Sunday, May 25, 2014

Harriet Tubman, born ca. 1822

"When I found I had crossed that line, I looked at my hands to see if I was the same person. There was such a glory over everything; the sun came like gold through the trees, and over the fields, and I felt like I was in Heaven."

Araminta "Minty" Ross, who was later known as Harriet Tubman, was born to slave parents, Harriet ("Rit") Green and Ben Ross in Maryland, in the early 1820s.  Neither the exact year nor place of her birth was recorded. The year 1822 is based on a midwife payment and several other historical documents, including a later runaway advertisement.  She was probably born on Anthony Thompson’s plantation
in Dorchester County, on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. 


Dorechester County, Maryland (in green)
Her mother, Rit, was born around 1877, the property of Atthow Pattison; in 1797, Atthow Pattison died, leaving Harriet to his granddaughter, Mary Pattison. After her marriage to Joseph Brodess in 1800, Mary gave birth to a son, Edward Brodess, before becoming a widow in 1801. In 1803, Mary Pattison Brodess married Anthony Thompson of Dorchester County. Thompson, a successful planter and businessman, owned more than forty African Americans during his lifetime. It was on his plantation that Rit met Benjamin Ross, one of Thompson's slaves, and they were married. Ben Ross was a timber inspector who supervised and managed Thompson’s significant timber interests on the Eastern Shore, earning him a reputation as a highly prized and respected bondsman.
In 1808, Harriet and Ben had their first child, Linah.  According to court records, they had nine children together: Linah, born in 1808, Mariah Ritty in 1811, Soph in 1813, Robert in 1816, Minty (Harriet) in 1822, Ben in 1823, Rachel in 1825, Henry in 1830, and Moses in 1832.

Anthony Thompson had married Mary Pattison Brodess when Edward was a small child; when she died in 1810, Thompson became guardian of his nine-year-old stepson.  Thompson remained in that role until Edward Brodess reached the age of twenty-one in 1822, when he became legally independent and gained rights to his inheritance, which included Rit and her children.  He married Eliza Ann Keene in March 1824; they  would have eight children over the next twenty years.  By 1824, Rit Ross and her children were forced to move away from  Ben Ross and the Thompson plantation, to Brodess’s farm in Bucktown, ten miles away.  Edward Brodess and his stepfather were not on good terms when he came of age, and their difficulties made it impossible for the slaves they owned to continue living together.


Slave sale in Easton, Maryland
Rit's mother had arrived in the United States on a slave ship from Africa; she was purchased by the Pattison family and given the name Modesty. As a child, Minty was told that her grandmother was of Ashanti lineage (from what is now Ghana). Rit, who may have had a white father, was a cook for the Brodess family. Rit worked in "the big house" and had little time for her own family. As a child, Minty took care of her younger siblings.

Edward Brodess, wanting more cash, sold one of Rit's daughters in 1825. Intending to make money from the other children as well, Brodess hired out Minty when she was five or six years old.  In the 1869 biography of Tubman written by Sarah Bradford:
The first person by whom she was hired was a woman who was "Miss Susan" to her slaves. . .  This woman was possessed of the good things of this life, and provided liberally for her slaves--so far as food and clothing went. But she had been brought up to believe, and to act upon the belief, that a slave could be taught to do nothing, and would do nothing but under the sting of the whip. Harriet, then a young girl, was taken from her life in the field, and having never seen the inside of a house better than a cabin in the negro quarters, was put to house-work without being told how to do anything. The first thing was to put a parlor in order. "Move these chairs and tables into the middle of the room, sweep the carpet clean, then dust everything, and put them back in their places!" These were the directions given, and Harriet was left alone to do her work.
The whip was in sight on the mantel-piece, as a reminder of what was to be expected if the work was not done well. Harriet fixed the furniture as she was told to do, and swept with all her strength, raising a tremendous dust. The moment she had finished sweeping, she took her dusting cloth, and wiped everything "so you could see your face in 'em, de shone so," in haste to go and set the table for breakfast, and do her other work. The dust which she had set flying only settled down again on chairs, tables, and the piano. "Miss Susan" came in and looked around. Then came the call for "Minty"-- Harriet's name was Araminta at the South.  She drew her up to the table, saying, "What do you mean by doing my work this way, you--!" and passing her finger on the table and piano, she showed her the mark it made through the dust. "Miss Susan, I done sweep and dust jus' as you tole me." But the whip was already taken down, and the strokes were falling on head and face and neck. Four times this scene was repeated before breakfast, when, during the fifth whipping, the door opened, and "Miss Emily" came in. She was a married sister of "Miss Susan," and was making her a visit, and though brought up with the same associations as her sister, seems to have been a person of more gentle and reasonable nature. Not being able to endure the screams of the child any longer, she came in, took her sister by the arm, and said, "If you do not stop whipping that child, I will leave your house, and never come back!" Miss Susan declared that "she would not mind, and she slighted her work on purpose." Miss Emily said, "Leave her to me a few moments;" and Miss Susan left the room, indignant. As soon as they were alone, Miss Emily said: "Now, Minty, show me how you do your work." For the sixth time Harriet removed all the furniture into the middle of the room; then she swept; and the moment she had done sweeping, she took the dusting cloth to wipe off the furniture. "Now stop there," said Miss Emily; "go away now, and do some of your other work, and when it is time to dust, I will call you." When the time came she called her, and explained to her how the dust had now settled, and that if she wiped it off now, the furniture would remain bright and clean. These few words an hour or two before, would have saved Harriet her whippings for that day, as they probably did for many a day after.
As a child, Minty also worked at the home of a planter named James Cook. She had to check the muskrat traps in nearby marshes; after contracting measles, she became so ill that Cook sent her back to Brodess, where her mother nursed her back to health. Brodess then hired her out again. These separations from her family exacted a heavy toll on her, and she suffered loneliness and fear throughout her childhood. 

Brodess hired out other members of Tubman’s family; his farm was too small to productively use all the enslaved labor he owned, and Brodess constantly needed cash for his living expenses. He sold three of Tubman’s sisters, Linah, Mariah Ritty, and Soph, to out-of-state buyers. Linah and Soph both left young children behind. Brodess turned the proceeds from their sales into land purchases to expand his own farm. When a trader from Georgia approached Brodess about buying Rit's youngest son, Moses, she hid him for a month, aided by other slaves and free blacks in the community. At one point she confronted her owner about the sale. Finally, Brodess and "the Georgia man" came toward the slave quarters to seize the child, where Rit told them, "You are after my son; but the first man that comes into my house, I will split his head open." Brodess backed away and abandoned the sale.

In late fall, sometime between 1834 and 1836, Minty was nearly killed.  She had been hired out to a neighboring farmer, and one evening she accompanied the family's cook to the local store to purchase items for the kitchen. When they arrived at the store, she encountered a slave owned by another family, who had left the fields without permission. His overseer, furious, demanded that Minty help restrain the young man. She refused, and as the slave ran away, the overseer threw a two-pound weight at him. He struck Minty instead, which she said "broke my skull." She later explained her belief that her hair – which "had never been combed and ... stood out like a bushel basket" – might have saved her life.  The weight struck the girl's head with such force that it fractured her skull and drove fragments of her shawl into her head.  Bleeding and unconscious, Tubman was returned to her owner's house, where she remained without medical care for two days. 
They carried me to the house all bleeding and fainting.  I had no bed, no place to lie down on at all, and they lay me on the seat of the loom, and I stayed there all that day and the next.
She was sent back into the fields, "with blood and sweat rolling down my face until I couldn't see." She was sent back to Brodess, who attempted to sell her, but no buyer was interested in purchasing a sick and wounded slave. “They said they wouldn’t give a sixpence for me,” she later told Sarah Bradford.  The injury left her suffering from headaches, seizures, and periods of semi-consciousness for the rest of her life. 

In addition, she had dreams, visions and heard music:
We'd been carting manure all day, and t'other girl and I was gwine home on the sides of the cart . . . when suddently I heard such music as filled all the air.
She often dreamed of flying over fields, rivers, mountains, and towns, looking down on them "like a bird."

As a child, she had been told Bible stories by her mother, and developed a passionate faith in God. She rejected the teachings of the New Testament that urged slaves to be obedient, and found guidance in the Old Testament tales of deliverance. She also had dream and visions which she considered to be revelations from the divine. 
As she grew older and stronger, she was assigned to field and forest work, driving oxen, plowing, and hauling logs.

In 1836, Anthony Thompson died, leaving provisions in his will for Ben Ross to be manumitted five years after Thompson's death. Thompson also requested that Ben receive a piece of land on his property, becoming a perpetual free laborer.
Dorchester County

Minty was hired out to John T. Stewart, a Dorchester County farmer, merchant, and shipbuilder. Laboring first in Stewart’s house, she soon began working in his fields, docks, and timber yards, exhibiting strength and endurance. Brodess eventually allowed her to hire herself out, after paying him a yearly fee of sixty dollars for the privilege to work for herself. This allowed her to earn enough money to buy a pair of oxen.
By 1840, her father was manumitted from slavery at the approximate age of 45. He continued working as a timber estimator and foreman for the Thompson family, who had held him as a slave.
1844 Reward for runaway slave
owned by Absalom Thompson
 brother of Anthony C. Thompson

Around 1844, Minty married a free black man named John Tubman.  Little is known about him or their time together.  Since the mother's status determined that of her children, any children born to the couple would be the property of Edward Brodess.
Minty contacted a white attorney and paid him five dollars to investigate her mother's legal status. The lawyer discovered that Atthow Pattison had issued instructions that Rit would be manumitted at the age of 45. A Maryland law passed in 1796 prohibited manumission to slaves over the age of forty-five. The record showed that a similar provision would apply to Rit's children, and that any children born after she had reached 45 years of age were legally born free. The Pattison and Brodess families had ignored this stipulation. Edward Brodess refused to honor his obligation to free Rit under the terms of his great-grandfather's will.

