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Overview: At the height of the Civil War, in the early morning hours of May 13th, 1862, a slave named Robert Smalls led his wife Hannah, their young children and some fellow slaves on a daring escape from Charleston, South Carolina.Robert Smalls used the skills he learned as a crew member on the Confederate Army ship, The Planter, to steal the vessel and deliver it to the Union army at Fort Sumter, thereby gaining their freedom.He knew the sense in what I said and paused for some minutes, gathering his thoughts.
We could stay in Charleston and he could keep earning and saving.
While I was more than willing to risk my own life, I could not do the same for our children.
All those days he piloted his boat to maintain his own bondage he began to realize that there was an avenue for escape, so unexpected and so bold that it must be tried.
Robert has a plan for our family and a dozen others to take The Planter out of Charleston harbor and to the Union Navy, just a few miles out to sea.
In that future we are respected for our skill, not for our ability to enrich those who own us. We will use our great knowledge and work hard to create a home in which we are the masters and there are no slaves. I pray for good fortune and know that whatever comes, we will have won some victory. Note: All readings created in the Historical Fiction section were reviewed and approved by the educational advisor, Thomas Thurston, Director of Education at the Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition, Yale Center for International and Area Studies.
I see a garden near our house where the plants are nourished by soil free of my people's blood.
His owner also agreed that Robert could use some of the money he earned to purchase his family's freedom.
The following fictional journal entry by Hannah Smalls attempts to convey the conflicting feelings Robert and Hannah Smalls might have experienced when making their decision to attempt this risky escape.
May 12, 1862 Tonight, on the eve of our escape, I write with a purpose different than every night before this. Because he cannot write, I must tell the story of our plan.
Should our plan fail we will not survive, yet someone must know of our attempt.