A great and good man: Robert Smalls

23 12 2010

This is pure theft from TNC, but this man deserves every last bit of attention he can get:

Robert [Smalls] was sent to Charleston in 1851 to work for his master (now Henry McKee) where he held several jobs. He started out in a hotel, then became a lamplighter on the streets of Charleston. His love of the water, evidenced in his childhood at Beaufort, led him to work down on the docks and wharfs of Charleston in his teen years. He became a stevedore (a dockworker), a rigger, a sail maker, and eventually worked his way up to a wheelman (essentially a pilot, though blacks were not called pilots). He became very knowledgeable of the Charleston harbor.
In the fall of 1861, Smalls steered the CSS Planter, an armed Confederate military transport. On May 12, 1862, the Planter’s three white officers were spending the night ashore. In the early morning hours of the 13th, Smalls and several other black crewmen decided to make a run for the Union vessels that formed the blockade, in accordance with a plan Smalls previously had discussed with them.
Robert was dressed in the captain’s uniform and even had a hat similar to the white captain’s. The Planter backed out of what was then known as Southern Wharf around 3 a.m. The Planter stopped at a nearby wharf to pick up Smalls’ family and other crewmen’s relatives, who had been concealed there for some time. Now with his wife and children and a small group of other African Americans aboard, Smalls made his daring escape.
The Planter not only had the blacks on board but it also had four valuable artillery pieces aboard, besides its own two guns. Perhaps most valuable was the code book in Robert’s possession that would reveal the Confederate’s secret signals and placement of mines and torpedoes in and around Charleston harbor. Smalls piloted the ship past the five Confederate forts that guarded the harbor, including Fort Sumter.
The renegade ship passed by Sumter approximately 4:30 a.m. He then headed straight for the Federal fleet, which was part of the Union blockade of Confederate ports, making sure to hoist a white flag. The first ship he encountered was USS Onward, which prepared to fire until a sailor noticed the white flag. When the Onward’s captain boarded the Planter, Smalls requested to raise the US flag immediately. Smalls turned the Planter over to the United States Navy, along with its onboard cargo of artillery and explosives intended for a Confederate fort.
Because of his extensive knowledge of the shipyards and Confederate defenses, Smalls was able to provide valuable assistance to the Union Navy. He gave detailed information about the harbor’s defenses to Admiral Samuel Dupont, commander of the blockading fleet. Smalls became famous throughout the North. Numerous newspapers ran articles describing his actions. Congress passed a bill, signed by President Abraham Lincoln, rewarding Smalls and his crewmen with the prize money for the captured Planter.
Smalls’ own share was $1,500 ($34,000 adjusted for inflation in 2007 dollars), a huge sum for the time. Robert personally met Abraham Lincoln in late May 1862 (two weeks later) upon which he heralded his personal account to the President. Lincoln was quite impressed with Smalls’ intelligence. His deeds became a major argument for allowing African Americans to serve in the Union Army. Smalls served under the Navy until March 1863, when he was transferred to the Army.
In December 1863, Smalls became the first black captain of a vessel in the service of the United States. On December 1, 1863, the Planter had been caught in a crossfire between Union and Confederate forces. The ship’s commander, Captain Nickerson, decided to surrender. Smalls refused, fearing that the black crewmen would not be treated as prisoners of war and might even be shot. Smalls took command and piloted the ship out of range of the Confederate guns. For his bravery, Smalls was named to replace Nickerson as the Planter’s captain.[2] Robert returned with the Planter to Charleston harbor in April 1865 for the re-raising of the American flag upon Ft. Sumter.

Read the whole thing, and read the thread for even more on this great and good man.

Forget the Lost Cause: This is the history we should be celebrating.





There is power in a union

23 10 2009

Jasper’s apprenticeship is proceeding on schedule. I expect he’ll have earned full membership by the time he turns one.