In 1847, Minty hired herself out to Dr. Anthony C. Thompson, Anthony Thompson’s son. In 1849, she became ill again. Edward Brodess tried to sell her, but could not find a buyer. Angry at his action and the unjust hold he kept on her family members, Minty began to pray for her owner, asking God to make him change his ways:
She said, "from Christmas till March I worked as I could, and I prayed through all the long nights--I groaned and prayed for ole master: 'Oh Lord, convert master!' 'Oh Lord, change dat man's heart!' 'Pears like I prayed all de time," said Harriet; " 'bout my work, everywhere, I prayed an' I groaned to de Lord. When I went to de horse-trough to wash my face, I took up de water in my han' an' I said, 'Oh Lord, wash me, make me clean!' Den I take up something to wipe my face, an' I say, 'Oh Lord, wipe away all my sin!' When I took de broom and began to sweep, I groaned, 'Oh Lord, wha'soebber sin dere be in my heart, sweep it out, Lord, clar an' clean!'" . . . 
"An' so," said she, "I prayed all night long for master, till the first of March; an' all the time he was bringing people to look at me, an' trying to sell me. Den we heard dat some of us was gwine to be sole to go wid de chain-gang down to de cotton an' rice fields, and dey said I was gwine, an' my brudders, an' sisters. Den I changed my prayer. Fust of March I began to pray, 'Oh Lord, if you ant nebber gwine to change dat man's heart, kill him, Lord, an' take him out ob de way.'
On March 7, 1849, Edward Brodess, died on his farm at Bucktown at the age of forty-seven.  She expressed regret for her earlier sentiments:
"Nex' ting I heard old master was dead, an' he died jus' as he libed. Oh, then, it 'peared like I'd give all de world full ob gold, if I had it, to bring dat poor soul back. But I couldn't pray for him no longer."
The slaves were told that their master's will provided that none of them should be sold out of the State. This satisfied most of them, and they were very happy. But Harriet was not satisfied; she never closed her eyes that she did not imagine she saw the horsemen coming, and heard the screams of women and children, as they were being dragged away to a far worse slavery than that they were enduring there. 
At the time of Edward Brodess's death, he had eight children; five of them were under the age of eighteen.  His estate was deeply in debt, leaving his widow Eliza Ann Brodess facing serious financial problems.  In contrast to what the slaves were told, his death made it likely that property would be sold and the enslaved families broken apart, as frequently happened in estate settlements.  According to his will, the slaves were held in trust for his young children.  In April, Eliza Brodess received a court order to sell all of her husband's personal property, "negroes excepted," to pay his debts.  She took out a loan for one thousand dollars and also petitioned the court to sell slaves in order to raise cash.  

At some point in her young adult life, Minty began calling herself "Harriet" Tubman; she was approximately 40 years old when the Civil War began.



Harriet Tubman and her brothers ran away from their masters in September 1849. Tubman had been hired out to Dr. Anthony Thompson, who owned a large plantation in neighboring Caroline County; it is likely that her brothers labored for Thompson as well.  At the beginning of October, Eliza Brodess posted a runaway notice in the Cambridge Democrat newspaper, offering a reward of up to 100 dollars for each slave returned. 

The brother apparently had second thoughts about continuing their escape: Ben may have just become a father. The two men went back, and although Harriet may have returned with them, she soon ran away again, this time without her brothers. Her exact route is unknown. The Preston area in Caroline County had a Quaker community which was probably Tubman's first stop.  From there, she made her way north into Pennsylvania, a journey of nearly 90 miles. She crossed into Pennsylvania with a feeling of relief and awe, and recalled the experience years later:
When I found I had crossed that line, I looked at my hands to see if I was the same person. There was such a glory over everything; the sun came like gold through the trees, and over the fields, and I felt like I was in Heaven.
Philadelphia and the surrounding area contained the largest concentration of free blacks in
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
the nation.  By 1850 there were more free blacks living in Pennsylvania, Delaware and Maryland than in all the other states combined.  Philadelphia had the largest community of blacks, with a population of 20,000 by 1847.  The Underground Railroad was active in the city, as were abolition societies. 
 
I had crossed the line. I was free; but there was no one to welcome me to the land of freedom. I was a stranger in a strange land; and my home, after all, was down in Maryland; because my father, my mother, my brothers, and sisters, and friends were there. 
But I was free, and they should be free. I would make a home in the North and bring them there, God helping me. Oh, how I prayed then. . . I said to de Lord, 'I'm gwine to hole stiddy on to you, an' I know you'll see me through.'
Executive Committee of the
Pennsylvania Anti-Slavery Society, ca. 1851
Lucretia and James Mott are sitting on the right
Robert Purvis is sitting next to them
One of the most prominent free black men in Philadelphia was Robert Purvis, a man of mixed race who chose to identify with the black community; he used his education and wealth to support the abolition of slavery, as well as projects in education to help the advance of African Americans. In 1833, Purvis had helped abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison establish the American Anti-Slavery Society in Philadelphia. From 1845 to 1850, Purvis served as president of the Pennsylvania Anti-Slavery Society, a biracial organization.Purvis also served as chairman of the General Vigilance Committee from 1852-1857, which gave direct aid to fugitive slaves. He used his own house, located outside the city, as a station on the Underground Railroad. Purvis supported many progressive causes in addition to abolition; with his good friend Lucretia Coffin Mott, he promoted the recognition of women's rights and suffrage. He believed in integrated groups working for greater progress for all. Lucretia Mott, a Quaker abolitionist, became one of Tubman's earliest supporters.

Harriet Tubman escaped to freedom as the conflict over slavery was increasing between the North and South.  In 
January 1850, Senator Henry Clay of Kentucky proposed a series of resolutions which he believed would reconcile Northern and Southern interests. Clay originally intended the resolutions to be voted on separately, but at the urging of southerners he agreed to the creation of a committee to consider the measures. As chairman of the committee, Clay presented an omnibus bill linking all of the resolutions. The resolutions included:
  • Admission of California as a free state, ending the balance of free and slave states in the senate
  • Organization of the  Utah and New Mexico territories without any slavery provisions, giving the right to determine whether to allow slavery to the territorial populations
  • Prohibition of the slave trade, but not the ownership of slaves, in the District of Columbia
  • A more stringent Fugitive Slave Act
  • Establishment of boundaries for the state of  Texas in exchange for federal payment of Texas's ten million dollar debt.
  • A declaration by Congress that it did not have the authority to interfere with the interstate slave trade.
The omnibus bill, despite Clay's efforts, failed in a crucial vote on July 31 with the majority of his Whig Party opposed. He announced on the Senate floor the next day that he intended to persevere and pass each individual part of the bill. 

In August, as Congress was debating the new and harsher fugitive slave law, abolitionists gathered in the upstate New York town of Cazenovia to take protest against the bill. Over 2,000 people attended the Fugitive Slave Law Convention, including about 50 fugitive slaves. 

Fugitive Slave Law Convention, August 1850
The convention declared that “the State motto of Virginia, ‘Death to Tyrants,’ is as well the black man’s as the white man’s motto.” Leading abolitionists took the podium; in the coming decade, many of them would become supporters and friends of Harriet Tubman. 

Ezra Greenleaf Weld, brother of one of the abolitionists, Theodore Weld, was in the crowd; he was a Daguerrean artist and captured an image of some of the participants, including his brother Theodore, Gerrit Smith, Frederick Douglass, Abby Kelley Foster, and the Edmondson sisters.

On September 18, 1850, the U.S. Congress passed the Compromise of 1850. Among the provisions of the Compromise of 1850 was the creation of a stricter Fugitive Slave Law. Helping runaways had been illegal since 1793, but the 1850 law required that everyone, law enforcers and ordinary citizens, help catch fugitives.

In spite of pro-slavery advocates' claim to support "States' Rights" and the freedom of American citizens, their actions forced Northern states and their residents to not only support slavery, but to actively participate in it.  Those who refused to assist slave-catchers, or aided fugitives, could be fined up to $1,000 (about $28,000 in present-day value) and jailed for six months.  It also eliminated what little legal protection fugitives once had. Before 1850, some northern states had required slave-catchers to appear before an elected judge and be tried by a jury which would determine the validity of a claim. After the 1850 Fugitive Slave Law, any black person could be taken from the street, accused of being a fugitive from slavery, and taken before a federally appointed commissioner who received $5 for every fugitive released - and $10 for every one sent south. 

The law also specified that any person, white or black, could be held responsible for the return of the alleged runaway to the alleged owner.  It raised all fines and terms of imprisonment for violation of the law.  It made any federal marshal or other official who did not arrest an alleged runaway slave liable to a fine of $1,000. Law-enforcement officials everywhere were now obliged to arrest anyone suspected of being a runaway slave on no more evidence than a claimant's testimony of ownership. The law not only threatened the freedom of all people of color, it also destroyed the freedom of all people, black or white, in the free states by demanding their participation in the capture and return of enslaved people. 

There were, however, no penalties in the law for those who made false claims or abducted free people, whether black or white.  Free blacks and anti-slavery groups argued the system actually bribed commissioners to send kidnapped people into slavery, and obliged citizens to participate in the slavery system.  The Fugitive Slave Law brought the issue home to citizens in the North, as it made them and their institutions responsible for enforcing slavery. 

Abolitionists were now faced with the immediate choice of defying what they believed to be an unjust law or breaking with their own consciences and beliefs.  It brought a defiant response from many people, both white and black. Reverend Luther Lee, pastor of the Wesleyan Methodist Church of Syracuse, New York, wrote:
I never would obey it. I had assisted thirty slaves to escape to Canada during the last month. If the authorities wanted anything of me, my residence was at 39 Onondaga Street. I would admit that and they could take me and lock me up in the Penitentiary on the hill; but if they did such a foolish thing as that I had friends enough on Onodaga County to level it to the ground before the next morning.
William Adams, a Quaker of  the Cherry Street meeting in Philadelphia, wrote in his diary:
Lucretia Mott
Twelfth month 22d, 1850. Lucretia Mott came forth with a fresh testimony against slavery and the Fugitive Slave Law. She cited a case where a colored man from Jersey, coming from market yesterday, was arrested, bound and hurried away South, after undergoing a partial examination, which she considered illegal.
Frederick Douglass
Frederick Douglass later wrote of this time in his autobiography: 
Even colored people who had been free all their lives felt themselves very insecure in their freedom, for under this law the oaths of any two villains were sufficient to consign a free man to slavery for life.
While the law was a terror to the free, it was a still greater terror to the escaped bondman. To him there was no peace. Asleep or awake, at work or at rest, in church or market, he was liable to surprise and capture. By the law the judge got ten dollars a head for all he could consign to slavery, and only five dollars apiece for any which he might adjudge free. 
Although I was now myself free, I was not without apprehension. My purchase was of doubtful validity, having been bought when out of the possession of my owner and when he must take what was given or take nothing. It was a question whether my claimant could be estopped by such a sale from asserting certain or supposable equitable rights in my body and soul. 
Tubman learned that her niece, Kessiah/Keziah, known as "Kizzy," and her two children, six
1849 advertisement for the sale
 of Tubmman's niece, Kizziah
year-old James Alfred, and baby Araminta, would be sold in Cambridge, Maryland in December.  Kessiah's husband, a free black man named John Bowley, made the winning bid for his wife. Then, while he pretended to make arrangements to pay, Kessiah and their children escaped to a nearby safe house.  When night fell, Bowley took the family in a small boat, up the Chesapeake Bay, 60 miles to Baltimore.  Harriet Tubman was waiting for them in the city and escorted them to Philadelphia.
The following spring Tubman returned to Maryland to guide away other family members. During her trip she recovered her younger brother Moses and two unidentified men. 

