Smalls’ daring escape from slavery using a Confederate ship that he commandeered captivated the nation and inspired many in the Union to push for Emancipation. Smalls’ ability to pilot a Confederate naval vessel through the harbor defenses of Charleston, SC in May 1862 helped to convince President Lincoln and others that African Americans should be given the opportunity to fight with Union forces. Smalls would go on to command Union naval vessels during the Civil War and become an influential U.S. Congressman.
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