by Quil Lawrence | npr.org
The U.S. Navy has finally shed the last two ship names that honored the Confederacy — and renamed one of them in honor of a man whose life story reads like an action movie hero.
The USS Chancellorsville is now called the USS Robert Smalls, the man who stole a Confederate steamer loaded with guns and delivered it to the Union Navy, delivering himself and 16 other crew and their families from slavery.
“It is a move much more consistent with the Navy’s values,” said Capt. Edward Angelinas, who commands the ship. “Going from a Confederate victory to this incredible story of a former slave, who commandeered a Confederate ship and turned it over to the Union Navy.”
Rebel generals Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson won a decisive victory over the U.S. military at Chancellorsville, Va., in 1863. As recently as 1989 the U.S. Navy saw fit to name a warship for that battle. Just seven years ago there was still a portrait of Lee and Jackson displayed in the ship’s wardroom.