Tubman began working with Thomas Garrett, a Quaker in Wilmington, Delaware. Garrett was an abolitionist and leader in the Underground Railroad movement. Garrett had been born into a prosperous Quaker family in Pennsylvania. When he was a young man, a family servant was kidnapped by men who planned to sell her as a slave in the South. Garret tracked them down and rescued her. Garret moved to Wilmington, Delaware and established a prosperous iron and hardware business. In 1827, he was an officer of the Delaware Abolition Society and represented the group at the National Convention of Abolitionists. Garrett openly worked as a stationmaster for the Underground Railroad; Thomas Garrett would secure transportation to William Still's office in Philadelphia, or the homes of other Underground Railroad operators in the greater Philadelphia area.

In 1848, Garrett and his friend John Hunn were brought to trial under the Fugitive Slave Act
Thomas Garrett
of 1793. Owners of runaway slaves brought charges against them for the loss of their property in the U.S. Circuit Court in Delaware. Roger B. Taney presided over the trials (he later became the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and delivered the majority opinion in the Dred Scott case).  A
fter being found guilty, and fined $4,5000, Garrett spoke before Taney and the Court:
Thou has left me without a dollar, and I say to thee and to all in this court room, that if anyone knows a fugitive who wants shelter, send him to Thomas Garrett and he will befriend him...
A lien was put on Garrett's house and business until the fine was paid. With the aid of friends, Garrett paid the fine and continued in his iron and hardware business and helping runaway slaves to freedom.  Harriet Beecher Stowe cited Garrett's 1848 trial as inspiration for some scenes in her anti-slavery novel,  Uncle Tom's Cabin  In her book, Garrett was the model for Simeon Halliday, the benevolent Quaker.

Tubman passed through Garrett's station many times, and he frequently provided her with money to continue her missions of guiding runaway slaves to freedom.  Garrett later wrote of Tubman that he 
never met with any person, of any color, who had more confidence in the voice of God, as spoken direct to her soul . . . and her faith in a Supreme Power truly was great.
In the fall of 1851, Tubman returned to Dorchester County for the first time since her escape in 1849.  She had worked and saved money, rented a place to live, and she intended to bring her husband, John, back to Philadelphia with her. However, in the intervening two years, John Tubman had married a free black woman named Caroline. Franklin Sanborn, in his biographical sketch of Tubman in 1863, wrote that:
She bought a nice suit of men's clothes, and went back to Maryland for her husband. But the faithless man had taken to himself another wife. Harriet did not dare venture into her presence, but sent word to her husband where she was. He declined joining her. At first her grief and anger were excessive . . . but finally she thought . . . "if he could do without her, she could without him," and so "he dropped out of her heart," and she determined to give her life to brave deeds.
Suppressing her anger, she found some slaves who wanted to escape and led them to Philadelphia.  John and Caroline Tubman raised a family of four children together as free blacks in Maryland.

A few months later, in December 1851, Tubman guided an unidentified group of 11 fugitives, possibly including the Bowleys, northward. There is evidence to suggest that Tubman and her group stopped at the home of Frederick Douglass.  In his third autobiography, Douglass wrote:
On one occasion I had eleven fugitives at the same time under my roof, and it was necessary for them to remain with me until I could collect sufficient money to get them on to Canada. It was the largest number I ever had at any one time, and I had some difficulty in providing so many with food and shelter.
In 1853, Gourney Pattison filed a lawsuit against Eliza Ann Brodess for the profits from hiring out Rit Ross and her children and the sale of Linah and Soph. He felt that the Pattison family had a right to the profits derived against the will of his great-grandfather. The case was dismissed despite the validity of Atthow Pattison's will and Harriet Ross' right to be manumitted (along with most of her children over the age of forty-five). Between 1853 and June of 1855, Ben Ross purchased Harriet for $20 from Eliza Brodess. At this time, Rit could not be granted manumission from her new owner/husband because of a Maryland law that forbade slave owners freeing slaves over forty-five years of age.
On Christmas day, 1854, Tubman and six runaways, including her three brothers, arrived at Ben Ross' cabin in Caroline County. The holidays were an ideal time to escape, as masters often allowed their slaves to visit nearby family and enjoy a few days outside of direct supervision. The group hid in the corn crib in Ben's barn.  Tubman did not want her mother to know that she was helping her brothers escape because she believed Rit would not be able to hide her emotions about their secret.  Tubman sent the two of the runaways, John Chase and Peter Jackson, to alert her father to their presence. Ben Ross did not want to actually see his children, knowing that if the authorities questioned him on the whereabouts of his missing sons, Ross could honestly say that he had not "seen" them. Ben gave the group of runaways food and clothing while keeping his eyes closed.  

The group left for Delaware, and after 3 days arrived at Thomas Garrett's home in Wilmington.  Garret wrote a letter to their mutual friend, J. Miller McKim:
Wilmington, 12 mo. 29th, 1854
Esteemed Friend, J. Miller McKim:
We made arrangements last night, and sent away Harriet Tubman, with six men and one woman to Allen Agnew's, to be forwarded across the country to the city.  Harriet, and one of the men had worn their shoes off their feet, and I gave them two dollars to help fit them out . . .  
When they reached William Still's office in Philadelphia, they told him their stories, which he later included in his 1872 book:
Harriet was a woman of no pretensions . . . Yet in point of courage, shrewdness and disinterested exertions to rescue her fellow-men . . . she was without equal.  Her success was wonderful.  Time and again she made successful visits to Maryland . . . and would be absent for weeks at a time, running daily risks while making preparations for herself and passengers.  Great fears were entertained for her safety, but she seemed wholly devoid of personal fear. . . She was much more watchful with those she was piloting . . . She would give all to understand that "times were very critical and therefore no foolishness would be indulged in on the road."  
. . . December 29th, 1854 . . . Benjamin was twenty-eight years of age . . . Henry left his wife, Harriet Ann . . . Henry was only twenty-two . . . He was the father of two small children, whom he had to leave behind . . . Catherine {alias Jane}, aged twenty-two . . . affirmed that her master, "Rash Jones, was the worst man in the country." . . . Robert was thirty-five years of age . . . The civilization, religion, and customs under which Robert and his companions had been raised were, he thought, "very wicked." . . . They anticipated better days in Canada. . . . Clothing, food and money were given them to meet their wants, and they were sent on their way rejoicing.  
They took new names that they would use for the rest of their lives in the North.  They all traveled safely to St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada, where they remained during the rest of the 1850s. Benjamin Drew, a journalist from Boston, interviewed Tubman in St. Catharines in the summer of 1855. She was quoted as saying:
I have seen hundreds of escaped slaves, but I never saw one who was willing to go back and be a slave . . . I think slavery is the next thing to hell. If a person would send another into bondage, he would, it appears to me, he had enough to send him into hell, if he could.
In 1855 or 1856, Tubman brought Henry's free wife, Harriet Ann Parker, and their two children, William Henry, Jr. and John Isaac to Canada.  William Henry Stewart settled in Grantham on the outskirts of St. Catharines, where he and Harriet Ann farmed, and raised a large family of 10 children.

Thomas Garrett wrote a letter to Eliza Wigham, Secretary of the Anti-Slavery Society of Edinburgh on December 16, 1855:
. . . I feel as if I could not close this already too long letter, without giving some
Eliza Wigham
account of the doings of a noble woman . . a black one . . . She is strong and muscular, now about 55 years of age; born a Slave, and raised what is termed a field hand.  She escaped from Slavery some 8 years since . . . She has made 4 successful trips to the neighborhood she left; & brought away 17 of her brothers, sisters, & friends & has mostly made the journeys down on foot, alone, & with her companions mostly walked back, traveling the whole distance at night, and secreting themselves during the day.  She has three times gone to Canada with those she brought, and spent every dollar she could earn, or get in the cause. . . . Last week, after a trip of two weeks, she brought up one man.  She took tea with me, & has left again with the determination (during the Christmas holidays) to bring away her sister, now the last left in slavery, & her three children, a sister in law & her three children, (the husband of the latter has been a Year in Canada), & one male friend.  She says if she gets them away safely, she will be content, & give up such hazardous journeys, but says she will either accomplish it or  be arrested . . . Shoud she be arrested for assisting a slave . . . she would be sold a slave for life . . . I can assure you I am proud of her acquaintance.
In the decade before the Civil War began, Tubman returned repeatedly to the Eastern Shore of Maryland, rescuing some 70 slaves; she also provided instructions for about 50 to 60 other fugitives who escaped to the north.  Her work required ingenuity and risk.  She usually worked during winter months to minimize the likelihood that the group would be seen. According to Ednah Cheney:
She always came in the winter, when the nights are long and dark, and people who have homes stay in them.  She was never seen on the plantation herself; but appointed a rendezvous for her company eight or ten miles distant . . . She started on Saturday night . . . they would not be missed until Monday morning.
Franklin Sanborn later wrote in his Commonwealth article:
Franklin Sanborn

When going on these journeys she often lay alone in the forests all night. Her whole soul was filled with awe of the mysterious Unseen Presence, which thrilled her with such depths of emotion, that all other care and fear vanished. Then she seemed to speak with her Maker "as a man talketh with his friend;" her child- like petitions had direct answers, and beautiful visions lifted her up above all doubt and anxiety into serene trust and faith. No man can be a hero without this faith in some form; the sense that he walks not in his own strength, but leaning on an almighty arm. Call it fate, destiny, what you will, Moses of old, Moses of to-day, believed it to be Almighty God.
Tubman used songs to relay messages. Sometimes she had to leave a group she was leading north, and told them to hide and wait for her signal. If she came back and sang one song two times, they would know it was safe to come out of hiding. But if there was danger,  she would sing another song. This would mean that the group had to stay in hiding until Tubman sang the “all clear” song.

