Stripping Confederate Ties, the U.S. Navy Renames Two Vessels

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(New York Times) One night in 1862, as the Civil War raged, an enslaved mariner named Robert Smalls seized an opportunity.

When the enlisted crew of a Confederate steamer disembarked for a night of carousing in Charleston, S.C., Mr. Smalls, the ship’s pilot, gathered his family and the other enslaved sailors and their families. He then steered the ship for a dramatic escape past heavy fortifications to Union-controlled waters and freedom.

Disguised in a top hat and a Confederate captain’s long overcoat, Mr. Smalls gave the passcodes at each of five Confederate forts and, once past the reach of cannon fire, hoisted a white flag of sewn-together bedsheets that his wife Hannah had made — delivering the ship to Union forces.

Mr. Smalls and the crew had lined the bottom of the boat with dynamite to detonate rather than be recaptured and face execution.

Now Mr. Smalls will be immortalized on a U.S. Navy warship named after him, as will Marie Tharp, a pioneering ocean geologist. Both are receiving broader recognition under a Pentagon program to rid military installations and other property of Confederate ties…

Stripping Confederate Ties, the U.S. Navy Renames Two Vessels – The New York Times