STRAW HAT TO FREEDOM: The Daring Escape of Robert Smalls and the Commandeering of the CSS Planter

My favorite parts of history are the deeds done by single men

UNREMEMBERED

By Ken Zurski

scThe guards on lookout at Fort Sumter had little to worry about on the morning of May 13, 1862. The sun was just coming up, and a ship moving through Charleston Harbor at that early hour, likely on orders, was not an unusual sight.  They knew the CSS Planter well. There was no alarm. But there was a protocol to follow. The soldiers waited. Then two loud steam blasts came from the ship’s whistle. A closer look at the pilothouse would confirm it.  The man at the wheel was a wearing a straw hat. The sentinel boys urged the steamer on by waving their hats in salute. “Blow them damn Yankees, to hell,” they shouted as the Planter continued out to sea.

Once safely out of view from the fort, the man in the straw hat ordered the crew to take the down the confederate flag.  In…

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