Two dead and 70 injured in South Carolina train crash

Train carrying 139 passengers and eight crew collided with freight train at about 2.30am

Two dead and 70 injured in South Carolina train crash

Train carrying 139 passengers and eight crew collided with freight train at about 2.30am

A crash between an Amtrak passenger train and a CSX freight train in South Carolina on Sunday killed two people and injured about 70 others, authorities said.

The Amtrak train was heading from New York to Miami with about 139 passengers on board when the crash happened around 2.45am near Cayce, authorities said.

The injuries ranged from cuts and scratches to broken bones, Lexington County spokesman Harrison Cahill said. Lexington County Coroner Margaret Fisher said the two people killed were traveling on the Amtrak train.

The lead engine and several passenger of Amtrak Train 91, which was operating from New York to Miami, derailed after coming in contact with the freight train, Amtrak said in an emailed statement. There were eight crew members and approximately 140 passengers on board.

The National Transportation Safety Board said it was deploying investigators to the scene.

The crash happened near a stretch of tracks by a rail yard about 10 miles south of Columbia, where several track spurs split off for freight cars to be unloaded. Authorities said they had not determined if both trains were moving or if the Amtrak train was diverted on to a side track.

Location of the train crash

TV footage from the scene showed the aftermath of the crash, with the Amtrak engine on its side and its front crumpled. People who were not hurt were taken in patrol cars to a shelter, Lexington County sheriffs spokesman Adam Myrick said.

We know they are shaken up quite a bit, Myrick said. We know this is like nothing else they have ever been through. So we wanted to get them out of the cold, get them out of the weather get them to a warm place.

Palmetto Health spokeswoman Tammie Epps said 62 passengers were seen at three of its hospitals. Two of those passengers were admitted. The others appeared to have minor injuries that would not require hospitalization.

Amtrak set up a passenger information line at 1-800-523-9101.

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How the GOP Went South

In a chapter from his book Too Dumb to Fail, Matt K. Lewis demonstrates how the conventional narrative about the GOPs embrace of the Southern Strategy rings hollow.


In Birmingham they love the governor.

Lynyrd Skynyrd

By joining the Republican Party, once hated in Dixie for being the party of Lincoln and subsequent carpetbaggers, the South helped transform the GOP into the dominant national party for decades.

The conservative movements founders might have been intellectuals and the GOP establishment once might have been Northeastern elites, but that arrangement was always tenuous. When Willie Sutton was asked why he robbed banks, the infamous outlaw supposedly replied, Because thats where the money is. Likewise, anyone who seeks to understand why conservatism became what it is can only expect this answer: Because thats where the votes were. Indeed, after the 2014 midterms, almost half of the Republican congressional delegation represented Southern districts. But what happens when you build your political coalition around a constituency that is no longer sufficient? What is more, what happens when appeasing your base and growing your coalition become mutually exclusive goals?

Times change, and yesterdays solution becomes tomorrows challenge. Such is the case with todays GOP and the South. The South helped fuel Richard Nixons romp over George McGovern and Ronald Reagans 491 rout of Walter Mondale. It did its part in saving us from a President Dukakis or Kerry. It would be hard to overestimate the importance of the GOP aligning with Southern values. Redskins coach George Allen was famous for saying, The future is now. Sometimes, to borrow a phrase from Donald Rumsfeld, you go to war with the army you have. Thats the tradeoff Republicans made, and it was perfectly rational. But there were also unintended consequences. A political party inevitably reflects its constituents attitudes and biases. The notion that any party can change its voter base without changing its philosophy and its politicians is naive; pandering inevitably becomes a selffulfilling prophecy. Republicans captured the South, yes, but the South also captured the GOP.

The addition of the South and rural communities in states like South Carolina, Alabama, and Mississippi as a reliable bloc of the Republican coalition was one of the many factors leading to the GOPs image as both the stupid party and the party of white men with Confederate flag stickers on the backs of their trucks. This may not be fairit certainly plays to stereotypes. But that hardly matters. Today, this is increasingly seen as a liability.

