Marker Erected by: Beaufort County Council.TABERNACLE BAPTIST CHURCH
Date Marker Erected: 1980.
County of Church: Beaufort County.
Tabernacle Church was formed by black members of Beaufort Baptist Church after other members evacuated the area because of Federal occupation in 1861. The Beaufort church's lecture room was used for services during the war. In 1867 the black congregation bought this property from the Beaufort Baptist Church. It's present building was dedicated in 1894. Many new churches have grown from the Tabernacle.
Some history of Robert Smalls: ROBERT SMALLS
Born a slave in 1839, Robert Smalls lived to serve as a congressman of the United States. In 1862 he commandeered and delivered to Union forces the Confederate gunboat Planter, on which he was a crewman. His career as a freedman included service as a delegate to the 1868 and 1895 State Constitutional Conventions, election to the SC House and Senate and nine years in Congress. He died in 1915 and is buried here.
Robert Smalls and his family are buried here, next to the Tabernacle Church in Beaufort, SC. Just in front of the plot is the statue of Smalls erected by the Beaufort County Council.
His Civil War exploits brought about a recent honor from the Army.
The U.S. Army commissioned the cargo transport USAV Maj.Gen. Robert Smalls at a ceremony in Baltimore in the fall of 2007. In 1862 Smalls was a slave aboard the Confederate troopship Planter when he commandeered the vessel and surrendered it to Union forces at Charleston Harbor. He went on to become the U.S. Navy's first black captain in 1863. After the war, Smalls served five terms (1875-86) as a Republican congressman from South Carolina.
[Smalls Civil War record from Wikipedia:
Escape from the Confederacy
In the fall of 1861, Smalls was made helmsman of the Planter, an armed Confederate military transport. On May 12, 1862, the Planter's three white officers were spending the night ashore. Smalls and several other black crewmen decided to make a run for the Union vessels which formed the blockade, in accordance with a plan which Smalls had previously discussed with them. They made a stop at a nearby ship to pick up Smalls' family and other crewmen's relatives, who had been concealed there for some time.
Early on the morning of May 13, with his wife and children and a small group of other African Americans now aboard, Smalls made his daring escape. He piloted the ship past the five Confederate forts which guarded the harbor, including Fort Sumter. 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.
Service to the Union
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,( $34,232.66 adjusted for inflation in 2007 dollars) a huge sum for the time. 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. However, he remained a civilian and was never actually enrolled in either branch of service.
With the encouragement of Major-General David Hunter, Union commander at Port Royal, Smalls went to Washington, DC to persuade President Lincoln and Secretary of War Edwin Stanton to permit black men to fight for the Union. He was successful and received an order signed by Stanton permitting up to 5,000 African Americans to enlist in the Union forces at Port Royal. These men were organized as the 1st South Carolina Volunteers.
Smalls served as a pilot for the Union Navy. On April 7, 1863 he piloted ironclad USS Keokuk in a major Union attack on Fort Sumter. The attack failed, and Keokuk was badly damaged. Her crew was rescued shortly before the ship sank.
In the fall of 1862, Planter had been transferred to the Union Army for service near Fort Pulaski. Smalls then returned to the Planter, now a Union transport. 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.]