In 1862, a South Carolina slave stole a Confederate ship and sailed it to the Union navy

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You’re killin’ me Smalls!


I hope GTA VI finally has the realism to make this scenario playable.


Until the north won be was a terrorist.

This was also a fun bit on Drunk History (Season 2, Episode 5).


I first heard of this amazing piece of history via another podcast, The Memory Palace:

Which you should go listen to RIGHT. NOW.

Seriously. I would have had a Driveway Moment listening to this, but I was out walking the dog.


Another podcast, Stuff You Missed In History Class, also covered Smalls in more detail only a week later. Makes me wonder if it’s a coincidence- they had the creator of The Memory Palace on their show for an interview not long ago too.


At any rate public interest in the event seems to be at a high point right now. Maybe Hollywood will take notice and finally give us a Civil War-era biopic with a black hero.


I really like this guy Smalls!

In 1811, around what is BC today, Captain Thorn annoyed the natives and most of the crew was killed. But one crew member blew up the Tonquin, afraid that the ship would fall into native hands.

Imagine that, a sailing ship under the control of the people who’d always lived there. They could have handled it, how would it have changed things? Of nothing else, it would have changed some of the stereotypes.

When the Tonquin was in the Sandwich Islands before arriving on the west coast and setting up Fort Astoria. Some Hawaiians joined the crew. Unless they were coerced, imagine the leap they took. Going into the unknown, without their own means of transport, and no certainty of getting back. Likely explorers in their own right, they took advantage of available transport to go exploring.

And that story was later dramatized in the Twilight Zone episode “To Serve Man.”

(“All aboard the spaceship! It’ll be fun!”)

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Where in the Zen Garden do they keep the CSS Planters?

Came here to say the same thing. You do learn things from this show if you can stomach the sympathy drunkness.

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That episode is one of the great moments in podcast history. It’s stunning: beautifully written and presented, suspenseful and moving. “The Memory Palace” is always terrific, but the very best episodes, like “Fifty Words Written After Learning the Arctic Bowhead Whale Can Live up to Two Hundred Years” and “Notes on an Imagined Plaque to be Added to the Statue of General Nathan Bedford Forrest, Upon Hearing that the Memphis City Council has Voted to Move it and the Exhumed Remains of General Forrest and his Wife, Mary Ann Montgomery Forrest, from their Current Location in a Park Downtown, to the Nearby Elmwood Cemetery” (they don’t all have titles that long), just rip you to pieces.

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The “Imagined Plaque” was a piece of utterly justified righteous fury delivered calmly and eloquently. I’ve listened to it three or four times, and played it for relatives when they visited.

“Shore Leave,” about a WWII ammunition ship that caught fire while docked in NY Harbor, had me muttering “Oh FUCK, oh FUCK, oh FUCK, these guys are going to die . . .” as I walked.

The one about caisson workers, building the footings of the Brooklyn Bridge, is way up there.

Smalls deserves a biopic. An absolutely true story about a genuine hero fleeing actual tyranny. They could use his later life, on the plantation with his insane former owner’s wife stalking the halls in a shabby debutante dress, as a framing device. How the hell did this happen? the viewer asks. Flashback to growing up as a slave, learning his skills, then making a break for it.

In the right hands it could be amazing.

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