Posts Tagged ‘South Carolina’

A Name You Should Know: Robert Smalls

Frederick Douglass. Sojourner Truth. Martin Luther King Jr. Rosa Parks. These names are in the pantheon of African American heroes. Each year during Black History Month their names are at the fore of many celebrations. Robert Smalls. His name is not well-known, or even known at all, but his contribution to black history is extraordinary and fascinating.

Robert Smalls Research Topic via ProQuest eLibrary

Robert Smalls went from slave to naval captain to U.S. congressman by age 36. The story to his fame began in Charleston, South Carolina 13 months after the attack on Fort Sumter. Smalls was entrusted with piloting the CSS Planter, a Confederate military transport ship. He gained the confidence of the ship’s owners, and in doing so he began to plan an escape to the Union blockade about seven miles in the distance. On the early morning of May 13, 1862, Smalls stole the Planter after its three officers went ashore for the night leaving Smalls and his slave crew alone. Donning the captain’s straw hat and employing the signals he had memorized, Smalls steered the Planter to another wharf where his family and the families of the other crew were waiting. Sailing past five fortified Confederate posts, Smalls’ plan succeeded as the Planter made it to the Union without incident. At just 23 years old, Robert Smalls delivered 16 men and women to freedom and gave critical Confederate defense information to the Union. A reporter hailed it “one of the most daring and heroic adventures” of the Civil War.

Robert Smalls’ story did not end there. Hailed a hero, he was able to lobby the federal government for the enlistment of black soldiers in the Union war effort and reportedly recruited almost 5,000 men himself. He lead the Planter in 17 battles and eventually became her captain. He was the highest-ranking African American officer in the Union Navy. After the war, he became a leader during Reconstruction in the Republican Party. He was elected to the South Carolina legislature and later to the U.S. House of Representatives five times. One of his key initiatives was ensuring free education for all children.

Whether known for their activism or heroism, here are a few other names you should know. Honor them by sharing their stories with others not only during Black History Month but throughout the year.

Bessie Coleman

Hiram Revels

Dorothy Height

Nat Love

Daisy Bates

Guion Bluford

ProQuest’s eLibrary is an excellent resource for students wanting to learn more about African American history and achievement. The new eLibrary platform makes searching easy with its visually appealing Common Assignments and Subject trees. Also, make sure to look at the Editor’s Picks which are focused on Research Topics related to Black History Month. This new feature will change frequently so check back to see what’s new.

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Attack on Fort Sumter: The Civil War Begins

On the night of December 26, 1860, six days after South Carolina became the first state to secede from the union, Major Robert Anderson, commander of the federal forces in Charleston Harbor in Charleston, South Carolina, stealthily moved his small band of troops from Fort Moultrie on Sullivan’s Island to Fort Sumter, an artificial island-fort built on rocks in the middle of the harbor. Fort Sumter was not even fully constructed when the federal troops moved there under the cover of night. But the alternative of staying at Fort Moultrie was implausible for Anderson, as it proved to be an inadequate defense. Fort Moultrie was an old fortification built in 1776 during the American Revolutionary War, but years of neglect and defenseless walls forced Anderson to rethink his strategy for defending federal fortifications in Charleston Harbor.

When news spread in Charleston that Fort Sumter had been occupied, South Carolina governor Francis Pickens sent Colonel J. Johnston Pettigrew to Fort Sumter to order Anderson and his troops to return to Fort Moultrie. Anderson, already a seasoned veteran of three wars, declined the offer. On learning of Anderson’s decision, Pickens ordered state troops to occupy Fort Moultrie and Castle Pinckney, along with Morris Island, which had its cannons trained on the shipping channels coming into the harbor. On January 5, 1861, then-president James Buchanan ordered the dispatch of the Star of the West, an unarmed paddlewheeler aimed at resupplying Fort Sumter, to Charleston Harbor. As the Star of the West entered the harbor’s main channel on January 9, the cannons at Morris Island, manned by cadets from the Citadel, fired upon the paddlewheeler. The shots mostly missed their mark, with one causing only slight damage; but it was enough to cause the steamer to turn back toward the sea. The first shots of the Civil War had been fired!

On April 6, newly inaugurated president Abraham Lincoln, realizing that supplies were about to run out at Fort Sumter, ordered a fleet of ships to Charleston Harbor in an attempt to once again resupply the fort. And the effort, once again, proved fruitless.

Surrounded by well-armed fortifications controlled by the Confederates and cut off from any supply channels, Anderson and his troops had run out of food and ammunition. By the time the ships arrived on April 12, 1861, Confederate troops had already fired upon Fort Sumter. Firing for 34 straight hours, the Confederates battered Fort Sumter. Anderson and his troops, nearly empty of ammunition, were unable to return in kind. With the shipping channels into Charleston Harbor cut off with no hope for fresh supplies, Anderson was eventually forced to surrender. The Civil War had begun.

You can find out more about Fort Sumter and the Civil War in eLibrary. A host of Research Topic pages and other resources are available for your research needs.

Research Topics:

Abraham Lincoln
Charleston, South Carolina
Civil War
Confederate States of America
Fort Sumter
ProQuest Research Topic Guide: American Civil War

Browse Topics:

1850-1870 Civil War Era
Abraham Lincoln
Fort Sumter
James Buchanan
Major Battles & Campaigns
Prelude to the Civil War
South Carolina History
United States History


America’s Civil War (Magazine)
Civil War and Reconstruction: A Student Companion (Reference Book)
Civil War Battlefield Guide (Reference Book)
Civil War History (Magazine)
Civil War Times (Magazine)
Civil War Times Illustrated (Magazine)
The Civil War: A History in Documents (Book)