The slave who stole a confederate ship and sailed his way to freedom - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

The slave who stole a confederate ship and sailed his way to freedom

On May 12, 1862, a gentleman named Robert Smalls was aboard a Confederate transport ship pretending to be doing his normal duties. In reality, he was preparing to take a risk that could cost him his life.


Smalls was a pilot for the Confederate Navy’s military transport, CSS Planter, and picked up four captured Union guns, over 200 rounds of ammunition, and other supplies. The Planter was a lightly armed ship that skirted up and down the coast and down rivers and allowed the Confederate military to move troops, supplies, and ammunition while staying away from the Union blockade that was set up a few miles out to sea. It also laid mines to keep the Union fleet away from the harbor.

When the ship got back to its dock, the three officers on board left Smalls in charge and went to their homes to sleep. They had no reason to think that Smalls or the crew would do anything crazy.

The slave who stole a confederate ship and sailed his way to freedom

Around 3 a.m. that night, Robert and the crew cast off. Instead of heading for their intended destination, they had to backtrack into the harbor. They made one stop where they onboarded several women and children and started off again. The Planter wasn’t exactly quiet. Literally anyone standing watch would hear and see her coasting along the harbor. Robert knew this from his years of experience piloting the boat.

He put on his captain’s spare uniform and a straw hat that was made to look like his captain’s. Along the way, the Planter passed by several Confederate lookout posts. As they approached each one, Robert would give the passcode and salute in the same mannerism as his captain. By 4:30 a.m., the ship was passing Fort Sumter. The old Union Fort was the site of the beginning of the war and full of Confederate soldiers guarding the harbor against the United States Navy.

As they passed the imposing walls of the Fort, Smalls being as cool as a cucumber, took off his hat and waved it. At the same time, he sounded the ships whistle with the correct number of blows.

A Confederate sentry yelled, “Blow the damned Yankees to hell, or bring one of them in.” Robert simply replied, “Aye Aye” and continued on.

As if the night wasn’t already stressful enough, Robert now headed straight to a Union blockade in a ship flying both the Confederate Stars and Bars as well as the South Carolina State Flag.

He ordered the flags lowered and a white flag raised. But there were two problems. It was still too dark to clearly see, and the morning fog came in pretty thick. It would be a tragedy to come all this way just to be blown out of the water. The Planter headed toward the USS Onward, which by now had taken sight of the ship and prepared its guns to sink it, at first assuming it was trying to attack the blockade.

As the Union shouted warnings at the Planter, they noticed the white flag and its occupants celebrating on the deck while gesturing furiously and cursing at Ft. Sumter.

The slave who stole a confederate ship and sailed his way to freedom

As the Planter pulled alongside the Onward, the Union captain started looking for the presumed Confederate captain. A man in a Confederate captain uniform came forward, took off his hat, and proclaimed, “Good morning, sir! I’ve brought you some of the old United States guns, sir! That were for Fort Sumter, sir!” Shock registered across the Union sailors’ faces as they finally cast eyes on the Planters “captain.”

Robert Smalls was a slave.

His entire crew was also slaves, and their families were aboard too. A bunch of slaves had just escaped from bondage by stealing a Confederate Naval vessel, and sailing right passed the Rebel’s own eyes!

The slave who stole a confederate ship and sailed his way to freedom

The Union realized that not only did they get a ship and its cargo, but a trove of valuable intelligence. On board was a book with all the Confederate passcodes as well as a map detailing the layout of mines in Charleston harbor, and Smalls own detailed knowledge of which forts were manned, gunned and their supplies.

As news spread Northward, the press took the story and ran with it. Smalls was an instant celebrity in the North. In the South, there was considerable embarrassment that a slave would be able to steal a naval vessel. Slaves had previously escaped by using hand made canoes and rafts as a means to get to the Union blockade. But to have slaves steal a ship of the Confederate Navy was too much. The three officers who left the ship were court-martialed. They claimed they wanted to spend time with their families, although many suspected they never fathomed that slaves would be smart enough to steal the ship.

They obviously didn’t know their pilot very well.

Robert Smalls was born in Beaufort, South Carolina to a slave mother and her owner. When he was 12, he was loaned out to work in the shipyards of Charleston. The practice was that slaves would work in urban areas in skilled positions, and the master would collect the wages for himself. Slaves in this position would be able to move around the city from their lodging to their place of work. Some even were able to save money on their own. Smalls worked his way up from a longshoreman to being a pilot of boats that traveled up and down the coast. From age 12 to 23, Smalls mastered the art of piloting ships and absorbed everything around him; the harbor, fortifications, passcodes, whistle codes, and when the war started, all the military intelligence he would learn.

When he was 17, Smalls married a slave that worked in a local hotel. By the time of his escape at 23, he had a family that he was worried about. He was conscripted into the Confederate Navy, but he knew with the war going the way it was at the time there was a chance the Rebels could win. He also was under constant duress that his wife and kids would be sold at a whim, never to be seen again. He knew at some point he had to do something, and on the morning of May 13, he sailed his way into history.

You would think at this point, with his family and his freedom that Smalls would be content to just relax and enjoy his celebrity status.

Robert Smalls had only just begun to fight.

Smalls traveled to D.C. as part of an effort to convince Secretary of War, Edwin Stanton, and through him, President Abraham Lincoln, of the need to allow blacks to serve in the United States military. Smalls own daring escape was one of the examples used, and soon after, Lincoln allowed units to be formed consisting of escaped slaves and freedmen.