Tubman was familiar with the abolitionist and Underground Railroad networks in Pennsylvania, New York, Massachusetts and Maryland. Although many of these helpers were secret, and remain so, according to Sara Bradford, Tubman was assisted by both Samuel Green of Maryland and Thomas Garrett of Delaware: 
Sam Green, the man who was afterwards sent to State Prison for ten years for having a copy of "Uncle Tom's Cabin" in his house . . .  
Thomas Garrett is a Quaker, and a man of a wonderfully large and generous heart, through whose hands, Harriet tells me, two thousand self-emancipated slaves passed on their way to freedom. He was always ready, heart and hand and means, in aiding these poor fugitives, and rendered most efficient help to Harriet on many of her journeys back and forth. 
. . . When asked, as she often is, how it was possible that she was not afraid to go back, with that tremendous price upon her head, Harriet always answers, "Why, don't I tell you, Missus, t'wan't me, 'twas de Lord! I always tole him, 'I trust to you. I don't know where to go or what to do, but I expect you to lead me,' an' he always did."
Samuel Green
Samuel Green was a free black farmer and African American Episcopal minister in Dorchester County; he had been born in slavery but purchased his freedom as a young man.  He was able to buy the freedom of his enslaved wife, Kitty, in 1842, but their two young children, Sam, Jr. and Susan, were sold by their owner to Dr. James Muse in 1847, taking them out of the Green household. In 1852, Green served as a delegate to the Convention of the Free Colored People of Maryland in Baltimore, where he resisted efforts to encourage emigration to Africa, and later attended the National Convention of the Colored People of the United States, held at Franklin Hall in Philadelphia, as a delegate from Maryland. 

Pages from William Still's August 1854 journal

In August 1854, Sam Green’s son, Sam Jr., a skilled blacksmith, ran away from Dr. Muse after learning that he might be sold. Using instructions probably given to him by Tubman, he made his way to the office of William Still in Philadelphia. 
From there, he was sent along to Ontario, Canada, just across the U.S. border near Niagara Falls, where he joined other
William Still
runaways living relatively free lives. 
Once settled in Chipaway, Sam, Jr. wrote to his parents, telling them news of his successful journey to freedom, which included “plenty of friends, plenty to eat, and to drink.” He told his father to tell Peter Jackson and Joe Bailey, both locally enslaved men, to come to Canada as soon as they could. Jackson escaped with Tubman and her brothers on Christmas Day, 1854; Bailey would wait another two years before his successful escape. Tragically, Sam Jr.’s sister Sarah was unable to flee; as the mother of two young children, she may have been unwilling or unable to run away with her brother. Muse, angry over the escape of Sam Jr. and suspicious that Sarah might run off as well, sold her to a Missouri family, separating her from her family forever.
1856 Reward advertisement
 from Cambridge, Maryland


In March 1857, a group of slaves from Dorchester County called the "Dover Eight" fled to Delaware; a Dover man in the Underground Railroad network was to help them but instead turned them in for a $3,000 reward.  In a dramatic escape, they kicked out a window of the Dover jail, jumped from the second story and hid in the woods until other abolitionists helped them. Seven were known to have reached freedom, but the fate of the unidentified one is unknown.  Their  flight and escape made national headlines. 

The group had received help and shelter from Samuel Green in East New Market, then from Tubman's father, Ben Ross, at Poplar Neck in Caroline County. When the Dorchester County sheriff searched Green's house, he found the letters from Sam Jr. naming Jackson and Bailey. Raising further suspicions, Green had recently returned from a trip to Canada to visit with his son. Authorities also discovered a Canadian map, various railroad schedules, and a copy of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s book, Uncle Tom's Cabin.  Green was arrested on April 4, 1857, and charged with "knowingly having in his possession a certain abolition pamphlet called 'Uncle Tom's Cabin,' of an inflammatory character and calculated to create discontent amongst the colored population of this State" and "knowingly having in his possession certain abolition papers and pictorial representation of an inflammatory character calculated to create discontent amongst the colored population of this State." After a two week trial, Green was found guilty of a felony and sentenced to the ten years at the Maryland Penitentiary in Baltimore. 

Word of Green's case spread throughout the country; support for Green began to build and letters arrived at Governor Thomas Watkins Ligon's door in favor of pardon. Letters from Dorchester County slave owners also arrived, demanding that Green should remain behind bars because of the many slave runaways in the area. The barrage of petitions continued when Thomas Holliday Hicks, a native of Dorchester County, became the governor.  Hicks, a believer in the right to own slaves, declared that Green would remain in jail as long as he was governor, and kept his promise.  The cost of the trial forced the Greens to sell their property in Dorchester County; Kitty then moved to Baltimore to be closer to her husband in prison, and supported herself by taking in laundry. 
There was much suspicion of Ben Ross's participation in the Underground Railroad.  Eastern Shore slave owners, particularly in Dorchester County, were desperate to stop the exodus of slaves. According to Thomas Garrett, Ben Ross was suspected of aiding the "Dover Eight." Believing that her parents' freedom, and possibily their lives, were in danger, Tubman made a trip down to Caroline County to escort her aging parents to safety.  At almost seventy years of age, Ben and Harriet Ross fled Caroline County for Canada in June, 1857. 


John Brown
In early January 1858, Tubman spent a few days with Frederick Douglass and his family at their home in Rochester.  Douglass wrote the Irish Ladies' Anti-Slavery Association that she had "been spending a short time with us since the holidays."  Later that year, the fanatical abolitionist John Brown and twelve of his followers, including his son Owen, traveled to  Chatham, Ontario, where on May 8 he convened a Constitutional Convention, put together with the help of  Martin Delany.  One-third of Chatham's 6,000 residents were fugitive slaves.  John Brown was introduced to Harriet Tubman: he was so impressed by her that he referred to her as “General Tubman.” She became a devoted supporter, helping Brown recruit people for his plan to liberate slaves.  Tubman later said that John Brown was the greatest white man she had ever met.

Tubman frequently attended abolition and suffrage meetings throughout New York and in the Boston area, sometimes under the pseudonym “Harriet Garrison” to protect her from slave catchers.  Needing additional money to support her family and her rescues, Tubman turned to the antislavery lecture platform as a means to raise money for both her family and her missions. In the fall of 1858, SanbornSanborn was one of six influential men who supplied Brown with support for the raid on Harper's Ferry; the group was later termed the "Secret Six." Sanborn would defend Brown to the end of his life, assist in the support of his widow and children, and make periodic pilgrimages to Brown's grave.

Tubman also met Thomas Wentworth Higginson, who not only supported abolition, but also temperance, labor rights, and rights of women.  He supported disunion abolitionism, organizing the Worcester Disunion Convention in 1857. The convention asserted abolition as its primary goal, even if it led the country to war. Higginson, a supporter of John Brown, was another of the "Secret Six" group who helped Brown raise money and acquire  supplies for his intended slave insurrection.  Higginson wrote in a letter to his mother:
Worchester,  June 17, 1859
Dearest Mother: 
We have had the greatest heroine of the age here, Harriet Tubman, a black woman, and a fugitive slave, who has been back eight times secretly and brought out in all sixty slaves with her, including all her own family, besides aiding many more in other ways to escape. Her tales of adventure are beyond anything in fiction and her ingenuity and generalship are extraordinary. I have known her for some time and mentioned her in speeches once or twice---the slaves call her Moses. She has had a reward of twelve thousand dollars offered for her in Maryland and will probably be burned alive whenever she is caught, which she probably will be, first or last, as she is going again. She has been in the habit of working in hotels all summer and laying up money for this crusade in the winter. She is jet black and cannot read or write, only talk, besides acting.
 . . . A more ordinary specimen of humanity could hardly be found among the most unfortunate-looking farm hands of the South. Yet in point of courage, shrewdness, and disinterested exertions to rescue her fellow-man, she is without equal.
Tubman's home in Fleming, New York
The winters in Canada were hard for Tubman’s parents. In 1859, William Seward sold Tubman a home and land in Fleming, near Auburn, New York, where she settled her aged parents and other family members. Surrounded by abolitionists, such as Martha Coffin Wright and Gerrit Smith of Peterboro, Tubman’s family was supported and protected. 

William Seward was an opponent of the Fugitive Slave Act, and he defended runaway slaves in court. Seward’s wife. Frances, was deeply committed to the abolitionist movement. Although supportive of her husband's political career, Frances Seward did not choose to move with him to Washington. Ongoing health problems and the care of her aging father kept her in Auburn. The Seward family's Auburn home was a safehouse to fugitive slaves. Seward’s frequent
Frances Seward
travel and political work meant that it was Frances who played the more active role in Auburn abolitionist activities. Frances 
Seward referred to the area over the woodshed as her "dormitory."

On the evening of October 16, 1859 John Brown and a group of his supporters left their farmhouse hide-out for Harpers Ferry; in the early hours of October 17th, Brown and his men seized the federal armory and arsenal. Brown believed that the local slave population would join him and weapons could be supplied to slaves and freedom fighters throughout the country. U.S. Marines under the command of Colonel Robert E. Lee arrived and stormed the engine house, killing many of the raiders and capturing Brown. Brown was quickly placed on trial and charged with treason, murder, and slave insurrection. Brown was sentenced to death for his crimes and hanged on December 2, 1859.


Henry Highland Garnet
According to Sarah Bradford, in early 1860, 
While staying with the Rev. Henry Highland Garnet in New York, a vision came to her in the night of the emancipation of her people. Whether a dream, or one of those glimpses into the future, which sometimes seem to have been granted to her, no one can say, but the effect upon her was very remarkable.
She rose singing, "My people are free!" "My people are free!" She came down to breakfast singing the words in a sort of ecstasy. She could not eat. The dream or vision filled her whole soul, and physical needs were forgotten.  
Mr. Garnet said to her: "Oh, Harriet! Harriet! You've come to torment us before the time; do cease this noise! My grandchildren may see the day of the emancipation of our people, but you and I will never see it."
"I tell you, sir, you'll see it, and you'll see it soon. My people are free! My people are free."
When, three years later, President Lincoln's proclamation of emancipation was given forth, and there was a great jubilee among the friends of the slaves, Harriet was continually asked, "Why do you not join with the rest in their rejoicing!" "Oh," she answered, "I had my jubilee three years ago. I rejoiced all I could den; I can't rejoice no more."
On her way to Boston in April 1860, Tubman helped rescue a fugitive slave, Charles Nalle, from the custody of United States Marshals in Troy, New York, charged with returning him to his Virginia master. She attended the New England Anti-Slavery Society Conference in Boston in May, and visited Ralph Waldo Emerson's house, met Louisa May Alcott's family, and had tea with Horace Mann's wife. 

Throughout the 1850s, Tubman had tried, unsuccessfully, to return to Maryland and bring away her one remaining enslaved sister, Rachel, along with Rachel's children.  On her last known rescue mission in December 1860, Tubman arrived in Dorchester County and learned that Rachel had died. Unable to retrieve Rachel’s children, Tubman instead brought away the Ennals family, including a small infant who had to be drugged to keep it quiet as they fled.  They safely reached the home of David and Martha Wright in Auburn, New York,  on December 28, 1860.  In Martha Wright's letter to her sister Lucretia on December 30, 1860,she wrote:
We have been expending our sympathies, as well as congratulations, on seven
Martha Coffin Wright
newly arrived slaves that Harriet Tubman has just pioneered safely from the Southern Part of Maryland. One woman carried a baby all the way and brought two other children that Harriet and the men helped along. They brought a piece of old comfort and a blanket in a basket with a little kindling, a little bread for the baby with some laudanum to keep it from crying during the day.
After acquiring the Auburn property, Tubman went back to Maryland at some point and returned with a light-skinned black girl named Margaret, who she said was her niece.  The identity of Margaret's parents is unknown.  Years later, Margaret's daughter, Alice Lucas Brickler, said that Tubman "had taken the child from a sheltered good home to a place where there was nobody to care for her." Alice Brickler described it as a "kidnapping."  There has been speculation that Margaret was actually Tubman's daughter, or that she had another reason for taking the child, and kept the actual circumstances a secret.

