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Planter I (Side-wheel Steamer)

(Str: t. 300; l. 147-; b. 30-; dph. 7-10-; dr. 3-9-; a. I long 32-pdr., 1 short 24-pdr. how.)

One who cultivates plants or who founds new places especially colonies.


Planter, a side-wheel steamer built at Charleston, S.C. in 1860, served the confederacy as an armed dispatch boat and transport attached to the engineer department at Charleston, under Brig. Gen. Ripley, CSA. On 13 May 1862 at 0400, while her captain, C. J. Relyea, was absent on shore, Robert Smalls, an enslaved man who was Planter's pilot, quietly took Planter from the wharf, and with a Confederate flag flying, steamed past the successive Confederate forts, saluting as usual by blowing her steam whistle. As soon as the steamer was out of range of the last Confederate gun, Smalls hauled down the Confederate flag and hoisted a white one. Then he turned Planter over to Onward of the Union blockading force. Besides Smalls, Planter carried seven other men, five women, and three children to freedom. Moreover, besides the ship, her passengers, and cargo, Smalls also brought Du Pont valuable intelligence including word that the Confederates had abandoned defensive positions on the Stono.

The next day Planter was sent to Flag Officer S. F. Du Pont at Port Royal Harbor, S.C., who kept Robert Smalls as Planter's pilot. At the time she was taken over by the Federals, Planter had on board, as a valuable cargo, four guns besides her usual armament.

The Senate and House of Representatives of the United States passed a Private Law on 30 May 1862, granting Robert Smalls and Planter's African-American crew one half of the value of Planter and her cargo.

Du Pont promptly took Planter into the Union Navy and placed her under command of Acting Master Philemon Dickenson. On 30 May he ordered the side-wheeler to North Edisto where Acting Master Lloyd Phoenix relieved Dickenson. Planter served the South Atlantic Blockading Squadron through the summer of 1862. On a joint expedition under Lt Rhind, Crusader and Planter ascended to Simmons Bluff, Wadmelaw River, S.C., landed with troops, and destroyed a Confederate encampment.

However, the steamer had been designed to use only wood as fuel, a scarce commodity for blockaders off Charleston. Therefore, Du Pont transferred her to the Army for service near Ft. Pulaski.

After the war Planter redocumented. 17 November 1866. She was lost from unknown causes 1 July 1876.

Published: Tue Nov 15 12:50:00 EST 2022