Whether you believe this was an overt scheme or just how things shook out, this much is true: at some point around 1972, the once reliably solid DemocraticSouth became a Republican stronghold. We may differ about what this means and about whether the GOP deserves culpability for stirring up racial animus to achieve it. But the key takeaway is that the addition of the South to the Republican fold, followed by the partys abandonment of urban areas, the northeast, and then the Pacific Coast dramatically changed the face of conservatismand not just because it fairly or not associated the GOP with segregationistsan ironic turn of events for the party of Lincoln.

It helps to consider just who the Southerners who joined the GOP in the 60s were. Viewed in the most negative light, they were segregationists who felt betrayed when Democrats like Lyndon Johnson pursued the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (which Barry Goldwater opposed). It would also be fair to say that, putting aside the race issue, these Southern Democrats also saw the degree to which the American Left was lurching in a radical cultural direction and jumpedship. Nixon won the South, wrote his former aide Pat Buchanan, not because he agreed with them on civil rightshe never didbut because he shared the patriotic values of the South and its antipathy to liberal hypocrisy.

While some on the Right want to downplay the race angle, others on the Left suggest that the entire success of the modern GOP was premised on exploiting Southern racism. Interestingly, though, much of what both sides think we know about this trend appears to be wrong. Elections analyst Sean Trende recently argued that while the dominant narrative continues to insist that the South began to realign toward the Republicans in the wake of the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, in fact, Southern loyalties had begun to weaken during the presidency of Franklin Roosevelt. As evidence, Trende notes that the South voted increasingly Republican every year of FDRs presidency, and that although Eisenhower lost Dixie, he did so by only three points. What is more, while Eisenhower was gaining support in the South, he was simultaneously pushing civil rights legislation. So why did the South become increasingly Republican starting in the 1940s? According to Trende, Southern whites simply became wealthy enough to start voting Republican. This, of course, flies in the face of everything we think we know about why the South became solidly Republican. This is not to suggest that race wasnt involved in the shift that really began to reach a tipping point after the 60s, but it does suggest that history is more complex than the Readers Digest (or, rather, the Mother Jones) version many of us are taught in school.

Southern Domination

After the postCivil Rights Act Dixiecrat shift, economics and airconditioning conspired to send American voters fleeing the Rust Belt for the Sun Belt, further eroding the power of the Northeast Republican establishment, personified by the New York governors and presidential aspirants Thomas Dewey and Nelson Rockefeller. (This is a trend that is still under way; according to the U.S. census, the city of Austin, Texasthe liberal enclave in a deeply red statewas, by far, the fastest growing city in America from2010 to 2013.) Its unwise to write off an entire swath of the nation, but thats just what Barry Goldwater, who represented Arizona in the U.S. Senate, seemed to do when he declared that sometimes I think the country would be better off if we could just saw off the Eastern seaboard and let it float out to sea. The Johnson campaign turned that line into a devastating ad in which the eastern side of a U.S. map, floating in water, is literally sawed off.

Truth be told, the Souths influence came to dominate both parties. Democrats soon saw that the only way they could win would be to cut into the GOPs base. For a while, it looked like the only path to Democratic victory was through nominating a son of the South. From Texan Lyndon Johnson to Georgia peanut farmer Jimmy Carter to Arkansass Bill Clinton (and even to, yes, Al Gore), seemingly only Southern Democrats could win the White Houseand even that trend was not very recent; consider Virginiaborn segregationist Woodrow Wilson or Harry Truman, the descendants of slaveholders and Confederate sympathizers, or even Warm Springs, Georgia, resident FDR. In the postReagan years, Southerners so dominated both parties that at one point, we had a president from Arkansas (Clinton), a vice president from Tennessee (Gore), a Majority Leader from Mississippi (Trent Lott), and a House Speaker from Georgia (Newt Gingrich). The chairman of the GOP was Haley Barbour, from Mississippi. President George W. Bush of Texas, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist of Tennessee, and House Majority Leaders Dick Armey and Tom DeLay (Texans) soon followed in what was, perhaps, the apex of Southern domination of the GOP, and simultaneously, of Republican triumphalism. Talk circulated that the GOP had achieved a permanent governing majority.