Smalls then became a civilian contractor in the Navy. The captured Planter was valuable because of its shallow draft and his combination of pilot skills and knowledge of mine placements made Smalls a valuable commodity. He later was transferred to the Army when ships like the Planter were deemed more suitable for Army operations. He ended up seeing action in 17 Civil War engagements.

In one engagement, the Planter came under heavy Confederate fire. The Captain of the ship ran from the pilothouse down to the coal room expecting the ship to be captured. Smalls, knowing that black crew members would be killed if captured, decided that surrender wasn’t exactly in his best interest. He took control of the ship and piloted the Planter through a heavy barrage and into safety. For this action, General Quincy Adams Gilmore gave him the rank of captain, making him the first African American to command a U.S. ship. (After the war, the military contested the rank saying it wasn’t a true military rank. Smalls fought them on this, and eventually earned the pension of a Navy captain).

In 1864, Smalls was then picked to be one of the freedmen delegates to the Republican National Convention. It was to be held in Philadelphia that year. While in Philadelphia, an incident happened that would motivate Robert Smalls for the rest of his life. While on a trolley car, he was ordered to give up his seat to a white man and move. He instead got off and protested his treatment as a war hero. The city was embarrassed, and local politicians began a concentrated effort to desegregate public transportation in Philadelphia. They succeeded in 1867.

After the war, Smalls returned to Beaufort. He purchased the home of his old master, which was seized during the war. He allowed his old masters family to live on the premises while he started out on his new life. One of the first things he did was learn to read and write. Intelligence had already been seen in Smalls, but he knew he could do more.

And he did.

He opened a store, started a railway, and began a newspaper. He also invested heavily in economic development projects in Charleston. Smalls spoke with a Gullah accent, and this made his extremely popular with local African Americans as he was one of them but had become very successful. Smalls took the opportunity to get involved in politics.

Smalls was a die-hard Republican once saying it was…”the party of Lincoln…which unshackled the necks of four million human beings” and “I ask that every colored man in the North who has a vote to cast would cast that vote for the regular Republican Party and thus bury the Democratic Party so deep that there will not be seen even a bubble coming from the spot where the burial took place.”
The slave who stole a confederate ship and sailed his way to freedom

Smalls knew that post-war, newly freed slaves would bear the wrath of Southern Democrats and got heavily involved in politics. He first served in the South Carolina State Legislature from 1868 to 1874.

In 1874, he took his talents to Washington D.C. as a newly elected member of the House of Representatives. He served until 1887. Along the way, his career was hampered by Southern Democrats’ furious efforts to gerrymander districts, stop African Americans from voting, remove Federal troops from the South, and personal assaults. His career effectively came to an end when he was accused by Democrats of taking a bribe (a charge he was later pardoned for).

After his national career was over, Smalls remained active as a community leader. He most famously stopped two African American men from being lynched. He died in 1915 at the age of 75.

On his tombstone was a quote from his political career.

“My race needs no special defense, for the past history of them in this country proves them to be the equal of any people anywhere. All they need is an equal chance in the battle of life.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

How a U.S. troop pled guilty to murder but got off scot-free

The most interesting thing about pleading guilty to a capital crime in a military court is the defendant needs to be able to convince the presiding judge that he or she is actually guilty of the crime, and not just taking the deal to avoid the death penalty. Another interesting tidbit is that defense lawyers can only allow the defendant to make such a plea if they truly believe he or she is guilty.

So when Staff Sgt. Alberto Martinez offered to plead guilty to avoid the death penalty for murdering two of his officers in Iraq, you’d think that would be a gift to the prosecution. You’d think that, you really would.


The slave who stole a confederate ship and sailed his way to freedom

Lt. Allen left behind four children with his wife.

Martinez convinced his lawyers of his guilt and offered to plead guilty to premeditated murder, convince the judge, and avoid the death penalty. He was willing to testify that he threw a claymore mine into the window of a CHU occupied by his commanding officers, Capt. Phillip T. Esposito and First Lt. Louis E. Allen on a U.S. military base near Tikrit, Iraq in 2005.

The claymore exploded and tore the two sleeping officers to shreds, as it was designed to do. It was the first fragging accusation of the Global War on Terror. Witnesses told the 14-member jury that Esposito derided Martinez for his lax operation of the unit’s supply room. Another witness testified that she had delivered the murder weapon to Martinez a month prior. Another witness said Martinez simply watched the explosion happen, unconcerned about a follow-on attack. It was a well-known fact that Martinez and Esposito did not get along.

The slave who stole a confederate ship and sailed his way to freedom

A temporary memorial for US Army officers Phillip Esposito and Louis Allen erected in Tikrit, Iraq in June 2005 after both officers were killed in an alleged fragging incident at Forward Operating Base Danger on June 7, 2005.

(US Army)

Martinez was arrested and transferred to Fort Bragg for trial. A New York Times investigation revealed that Martinez offered the guilty plea two full years before his trial ever took place – but the offer was rejected by the prosecution, who wanted to send Martinez to death row.

“This offer to plea originated with me,” Martinez wrote in the plea offer. “No person has made any attempt to force or coerce me into making this offer.”

If the defense offered it to the prosecution, it means they truly believed their client was guilty, as per Army regulations. Then Martinez would have to convince the judge of his guilt. The judge could then accept or reject the plea. Martinez never made it to the judge. The Army took it to trial and lost their case against Martinez in just six weeks.

The slave who stole a confederate ship and sailed his way to freedom

Esposito with his daughter Madeline before deploying in 2005.

The defense argued that all the evidence and witness accounts were purely circumstantial and since no one took receipt of the claymores, which was usual for the Army then, it can’t be proven that Martinez had access to them or even knew the rarely-used mines were available.

