May 12-13

1862: Robert Smalls stole the CSS Planter. On the night of May 12, 1862, three white crew members of the CSS Planter – Capt. C.J. Relyea, pilot Samuel H. Smith and engineer Zerich Pitcher – went ashore in Charleston, leaving Smalls, the ship’s wheelman, and the enslaved crew members unattended. Around 3 a.m., Smalls and his crew fired up the ship’s boilers and sailed to a wharf to pick up their waiting family members, then sailed past Confederate forces at Fort Sumter and Fort Moultrie. Smalls, impersonating the captain, wearing his wide-brimmed straw hat to hide his face, used the proper coded signals at two Confederate checkpoints, including at Fort Sumter itself, and other defense positions. When the Planter cleared the Confederate defenses, just before dawn, Smalls raised a white flag and delivered the ship – and its 17 black passengers (nine men, five women and three children) to the blockading Union fleet.

Editor’s Note: If you know of any significant dates pertaining to history, business, social life, etc., in the City of Beaufort, the Town of Port Royal, the old Beaufort District, the Sea Islands or anywhere else in northern Beaufort County that you feel we could or should add to our list, please let us know at TheIslandNews@gmail.com.

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