 was signed by President Abraham Lincoln. This was a grand sum of money at the time.
Robert Smalls Fact 14: He was a great help to the US Navy as he gave them details about Charleston's defenses. He met with President Abraham Lincoln following the surrender of the Planter to relay his story to him.
Robert Smalls Fact 15: He died at the age of 75 in 1915 and he was buried at the Tabernacle Baptist Church yard in Beaufort, South Carolina in the United States.
Short Facts about Robert Smalls for Kids
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