Martinez was cleared of the charges, released from prison, and honorably discharged from the Army. He died in January 2017 of unknown causes, and no charges have ever been filed for the deaths of Capt. Esposito and Lt. Allen.

MIGHTY CULTURE

That time India took half of Pakistan to pay for a motorcycle

In 1947, British officer Yahya Khan offered his colleague 1,000 rupees for his spiffy red motorcycle. His colleague, Sam Manekshaw, agreed. But before Khan could pay, he was off to what was going to become Pakistan. The British split its Indian colony, and things on the subcontinent have been pretty tense ever since. To top it all off, Yahya Khan didn’t pay for the motorbike.

But he would, even if it took almost 25 years.


The slave who stole a confederate ship and sailed his way to freedom

Manekshaw (middle) whose mustache game was top notch.

The Partition of India was much more than the splitting of the British Raj into two independent states. It was a catastrophic split that tore apart the country and created millions of refugees, cost millions of lives, and split the armed forces of the country in two, all based on religion. Violence erupted almost immediately between the two groups on such a large scale that much of it has never been forgotten or forgiven. Animosity continued between both sides for decades, and the two have fought war after war because of the myriad issues left unaddressed.

By 1970, Sam Manekshaw was a Field Marshal, the Chief of Staff of India’s Army, and war hero known to the people as “Sam the Brave.” Yahya Khan was a General who fought for Pakistan against India in 1947 and again in 1965. Now he was the president of Pakistan who had taken power using the Pakistani military. East Pakistani refugees were flooding into India because Yahya would not accept the most recent elections, and India’s President, Indira Gandhi, told Manekshaw she wanted Pakistan split into two by force, creating the new country of Bangladesh. Gandhi gave him free rein to do it however he could.

The slave who stole a confederate ship and sailed his way to freedom

Khan would be deposed and die under house arrest after being stripped of his honors during the rest of the decade.

In Pakistan, the ever-present tensions with India were ready to boil over once again. But the Pakistanis didn’t send the Army to India; they sent it into East Pakistan – where the Pakistanis immediately began slaughtering Bengalis in East Pakistan. By 1971 Bengalis in Pakistan declared independence from Pakistan in response. India immediately supported the new country, first vocally, then though training the Bangladeshis, and next with air support. Finally, in 1971, Manekshaw was ready. He had spent much of the year readying and positioning Indian armor, infantry, and air units. On Dec. 3, 1971, he struck.

The Pakistani Navy’s fuel reserves were destroyed. The Indian Air Force hit Pakistan with almost 6,000 sorties in the next two weeks, destroying much of Pakistan’s Air Force on the ground as the Indian Army advanced, capturing some 15,000 square kilometers. Within two weeks, Pakistan folded like a card table. All Pakistani forces in East Pakistan surrendered to India, the genocide ended, and Bangladesh was born.

After the surrender agreement was signed, Manekshaw was said to have remarked:

“Yahya never paid me the 1,000 rupees for my motorbike, but now he has paid with half his country.”
Humor

6 ways Austin Powers is way more operator than you

In 1997, Britain’s biggest playboy and best special agent Austin Powers rocked movie-goers with his bad teeth and groovy personality.


Completely backed by the powerful Ministry of Defense, Powers stopped at nothing to take down his most villainous arch-enemy, Dr. Evil, who commonly held the world hostage while putting his pinky in his mouth.

The slave who stole a confederate ship and sailed his way to freedom
Kinda looks like Putin. (Source: New Line/ Screenshot)

Against all odds, Powers continually did his part to finish his mission, regardless of what planet or time period it took place in.

Related: The nice old man in the popular military meme is actually operator AF

So check out six ways Austin Powers is more operator than you’ll ever be.

6. He volunteered to be cryogenically frozen.

Austin was so patriotic to his country he agreed to be frozen stiff until Dr. Evil returned.

What an awful facial position to be frozen in. (Image via Giphy)

5. He has a car that can freakin’ time-travel.

While you’re driving in a hybrid, he’s chasing down terrorists jumping through time.

James Bond has nothing on Austin. (Image via Giphy)

4. Austin is known for taking out his enemies with a judo chop.

It doesn’t have to look awesome, it just needs to be effective.

He’s the only spy who can take a person out with toothpaste. (Image via Giphy)

3. Women find him completely irresistible.

In fact, some women have been known to explode because of his insanely good dance moves.

Admit it. You can’t resist him either. (Image via Giphy)

2. He’s practically rocket- and fall-proof.

Just as long as Austin has someone to stand in front of him bracing the impact — he’s good to go.

The secret to staying alive is using a female villain as a shield. (Image via Giphy)

Also Read: Newly released video shows just how operator Keanu Reeves can be

1. He can detect if there is a mole in the area.

Some operators train for years gaining the experience to find a government mole. Austin Powers found one in just a few moments.

Nothing gets passed Austin. Nothing. (Image via Giphy)Can you think of any more? Comment below.
MIGHTY CULTURE

What hunting people teaches you about business and life

Jariko Denman knows a bit about learning from and adapting to the heat of stressful situations. The Hollywood military technical advisor served as a US Army Ranger for more than 15 years and deployed to combat 15 times in Iraq and Afghanistan from 2002 to 2012. As a Weapons Squad Leader, Rifle Platoon Sergeant, and Ranger Company First Sergeant, Denman racked up 54 total months of combat experience as a part of a Joint Special Operations Task Force. He retired from active duty in 2017.

Denman said after he first enlisted in 1997, soldiers who had seen combat were revered, not just for what they’d been through, but for the lessons they’d learned through experience. At the time, there were relatively few service members who had been in a firefight.