Cats, in case you don’t know, have a union—global, strong, and utterly unbreakable. It is, of course, mandatory, but I’ve met to meet a cat who objects to the basic obligations of the union. And no wildcat strikes, either: the duties are immanent in all cat activities, such that there is no space or contradiction between the feline condition and the union.

Marx could have learned a thing or two from cats.

(It is also important to note the union is basically syndicalist, owing in large part to cats’  anarchist predispositions. No vanguard parties, here.)

There are various tasks which all cats must perform prior to initiation into the union (Indoor or Outdoor Division)—in Jasper’s case, Feline Union Local 226, ID (Brooklyn-East Flatbush)—as well as a selection of electives (to establish a speciality).

Jasper has mastered the following:

  • bag-diving
  • sink exploration
  • tub exploration (*note: extra points are earned if cat jumps into the litter box immediately following tub or sink exploration, thereby allowing for dirty paw-prints to be tracked about the dwelling)
  • toilet flushing inspection (*note: given the noise and generally bowl agitation, it often requires a build-up to the actual inspection, ranging from remaining in the room while toilet flushes, to jumping on lid, to actual inspection)
  • pushing pencils and/or other items from desk or table to floor
  • attacking bits of paper, fluff, or anything which might otherwise be considered garbage
  • garbage diving
  • walking across and/or standing on sensitive regions of body
  • laying in clean clothes
  • disrupting bed-making
  • jumping into chair to which human plans to return
  • batting at ankles from a hiding place
  • shoelace attacks
  • sock attacks
  • chasing string
  • chasing insects
  • poking head in refrigerator
  • jumping into open cabinet doors
  • knocking over at least one plant
  • laying in lap so as to interfere with human’s task (e.g., grading papers, completing crossword puzzle)
  • laying on book/magazine and/or otherwise interfering with reading
  • purring loudly in ear while trying to talk on phone
  • window dozing
  • successful jumps to high places
  • scooting between human’s legs to run out door
  • spewing liquid medicines over floor
  • behaving perfectly in the presences of guests
  • behaving horribly in the presence of guests
  • bogarting other cat’s food (a necessary task, but subject to punishment by other cat)
  • waking the human less than a hour before her alarm goes off
  • leaping on human’s blanket-covered feet
  • crawling into human’s lap on the hottest day of the year
  • spinning 180 degrees in air when surprised
Disrupting bed-making

Disrupting bed-making

Among tasks to be completed:

  • unsuccessful leaps into high places, preferably followed by a crash
  • mauling human when she attempts to place in cat carrier [#need has not yet arisen]
  • howling while in transit [#first trips don’t count; need for other trips has not yet arisen]
  • spitting out pills [#need has not yet arisen]
  • interrupting sex [#situation has not yet arisen]
  • singeing whiskers in candle
  • spazzing at presence of sticky item on fur
  • growling
  • breaking at least one item of human
  • laying on back, spread-eagled, in presence of guests

#While apprentices cannot be held responsible for failure of humans, they are nonetheless encouraged to manipulate humans so that tasks may be completed.

Jasper has shown a particular ability in the specialty of Technology Disruption:

  • walking across and/or standing on keyboard
  • blocking monitor from human’s view
  • rendering keyboard dysfunctional through the stomping on a particular combinations of keys
  • pulling cord(s) out of computer
  • attacking mouse
  • hitting mute button on keyboard
  • sending computer into sleep mode
  • inspecting printer output

To complete certification in his specialty, however, he’ll have to

  • turn computer on
  • turn computer off
  • jam printer

Once he achieves full membership, he may not only pursue as many specialties (including but not limited to  Nighttime Disruption, Meal Disruption, Theft & Disappearance) as he wishes, he is free to innovate in the development of new specialties.

Bean became an emeritus member (Feline Union At-Large, ID)  upon reaching her 15th year this past fall. Any participation in paper-blocking and bag-diving is therefore strictly voluntary and meant solely for her enjoyment.

We humans, of course, have zero control over and only limited bargaining power with this union. They are united and strong, and we, weak and scattered.

Which means they’ll win every time.