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All the while, Southern Republicanism, having descended from Southern Democrats, churned out culturally conservative, yet bigspending, governmental policies. In the 2000s, deficits ballooned and unfunded entitlements like Medicare Part D were enacted. Meanwhile, some of the GOPs most prominent Southern governors also played to type. In 2008, the fiscally conservative Club for Growth issued a white paper slamming then Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee for having raised sales taxes, state spending, and the minimum wage. And then it all came crashing down. Republicans forfeited their congressional majority in 2006, victims of a faltering war in Iraq, incompetent handling of Hurricane Katrina, mounting debt, and a slew of corruption and sex scandals that exploded just in time for the midterms. Presidents almost always suffer bad secondterm midterms, but George W. Bushs mishandling of so many highprofile issues undoubtedly exacerbated voters Bush fatigue. Simply put, the Bush shtick had worn thin.

A Stupid Stereotype

Ronald Reagan downplayed his intellectual and cosmopolitan credentials to accentuate his everyman persona. In similar fashion, Dwight Eisenhower, the former supreme commander of Allied forces in Europe and president of Columbia University, dodged questions by employing bumbling answers at press conferences. In public he wore a costume of affability, optimism, and farmboy charm, wrote David Brooks in The Road to Character. As president, he was perfectly willing to appear stupider than he really was if it would help him perform his assigned role. He was willing to appear tonguetied if it would help him conceal his true designs. Biographer Andrew Sinclair said much the same thing about the muchmaligned Warren Hardings mute your own horn leadership style. In this regard, George W. Bush simply followed a longstanding traditionalbeit with a Texas twang. Tevi Troy, the former Bush aide who authored What Jefferson Read, Ike Watched, and Obama Tweeted, believes that Bush probably read more history than [Jack] Kennedy. If that sounds absurd, its partly because Kennedy highlighted his intellectual credentials, while the Yaleeducated Bush downplayed his. As a result, we consider Kennedy (no dummy, but no genius, either) smarter. Is this only the result of a liberal media painting Republicans as illiterate Babbitts? Hardly. To be fair, Troy writes, Bush was not blameless in acquiring a reputation for not reading.

Playing down his Ivy League credentials helped him get elected governor of Texas and president of the United Statestwo times eachbut the cost was being treated like a bumpkin by the media.

In 2000, the New York Times Nicholas Kristoff wrote that Kent Hance believes he helped teach Mr. Bush the need to be more folksy. As Mr. Hance put it, He wasnt going to be outChristianed or outgoodoldboyed again. If this is true (and one suspects it is), then its hard to fault Bush for doing what he had to do to win. And lets not forget that he wasnt just trying to forge his own comeback; he was also attempting to avenge his fathers defeat at the hands of Bill Clinton in 1992. What is more, his father, former President George H. W. Bush, had been mocked as a taxraiser and a preppy wimp. George W. Bush did everything possible to be the opposite of that. The adoption of the Texas persona helped, but the younger Bush overswaggered and overtwanged. But hey, he managed to win two elections, and winning is everything, right?

The younger Bush might have benefited from being misunderestimated by his adversaries, but the bumpkin label stuck to the rest of us. To the extent conservatives are now associated with this stereotype, one wonders to what degree this was selfinflicted by past winning Republican leaders who posed as the bumbling everyman, going all the way back to Ike.