“The Mogadishu vets, when I was a private, they could walk on fuckin’ water. When they talked, everybody listened,” Denman said during a conversation with Mat Best, co-owner of Black Rifle Coffee Company.

The slave who stole a confederate ship and sailed his way to freedom

Denman, right, with a few of the actors he coached on the set of The Outpost. Photo courtesy of Jariko Denman/Instagram.

They discussed how some people in leadership positions who didn’t have the experience that some of their subordinates had tended to project a false veneer of professionalism that didn’t really mean much, and sometimes could be detrimental. The two veterans agreed that this behavior can also be seen in the business world and in people’s personal lives.

Best, also an Army Ranger veteran, said that some of the leaders in command during his time in uniform were guilty of this as well, and it resulted in a faulty concept of professionalism.

“[They would have specific orders] about, like, what boots you’re going to wear. And I’m like, man, we’re going out every single night and getting in TICs (troops in contact), let the dudes wear the boots that are most comfortable for them rather than tan jungle boots because you think that’s ‘professionalism,'” Best said. “Professionalism is getting all your friends home to their families.”

The corollary in the business world might be an intense focus by executives on the appearance of workers in the office, with numerous emails and meetings devoted to the matter, while the company’s goals are not being met.

“Professionalism is, at a leadership level, recognizing your operating environment and making your subordinates as effective as possible,” Denman added.

Best said that’s how he and his partners have thought of their company, and that trial and error have been their best teachers and allowed them to innovate where others may be locked in place by a rigid set of rules that may not always be applicable or appropriate.

The slave who stole a confederate ship and sailed his way to freedom

Jariko Denman, Mat Best, and Jarred Taylor film an episode of the Free Range American podcast in Las Vegas.

“When we look at business and what we’re doing with Black Rifle Coffee — that’s the methodology we’ve used,” Best said. “It’s mission first, everything else is subordinate to that, rather than, like, reading a marketing book and going, ‘This is set in stone, we cannot operate outside this.’ Instead, it’s try, fail, try, fail, try, fail, and then you’ll succeed and see great things because you’re willing to take a risk. You’re willing to be innovative.

“If more people applied that to their organizations, their personal lives, they’d see massive successes in whatever they want to achieve. It’s a general statement, but it’s the truth,” Best continued. “You got to fuckin’ think outside the box, you got to innovative because the enemy is more innovative.”

“There’s nothing like hunting people to make you an adaptive person,” Denman said. “There’s no other instinct in the world that’s stronger than survival, so when you’re trying to, like, kill people, you learn how to think outside the box and how to really put your fucking thinking cap on and not do it how we’ve always done it, but do it how it works.”

This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

3 injured in an explosion at an Army depot in Pennsylvania

At least three people have been injured in an explosion at a US Army depot in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania.

The blast took place at Letterkenny Army Depot around 7:15 a.m. July 19, 2018, and left the victims with serious burns.


Three people were airlifted to medical safety after the blast, the Franklin Fire Company said in a Facebook post.

It also said fire engines and trucks had arrived to fight a fire in one of the site’s buildings.

Two employees ran out of a building on the site screaming and on fire, with one of them showing chemical burns, the ABC 27 news channel reported, citing employees on the scene.

The explosion poses no threat to the public, the Franklin County Office of Emergency Management told Fox News.

The slave who stole a confederate ship and sailed his way to freedom

(U.S. Army photo)

A Facebook page for the depot also confirmed that an explosion had taken place and that there “were injuries,” though not how many. It added that the incident had been “contained.”

The posts about the explosion were later deleted.

The source of the explosion remains unknown. Employees are not being allowed back into into the depot for fear of more blasts to come, ABC27 said.

According to the depot’s Facebook page, the army depot helps “deliver superior maintenance, manufacturing, logistics, life cycle support and service worldwide to the Joint Warfighter and our International partners.”

Featured image: A satellite view of Letterkenny Army Depot in Pennsylvania. The depot is the large, brown building in the center of the image.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

Articles

This company is bringing back a weapon long favored by Navy SEALs

Developed by some of the same engineers who designed the AR-10 and AR-15 family of rifles, the Stoner 63 was one of the world’s first modular, adaptable assault rifles used by the U.S. military.


It saw only limited fielding, but was popular among Navy SEALs during the Vietnam war. The Stoner could be configured as a rifle, carbine and light machine gun, firing from a traditional M16-style box magazine or from a belt.

The slave who stole a confederate ship and sailed his way to freedom
Navy SEALs in Vietnam. Note the Stoner 63 in the center. (National Archives)

The Stoner is surely one of the coolest looking rifles of the conflict, and while beloved by frogmen for years, it was found by some to be too complex and maintenance intensive for general battlefield use.

Fast forward almost 40 years and U.S. rifle manufacturer Knights Armament has updated the Stoner 63 with a new ultra-lightweight machine gun variant that’s causing some buzz on the interwebs.

The slave who stole a confederate ship and sailed his way to freedom
The Stoner X-LMG. (Photo link from The Firearm Blog)

Dubbed the Stoner X-LMG, the new machine gun fires a 5.56mm round from an open bolt with a piston operating system. Knights says the X-LMG uses a unique configuration that eliminates the buffer, further mitigating recoil and making it easier to control.

The X-LMG has a Picatinny rail for optics, a M-LOK handguard and a collapsable stock that helps the new Stoner come in at a surprisingly light weight of just under 9 pounds.

