Be Free or Die

Be Free or Die

The Amazing Story of Robert Smalls' Escape From Slavery to Union Hero

Book - 2017
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Baker & Taylor
Profiles the little-known African American slave, describing how he seized a Confederate steamer and delivered it to Union forces, which freed him and his family and led him to become the first black captain of an Army ship.

McMillan Palgrave

***Finalist for the Gilder Lehrman Lincoln Prize***

Henry Louis Gates, Jr: "A stunning tale of a little-known figure in history."

Candice Millard: “Be Free or Die makes you want to stand up and cheer.”

The astonishing true story of Robert Smalls’ amazing journey from slave to Union hero and ultimately United States Congressman.

It was a mild May morning in Charleston, South Carolina, in 1862, the second year of the Civil War, when a twenty-three-year-old slave named Robert Smalls did the unthinkable and boldly seized a Confederate steamer. With his wife and two young children hidden on board, Smalls and a small crew ran a gauntlet of heavily armed fortifications in Charleston Harbor and delivered the valuable vessel and the massive guns it carried to nearby Union forces. To be unsuccessful was a death sentence for all. Smalls’ courageous and ingenious act freed him and his family from slavery and immediately made him a Union hero while simultaneously challenging much of the country’s view of what African Americans were willing to do to gain their freedom.

After his escape, Smalls served in numerous naval campaigns off Charleston as a civilian boat pilot and eventually became the first black captain of an Army ship. In a particularly poignant moment Smalls even bought the home that he and his mother had once served in as house slaves.

Be Free or Die is a compelling narrative that illuminates Robert Smalls’ amazing journey from slave to Union hero and ultimately United States Congressman. This captivating tale of a valuable figure in American history gives fascinating insight into the country's first efforts to help newly freed slaves while also illustrating the many struggles and achievements of African Americans during the Civil War.

& Taylor

Describes the amazing hijacking of a Confederate steamer in 1862 by a 23-year-old slave who avoided the heavily armed troops stationed in Charleston Harbor and delivered the vessel to Union forces, earning his freedom.

Publisher: New York, NY : St. Martin's Press, 2017
Edition: First edition
Copyright Date: ©2017
ISBN: 9781250101860
Branch Call Number: 973.7115 L6458b 2017
Characteristics: xiii, 272 pages. 16 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations, map ; 22 cm


From Library Staff

Very cool story. Slave to Union hero to Congressman.

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