Navy renames a former San Diego-based ship after slave and sailor Robert Smalls


The U.S. guided-missile cruiser Chancellorsville, which was homeported in San Diego for many years, has been renamed Robert Smalls, honoring a Civil War-era maritime pilot who commandeered a Confederate ship in 1862 and turned it over to the Union forces.

Smalls was born a slave and went on to become a mariner, a businessman, a publisher and a congressman who represented South Carolina, the state where he was born.

The Navy decided to change the cruiser’s name because it was named after the Battle of Chancellorsville, a Confederate Civil War victory.

The name change was made possible by a congressionally-backed commission that has been ridding the military of Confederate ties.

“The renaming of these assets is not about rewriting history, but to remove the focus on the parts of our history that don’t align with the tenets of this country, and instead allows us to highlight the events and people in history who may have been overlooked,” Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro said in a statement.

The Robert Smalls is currently forward deployed in Yokosuka, Japan.


© 2023 The San Diego Union-Tribune

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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