“The Stoner X-LMG … represents a 2kg weight saving over legacy models (including FN Herstal’s Mimimi LMG) providing operators with a more streamlined solution suitable for close quarter battle and military operations in urban terrain as well as parachute insertion,” according to one defense industry analysis.

Reports suggest the new Stoner is gaining interest among foreign special operations teams, including Dutch and French commandos and paratroop regiments. Knights armament is already popular among U.S. special operators and is primarily known for its SR-25 and Mk-11 rifles for designated marksmen and snipers.

Here’s former Delta Force operator Larry Vickers giving a detailed look at the Knights Armament Stoner LMG — the slightly heavier version of the X-LMG.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This Civil War vet’s grave is Underground Railroad site

Former slave and Civil War veteran Reddy Gray died on Sep. 4, 1922, when he was 79 years old. He was buried in Baltimore’s Loudon Park National Cemetery — the first VA burial site included in the National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom.

Gray’s experience is representative of African Americans who risked travel through the Underground Railroad to find freedom, but his story is significant for the wealth of information gleaned from public records. His life is a reminder of the fight for civil rights that began in the 1860s to continues today.


The slave who stole a confederate ship and sailed his way to freedom

Deed of Manumission and Release of Service,” 1865.

Gray went by Reddy, short for Redmond, Redman or Reverdy. Born at Loch Raven, Maryland, to John and Lydia Talbott Gray, he was enslaved by the Thomas Cradock Risteau family in Baltimore County from birth to until the middle of the Civil War. Likely a field worker or carriage driver, he resisted servitude by escaping in March 1863. It is not clear what happened, but Gray’s “Deed of Manumission and Release of Service” retroactively corresponds with his enlistment. President Abraham Lincoln had already issued the Emancipation Proclamation, and the U.S. Army was recruiting black soldiers.

The slave who stole a confederate ship and sailed his way to freedom

U.S. Army, Gray Muster-Out record, 1865.

Gray enlisted in the U.S. Colored Troops at Baltimore City on March 23, 1864. His Company B, 39th U.S. Colored Infantry, fought in Virginia at the Sieges of Petersburg and Richmond, and in the expeditions and capture of Fort Fisher and Wilmington in North Carolina. Reddy mustered out in Wilmington on Dec. 4, 1865, and that record remarks, “slave when enlisted.”

His life after the Civil War shows personal accomplishment and community involvement. He learned to read and write. He returned to Baltimore and had four children, including son Redmond, with second wife Susan Gray, who worked as a laundress. In the army he suffered from rheumatism, for which he received a disability pension in 1890; however, he worked as a manual laborer doing light work like trimming lawns or gathering rags and as a carriage driver.


The slave who stole a confederate ship and sailed his way to freedom

Reddy Gray Burial Site Certificate of Acceptance, NPS 2018.

As “Redmond” Gray, he appears in the Baltimore Sun, Sep. 15, 1894, as judge for a running race at the “Colored People’s Fair” in Timonium, Maryland; and a few years later as a member of the Colored-Odd Fellows. Reddy (also Reverdy) Gray is honored with his name on the African American Civil War Memorial in Washington, D.C. Other black soldiers who found their freedom through the Underground Railroad are buried at Loudon Park National Cemetery along with Gray, but their stories are not so easily documented.

The Network to Freedom program is managed by the National Park Service, per the National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom Act of 1998. Loudon Park National Cemetery was one of the 14 original national cemeteries established under the National Cemetery Act of July 17, 1862; it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1996.

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

Lists

9 ways you can show appreciation on Armed Forces Day

On August 31, 1949, Secretary of Defense Louis Johnson announced the creation of an Armed Forces Day which serves as a day to honor all those who serve in the sister-service branches.

The men and women of the military have made exceptional sacrifices and so on Armed Forces Day and all other military appreciation days, we can do small acts to show our gratitude to them.

Below are some ideas of how to show your appreciation:


1. Volunteer at a VA hospital or donate your time to a veterans group.

The slave who stole a confederate ship and sailed his way to freedom

There are 152 veteran medical centers in the US as well as hundreds of clinics, outpatient and nursing facilities. Call your local VA medical center or community to learn more about donating your time.

2. Talk to veterans or an active service member.

The slave who stole a confederate ship and sailed his way to freedom
Retired Master Sgt. Earl Hamilton, Sr., Veterans of Foreign Wars Enterprise Chapter member, salutes the colors
(Photo by Russell Sellers)

Ask questions about their service, why they joined the military and listen to their stories. A little interest can go a long way.

3. Visit a memorial.

The slave who stole a confederate ship and sailed his way to freedom
Golden Gate National Cemetery is located in San Bruno, CA, and is a monument to the service of countless veterans of foreign wars.

All across the US, military members are honored through monuments that memorialize their service and sacrifice. Washington DC is home to 8, but monuments dedicated to members of the military can be found throughout the nation.

4. Put together a care package.

The slave who stole a confederate ship and sailed his way to freedom
(Department of Defense photo)

With so many USO centers sending a comforting package is easy. Check with your local center to ensure that they can send out the package. You can fill them up with snacks and non-perishable food, toiletries, stationery or purchase a pre-made package.

5. Donate to a worthy cause.

The slave who stole a confederate ship and sailed his way to freedom
About 20 volunteersu00a0converged in the Santa Cruz area to join other community volunteers and a slew of professional surfers to help wounded service members and veterans overcome the perceived limitations of theiru00a0physical and psychological disabilities.
(Photo by Steven L. Shepard)

Organizations such as the Wounded Warrior Project, Homes for Our Troops or Disabled American Veterans all work to assist military members, both active and vets, in rebuilding their lives. Organizations like Operation Homefront assist the families of servicemen and women with food, school supplies, finances and housing.

