Confederate Steamer Hijacked by Slaves Found Off S.C. Page 2

The Steamship Planter.
Harper's Weekly, May 1862

Smalls then raised a white shirt or tablecloth as a sign of surrender to the Union ships blockading Charleston Harbor. The commanding admiral was so impressed with the escapade that they offered Smalls a job as pilot of the Planter, which was turned over the Union Army as a transport.

Smalls became a cause célèbre in the North, and was tapped to recruit black slaves to form units to fight against the Confederacy. He eventually was elected to Congress. After the war, Smalls and the Planter were well known among local African Americans. As the Planter's captain, he transported many freed slaves to newly created farm communities at Hilton Head and Port Royal.

Photos: Civil War Photography

The Planter returned to service as a cotton cargo hauler along the South Carolina coast. It ran aground off Cape Romain in 1876 during a salvage operation and in time, its exact location became forgotten.

NOAA officials resurrected the Planter search in 2008. Underwater archaeologists believed they found the ship in 2010 in 12 feet of water and 10 feet of sand in Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge. Because the ship lies inside an important sea turtle breeding area, it’s not likely that it will be salvaged.

NOAA and NABS put together this website about the history of Smalls, the Planter and other ships during the slave era.

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