The problem was, although this is a bipartisan phenomenon, it just happens to have disproportionately impacted the Right. Again, Republicans are thought of as the stupid party. Both sides of the political aisle occasionally genuflect at the altar of rural superiority, even if Republicans are decidedly better at it. Although President Obamas appeal to urbanites and minorities is obvious, he is not above the affectation of droppin his gs and prattlin on about folks. Likewise, prep schoolbred John Kerry (Can I get me a hunting license here?) experimented with some downright, downhome Forrest Gump elocution during his 2004 race. Hillary Clinton has been known to affect a Southern accent when convenient. Even less subtle was the overthetop, twangy country music song Stand With Hillary released in late 2014Put your boots on and lets smash this ceilin where all the gs were dropped. The producer of the Stand With Hillary song also produced a 2008 viral mariachi video, Viva Obama. Nothing happens by accident in politics. Hillarys pandering is a transparent attempt to woo the real America. Noting the dichotomy between Obamas popculture outreachwhich featured the Will.I.Am song Yes We Canand HillarysBen Domenech, publisher of The Federalist website, observed, The attempt to pander to the white working class voters left out by the Democratic agenda for so many years is obvious and clumsy, but also revealing, signaling their perception of whats happened to the electorate in the course of the Obama era.

For all the GOPs problems, it is perhaps instructive to remember that Democrats also face their own challenges, which include struggles to win white votesand their own gender gap with men. Putting aside politics, the notion that America should have one de facto white party and one de facto minority party strikes me as unhealthy. We should all resist this sort of racial balkanization. And, of course, just as Republicans confront regional geographic problems, the Democrats missed winning the White House in 2000, at least partly because Al Gore couldnt deliver his home state of Tennessee. Just a dozen years ago, former senator Zell Miller, a conservative Democrat, penned a book titled A National Party No More, lamenting the fact that his beloved party had written off the South, and would continue to pay an electoral price. Today, our national Democratic leaders look south and say, I see onethird of a nation and it can go to hell, he wrote. This is a good example of how political fortunes can quickly change. Just as Millers book hasnt aged well (electorally speaking, the Democrats seem to have made the right political moves), a dozen years from now this book might seem antiquated. I wont be at all upset if that happens. Still, almost all the longterm trends (including demographic shifts and shifts in public opinion) seem to suggest the GOP is in trouble if it doesnt adapt and overcome.

Rural Deification

The Republican electoral shift transcends the deep South. While the GOP became the Southern Party, it also became the Rural Party. Thats a big part of this story, too.

In the introduction of this book, I wrote about my rural background in western Maryland and the deep abiding respect I have for rural Americans who have done much to make this a great country. I dont want to see an America where everyone is huddled into cities. In the words of Hank Williams Jr., we need Americans who still know how to skin a buck and run a trotline. But one of the many challenges confronting conservatives is that America has transitioned from the agrarian age to the industrial age to the information age. Unlike the industrial age, where the topdown assembly line model favored liberals, the tech revolution may favor the rugged individualism embraced by libertarianleaning conservatives. Regardless, given these trends, it makes little sense for a movement or a party to allow the ruralversusurban paradigmand the many cultural issues tied up in thatto define and assign membership status. So long as Republicans could win this way, it made perfect sense to exploit the cleavage between city folks and Real America. Not only was this smart politics, but it also tapped into deepseated beliefs.

So where did this traditional deification of rural areas come from? Among other things, credit (or blame) the influence of religion (think the Garden of Eden versus the Tower of Babel), philosophy (Rousseaus notion about noble savages, and later, transcendentalists like Ralph Waldo Emersonand Walden Woods-loving Henry David Thoreau), and various ideas conceived during the time of Americas founding, such as Thomas Jeffersons agrarianism. I think our governments will remain virtuous for many centuries, Jefferson wrote Madison, as long as they are chiefly agricultural; and this will be as long as there shall be vacant lands in any part of America. When they get piled upon one another in large cities, as in Europe, they will become corrupt as in Europe. This was bipartisan. Believe it or not, in the runup to his 1932 election, Groton and Harvardeducated Franklin Roosevelt enjoyed far more support from rural and Southern voters than with bigcity typesand painted himself not as a former Wall Street lawyer but rather as a simple farmer.

