The Man Who Stole Himself


On the night of May 12, 1862, a slave stole a Confederate gunboat and sailed out of Charleston. 

He was Robert Smalls and he escaped with his entire family and the crew of the CSS Planter.

Robert was an extraordinary person. He was the harbor pilot of Charleston and knew every current and sandbar surrounding the city.

Smalls surrendered to Admiral Samuel Du Pont, the commander of the Union South Atlantic Squadron.

Du Pont was a famous war hero. He was also the heir to the fortunes of Du Pont Industries. He was one of the wealthiest and most politically powerful men in the country.

Robert Smalls was one of the poorest people in the country. He had neither political influence nor family fortune.

Robert had memorized the position of every gun emplacement ringing the city and every location of the underwater explosives called “infernal machines.” He offered both his talents and his knowledge of Charleston’s defenses to Du Pont.

Du Pont commissioned the boat USS Planter and made Smalls its captain.

Samuel Du Pont and Robert Smalls formed a unique friendship from their mutual respect.

The fortunes of these two amazing people merged when Robert Smalls became

The Man Who Stole Himself.