As Tubman was frequently away from home on rescue missions and the abolition circuit, and would spend extended periods away from home during the Civil War, she entrusted Margaret to the care of Lazette Miller Worden, the sister of Frances Miller Seward. A widow, Worden resided in the Seward home in Auburn.  Margaret, according to Alice Brickler, lived 
not as a servant but as a guest within her home. She taught Mother to speak properly, to read, write, sew, do housework and act as a lady. Whenever Aunt Harriet came back, Mother was dressed and sent in the Seward carriage to visit her. Strange to say, Mother looked very much like Aunt Harriet and there was hardness about her character in the face of adversity that must have been hereditary. 
Lazette Worden met regularly for tea with Martha Coffin Wright. Wright wrote in a letter, “Mrs. Worden was just here—she has taken a contraband 10 yrs. old to live with her, a niece of Harriet Tubman.” These women, along with others, looked out for Harriet Tubman, her parents and extended family.  

Lydia Maria Child, an abolitionist, served as a member of the American Anti-Slavery
Lydia Maria Child
Society’s executive board during the 1840s and 1850s, alongside Lucretia Mott.  
She also wrote short stories exploring the complex issues of slavery.  In a January 1862 letter to John Greenleaf Whittier, Child wrote:
You have doubtless heard of Harriet Tubman, whom they call Moses, on account of the multitude she has brought out of bondage by her courage and ingenuity. She talks politics sometimes, and her uncouth utterance is wiser than the plans of politicians. She said the other day:
"Master Lincoln, he's a great man, and I am a poor negro; but the negro can tell master Lincoln how to save the money and the young men. He can do it by setting the negro free. Suppose that was an awful big snake down there, on the floor. He bite you. Folks all scared, because you die. You send for a doctor to cut the bite; but the snake, he rolled up there, and while the doctor doing it, he bite you again. The doctor dug out that bite; but while the doctor doing it, the snake, he spring up and bite you again; so he keep doing it, till you kill him. That's what master Lincoln ought to know."
Harper's Weekly Illustration of wartime South Carolina
In May 1862, Tubman traveled to South Carolina, where she joined Dr Henry K. Durant, the director of the Freedman’s Hospital at Port Royal. Soldiers as well as fugitives were dying; some of the most common illnesses were typhoid, cholera, malaria, yellow fever, chicken pox and dysentery. Tubman was knowledgeable in local roots to treat diseases; her healing powers became legendary among soldiers.

"Contraband" in South Carolina, 1862
The Port Royal Experiment was a program begun during the war in which former slaves successfully worked on land abandoned by slave owners.  In 1861, the Union army liberated the Sea Islands off the coast of South Carolina and their main harbor, Port Royal.  The white residents fled, leaving behind 10,000 black slaves. Several private Northern charity organizations arranged programs to help the former slaves become self-sufficient. The ex-slaves demonstrated their ability to work the land efficiently and live independently of white control. 


 
David Hunter
T
ubman met with General David Hunter, a strong supporter of abolition. He declared all of the "contrabands" in the Port Royal district free, and began gathering former slaves for a regiment of black soldiers. Hunter was an advocate of arming blacks as soldiers for the Union cause. He began enlisting black soldiers from the occupied districts of South Carolina and formed the first such Union Army regiment, the 1st South Carolina (African Descent).  He was initially ordered to disband it, but eventually got approval from Congress for his action. A second controversy was caused by his issuing General Order No. 11 in May 1862, emancipating the slaves in Georgia, South Carolina, and Florida:
The three States of Georgia, Florida and South Carolina, comprising the military department of the south, having deliberately declared themselves no longer under the protection of the United States of America, and having taken up arms against the said United States, it becomes a military necessity to declare them under martial law. This was accordingly done on the 25th day of April, 1862. Slavery and martial law in a free country are altogether incompatible; the persons in these three States — Georgia, Florida, and South Carolina— heretofore held as slaves, are therefore declared forever free.
This order was rescinded by Abraham Lincoln, who was concerned about the political effects that it would have in the Union's border states.  Despite Lincoln's concerns that immediate emancipation in the South might drive some slave holding Unionists to support the Confederacy, the national mood was moving against slavery, especially within the Army.  

Confederate slave owners had been anxious before the war started that the North's goal was the abolition of slavery; they reacted strongly to the Union effort to emancipate slaves held in the Confederacy.  Confederate President Jefferson Davis issued orders to the Confederate States Army that Hunter was to be considered a "felon to be executed if captured."

Undeterred by the president's reluctance and intent on extending freedom to potential black soldiers, Hunter again flouted orders from the federal government and enlisted ex-slaves as soldiers in South Carolina without permission from the War Department.  This action incensed border state slave holders: Kentucky Representative Charles Wickliffe sponsored a resolution demanding a response.  Hunter sent a sarcastic and defiant letter on June 23, 1862, in which he delivered a stern reminder to the Congress of his authority as a commanding officer in a war zone:
I reply that no regiment of "Fugitive Slaves" has been, or is being organized in this Department. There is, however, a fine regiment of persons whose late masters are "Fugitive Rebels"--men who everywhere fly before the appearance of the National Flag, leaving their servants behind them to shift as best they can for themselves. . . . So far, indeed, are the loyal persons composing this regiment from seeking to avoid the presence of their late owners, that they are now, one and all, working with remarkable industry to place themselves in a position to go in full and effective pursuit of their fugacious and traitorous proprietors. . . . The instructions given to Brig. Gen. T. W. Sherman by the Hon. Simon Cameron, late Secretary of War, and turned over to me by succession for my guidance,--do distinctly authorize me to employ all loyal persons offering their services in defence of the Union and for the suppression of this Rebellion in any manner I might see fit. . . . In conclusion I would say it is my hope,--there appearing no possibility of other reinforcements owing to the exigencies of the Campaign in the Peninsula,--to have organized by the end of next Fall, and to be able to present to the Government, from forty eight to fifty thousand of these hardy and devoted soldiers.
The War Department eventually forced Hunter to abandon this scheme, but the government nonetheless moved soon afterward to expand the enlistment of black men as military laborers. Congress approved the Second Confiscation Act in July 1862, which effectively freed all slaves working within the armed forces by forbidding Union soldiers to aid in the return of fugitive slaves.

Ormsby Mitchel
In September 1862, General Ormsby Mitchel assumed command of the X Corps and the Department of the South at Hilton Head. Mitchel set land aside to create a town, giving each a quarter-acre plot to grow crops and run their own affairs.  They were able to buy land, vote, farm for wages, and grow sweet potatoes and greens which provided vital supplements to their diets.  There were elected officials, taxes, street cleaners, stores selling household goods, and crucially, compulsory education for children aged six to 15, the first law of its kind in South Carolina. In 1862, the town had more than 1,500 residents.
“Good colored people, you have a great work to do, and you are in a position of responsibility. This experiment is to give you freedom, position, homes, your families, property, your own soil. It seems to me a better time is coming … a better day is dawning.”
~ Ormsby Mitchel
Refuee Cabins in South Carolina
 On the 24th of October, five weeks after his arrival, there was an outbreak of yellow fever at the Union camp.  Mitchel and his two sons, who were on his staff, came down with the disease.  Yellow fever presents in most cases with fever, nausea and pain. Though it generally subsides after several days, a toxic phase can follow that turns the skin of the afflicted yellow until death. This yellowing of the skin is behind the name of the disease. Mitchel died in Beaufort, South Carolina of  yellow fever on October 30, 1862. 

Thomas Wentworth Higginson
In November 1862, Thomas Higginson arrived in South Carolina. During the early part of the Civil War, Higginson was a captain in the 51st Massachusetts Infantry.  From November 1862, he was colonel of the First South Carolina Volunteers, the first authorized regiment recruited from freedmen for the Federal service. Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton required that black regiments be commanded by white officers. In addition to his official duties, Higginson  contributed to the preservation of Negro spirituals by copying dialect verses and music he heard sung around the regiment's campfires.  He wrote to his family:
Who should drive out to see me today but Harriet Tubman, who is living at Beaufort as a sort of nurse and general caretaker. 
While Tubman was living in the South, she occasionally received letters from her parents, which they dictated to friends who would write and mail them.  One of these letter writers was a woman named Sarah Bradford, who met Tubman's mother at church in Auburn.


James Montgomery
In the spring of 1863, Union commanders began planning raids into the fortified upper reaches of South Carolina coastal rivers, such as the Combahee, Ashepoo and Edistor. They relied on the intelligence gathered by Tubman. The objectives were to remove torpedoes (mines) from the river, seize supplies from area plantations, and destroy the plantations. In addition, the Union forces were to encourage recruits for infantry regiments among any healthy adult male slaves freed by these actions. Tubman guided Colonel James Montgomery and his Second South Carolina Black regiment up the Combahee River, routing out Confederate outposts, destroying stockpiles of cotton, food and weapons, and liberating over seven hundred slaves. Her group, mapped the terrain and reconnoitered its inhabitants. Tubman served as a key adviser and accompanied the raid.
On the morning of June 2, 1863, three steamboats made their way up the river; Montgomery landed a small detachment that drove off several Confederate pickets. Some of the fleeing Confederates rode to the nearby village of Green Pond to sound the alarm. Meanwhile, a company of the 2nd South Carolina under Captain Carver landed two miles above Fields Point at Tar Bluff and deployed into position. The two ships steamed upriver to the Nichols Plantation. Although Confederate troops stationed at Green Pond were notified of the raid, they did not respond at first. During the summer season, because of malaria, typhoid fever and small pox in the Low Country,officers had pulled back most Confederate troops from the rivers and swamps, leaving only small detachments. Montgomery's troops torched William Heyward’s plantation and C.T. Lowndes's rice mill,
Illustration fo Combahee River Raid
from Harper's Weekly, July 4, 1863
destroying houses, mills, and outbuildings. At Nichols Plantation, all of the buildings were set on fire. Union forces took the stores of commodity rice and cotton, as well as supplies of potatoes, corn, and livestock. 
Slaves working in the fields were wary when they first saw the approaching Union ships and troops, but word spread quickly that the forces were there to liberate them. When the steamboats sounded their whistles, slaves throughout the area understood that the area was being liberated. In the biography by Sarah Bradford, Harriet Tubman is quoted as saying:
I nebber see such a sight. We laughed, an’ laughed, an’ laughed. Here you’d see a woman wid a pail on her head, rice a smokin’ in it jus’ as she'd taken it from de fire, young one hangin’ on behind, one han’ roun’ her forehead to hold on, t’other han’ diggin’ into de rice-pot, eatin’ wid all its might; hold of her dress two or three more; down her back a bag wid a pig in it. One woman brought two pigs, a white one an’ a black one; we took ‘em all on board; named de white pig Beauregard, and de black pig Jeff Davis. Sometimes de women would come wid twins hangin’ roun’ der necks; ‘pears like I nebber see so many twins in my life; bags on der shoulders, baskets on der heads, and young ones taggin’ behin’, all loaded; pigs squealin’, chickens screamin’, young ones squallin’.”
After the boats were filled to capacity and beyond, the throng of escaping slaves still ashore held on to the boats to prevent them from leaving, putting the boats in danger of capsizing. Oarsmen tried beating them on their hands, but the mob would not let go, as they were afraid the gunboats would go off and leave them. The small boats made several trips back and forth to load those who wanted to leave.  The Union ships returned to Beaufort the next day. Soldiers took the new freedmen to a resettlement camp