Its hard to deny that Americansparticularly traditional or conservative Americansinternalized a worldview that lionizes rural areas and comes close to demonizing urban ones. Look no further than our national myths and heroes. Alan Crawford, author of the 1980 book Thunder on the Right, argued that it all goes back to the cowboy mythology. The great cult figure of the New Right is John Wayne, he writes, the swaggering, toughtalking loner motivated by duty, principle, and a deep sense of justice. Wayne feared no man, respected all women. He displayed the macho qualities that are admired and emulated in the political and cultural heroes of the New Right. Top that, pilgrim!

The entire concept of rural superiority is built on questionable premises. Sometimes the Bible holds up desolate areas as ideal (Jesus would often withdraw to the wilderness or desert), but as Tim Keller, pastor of New York Citys Redeemer Presbyterian Church, notes, When God sends the people of Israel from Egypt into Canaan, he will not let them be exclusively agrarian. He commands them to build cities in the book of Numbers.

The reason [the Bible is] positive about cities, continues Keller, is that when God made Adam and Eve creative . . . it was inevitable that they would build cities. Cities are places of creativity. Cities are places where culture is forged. Thats the reason why culture does not begin to happen until theres a city.

For small government conservatives, even before the plague of innercity crime in the 60s, there were other inherent reasons to fear the city. As Steven Conn, author of Americans Against the City: Anti- Urbanism in the Twentieth Century, noted, The idea that in New York City now eight million people can turn on their tap and get drinkable water, thats a miracle. The efficiencies that government manages to deliver in cities become anathema to this kind of antigovernment tradition that I see as part and parcel of the antiurban tradition.

Free Market Dynamists versus Populist Catastrophists

This brings us to a contradiction within conservatism. Much of conservatisma belief in free markets, for instanceis premised on the dynamic notion that more people equal more ideas. But while optimistic free marketeers adhering to this Reagan and Kemp model subscribe to this theory, most populists do not. The more optimistic worldview made major strides when economists like Julian Simon and Ester Boserup took on the Malthusian catastrophe argument, which erroneously predicted that global overpopulation would lead to mass starvation, and demonstrated that more people equals more ideas, innovation, and prosperity. When you think about it, it makes sense. Rural societies tend to work on subsistence (you eat what you grow be careful what you wish for, local foods advocates!), but cities, by their very nature, demand free market economic skills such as cooperation, specialization, and trade. These things make us rich. And cities are the areas where these things are appreciated and magnified. And let us not forget that great cities, after all, not only have fostered great hedge funds, but have also built great cathedrals stone by stone.

More peopleconstantly bumping into one anotherlead to all sorts of entrepreneurial inventions and progress. Cities, it has been said, are where ideas have sex. Indeed, some optimistic cosmopolitan conservatives, such as the late Jack Kemp and his protg, Wisconsin representative and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, have embraced a prourban philosophy in a consistent manner, which can be reflected in their support for policies like enterprise zones, which encourage growth and development with lower taxes and fewer regulations in urban communities. But since President Obamas election in 2008, these ideas have been on the outs with conservatives.

The greatest irony of the conservative adoption of an anticity worldview is that it is based largely on a philosophy advanced by the high priest of romanticism, JeanJacques Rousseau. Instead of following the Christian understanding of creation that views man as a fallen creature due to original sin, Rousseau envisioned early man as a sort of noble savage. It wasnt until man recognized the concept of property and ownership, Rousseau argued, that he became greedy and corrupted.

According to this way of thinking, a simple life is good and pure, while a modern urban life is dirty and unnatural. Many scholars have pointed out the romanticists idea that somehow cities are breeders of sinful behavior and people who live in the country are more virtuous is actually something thats been passed into the American psyche and actually into the American Christian psyche so that we have a tendency to have a very negative view of cities, says Pastor Tim Keller. When one looks at the meth epidemic that is springing up in many of our rural communities or considers the inherent temptations and boredom that arise from being a latchkey kid living in some sterile suburb, the city begins to look less dystopian.

