Panel 12

Robert Smalls -- The 'King' of Beaufort

 “My race needs no special defense, for the past history of them in this country proves them to be the equal of any people anywhere. All they need is an equal chance in the battle of life.”  (on the gravestone of Robert Smalls).

After the war Robert Smalls returned to Beaufort. He became a successful businessman and politician serving in both the South Carolina State Legislature and the U S Congress. He authored legislation to create the first free and compulsory public schools in the country. and was the founder of the Republican party in South Carolina. Smalls was a key figure in our postwar recovery. He died in 1915 and is buried at Tabernacle Baptist Church, 901 Craven Street.

Robert Smalls was born a slave in 1839. When he was a young man his owner hired him out as a laborer and stevedore on the wharves in Charleston. Eventually he became a wheelman or pilot. During the Civil War Smalls commandeered the Confederate transport ship CSS Planter in Charleston Harbor and sailed it to the Union blockade lines. 

Smalls became an instant hero. He used his new fame to persuade President Lincoln to allow African Americans to serve in the Union Army and Navy. He continued to serve as pilot of the Planter and was promoted to Captain in 1863. Smalls sailed the Planter to Charleston in 1865 for the ceremonial raising of the American flag over Fort Sumter.

Beaufort History Museum
  1. Welcome!
  2. Beaufort County's First People
  3. The Yamasee Indians
  4. Altamaha Town Archaeology
  5. European Superpowers in Carolina
  6. The Greatest and Fairest Haven
  7. Beaufort's Golden Age
  8. Patriots and Loyalists
  9. Antebellum Beaufort – In Town (1782-1861)
  10. Sea Island Cotton
  11. Antebellum Beaufort – Plantations (1782-1861)
  12. Battle of Port Royal (1861)
  13. Beaufort and the Civil War (1861-1865)
  14. The African American Experience (1861-1865)
  15. Model of the New South: Postbellum Beaufort (1865-1893)
  16. Robert Smalls -- The 'King' of Beaufort
  17. The Great Depression – Riches to Rags
  18. The Early 20th Century -- Here Comes the Marines!
  19. The Early 20th Century -- Civil Rights
  20. Rise of the Sunbelt -- Charles Fraser and the Fraser Effect
  21. 21st Century Beaufort -- The 'Chambers' Vision
  22. Preserving Our History
  23. The Greatest and Fairest Haven