Due to the efforts in planning and intelligence provided by Tubman and her contacts, more than 750 slaves were freed as a result of Montgomery's raid. Many of the men joined the Union Army. Newspapers reported on Tubman's "patriotism, sagacity, energy, and ability," and she was praised for her recruiting efforts.  A reporter from the Wisconsin State Journal, who witnessed the victorious return, wrote:
Col. Montgomery and his gallant band of 300 hundred black soldiers, under the guidance of a black woman [Harriet Tubman], dashed into the enemies’ country, struck a bold and effective blow, destroying millions of dollars worth of commissary stores, cotton, and lordly dwellings, and striking terror to the heart of rebellion, brought off near 800 slaves and thousands of dollars worth of property, without losing a man or receiving a scratch! It was a glorious consummation.
In a written report to Secretary Stanton, Union General Rufus Saxton stated
Rufus Saxton

This is the only military command in American history wherein a woman, black or white, led the raid and under whose inspiration it was originated and conducted.
The Charleston Mercury reported:
We have gathered some additional particulars of the recent destructive Yankee raid along the banks of the Combahee. The latest official dispatch from Gen. WALKER, dated Green Pond, eleven o’clock Tuesday night, and which was received here on Wednesday morning, conveyed intelligence that the enemy had entirely disappeared. It seems that the first landing of the Vandels [sic], whose force consisted mainly of three 'companies, officered by whites, took place at Field Point, on the plantation of Dr. R. L. BAKER, at the mouth of the Combahee River. After destroying the residence and outbuildings, the incendiaries proceeded along the river bank, visiting successively the plantations of Mr. OLIVER MIDDLETON, Mr. ANDREW W. BURNETT, Mr. WM. KIRKLAND, Mr. JOSHUA NICHOLLS, Mr. JAMES PAUL, Mr. MANIGAULT, Mr. CHAS. T. LOWNDES and Mr. WM. C. HEYWARD. After pillaging the premises of these gentlemen, the enemy set fire to the residences, outbuildings and whatever grain, etc., they could find. The last place at which they stopped was the plantation of WM. C. HEYWARD, and, after their work of devastation there had been consummated, they destroyed the pontoon bridge at Combahee Ferry. They then drew off, taking with them between 600 and 700 negros, belonging chiefly, as we are informed, to Mr. WM. C. HEYWARD and Mr. C.T. LOWNDES.
The residences on these plantations are located at distances from the river, varying in different cases from one to two miles. On the plantation of Mr. NICHOLLS between 8000 and 10,000 bushels of rice were destroyed. Besides his residence and outbuildings, which were burned, he lost a choice library of rare books, valued at $10,000. Several overseers are missing, and it is supposed that they are in the hands of the enemy.
The dismal Confederate performance at Combahee Ferry led to a formal investigation. Captain John F. Lay filed a lengthy report on June 24; he found the action “mortifying and humiliating to our arms.” In summary he noted:
This raid by a mixed party of blacks and degraded whites seems to have been designed only for plunder, robbery, and destruction of private property; in carrying it out they have disregarded all rules of civilized war, and have acted more as fiends than human beings. Fortunately the planters had removed their families, who thus avoided outrage and insult. The enemy seem to have been well posted as to the character and capacity of our troops and their small chance of encountering opposition, and to have been well guided by persons thoroughly acquainted with the river and the country. Their success was complete, as evidenced by the total destruction of four fine residences, six valuable mills, with many valuable out-buildings (the residence of Mr. Charles Lowndes alone escaped), and large quantities of rice. They also successfully carried off from 700 to 800 slaves of every age and sex. These slaves, it is believed, were invited by these raiders to join them in their fiendish work of destruction. The loss of Messrs. Nickols and Kirkland was very great–an entire loss, including for the former a large and choice library, valued at $15,000.
Shortly afterward, Tubman had someone write a letter for her to Franklin Sanborn in Boston, asking for a bloomer dress because long skirts were a handicap on an expedition. Sanborn was at that time editor of The Boston Commonwealth. He made a front page story of the Combahee raid, and Tubman's part in it. It appeared on Friday, July 10, 1863
Col. Montgomery and his gallant band of 300 black soldiers, under the guidance of a black woman, dashed into the enemy's country, struck a bold and effective blow and brought off near 800 slaves. "Since the rebellion she [Harriet) has devoted herself to her great work of delivering the bondman, with an energy and sagacity that cannot be exceeded. Many and many times she has penetrated the enemy's lines and discovered their situation and condition, and escaped without injury, but not without extreme hazard . . .   
She is the most shrewd and practical person in the world, yet she is a firm believer in omens, dreams and warnings.
Robert Gould Shaw
The 54th Regiment Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry was one of the first official African
American units during the Civil War. Commanded by Colonel Robert Gould Shaw, it was commissioned after the passage of the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863. Norwood Hallowell, from a Quaker abolitionist famiy, was its lieutenant colonel; the rest of the officers were evaluated by Shaw and Hallowell, and included Garth James, brother of Henry and William James. Many of the officers were of abolitionist families. Lt. Col. Norwood Hallowell was joined by his younger brother, Edward Hallowell, who would later command the regiment after Shaw's death.
Norwood Hallowell


The 54th left Boston with high morale, despite the fact that Jefferson Davis' proclamation of December 23, 1862 effectively put both African-American enlisted men and white officers under a death sentence if captured. The proclamation was affirmed by the Confederate Congress in January 1863, and dictated that black soldiers and their white officers would be turned over to the states from which the enlisted soldiers had been slaves. 

The 54th arrived in Beaufort in and joined with the 2nd South Carolina Volunteers led by James Montgomery.  The enlisted men of the 54th were recruited on the promise of pay and allowances equal to their white counterparts. This was supposed to amount to subsistence and $14 a month.  Instead, they were informed upon arriving in South Carolina that the Department of the South would pay them only $7 per month ($10 with $3 withheld for clothing, while white soldiers did not pay for clothing at all.)  Colonel Shaw and many others immediately began protesting the measure. A regiment-wide boycott of the pay tables on paydays became the norm.  

Illustration of Battle of Fort Wagner
Lewis Douglass
Tubman became quite familiar with Shaw and his regiment, which included Frederick Douglass’s two sons, Lewis and Charles. She later told people that in the morning she served Colonel Robert Shaw his last meal on the morning of July 19, 1863, before the Battle of Fort Wagner. Union losses that day were horrific: 1,515 dead, wounded, missing, or captured. Shaw was killed, along with many of his men.  More later died of wounds.


Clara Barton
Wounded whites, including Wilky James, were taken to Hilton Head and nursed by Clara Barton.  Barton had  arrived at Hilton Head earlier that year; she joined Captain David Barton, her brother and an Army Quartermaster, and Steven E. Barton, her fifteen year old nephew who was serving in the military telegraph office. Barton met Frances D. Gage, and together they worked to educate former slaves.

The injured blacks were transported to Beaufort, where Tubman provided nursing and
Henry F. Steward of the 54th,
who survived the Battle of Fort Wagner,
but died of his wounds 2 months later
comfort to hundreds of casualties.  Sarah Bradford later wrote in Tubman's biography:

"I'd go to de hospital, I would, early eb'ry mornin'. I'd get a big chunk of ice, I would, and put it in a basin, and fill it with water; den I'd take a sponge and begin. Fust man I'd come to, I'd thrash away de flies, an' dey'd rise, dey would, like bees roun' a hive. Den I'd begin to bathe der wounds, an' by de time I'd bathed off three or four, de fire and heat would have melted de ice and made de water warm, an' it would be as red as clar blood. Den I'd go an' git more ice, I would, an' by de time I got to de nex' ones, de flies would be roun' de fust ones, black an' thick as eber."
In this way she worked, day after day, till late at night; then she went home to her little cabin, and made about fifty pies, a great quantity of ginger-bread, and two casks of root beer. These she would hire some contraband to sell for her through the camps, and thus she would provide her support for another day; for this woman never received pay or pension, and never drew for herself but twenty days' rations during the four years of her labors. 
At one time she was called away from Hilton Head, by one of our officers, to come to Fernandina, where the men were "dying off like sheep," from dysentery. Harriet had acquired quite a reputation for her skill in curing this disease, by a medicine which she prepared from roots which grew near the waters which gave the disease. Here she found thousands of sick soldiers and contrabands, and immediately gave up her time and attention to them. At another time, we find her nursing those who were down by hundreds with small-pox and malignant fevers. She had never had these diseases, but she seems to have no more fear of death in one form than another. "De Lord would take keer of her till her time came, an' den she was ready to go."
Harriet Tubman
In the summer of 1864, Tubman returned North on furlough. She began ill during this time, and did not return south until March 1865, when she began caring for wounded black soldiers as the matron of the Colored Hospital at Fortress Monroe, Virginia.  Before returning, she met with her friend Ednah Cheney for an interview, which as published as "Moses" in the March 1865 issue of the Freedmen's Record:
She has needed disguise so often, that she seems to have command over her face, and can banish all expression from her features, and look so stupid that nobody would suspect her of knowing enough to be dangerous; but her eye flashes with intelligence and power when she is roused.
During the war, Tubman was paid only $200 over a period of 3 years. She supported herself by making and selling pies and root beer.