The New South

Something horrible happened while I was writing this book. On June 17, 2015, a young white man shot and killed nine worshippers at Mother Emanuel, a storied African Methodist Episcopal church with one of the oldest black congregations, in Charleston, South Carolina. Among the dead lay Reverend Clementa Pinckney, who also had served in the South Carolina state senate. Pictures of the shooter flaunting a Confederate battle flag soon emerged, as did calls for rebel flags to come down from statehouses across the nation.

Leaders emerge during times of tragedy and crisis, and it was at this moment that Nikki Haley, the female, Indian American governor of South Carolina, who also happens to be a conservative Republican, seized the moment. Today we are here in a moment of unity in our state without ill will to say it is time to remove the flag from our capitol grounds, Haley said at a press conference on June 22, 2015. This flag, while an integral part of our past, does not represent the future of our great state. She was flanked by Republican senators Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott, who is one of only two African Americans in the U.S. Senate. And, in a way, the South Carolina governor and these senators represent a changing Republican Party, as well as a changing South. Graham, the only white representative, is probably the least conservative of the three. But they bring diverse perspectives that not very long ago were absent from Republican politics in the South. The biggest reason I asked for that flag to come down was I couldnt look my children in the face and justify it staying there, Haley later told CNNs Don Lemon. What I realized now more than ever is people were driving by and they felt hurt and pain. No one should feel pain My father wears a turban. My mother, at the time, wore a sari. It was hard growing up in South Carolina.

Haleys leadership deservedly drew acclaim. South Carolina Republican governor Nikki Haley stared down hate and history this summer, turning an impassioned debate over the Confederate flag into a political launching pad, wrote CNNs NiaMalika Henderson. The governor provided crucial leadership at an important moment. But Haley couldnt unilaterally remove the flag; she could only sign a bill to do so after it passed the Republicandominated state house and senatewhich it did. On July 10, the flag was removed from state capitol grounds and placed in a museum.

Considering the stereotypes against Southern Republicans, it is equally notable that while controlling the senate, the house, and the governorship in the Palmetto State, Republicans did the right thing. The good news is that Haley and a generation of conservative Republican leaders like her are taking steps to bring their party into the 21st century, and they are resisting calls to hold on to baggage that was never theirs to begin with. In fact, it was an allwhite, Democratcontrolled legislature that raised the flag in 1962. And it was Republican David Beasley who fought to have it removed from the capitol dome in the 90s.

Thats not to say that there werent plenty of Republicans who supported flying the flag. But it is to say that theres absolutely nothing inherently Republican or conservative about the Confederate battle flag.

If conservatives are going to thrive in the New South, they will have to embrace an inclusive conservative message like Nikki Haleysand they cant afford to be bogged down by carrying the offensive baggage that they, after all, had nothing to do with.

From Too Dumb to Fail, copyright Matt K. Lewis, courtesy of Hachette Books.

Matt K. Lewis is a senior contributor for The Daily Caller and writes regular columns for, The Daily Beast, and The Telegraph (UK). He records a weekly podcast, Matt Lewis and the News. In 2011, Business Insider listed him as one of the 50 Pundits You Need To Pay Attention To, and in 2012 the American Conservative Union honored Matt as their CPAC Blogger of the Year. He lives with his family in Alexandria, Va.

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The Slave Who Stole the Confederate Codesand a Rebel Warship

When three Confederate officers decided to go ashore for a night in Charleston, they left their gunboatand their naval codesin the hands of an enslaved pilot. It was a critical mistake.”>

We dont know precisely why the three white officers on board a Confederate transport and gunboat called the CSS Planter decided to go ashore in Charleston, South Carolina, the night of May 12, 1862.

Maybe they went to see their families. Maybe they went drinking or whoring. Certainly they were acting against orders, but they seemed to think the slave they left in charge of the Planter, a skilled 23-year-old harbor pilot named Robert Smalls, would take good care of the ship for them.

