Three Famous Americans in the Civil War
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Robert Smalls, Captain and Congressman
As dawn broke on May 13, 1862, Confederate guards at Fort Sumter were surprised to see one of their ships, the Planter, steaming past the fort. However when the Planter flashed the proper signals, it was allowed to pass. The guards had no way of knowing that on board the ship were African-American slaves who had captured the Planter and who were sailing it to freedom. Robert Smalls, the leader, was able to pilot the ship and give the proper signals because he had been a member of the Planter's crew. Smalls smuggled his wife and two children aboard the Planter and took them to freedom.
Smalls' daring act was given wide publicity. He became a member of the Union navy and was made pilot of the Planter. Once, while his ship was being shelled by the Confederates, the captain of the Planter deserted his post. Smalls led the ship to safety. As a reward, Smalls was made captain of the ship.
After the war Smalls served in Congress for ten years. He worked tirelessly to have laws passed which helped African-Americans gain their civil rights. One law he supported as a member of the South Carolina legislature established free public schools for both African-Americans and white children in South Carolina.
- Circle the sentence that tells why Smalls was able to sail the Planter past Fort Sumter.
- How was Smalls rewarded for saving the Planter
- Underline the sentence that tells why Smalls is remembered by educators.
Excerpted from Ready-to-Use American History Activities for Grades 5-12.
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