In late 1865, Tubman finally left her wartime responsilibities and headed for home. She stopped on her way to visit Lucretia Mott and
Lucretia Mott and family outside their home 
her family at their home outside of Philadelphia.  Later, during her 
train ride to New York, the conductor told her to move our of the regular passenger carriage. She refused, claiming that her government service made her eligible for the government pass and the carriage. He cursed and grabbed her, but she physically resisted.  He called for assistance from other passengers, and while she clutched at the railing, they tore her away, badly injuring her arm in the process. They threw her into the baggage car as white passengers cursed Tubman and shouted for the conductor to kick her off the train. The account in Sarah Bradford's biography is as follows: 
The last time Harriet was returning from the war, with her pass as hospital nurse, she bought a half-fare ticket, as she was told she must do; and missing the other train, she got into an emigrant train on the Amboy Railroad. When the conductor looked at her ticket, he said, "Come, hustle out of here! We don't carry niggers for half-fare." Harriet explained to him that she was in the employ of Government, and was entitled to transportation as the soldiers were. But the conductor took her forcibly by the arm, and said, "I'll make you tired of trying to stay here." She resisted, and being very strong, she could probably have got the better of the conductor, had he not called three men to his assistance. The car was filled with emigrants, and no one seemed to take her part. The only word, she heard, accompanied with fearful oaths, were, "Pitch the nagur out!" They nearly wrenched her arm off, and at length threw her, with all their strength, into a baggage-car. She supposed her arm was broken, and in intense suffering she came on to New York. As she left the car, a delicate-looking young man came up to her, and, handing her a card, said, "You ought to sue that conductor, and if you want a witness, call on me." Harriet remained all winter under the care of a physician in New York; he advised her to sue the Railroad company, and said that he would willingly testify as to her injuries. But the card the young man had given her was only a visiting card, and she did not know where to find him, and so she let the matter go.
Back home in Auburn, David Wright, who was an attorney, wanted to sue the railroad company, but apparently was unable to pursue the case, although it was publicized.  Martha Coffin Wright wrote in a November 1865 letter to her daughter:
How dreadful it was for that wicked conductor to drag her out into the smoking car & hurt her so seriously, disabling her left arm, perhaps for the Winter . . . She sitll carries her hand in a sling - it took three of them to drag her out after first trying to wrench her finger and then her arm - She told the man he was a copperhead scoundrel, for which he choked her . . . She told him she didn't thank any body to call her cullud pusson - She wd he called [her] black or Negro - She was as proud of being a black woman as he was of being white.
After the war, Tubman  provided a home not only for her aged parents, but for numerous friends and relatives. On their land, they grew fruit and vegetables, and raised chickens, cows and pigs.  Harriet hired herself out to clean, cook, and care for her neighbors' children, as well as making baskets to sell.  She also worked to raise money for the Freedmen’s Bureau, which had been established to provide education and relief to millions of newly liberated slaves. 

Tubman's grandnephew, James Bowley, had been educated to be a schoolteacher; he became an influential figure during Reconstruction in South Carolina. By 1870 he was a school comissioner and owned a small amount of property.  He had been elected to the State House of Representatives by 1869, where he served until at least 1874. He was named a trustee of the University of South Carolina in 1873, just as it was to enter a brief phase of integration. However, this all changed again when the Democrats returned to power in 1876 and ended the university's experiment with integrated education.
As Jean M. Humez wrote in her biography, Harriet Tubman: The Life and the Life Stories:
In the postwar period, the stark moral and religious touchstone issue of human enslavement had vanished along with emancipation.  There was no national consensus on how the newly emancipated population would be integrated into the economic, political and social life of the United States after the war was over.  Indeed, there was no national consensus on what shape the new United States itself would take, now that the states formerly in rebellion had been defeated by military force but not persuaded of the rightness of the Union's cause.
In Maryland, John Tubman was shot and killed in 1867 in an argument with a white man. Although his 13-year old son witnessed the murder by Robert Vincent, The Baltimore American wrote that "it was universally conceded that he would be acquitted" because the only witness was not white. The all-white jury deliberated for ten minutes and returned a verdict of not guilty.

Harriet Tubman appealed to the federal government for pay for her service during the
Harriet Tubman
war; influential friends and community leaders published letters in newspapers advocating for her, believing that she deserved back pay and a veteran’s pension.  
An Auburn banker prepared a detailed account and documentation of Tubman’s war service and military assignments. The effort to collect pay and/or a pension would go on for years.
Letter from William Seward:
WASHINGTON, July 25, 1868.
MAJ.-GEN. HUNTER--

My DEAR SIR: Harriet Tubman, a colored woman, has been nursing our soldiers during nearly all the war. She believes she has a claim for faithful services to the command in South Carolina with which you are connected, and she thinks that you would be disposed to see her claim justly settled.
I have known her long, and a nobler, higher spirit, or a truer, seldom dwells in the human form. I commend her, therefore, to your kind and best attentions.

Faithfully your friend,
WILLIAM H. SEWARD
In an attempt to raise money for Tubman and alleviate the family's poverty, Sarah Hopkins
Bradford began interviewing Tubman for an authorized biography.  Although Bradford had not been close to Tubman, and knew few of her friends and colleagues, she wrote to people who had  worked with Tubman in the Underground Railroad and the military.  Frederick Douglass wrote a letter to honor Tubman and be included in the book:
Rochester, August 29, 1868
Dear Harriet: 
I am glad to know that the story of your eventful life has been written by a kind lady, and that the same is soon to be published. You ask for what you do not need when you call upon me for a word of commendation. I need such words from you far more than you can need them from me, especially where your superior labors and devotion to the cause of the lately enslaved of our land are known as I know them. The difference between us is very marked. Most that I have done and suffered in the service of our cause has been in public, and I have received much encouragement at every step of the way. You, on the other hand, have labored in a private way. I have wrought in the day – you in the night. I have had the applause of the crowd and the satisfaction that comes of being approved by the multitude, while the most that you have done has been witnessed by a few trembling, scarred, and foot-sore bondmen and women, whom you have led out of the house of bondage, and whose heartfelt, “God bless you,” has been your only reward. The midnight sky
Harriet Tubman's Escape by Jacob Lawrence
and the silent stars have been the witnesses of your devotion to freedom and of your heroism. Excepting John Brown – of sacred memory – I know of no one who has willingly encountered more perils and hardships to serve our enslaved people than you have. Much that you have done would seem improbable to those who do not know you as I know you. It is to me a great pleasure and a great privilege to bear testimony for your character and your works, and to say to those to whom you may come, that I regard you in every way truthful and trustworthy.
Your friend,
Frederick Douglass.
Thomas Garret also wrote a letter to be included in the book:
WILMINGTON, 6th Mo., 1868.
MY FRIEND:
Thy favor of the 12th reached me yesterday, requesting such reminiscences as
Thomas Garrett

I could give respecting the remarkable labors of Harriet Tubman, in aiding her colored friends from bondage. I may begin by saying, living as I have in a slave State, and the laws being very severe where any proof could be made of any one aiding slaves on their way to freedom, I have not felt at liberty to keep any written word of Harriet’s or my own labors, except in numbering those whom I have aided. For that reason I cannot furnish so interesting an account of Harriet’s labors as I otherwise could, and now would be glad to do; for in truth I never met with any person, of any color, who had more confidence in the voice of God, as spoken direct to her soul. She has frequently told me that she talked with God, and he talked with her every day of her life, and she has declared to me that she felt no more fear of being arrested by her former master, or any other person, when in his immediate neighborhood, than she did in the State of New York, or Canada, for she said she never ventured only where God sent her, and her faith in a Supreme Power truly was great.
I have now been confined to my room with indisposition more than four weeks, and cannot sit to write much; but I feel so much interested in Harriet that I will try to give some of the most remarkable incidents that now present themselves to my mind.
The date of the commencement of her labors, I cannot certainly give; but I think it must have been about 1845; from that time till 1860, I think she must have brought from the neighborhood where she had been held as a slave, from 60 to 80 persons, from Maryland, some 80 miles from here. No slave who placed himself under her care, was ever arrested that I have heard of; she mostly had her regular stopping places on her route; but in one instance, when she had two stout men with her, some 30 miles below here, she said that God told her to stop, which she did; and then asked him what she must do.
He told her to leave the road, and turn to the left; she obeyed, and soon came to a small stream of tide water; there was no boat, no bridge; she again inquired of her Guide what she was to do. She was told to go through. It was cold, in the month of March; but having confidence in her Guide, she went in; the water came up to her arm-pits; the men refused to follow till they saw her safe on the opposite shore. They then followed, and if I mistake not, she had soon to wade a second stream; soon after which she came to a cabin of colored people, who took them all in, put them to bed, and dried their clothes, ready to proceed next night on their journey.
Harriet had run out of money, and gave them some of her underclothing to pay for their kindness. When she called on me two days after, she was so hoarse she could hardly speak, and was also suffering with violent toothache. The strange part of the story we found to be, that the master of these two men had put up the previous day, at the railroad station near where she left, an advertisement for them, offering a large reward for their apprehension; but they made a safe exit.
She at one time brought as many as seven or eight, several of whom were women and children. She was well known here in Chester County and Philadelphia, and respected by all true abolitionists. I had been in the habit of furnishing her and those that accompanied her, as she returned from her acts of mercy, with new shoes; and on one occasion when I had not seen her for three months, she came into my store.
An 1856 letter from Garrett to Eliza Wigham
I said, “Harriet, I am glad to see thee! I suppose thee wants a pair of new shoes.” Her reply was “I want more than that.” I, in jest, said, “I have always been liberal with thee, and wish to be; but I am not rich, and cannot afford to give much.” Her reply was: “God tells me you have money for me.” I asked her “if God never deceived her?” She said, “No!” “Well! how much does thee want?” After studying a moment, she said: “About twenty-three dollars.”  I then gave her twenty-four dollars and some odd cents, 
the net proceeds of five pounds sterling, received through Eliza Wigham, of Scotland, for her. I had given some accounts of Harriet’s labor to the Anti-Slavery Society of Edinburgh, of which Eliza Wigham was Secretary. On the reading of my letter, a gentleman present said he would send Harriet four pounds if he knew of any way to get it to her. Eliza Wigham offered to forward it to me for her, and that was the first money ever received by me for her.
Some twelve months after, she called on me again, and said that God told her I had some money for her, but not so much as before. I had, a few days previous, received the net proceeds of one pound ten shillings from Europe for her. To say the least, there was something remarkable in these facts, whether clairvoyance, or the divine impression on her mind from the source of all power, I cannot tell; but certain it was she had a guide within herself other than the written word, for she never had any education.
She brought away her aged parents in a singular manner. They started with an old horse, fitted out in primitive style with a straw collar, a pair of old chaise wheels, with a board on the axle to sit on, another board swung with ropes, fastened to the axle, to rest their feet on. She got her parents, who were both slaves belonging to different masters, on this rude vehicle to the railroad, put them in the cars, turned Jehu herself, and drove to town in a style that no human being ever did before or since; but she was happy at having arrived safe. Next day, I furnished her with money to take them all to Canada. I afterwards sold their horse, and sent them the balance of the proceeds. I believe that Harriet succeeded in freeing all her relatives but one sister and her three children.
Etc., etc. Thy friend, THOS. GARRETT.
Scenes in the Life of Harriet Tubman, a 132-page book, was published in 1869, and brought Tubman around $1,200. The biography, as the main contemporary account of her life, remains an important source of information on Tubman's life. Bradford wrote:
When asked, as she often is, how it was possible that she was not afraid to go back . . . Harriet always answers, "Why don't I tell you, Missus, it wasn't me, it was the Lord!  I always told him, 'I trust to you.  I do't know where to go or what do do, but I expect you to lead me,' and he always did."
. . . Harriet's charity for all the human race is unbounded. It embraces even the slaveholder--it sympathizes even with Jeff. Davis, and rejoices at his departure to other lands, with some prospect of peace for the future. She says, "I tink dar's many a slaveholder 'll git to Heaven. Dey don't know no better. Dey acts up to de light dey hab. You take dat sweet little child (pointing to a lonely baby)--'pears more like an angel dan anyting else--take her down dere, let her nebber know nothing 'bout niggers but they was made to be whipped, an' she 'll grow up to use the whip on 'em jus' like de rest. No, Missus, its because dey don't know no better." 
May God give the people to whom the story of this woman shall come, a like charity, so that through their kindness the last days of her stormy and troubled life may be calm and peaceful.
. . . Thank God that we have lived to see such awful barbarisms extinct! . . . History will be ashamed to record their doings. The fictions in which they are enbalmed will be lost in the better coming era of morals and letters. By the time the South has been overflowed and regenerated by a beneficent inundation of Northern "carpet-baggers," with Yankee capital and enterprise, it will be forgotten that a race capable of the crimes referred to in the preceding story, ever existed.
Sarah Hopkins Bradford
Bradford's work on the book was hurried and disorganized, and failed to impress those who knew Tubman personally; Ellen Wright Garrison wrote to her mother, Martha Coffin Wright:
I don't think much of Mrs. Thingumbob's effort . . . she is continually apologizing for haste, & going off to Europe.  If she hadn't time to do the subject justice, why undertake it?  . . . Still it is an interesting account of marvelous things, & I only wish it could have been better worked up.
James A. McGowan, editor of the Harriet Tubman Journal, later described the biography as "a mess."
One of the boarders that Harriet Tubman took in at her home was a Civil War veteran named Nelson Davis. He had been born Nelson Charles, a slave in North Carolina, but escaped to New York.  During the war, he enlisted in the Union army, New York 8th Regiment.  The regiment went to South Carolina, where he may have met Tubman while she was working there.  When he returned to New York in the winter of 1866, he called himself Nelson Davis, and worked in Auburn as a bricklayer.  