On board were pieces of naval artillery, including a 32-pounder on a pivot, a 24-pounder howitzer, and a gun that had been at Fort Sumter. There were 200 rounds of ammunition, and according to several accounts there was a book of codes and signals that were currently in use by the Confederate Navy. Perhaps most importantly, there was Smalls himself, a true fount of information about Confederate defenses around Charleston harbor.

A couple of hours before dawn, the Planter started its engines and its paddle wheel began to turn. It pulled away from the wharf in plain site of the Confederate commanding generals headquarters, but nobody moved to stop it.

Probably Smalls had encouraged the white officers to go ashore. He knew they wanted to get awaythey may well have done so before; he knew the way they thought; he knew what they wanted. The ways of white Southerners had never been a mystery to him.

Smalls had been born in Beaufort, South Carolina, the son of the slave woman Lydia Polite. His father, it is generally agreed although it was never publicly acknowledged, was Henry McKee, the white son of Lydias white owner.

Many people observed that when Robert was a little boy, the McKee family favored him over other slave children on their properties. Henry took him on errands and social visits, and its said by Roberts descendants that his enslaved mother eventually worried that the little boy was too coddled.

When Robert was about 10, according to family lore, his mother arranged for him to go to work in the fields to get a taste of slaverys grim realities. She also had him watch at the whipping post where field hands were scourged for any number of infractions, or just to set an example.

According to Michael Boulware Moore, president of the International African American Museum, and Smallss great-great grandson, Roberts mother would tell him you may be enslaved, but you are not a slave.

That was hard for the child to reconcile with what was going on around him. Robert lived in a little bit of a bubble, says Moore. He had trouble accepting a world in which he played with white children during the day, then was forced to quit when curfew came for slaves. He was, as the story goes, disturbed and angered by having a different set of rules.

By the time Robert was 11, according to the stories handed down to his descendants (his eldest daughter lived until 1959), his background of special privilege and newfound anger had made him rebellious, and even as a child he was thrown in Beaufort jail, where Henry McKee would post his bail. Finally, Robert was sent to Charleston by the McKees, who rented him out for odd jobs, and doubtless hoped he would stay out of trouble.

This was the decade before the American Civil War, and there at the epicenter of the Southern secession movement, amid all the talk of defending states rights in fact the right to own Negroes as chattel, giving them no rights whatsoever as human beingsthe day-to-day relations between blacks and whites were full of what seem today like strange paradoxes.

Armed white militias enforced curfews against blacks, and there was a special jail in ostensibly cosmopolitan Charleston where delicate whites could take their slaves to have them beaten for a fee.

But there was also a substantial population of people who were listed in the census as f.p.c., free persons of color, often working as tradesmen, seamstresses, and the like. And of the slave population of Charleston, which was at least as great as the white population, many were people who worked earning money for their owners. If they were lucky, like Smalls, they made a bit for themselves.

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That night of May 12, 1862, was one year and one month exactly after the Civil War began with the secessionists firing on Fort Sumter. Now in Confederate hands, it loomed, dark and menacing, at the entrance to the harbor. By that point, after at least three years at the wheel of the Planter and other ships, Smalls knew as well as anyone the treacherous channels where the Yankees had tried sinking ships full of stones, and the Confederates had laid crude naval mines.

He also knew the signs and countersigns that could be used to pass the Confederate forts.

A couple of years earlier, while still in his teens, Smalls had met a somewhat older slave woman named Hannah who worked in one of the Charleston hotels; they had married, and by 1862 they had a little girl, Elizabeth, and a little boy, Robert Jr.

Smalls and Hannah had gotten permission from their owners to move into a small apartment together and Smalls set his sights on freeing them both along with their children. First he offered to pay the Kingman family for Hannahone slave buying the freedom of another. (Robert had a power of persuasion, as Moore puts it.) But there was a bubble market in Negroes at the time, and the McKees asked $700 for Hannah, which was slightly below market price. All Smalls had was $100, according to the stories passed down to his descendants, some of which can be found on the website Robert Smalls: A Traveling Exhibition.

