Robert Smalls: Unsung Heroes of the Civil War Essay Example



Heroes tend to be defined in so many different ways. When asked what a hero is, one might say a fire fighter running out of a burning building with a pet right before the building collapses, or Superman saving the day. Even though these are examples of heroes, any ordinary person can be a hero. The unsung hero, Robart Smalls, is an extraordinary example of a hero. However, do not be fooled by his name, as there is nothing small about this American hero. Robert Smalls should be considered a hero because of his daring determination and intelligence of creating an escape route from slavery for not only just his family, but for other family’s on his plantation. Apart from the stamina and brilliance this took, this act also demonstrates courage and gratitude. Smalls was born into slavery in 1839(Gates). His mother, also a slave, worked in her owners house(Gates). Although Smalls was born into slavery, because his mom worked in the family house, he was rasied in one of the best conditions a child of slavery could be in(Conliffe). Due to the nature he was raised in, Smalls had friends that were white(Conliffe). The exposure of having friendships with white people, Smalls got to experience the treatment that white people had(Conliffe). The exposer of  how white people were  treated differently, gave Smalls a burning desire to be free. As a result of Smalls environment and his desire for equality and freedom, is most likely what contributed to the events that occurred later in his life. 
Smalls intelligence and stamina makes him a hero because he was able to apply his knowledge and take his time to help his family and others escape to freedom(Thomas-Lester). Due to the upbringing of Smalls and his different environment from most slaves, this led to him getting very useful information and gave him more opportunities(Conliffe). Small’s was able to use his intelligence by outsmarting the whites because, “He knew that the white crew trusted him. He had his eye on freedom, and all he needed was an opportunity”(Thomas-Lester). This shows that Small’s used his intelligence to play the whites. Since the whites thought all blacks were uneducated and idiotic; knowlegable of that Small’s acted his role that the whites believed to be true of black men, while secretly planning his escape for freedom(Thomas-Lester). This highlights the idea that intelligence played a key role in making Robert Smalls a historical hero. Small’s was also very smart with his money, throughout his life saved up every dollar he made in hopes he could buy him and his family their freedom(Conliffe). After Smalls had saved up enough money to buy freedom for one of his daughters, he knew the only way he was going to be able to afford buying his whole families freedom by finding a higher payer job (Conliffe). In his search for a higher paying job, he began working on ships and soon was promoted to the rank as a wheel man on the US Planter (Thomas-Lester). Not only did Smalls know that he and the other slaves did all the work on the Planter and were more than capable of running the ship on their own(Conliffe). A lightbulb went off in his head, when a fellow crewmate said, “Boy, you look just like the captain,” he said” (Rielly). With Smalls intelligent brain he realized that this was his chance of getting freedom. Over the following months Robert studied and analyzed every single hand gesture, singles and codes; he everyone took note on the way his captains stood and how they walked (Conliffe). This clearly shows that not only did he poses intelligence, but it shows that he has an incredibly stamina. He has stamina because he deliberately spent every waking hour studying and making his plan to escape. This cleary make Smalls a hero because not just anyone could have pulled this off. This required not only an insider but also intelligence, determination and stamina. 
