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[234] after steaming that distance, they were at last informed, near the village of Dorchester, that this vessel had been burned. In coming down the river two Federal sailors were killed on the deck of the Wamsutta by the enemy's sharpshooters.

No demonstration had been attempted on the side of Charleston, the approaches to which were known to be too well defended to be seized and occupied by small detachments. Consequently, the naval division charged to observe the waters of South Carolina confined itself to the task of blockading as strictly as possible the entrance of this great port, which the famous stone fleet had in no way obstructed, as we have before observed. The monotony of this duty was broken on the 13th of May by a remarkable incident, showing what assistance the Federals might expect from that portion of the colored population—unfortunately, not very numerous—which had not been entirely brutalized by field-slavery. The Planter was a small steamer carrying two guns which happened to be in the port of Charleston, and which General Ripley, who was in charge of the defences of the bay, made use of, both in his tours of inspection, and for transporting soldiers and materiel of war. She was commanded by a white officer, but the pilot, named Robert Small, the engineer and fireman were mulatto slaves. On the morning of the 13th, the vessel had just shipped four guns of heavy calibre, destined for the armament of exterior works. She was lying at the wharf under steam; the whites, for some reason or other, had all gone ashore. The pilot Small perceived this, and a bold idea immediately passed through the mind of this slave, whose master thought he had a right to control and to employ for his profit not only his body, but also his intelligence. He suddenly gave the signal for departure; he was obeyed as usual. There were with him seven men, five women and three children on board, all colored. Naturally enough, there was no one among them to offer any opposition to a design which the absence of the whites rendered it easy to fathom; and as the inhabitants were accustomed to see the Planter going and coming in the harbor, the authorities of the port entertained no suspicion. Guided by Small, she thus passed before all the forts, displaying the Confederate flag and that of South Carolina, and exchanged the usual salute and signals with the lookout.

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