So Smalls developed another plan. According to a U.S. House Naval Affairs Committee report written years later (and cited here), Smalls told the other black crewmen on board the Planter what he was about to do. Some of them probably knew already, but two, who may have been surprised, decided to stay onshore. Four decided to take their chances with Smalls. The design was hazardous in the extreme, said the Naval Affairs report. Failure and detection would have been certain death.

After pulling out of the dock, the Planter stopped at the West Atlantic Wharf to pick up Hannah and the children along with four other women, three more men, and another child.

The Planter passed Fort Johnson, giving the correct signal with its horn, and then it passed Fort Sumter. Smalls, dimly visible by lantern light, had donned the distinctive straw hat the captain of the ship was known to wear. The Confederate stars and bars and the South Carolina palmetto flag were flying high. Nobody in the forts suspected what was going on.

Just outside the harbor lay the Union fleet, blockading the port and looking for some opening that might allow it to take Charleston, which had major strategic value and huge symbolic importance as the cradle of the secession.

In the dim early light, the Planter approached a magnificent clipper ship, the USS Onward, which had been converted to military service. It readied its guns to fire.

But Hannah Smalls had come prepared with a white sheet. The Confederate flags were struck, the white sheet raised.

U.S. Rear Admiral Samuel Francis Du Pont, wrote immediately afterward, The bringing out of this steamer, under all the circumstances, would have done credit to anyone. He noted the inventory of guns and ammo aboard, the quality of the ship itself, and found its pilot especially interesting:

This man, Robert Smalls, is superior to any [other escaped slave] who has yet come into the lines, intelligent as many of them have been, DuPont wrote. His information has been most interesting, and portions of it of the utmost importance.

Indeed, Smalls, who was illiterate at the time, had brought with him the books of codes and signals being used by the Confederate Navy. But, according to Stephen Wise, co-author of Rebellion, Reconstruction, and Redemption, 1861-1863, which deals extensively with the Smalls story, the most important information he brought was what he had in his head.

The Confederates would have changed their codes quickly, knowing they were lost, Wise told me in a phone call from the U.S. Marine Corps Parris Island Museum, where he is director. But Smalls told the Union officers the Rebels had been drawing down their defenses along the Stono River, which lies south and east the peninsula on which Charleston is built.

The information Smalls provided, and his piloting sped up the movement of the Federal troops into the Stono River, says Wise, giving the Union an opportunity to move up the waterway and use it as a base to move overland, where it could to cut off the top of the Charleston peninsula and take the city, as the British had done in 1780 during the Revolutionary War.

But, as happened many times in 1862, the Union commanders hesitated, and the moment was lost. The Federals blew it, says Wise.

The Smalls story does not end there. Far from it. In those days, months before the Emancipation Proclamation, he was held up as a hero to black Americans and to whites in the North alike. He went on to serve with the Union Navy throughout the war, sometimes at the helm of the Planter, sometimes on other ships, and was commended for his bravery.

Smalls also receive a substantial sum of prize money for turning over the Planter, and after the war he was able to go back to Beaufort, where he bought the McKee house. He lived there until his death in 1915.

Smalls became a leading figure in Reconstruction politics and a stalwart of the Republican Partywhich in those days really was the party of Lincoln. He was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives five times before, finally, South Carolinas Jim Crow laws made that impossible.

In 1890, Smalls wrote an article in the North American Review that described in excruciating detail the way the old secessionists had re-taken control of government in South Carolina. The Ku Klux Klan outrages which aroused the indignation of the the entire North, had given way to something that sounded more benign, but certainly was not: murderous gangs called rifle clubs, who, acting in concert, terrorized nearly the entire State, overawing election officers and defying the courts.

Smalls, so long accustomed to perilous journeys in the extreme, ended on a note he wanted nobody to forget then, and that nobody should forget now. Negroes of the country gave 186,000 men who fought in 252 battles for the perpetuity of this great nation, wrote Smalls. We do not intend to go anywhere, but will remain right here and help make this the most powerful of all governments.

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