Charleston, South Carolina - Robert Smalls escaped slavery with a Confederate military transport ship. It was one of the most daring escapes of the American Slavery War (1861-1865).
Fall of 1861, Smalls steered the CSS Planter. It was a lightly armed Confederate military transport. This was under command of Charleston's District Commander, Brigadier General Roswell S. Ripley.
The CSS Planter surveyed waterways and laid mines. It also delivered dispatches, troops, and supplies.
Smalls piloted the Planter in Charleston harbor and beyond. This included area rivers and the coasts of South Carolina, Georgia and Florida.
Smalls and the Planter's crew saw the federal blockade ships, from Charleston harbor. They were in the outer harbor, seven (7) miles away. Smalls had the confidence of the Planter's crew. To the Planter's owners, the crew behaved.
Sometime in April 1862, Smalls planned an escape. He met the other enslaved, except one. That one he did not trust.
Friday, May 12th, 1862, the Planter stopped at Coles Island, on the Stono River. A Confederate post was being dismantled. The ship loaded four large guns. The guns were to be sent to a fort in Charleston harbor.
At Charleston, the Planter added 200 lb (91 kg) of ammunition and 20 cord (72 m3) of firewood.
Friday evening, May 12th, the Planter was docked. It was at the wharf, below General Ripley's headquarters. Its three (3) white officers left the ship to spend the night ashore. Smalls and the crew remained on board, as usual.
Before departure, Smalls asked Captain Relyea to allow crew families to visit. The request was granted. But, Smalls was told the families must depart before curfew.
The families arrived onboard. There, the plan was revealed to them. Only Hannah, Smalls' wife, knew he wanted to escape.
Hannah never knew her husband planned to escape that night. She resisted, at first. But, she told him, 'It is a risk, dear, but you and I, and our little ones must be free. I will go, for where you die, I will die.'
Other women resisted. They cried and screamed, and the men struggled to quiet them. After, the initial shock, those women were glad for a chance at freedom.
Later, three (3) crew members made a pretense that family members had been escorted back home. It was a trick. The crew members circled around and hid on another ship. It was docked at the North Atlantic wharf.
Around 3 a.m., Saturday, May 13th, Smalls, with seven of the eight slave crewmen, began their escape. Smalls wore the captain's uniform. He wore a straw hat similar to the captain's.
While working on the Planter, Smalls watched Captain Charles C. J. Relyea. Smalls learned his manners to complete the disguise. He hoped to fool onlookers from shore.
Smalls sailed the Planter past Southern Wharf. He stopped at another wharf, where his wife and children boarded. Families of other crewmen boarded, too.
Smalls had to get past five Confederate harbor forts. At each fort, he gave the correct signals at checkpoints.
Around 4:30 a.m., the Planter made it past the last fort, Fort Sumter.
The Fort Sumter alarm was raised after the Planter was beyond gun range. Smalls replaced the rebel flags with a white bed sheet, his wife brought. Then, Smalls headed to the Union Navy fleet.
The USS Onward was about to fire on the Planter, until a crewman saw the white flag. The sheet was difficult to see, in the dark. The sunrise made it visible.
John Frederick Nickels, Captain of the Onward, boarded the Planter. Smalls asked to display a United States flag. The Planter and its cargo were surrendered, to the United States Navy.
Everyone on the Planter, escaped enslavement and made it to freedom.
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Charleston, South Carolina - It was cold and windy for the men of the Massachusetts 54th Volunteer Infantry, this Christmas day. Many were in a sour mood. They were in combat. They missed their families, friends, and sweethearts.
Encamped on Morris Island, on the outskirts of Charleston, the men watched the Union shelling of the besieged city.
Our rifles had sounded their fearful Christmas chimes by throwing shells into the city for three hours after one o'clock that morning, recalled Capt. Luis F. Emilio. He added, 'About 3 a.m. a fire broke out in Charleston which illumined the whole sky and destroyed twelve buildings before it was subdued, the falling walls injuring many firemen.'
Emilio, a white Salem, Mass., native, who had just turned 19 three days earlier, had been the acting commander of the regiment for some time following the famed attack on Fort Wagner that July.
From storming the fort on July 18th, Col. Robert Gould Shaw was killed, the regiment's first commander. Two Berkshire County men were killed in the failed attack. One was Henry Burghardt, of Lee. The other was Pittsfield native Eli Franklin. Burghardt was killed in action. Franklin died from his battle wounds, two (2) days later.
In September, Edward Needles Hallowell became the new commander of the 54th. Hallowell was wounded during the Fort Wagner battle, as Shaw's second in command.
That same month, the Confederates abandoned Fort Wagner. That helped open the way for the siege of Charleston.
For months after the attack, the soldiers' spirits were high. They knew they had proved their valor. It showed the fighting ability of all their Black brothers. Yet, by Christmas, after months of seeing no real action, they were feeling low.
'The whole face of nature now presents a drear and gloomy appearance, and the thousands who a month or two ago were full of hope and expectation have gradually come down to that frame of mind so well adapted to wait till something turns up,' commented Cpl. James Henry Gooding, a Black American soldier from the 54th, in a December 1863 letter to the New Bedford (Conn.) Mercury.
The entire month, both the weather and the men's spirits, had been overcast and dreary. There was the shooting of a white deserter from a New Hampshire regiment. The men were required to watch. The same month there was an explosion. It killed several soldiers.
The Confederates steadily attacked the Union. But, it was unusual for a shell to make it into the Union fortifications. This time, a magazine was being repaired by engineers. That made it vulnerable. The shell fell among munitions that went off. Four (4) were killed. Eleven (11) were seriously wounded, according to Gooding.
Added to these events were the continued problems with the men's pay.
The enlisted men of the 54th and its brother regiment, the 55th, fought to get the $13 a month they were due. Government paymasters, cited an 1862 law. They would only pay $7.
Christmas was a subdued affair. For Thanksgiving, the men attended a rousing church service and enjoyed a festive meal. It was followed by an afternoon filled with games. There were sack races and money for the first man to make it to the top of a greased pole.
In contrast, the highlight of Christmas Day was the arrival of letters from home.
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Charleston, South Carolina - Just before 9:00 p.m., a 21 year-old Dylann Roof murdered nine (9) Black Americans. The massacre took place at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. 5 survived.
Wednesday, June 17, 2015, at about 8:00 p.m., Roof came to the church. Inside, there were fourteen (14) people. They started a bible study. Senior pastor, state senator Clementa C. Pinckney ran the bible study.
Once Roof entered the church, he asked for Pinckney. Roof sat next to Pinckney. Once the bible study ended, prayer began. As people prayed, Roof stood, and began shooting people to death. Roof said, 'Y'all want something to pray about? I'll give you something to pray about.'
Roof reloaded his gun 5 times. Each victim was shot at least 5 times. He fired 70 shots. Roof shouted racial slurs at his victims, as he shot them.
All of the survivors were female. 2 survived playing dead. 2 survived, in another room, that Roof never saw. 1 survived because Roof wanted her to tell others.
On December 15, 2016, Roof was convicted on all charges. This included 9 counts of murder.
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