6. Attend a parade.

The slave who stole a confederate ship and sailed his way to freedom
(U.S. Embassy photo by Vince Alongi)

Cities across the US celebrate Armed Forces Day with parades. Some of the most famous parades can be found in the cities of Torrence, California, Chattanooga, Tennessee, and Washington D.C.

7. Offer to help a military spouse.

The slave who stole a confederate ship and sailed his way to freedom
(U.S. Army National Guard photo by 1st Lt. Leanna Litsch)

While expressing gratitude to service members is encouraged, so is helping out their families. With one person at home, daily tasks can get overwhelming and a break is welcome. Offer to cook a meal, drive them somewhere or watch their children for a few hours.

8. Fly a flag, the correct way.

The slave who stole a confederate ship and sailed his way to freedom
Honor Guard member, Airman First Class Michael Gibson, 50th Force Support Squadron, reaches for the flag during retreat.
(U.S. Air Force Photo by Dennis Rogers)

Sometimes the simplest expressions of gratitude are the most appreciated. Make sure that if you do fly America’s Stars and Stripes you follow the code.

9. A simple thank you.

The slave who stole a confederate ship and sailed his way to freedom
Claudia greets her husband, Lt. Col. Gary Symon, 71st Rescue Squadron (RQS) commander, during a redeployment, Oct. 6, 2017, at Moody Air Force Base, Ga. Airmen from the 71st RQS supported deployed operations by providing expeditionary personnel with on-call recovery forces should they need rescued
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Daniel Snider)

Sometimes this is the most honest expression of gratitude to those who serve our country.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

6 of the worst things to drink out of a grog bowl

Attending military balls is one of those things that everyone has to do. Sure, they’re occasionally mandatory, but it’s great to see everyone in the unit unwind for a single night. Your first sergeant can get roaring drunk and tell everyone stories of when they were a young, dumb private and the specialist can flex on the butterbar for their lack of medals.

The one thing that everyone secretly dreads, however, is the grog bowl. It’s hilarious watching everyone in the unit have to stomach what is, essentially, the bottom-dwelling juices of a trash compactor, but no one actually wants to be the person next in line to grab a glass.


In essence, it’s a concoction of random things that are poured into a giant punch bowl (or, occasionally, an unused toilet). The chain of command usually grabs some random thing off the shelf and pours it in. Each addition is followed by some BS excuse — there’s a symbolic reasoning behind every addition.

For example, a unit at Fort Campbell might add in some Jack Daniel’s because the distillery isn’t too far from post and it’s kind of the unofficial drink of the 101st Airborne. You might also see someone throw coffee into the mix because of the many sleepless nights endured by troops in the unit. Those are awesome, fun additions — but you’ll you have to bite your tongue when something gross gets tossed in.

Like these:

The slave who stole a confederate ship and sailed his way to freedom

That’s all you, buddy.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Robin Cresswell)

Tabasco — to represent the blood shed by troops

This is the go-to mixer that seems to find a place in every unit’s grog bowl. If you’re a fan of spicy foods, it’s not that bad… in small doses, that is.

Unfortunately, the person adding the Tabasco won’t just add a few drops like they’re making a Bloody Mary. It’s almost always the entire bottle. Thankfully, just as it does with undesirable MREs, the taste of Tabasco will overpower the taste of the rest of the garbage — that’s why Tabasco is the best of the worst things in the grog.

The slave who stole a confederate ship and sailed his way to freedom

Yep. It tastes like nothing.

(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Jacob Massey)

Water — to represent the seas

On one hand, it’s great because the water is going to dilute whatever crap is in the bowl already. Each ounce of water offsets an ounce of garbage. On the other hand, it’s freakin’ water. It’s also going to dilute the good stuff that kind souls put in there.

There are kind souls out there that take pity on everyone who has to drink from the bowl and you’ll, on rare occasions, get a grog bowl that isn’t going to unintentionally poison the unit. Putting water in there is just going to ruin what was otherwise a reasonable sip.

The slave who stole a confederate ship and sailed his way to freedom

Everything is forgiven if the salt is added in the style of Salt Bae.

(nusr_ett/Twitter)

A bunch of salt — to represent sweat

Just like Tabasco, salt would be fine in small doses but, just like Tabasco, salt is almost always poured in en masse. And, as you’ve probably guessed, it just makes everything salty.

This one is just lazy. At least you have to go to the store to buy a bottle of Tabasco. Usually, people just grab the salt shaker off the table in front of them and head up to the bowl.

The slave who stole a confederate ship and sailed his way to freedom

Just because we ate our fair share of sand while deployed doesn’t mean we want to eat more of it stateside.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lt. Dave Hecht)

Sand — to represent the wars in the deserts

The rules dictating what kind of garbage you can put in the grog bowl typically limits the selection to things you’re willing to actually drink. This rules out, thankfully, things like battery acid. However, for some reason, this same logic doesn’t rule out sand.

Why? Because in the sandstorms of Iraq and Afghanistan, you’re going to unintentionally eat a lot of sand. Therefore, it must be okay to just drink sand, right? Wrong. Thankfully, if you’re just trying to screw everyone over, know that the sand will just sink to the bottom of the bowl and nobody will actually have to drink it.

The slave who stole a confederate ship and sailed his way to freedom

At least pretend like you’re making an effort to be an asshole.

(U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jacob Andrew Goff)

Milk — to represent… who knows, f*ck it.

There’s rarely any actual reasoning behind adding milk to the bowl. Now, if anyone were to say something along the lines of, “this is for the mothers that are waiting for us,” it’d make a little sense — but I just made that one up on the spot and have never heard it actually uttered at a ball.

