“I am delivering this war material, including these cannons, and I think Uncle Abraham Lincoln can put them to good use.”

Born a slave in South Carolina, Smalls served unwillingly aboard a Confederate military ship in the early days of the US Civil War. In 1862, while the ship’s white officers went ashore, Smalls seized the boat and sailed it to freedom in the North along with 20 other escaped slaves, then turned the boat, its guns, and all supplies over to the Union. Smalls went on to captain the same ship in blockades of Southern ports, then after the war became a congressman and established the first free public school system in the United States.