James Grant Wilson and John Fiske, eds., “Smalls, Robert,” Appleton’s Cyclopaedia of American Biography (New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1888), 5: 553-554.
SMALLS, Robert, member of congress, b. in Beaufort, S. C., 5 April. 1839. Being a slave, he was debarred from attending school, and was altogether self-educated He removed to Charleston in 1851, worked at the riggers trade, afterward led a seafaring life, and in 1861 was employed as a pilot on “The Planter,” a steamer that plied In Charleston harbor as a transport. In May, 1862, he took this vessel over Charleston bar, and delivered her to the commander of the U. S. blockading squadron. After serving for some time as pilot in the U. S. navy, he was promoted captain for gallant and meritorious conduct, 1 Dec., 1863, and placed in command of “The Planter,” serving until she was put out of commission in 1866. He returned to Beaufort after the war, was a member of the State constitutional convention in 1868, was elected a member of the state house of representatives the same year, and of the state senate in 1870, and was re-elected in 1872. He was elected to the 44th congress from South Carolina, has been re- elected to every succeeding congress except the 46th, for which he was defeated, and served, with this exception, from 6 Dec., 1875, till 1888. He has been major-general of state troops.