It’s typically just tossed in because it’s readily available and someone didn’t want to spend time and effort on screwing everyone else over.

The slave who stole a confederate ship and sailed his way to freedom

Same goes for putting old socks in it… jerk.

(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Adelita Mead)

A boot — to represent… hard work?

Come on. This one is just plain unhygienic. It’s rare that someone will spend the effort (or cash) to buy a fresh, never-worn, boot just to plop it in the grog bowl.

Sometimes, justice intervenes and whoever put their boot in the bowl will have to drink from their own footwear. Believe me, when that jerk ends up at sick call the next week, nobody’s shedding a tear.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Russia has pledged to go ahead with a massive WWII memorial parade despite its growing coronavirus outbreak

Despite steadily mounting infections from the coronavirus in Russia, President Vladimir Putin has so far refused to cancel a massive parade celebrating the 75th anniversary of the Soviet triumph Nazi Germany.

The annual Victory Day parade on May 9 typically includes tens of thousands of troops, military equipment, and hundreds of thousands of spectators.


The event came under fire last week after social media footage showed thousands of re-enactors rehearsing for the event, despite a government ban on gatherings of more than 50 people.

One video, found by Rob Lee, an open source military researcher who focuses on former Soviet militaries, shows re-enactors at a military base in Alabino, outside of Moscow.

Video purportedly of Russian troops at the Victory Day Parade rehearsals in Alabino who aren’t quite meeting the 1.5 meter social distancing requirement instituted by local officials. https://vk.com/milinfolive?w=wall-123538639_1404052 …pic.twitter.com/JIQLTPFUMQ

twitter.com

Russian opposition figure Alexey Navalny circulated the video, and other politicians criticized organizers for letting them go ahead.

The government announced it would halt rehearsals, but still planned to hold the main event on May 9, according to the Guardian.

The 2020 parade had been scheduled to be especially large, given its importance marking the 75th anniversary of the victory over Nazism, which cost tens of millions of Soviet lives.

Putin had planned to include not only the cream of Russia’s modern military but thousands of WWII-style re-enactors armed with historically accurate gear.

The slave who stole a confederate ship and sailed his way to freedom

To prepare for the event, Russia spent years accumulating working models of the famous Soviet T-34 tank, sourcing them from as far afield as Laos and Albania.

Russia’s coronavirus outbreak, currently at 6,000 recorded cases but growing fast, may yet end hopes of the parade going ahead.

Russian government officials have attacked news organizations that report on the increasing number of cases in Russia, as well as anyone who suggests the event should be canceled.

static.kremlin.ru

The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said: “May 9th is a sacred date for millions upon millions in Russia and [ex-Soviet] countries. The Victory Day parade is scheduled (sanitary measures taken) and will march on Red Square,” according to the Guardian.

Alternative plans being considered for the parade, according to multiple Russian media outlets, include conducting the parade for TV cameras without a live audience, or postponing it until other historically significant anniversaries in September or November.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Marines create their own bridge in Norway

U.S. Marines with 2nd Marine Logistics Group-Forward built a bridge Oct. 29, 2018, during the largest NATO exercise in more than 16 years. The Exercise Trident Juncture 18 provided a unique opportunity for Marines to train with other NATO and partner forces. With more than 50,000 troops from 31 nations participating in the exercise, Marines strengthened transatlantic bond in a dynamic and challenging environment.


A unique capability the 2nd MLG provided to the II Marine Expeditionary Force, who is deployed to Norway for the exercise, was a bridge company that’s under 8th Engineer Support Battalion. Their mission provided general engineering support to the force with employing standard bridging to enhance mobility.

During the exercise, Marines and U.S. Navy Seabees, assigned to Naval Mobile Construction Battalion One, built a medium girder bridge to ensure maneuver of the Marine force. Almost 100 U.S. Marine Light Armored Vehicles and Norwegian Bandvagns, a Norwegian all-terrain tracked carrier vehicle, crossed the bridge immediately after its completion.

The slave who stole a confederate ship and sailed his way to freedom

Norwegian military members use a Bandvagn-206 to cross a medium girder bridge as part of Exercise Trident Juncture 18 near Voll, Norway, Oct. 30, 2018.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Scott R. Jenkins)

“Gap crossing is a critical skill that engineers are tasked to accomplish,” says Capt. Jeffry Hart, the detachment officer in charge for 8th Engineer Support Battalion. “Being able to rapidly assess and breach a gap takes a lot of planning and coordination between all elements of the Marine Air-Ground Task Force and is always a challenge.”

Some of the challenges the bridge company overcame during the exercise were due to the austere environment of Norway. According to Hart, the road leading up to the bridge is narrow with steep drop offs on each side, which complicated the transportation’s movement. The bridge also iced over during deconstruction, creating a safety hazard for those Marines and Sailors working around the bridge.

The slave who stole a confederate ship and sailed his way to freedom

U.S. Navy Seabee Builder 2nd Class Mason Crane with Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 1, 22 Naval Construction Regiment, rests during a bridging operation as part of Trident Juncture 18 near Voll, Norway, on Oct. 29, 2018.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Scott R. Jenkins)

“This created a logistical challenge for staging and employing our bridge,” said Hart. “The Marines quickly adapted to the situation and accomplished the mission. The bridge was kept in pristine condition and was ready to use for our operation.”

Marines and Sailors swift actions helped this construction validate the most important aspect of the exercise for the U.S. Marine Corps, which is the relationship Marines built with NATO Allies and partners and Norwegians hosts, according to U.S. Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Robert G. Hedelund, the II MEF commanding general.

