Robert Smalls. Photo Credit: © New York Public Library Digital Collections.

United States – Robert Smalls, Naval Pilot

Robert Smalls, born into slavery in Beaufort, South Carolina, freed himself, his crew, and their families during the American Civil War by commandeering CSS Planter, a Confederate transport ship and steering it to a Union-controlled enclave. In his escape, Robert Smalls used his mobility to commandeer a heavily armed Confederate ship as a mechanism for freedom.


  • Hagood, Johnson. Brooks, U R (ed.). 1910. Memoirs of the War of Secession. Columbia, SC: State Company. p. 78. ISBN 9780722282595.
  • Lineberry, Cate. 2017. Be Free or Die: The Amazing Story of Robert Smalls’ Escape from Slavery to Union Hero. New York: St. Martin’s Press.


  • Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Jean Blackwell Hutson Research and Reference Division, The New York Public Library. “Robert Smalls.New York Public Library Digital Collections.