NOAA announced this week it determined the probable location of the remains of the Civil War-era sidewheel steamer Planter, which gained national fame in 1862 when a group of enslaved African-Americans commandeered the Confederate Navy transport ship in a daring escape to freedom.
Under the leadership of Robert Smalls, the ship’s steersman, crew members navigated the steamer out of Charleston Harbor on May 12, 1862, and delivered the vessel to the United States Navy. The New York Herald called the escape “one of the most daring and heroic adventures since the war was commenced.”
The notoriety generated by the escape and capture of the Planter led to Smalls eventually becoming the first African-American master in the U.S. Navy and a member of Congress representing South Carolina – the state where he was born a slave. NOAA’s report helps fill gaps in the largely untold story of Robert Smalls and the Planter, which wrecked on a beach in March 1876 while trying to tow a grounded schooner.