In addition to Smalls intelligence and stamina, it also took him courage and bravery to carry out his plan (Thomas-Lester). Not only did the desire for freedom drive Small’s, but the joy of having a family was overshadowed by the fear of them being sold (Conliffe). Most people’s fear is like an anchor, it drowns them, but for Smalls this fear was his life boat. His fear gave him the strength and courage to take the risk in order to have freedom(Conliffe). Using this courage he encouraged the other slaves to join in his escape (Conliffe). Although the others were hesitant and scared he ensured them that they would be safe (Conliffe). This is a direct resemblance of a hero. When the opportunity finally came on the late night of  May 12, Small’s leaded the group, and with no hesitation, “in the absence of the white captain and his two mates, slipped a cotton steamer off the dock, picked up family members at a rendezvous point, then slowly navigated their way through the harbor” (Gates). Smalls was the captain of the ship [US Planter] and sailed his way through the various checkpoints (Gates). This highlights the fact that Small’s is a hero because with no reluctance he was able to become a leader and put up a front of being strong in order to make the others feel more confident. Small’s should also be considered a hero because it would take bravery to accomplish this dangerous task (Thomas-Lester). In the article, “Civil War hero Robert Smalls seized the opportunity to be free” they interviewed Michael B. Moore, Robert Small’s Great-Great-Grandson, where he shared his Great-Great-Grandfather’s story stating, “‘It was really dangerous because they were flying the Confederate flag,’ [Moore said]. ‘They made a decision that they wouldn’t be taken alive. . . . If they had been caught, they were going to ignite the explosives and die on the ship’”(Thomas-Lester). This clearly shows bravery because he risked his life in hopes for a better one. He knew that he was going to die if he stayed a slave or if he was caught. Therefore Small’s is a hero because he demonstrates courage and bravery. 
As a result of Small’s accomplishments he not only help free and save 17 slaves, he also help change the way whites perceive blacks and helped start the change of slavery and segergation (Gates). In the article, “Civil War hero Robert Smalls seized the opportunity to be free” they interviewed a black history expert from washington, she [Lawrence Guyot] stated, “It was dangerous. It was daring. It was unprecedented. And when they accomplished it, it was used to demonstrate that blacks could be brave and strategic in pulling off military maneuvers. Because of what happened on the Planter, Abraham Lincoln decided to let African Americans join the fight in the Civil War”(Gates). Following Lincolns decision to let African Americans join the war, Small’s is responsible for recruiting over 5,000 black soldiers by himself (Gates). Smalls had several accomplishments that furthermore demonstrates his characteristics of being a hero. For example, he was promoted to the rank of captain in the war, was one of the first black politicians and helped revise the constitution to give blacks voting rights(Gates). Robert Small’s was a hero who defied odds and started the fight for equality. Smalls is someone who should be recognized for his stamina, intelligence, and bravery. He should be a constant reminder for everyone to fight for equality and to take risks.  Small’s deserves to be recognized because he took such a huge risk and came so far from that risk, just for his story to be forgotten. For these reasons, Robert Small’s wasn’t just a war hero, he is a hero. 
Works Cited
Conliffe, Ciaran. “Robert Smalls, War Hero and US Congressman.” HeadStuff, 19 Feb. 2018, www.headstuff.org/culture/history/terrible-people-from-history/robert-smalls-war-hero-us-congressman/. Accessed 8 Mar. 2021.
Gates, Henry Louis Jr. “Robert Smalls, from Escaped Slave to House of Representatives | African American History Blog | the African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross.” The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross, WTTW, 6 Nov. 2013, www.pbs.org/wnet/african-americans-many-rivers-to-cross/history/which-slave-sailed-himself-to-freedom/. Accessed 4 Mar. 2021.
Reilly, Lucas. “Robert Smalls: The Slave Who Stole a Confederate Ship and Became a Congressman.” Www.mentalfloss.com, 12 Feb. 2019, www.mentalfloss.com/article/91630/robert-smalls-slave-who-stole-confederate-warship-and-became-congressman. Accessed 12 Mar. 2021.
“The Audacity of Robert Smalls | Michael B. Moore | TEDxStMarksSchool.” Www.youtube.com, TEDxTalks, 3 Oct. 2015, www.youtube.com/watch?v=w6T7ksyhUkw. Accessed 8 Mar. 2021.
Thomas-Lester, Avis. “Civil War Hero Robert Smalls Seized the Opportunity to Be Free.” Washington Post, 2 Mar. 2012, www.washingtonpost.com/local/civil-war-hero-robert-smalls-seized-the-opportunity-to-be-free/2012/02/23/gIQAcGBtmR_story.html. Accessed 4 Mar. 2021.