This looks like a cool new site which gives stories about historical pictures. Here is an excerpt of the story they have for Robert Smalls:
Robert grew up a slave, and experienced the full measure of that corrupt institution. In April of 1862 Robert was assigned work on a Rebel Warship. The “Planter” was a high-pressure, side-wheel steamer, one hundred and forty feet in length, and about fifty feet beam, and drew about five feet of water. She was built in Charleston. She was built to be a Cotton transport boat, but with the outbreak of the unpleasantness of 1861, she was commissioned by the Rebel Navy as a gunboat. She became the prized vessel of the confederate Navy. Her armament consisted of one 32-pound rifle gun forward, and a 24-pound howitzer in the rear. She also sported an eight-inch Columbiad, one eight-inch howitzer, and one long 32-pounder. She was commanded by Captain Relay, of the Confederate navy.
Robert hatched a plan that was so daring it was almost unthinkable . . . he would commandeer the Planter, and use it to steam himself, the crew, and all their families to safety in the North. He shared his plans with the slave crew, and cautioned them against alluding to the matter in any way on board the boat, but asked them, if they wanted to talk it up in sober earnestness, to meet at his house, where they would devise and determine upon a plan to place themselves under the protection of the Stars and Stripes instead of the Stars and Bars.