The slave who stole a confederate ship and sailed his way to freedom

U.S. Marine Corps, Sgt. Michael Wilson, center, with Bridge Company, 8th Engineer Support Battalion, 2nd Marine Logistics Group-Forward, set up concertina wire during security set up before a bridging operation during Exercise Trident Juncture 18 near Voll, Norway, Oct. 29, 2018.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Scott R. Jenkins)

“We have been reinvigorating our effort to know northern Europe better,” said Hedelund. “Should we have to come back here in extremis, the relationship with NATO is an extremely important part of that.”

The slave who stole a confederate ship and sailed his way to freedom

Humvees with Bridge Company, 8th Engineer Support Battalion, 2nd Marine Logistics Group-Forward, use Humvees to provide security before a bridging operation during Exercise Trident Juncture 18.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Scott R. Jenkins)

Building a bridge over a river, halfway around the world from the home station, was not the only challenge. It was also a battle of logistics, which is why the Marine Corps’ relationship with Norway is important. To assist in this battle and foster the close friendship, the Marine Corps turned to another capability that was available in this exercise. Since 1981, the Marine Corps has prepositioned equipment and supplies in Norway to enable a quicker response in times of crisis or contingency. The program, called Marine Corps Prepositioning Program – Norway, has been used to support logistics for combat operations like the war in Iraq. During Trident Juncture 18, the Marines utilized the concept by withdrawing equipment from caves to build the bridge.

The slave who stole a confederate ship and sailed his way to freedom

U.S Marine Corps Lance Cpl. William Evans with Bridge Company, 8th Engineer Support Battalion, 2nd Marine Logistics Group-Forward, opens a meal ready to eat beside a Humvee during Exercise Trident Juncture 18.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Scott R. Jenkins)

The prepositioning program in Norway enabled Marines access to prepositioned equipment and supplies to enable a quicker response in times of crisis or contingency.

“I believe that logistics are the Achilles heel of any operations in the field,” said Navy Adm. James G. Foggo, the commander of Allied Joint Force Command Naples and the commander of Naval Forces Europe and Africa. “When we talk about the maritime domain, the land component, the air domain, cyber and space… we now have a sixth domain to talk about and that is logistics.”

The overall exercise, to include the bridge building construction, helped II MEF test and validate their warfighting capabilities across the warfighting domains, better preparing them to help support NATO Allies and partners.

This article originally appeared on the United States Marine Corps. Follow @USMC on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

From mascots to maps: 5 obscure military facts

The next time you’re stuck in a conversation that feels as awkward as an FRG meeting, try inserting one of these random and obscure military facts. They’re just weird enough to help divert a boring conversation into something a little livelier (no guarantee that they’ll work though since FRG meetings are notoriously rough).


The ultimate Commanders-in-Chief

How many US presidents served in the Army? Thirty Presidents have served, with 24 serving during war. Bonus fact: Two have earned the rank of 5-star General (Washington and more recently, Eisenhower). One earned the Medal of Honor (T. Roosevelt).

Speaking of presidents, only one served as an enlisted soldier. James Buchanan didn’t go on to become an officer, either.

Only two presidents served as airmen. Ronald Reagan served in the USAF when it was still known as the Army Air Force, and George W. Bush served in the Texas Air National Guard before being transferred to the Air Force Reserve.

The slave who stole a confederate ship and sailed his way to freedom

Mascots for the win

The Legend of Bill the Goat

Every great military academy needs a solid mascot. Bill the Goat has been the Naval Academy mascot since the early 1900s. Legend says that way back in its history, a Navy ship used to keep a goat on board as a pet. On the way back to port, the goat unfortunately died, so two ensigns were supposed to have the goat stuffed. As ensigns are known to do, the pair got distracted by a football game. Sometime before halftime, one of the ensigns dressed up in the goatskin that was supposed to be stuffed. The crowd loved the new mascot, and Bill the Goat has been around ever since.

For their part, the USMC has an English bulldog named Chesty as their mascot. Chesty was named after Marine Lt. Gen. Louis “Chesty” Puller. Puller was the only Marine to earn five Navy Crosses.

Honorary Titles

The Marines have issued the title of “Honorary Marine” to less than 100 people. This honor can only be bestowed by the Commandant of the USMC and comes with rank. Notable people to receive the title include Chuck Norris and Bob Hope.

Female Marines recently got an update to their wardrobe in the way of authorization to wear small, polished gold or silver-colored round or ball earrings. Earrings can only be worn when the women are dressed in uniform, but this is still a big change of policy for the USMC.

Speaking of Marines, now both male and female Marines are authorized to carry umbrellas while in uniform. This recent 2019 change allows for a small black umbrella to be carried with either a dress or service uniform. This update to policy took 200 years!

The slave who stole a confederate ship and sailed his way to freedom

Maps, maps and more maps

The Army was tasked with mapping out the entire continental United States, and that started with Lewis and Clark’s expedition. Army officers were some of the very first to explore and see places like the Grand Canyon and Pike’s Peak.

Unlucky Eating

Marines are a superstitious bunch. Take, for example, their avoidance of certain foods.

Marines won’t eat the Charms that come in MRE because they think they’re bad luck. The multi-flavored fruit candy has routinely been tossed from MREs since 2003. Even more spooky is the Marine rating system for Charms. Lemon Charms spell vehicle disaster, and lime ones mean rain is going to be on its way.

So there you have it. Ten random facts that probably won’t ever help you win Jeopardy but might keep you entertained the next time you’re stuck in a “voluntold” meeting.