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Robert Smalls, the Boat Thief

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On a moonlit night in the spring of 1862, six slaves stole one of the Confederacy's most crucial gunships from its wharf in the South Carolina port of Charleston, and delivered it to the Federal Navy. This audacious and intricately coordinated escape, masterminded by a 24-year-old sailor named Robert Smalls, astonished the world and exploded the Confederate claim that Southern slaves did not crave freedom or have the ability to take decisive action. Robert Smalls's heroic career had only begun. A brilliant sailor...

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Overview

On a moonlit night in the spring of 1862, six slaves stole one of the Confederacy's most crucial gunships from its wharf in the South Carolina port of Charleston, and delivered it to the Federal Navy. This audacious and intricately coordinated escape, masterminded by a 24-year-old sailor named Robert Smalls, astonished the world and exploded the Confederate claim that Southern slaves did not crave freedom or have the ability to take decisive action. Robert Smalls's heroic career had only begun. A brilliant sailor and strategist, he was quickly promoted to the rank of captain in the Federal Navy where he served courageously in many critical battles. Not only was Smalls a great soldier, he was also a powerful activist, whose appeal to Abraham Lincoln convinced the president to enlist 5,000 former slaves, shattering the color barrier that had kept black men out of the service. Smalls drew great crowds as an eloquent public speaker, and his outstanding character inspired the broad public support that encouraged Lincoln to ratify the Emancipation Proclamation. Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. tells the story of another great American hero, a man who did not flinch in the face of extraordinary dangers—a man whose dedication to the cause of freedom made him one the most important participants in the American Civil War.

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Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Phyllis Kennemer
Robert Smalls' exploits and bravery played a significant part in the victory of the Union Army in the Civil War. Raised as a slave in South Carolina, his master hired him out in Charleston when he reached his teens. Smalls was an excellent worker. When he was hired as a sailor aboard the Planter, he learned how to operate the ship as he memorized the labyrinth of estuaries, tributaries and rivers along the coast. After the ship was conscripted into the Confederate Navy, Smalls and the other slaves in the crew carefully plotted a plan to steal the vessel and join with the Union forces, thus securing their freedom. He successfully led the mission earning the support and admiration of Union commanders. After the war was over, Smalls became a spokesman in the abolitionist movement and later served six terms in the United States Congress. Kennedy has done a service for young readers in bringing the distinguished career of this patriot to light in a readable and interesting format. The realistic, full-color illustrations and black and white sketches contribute to understanding, making the book accessible for a wide range of reading abilities. Includes an afterword and a bibliography. "Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.'s American Heroes" series. Reviewer: Phyllis Kennemer, Ph.D.
School Library Journal

Gr 5-8

This title celebrates the life of a little-known African-American hero. Born into slavery off the coast of South Carolina, Smalls later saved $700-almost enough to buy his young family's freedom. When the birth of a second child put a higher price on the prize, he started thinking of escape. In May of 1862, as a deckhand on a Confederate battleship, he and a small group of slaves and their families boarded the Planter in the dead of night and sailed off, delivering the ironclad to a squadron of Union warships. Not only were they safe and free, but Smalls and his crew were recognized by President Lincoln. As a Captain in the Union army, he would later convince the president to enlist 5000 former slaves, "shattering the color barrier that had kept blacks out of military service." After the war, Smalls joined the state senate and later served five terms in the House of Representatives. Despite the picture-book format, the book's lengthy text with sophisticated sentences and challenging vocabulary is best suited to older readers. Handsome single-page and full-spread paintings along with smaller black-and-white sketches enhance the narrative. This engaging biography sheds light on an interesting man and unique time in American history.-Barbara Auerbach, New York City Public Schools

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781423108023
  • Publisher: Hyperion Books for Children
  • Publication date: 9/30/2008
  • Series: American Heroes Series
  • Pages: 48
  • Lexile: NC1260L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 8.70 (w) x 11.10 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted March 3, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Excellent book, needs wide spread distribution, adolescent to adult.

    Sub title: "Boat Thief" might attract some, but really misses the point. He
    was a great american hero and most noteworthy early African-American
    statesman.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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