Navy Renaming Warship After Black Sailor, South Carolina Statesman Robert Smalls
Secretary of the Navy (SECNAV) Carlos Del Toro recently announced that the Ticonderoga-class guided missile cruiser formerly named USS Chancellorsville (CG 62) will be renamed USS Robert Smalls (CG 62). This name change honors South Carolina hero Robert Smalls, a skilled sailor and politician born into slavery in South Carolina.
The decision is part of the congressionally-mandated Naming Commission’s ongoing effort to remove names that commemorate the Confederacy. The USS Chancellorsville was originally named after a Confederate victory in the Civil War. In September 2022, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin accepted all recommendations from the naming commission and gave each service until the end of 2023 to rename their assets.
“I am proud to rename CG 62 after Robert Smalls,” said Del Toro. “He was an extraordinary American and I had the pleasure of learning more about him last year when I visited his home in South Carolina.” The renaming of these assets is not about rewriting history, but to remove the focus on the parts of our history that don’t align with the tenets of this country, and instead allows us to highlight the events and people in history who may have been overlooked. Robert Smalls is a man who deserves a namesake ship and with this renaming, his story will continue to be retold and highlighted.”
Smalls (right) was an American politician, publisher, businessman, and maritime pilot. Born into slavery in Beaufort, he freed himself, his crew, and their families during the American Civil War by commandeering a Confederate transport ship, the CSS Planter.
After the war, he returned to Beaufort and became a politician, winning election as a Republican to the South Carolina Legislature and the Unites States House of Representatives during the Reconstruction Era. Smalls authored state legislation providing for South Carolina to have the first free and compulsory public school system in the United States.
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