Harriet Tubman
Nelson Davis and Harriet Tubman were married on March 18, 1869 at the Central Presbyterian Church in Auburn. Harriet was approximately 47 years old at the time, and Davis was about 20 years younger than her. Nelson suffered from tuberculosis and could not work on a consistent basis. From this time, Harriet was known as Mrs. Harriet Tubman Davis. A few years later, they adopted an infant girl named Gertie. 

Emma Telford, one of Tubman's neighbors in Auburn, later recalled:
When the war was over, Harriet returned unobtrusively to her little home here, where her doors were kept open to the most friendless and helpless of her race. The aged, forsaken by kith and kin, the babe deserted, the demented, the blind, the epileptic, the paralyzed, all found not shelter alone, but welcome. At no one time did this little home shelter less than six or eight wrecks of humanity, entirely dependent upon Harriet for their support.
An Auburn woman in whose home Harriet was always welcomed told me this little incident the other day. Going over to Harriet’s one morning, she said, I found her in great cheer.
“ ‘How do you think de Lawd has answered my pray’, de yere mawnin,” She said. “ ‘De meal ches’ was empty las’ night, so I prayed all night, “Lawd, sen’ me dy bleassin’. Thou knows what dy servan’ needs, sn’ me a blessin.” And den I started out to get de blessin’ acomin’, and what you think it was? A pore blin’ woman, bad off with consumption an’ her six children, one of ‘em jus’ a baby.’ 
“And what did you do? I queried aghast at the magnitude of the blessing.“Oh, I did just what de Lawd meant me to do. I scummaged roun’ ‘mong de good people on Souf Stret, a’ got ‘em somethin’ to eat an’ some clothes for dem children who was mos’ as naked as when dey was bawn.’
While Harriet never begged for herself, the cause of the needy at once sent her out with a basket on her arm to the kitchen of her friends, and this without a shadow of hesitancy. She always took thankfully, but never effusively, whatever was given her.
“I tell de Lawd what I needs,’ she used to say, ‘an’ he provides.’
In 1872, her adopted niece, Margaret, married Henry Lucas at the Central Presbyterian Church in Auburn, the same church that Harriet Tubman and her parents regularly attended. Henry Lucas listed his occupation as laborer; by 1887 he was working at the City Club, probably as a caterer. 

Harriet's mother, Rit Ross, died in 1880, having lived nearly a century; Ben Ross had died years before.
In another effort to raise funds for Tubman, Bradford published a revised biography in 1886, called Harriet, the Moses of her People:
While preparing this second edition of Harriet's story, I have been much pleased to find that that good man, Oliver Johnson, is still living and in New York City. And I have just returned from a very pleasant interview with him. He remembers Harriet with great pleasure, though he has not seen her for many years. He speaks, as all who knew her do, of his entire confidence in her truthfulness and in the perfect integrity of her character.
He remembered her coming into his office . . . and said he wished he could recall to me other incidents connected with her. But during those years, there were such numbers of fugitive slaves coming into the Anti- Slavery Office, that he might not tell the incidents of any one group correctly. No records were kept, as that would be so unsafe for the poor creatures, and those who aided them. He said, "You know Harriet never spoke of anything she had done, as if it was at all remarkable, or as if it deserved any commendation, but I remember one day, when she came into the office there was a Boston lady there, a warm-hearted, impulsive woman, who was engaged heart and hand in the Anti-Slavery cause.
Harriet was telling, in her simple way, the story of her last journey. A party of fugitives were to meet her in a wood, that she might conduct them North. For some unexplained reason they did not come. Night came on and with it a blinding snow storm and a raging wind. She protected herself behind a tree as well as she could, and remained all night alone exposed to the fury of the storm.
"Why, Harriet!" said this lady, "didn't you almost feel when you were lying alone, as if there was no God?" "Oh, no! missus," said Harriet, looking up in her child-like, simple way, "I jest asked Jesus to take keer of me, an' He never let me git frost-bitten one bit." 
. . . In my recent interview with Mr. Oliver Johnson he told me of an interesting incident in the life of the good man, Thomas Garrett. He was tried twice for assisting in the escape of fugitive slaves, and was fined so heavily that everything he possessed was taken from him and sold to pay the fine. At the age of sixty he was left without a penny, but he went bravely to work, and in some measure regained his fortune; all the time aiding, in every way possible, all stray fugitives who applied to him for help. Again he was arrested, tried, and heavily fined, and as the Judge of the United States Court pronounced the sentence, he said, in a solemn manner: "Garrett, let this be a lesson to you, not to interfere hereafter with the cause of justice, by helping off runaway negroes." 
The old man, who had stood to receive his sentence, here raised his head, and fixing his eyes on "the Court," he said: "Judge -- thee hasn't left me a dollar, but I wish to say to thee, and to all in this court room, that if anyone knows of a fugitive who wants a shelter, and a friend, send him to Thomas Garrett, and he will befriend him !" 
Not Luther before the Council at Worms was grander than this brave old man in his unswerving adherence to principle. In those days that tried men's souls there were many men like this old Quaker, and many women too, who would have gone cheerfully to the fire and the stake, for the cause of suffering humanity; men and women these "of whom the world was not worthy."
. . . Without claiming any of my dear old Harriet's prophetic vision, I seem to see a future day when the wrongs of earth will be righted, and justice, long delayed, will assert itself.
I seem to see that our poor Harriet has passed within "one of dem gates," and has received the welcome, "Come, thou blessed of my Father; for I was hungry and you gave me meat, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you took me in, naked and you clothed me, sick and in prison and you visited me."  And when she asks, "Lord, when did I do all this?" He answers: "Inasmuch as you did it unto one of the least of these, my brethren, you did it unto me."
Harriet Tubman Davis; her adopted daughter, Gertie; her husband, Nelson Davis;Lee Cheney; John "Pop" Alexander; Walter Green, Blind "Aunty" Sarah Parker; and Tubman's great-niece, Dora Stewart
at Tubman's home in 
Auburn, New York

Photograph taken ca. 1887
Sarah Bradford wrote of one of her visits to Tubman:
One day, in passing through Auburn, I was impelled to drive out to see what were the needs of my colored friend. . . Her little house was always neat and comfortable, and the small parlor was nicely and rather prettily furnished.
The lame, the halt, and the blind, the bruised and crippled little children, and one crazy woman, were all brought in to see me, and "the blind woman" . . . a very old woman who had been Harriet's care for eight years, was led into the room - an interesting and pathetic group.
On leaving, I said to her: "If you will come out to the carriage, Harriet, there are some provisions there for you."  She turned to one of her poor dependents and said: "What did you say to me this morning?  You said we hadn't got nothing to eat in the house, and what did I say to you?  I said, 'I've got a rich Father!'"
Nothing that comes to this remarkable woman ever surprises her.  She says very little in the way of thanks, except to the Giver of all good. 
The Auburn Morning Dispatch reported in March 1888 that
The Non-Partisan society for political education for women held their regular meeting in the common council chamber yesterday afternoon.  The attendance was not as large as at previous meetings, owing to the fact that several members of the society are ill with colds . . . over 20 ladies being present . . . The president, Mrs. J.M. Pearson, read a selection written by Miss Frances E. Willard, the national president of the W.C.T.U. on the study of school politics for women.  Miss Willard advises all women to study politics, especially temperance women. . . 
At this point Harriet Tubman the noted woman, scout and soldier of the late rebellion, called and was introduced by the president to the society.  In view of Mrs. Tubman's services in the late war, in freeing and helping to emancipate her down trodden and oppressed race, the ladies of the society requested that she say a few worlds before the society.
With a polite courtesy, the venerable Harriet prefaced her remarks by saying that she had not presented herself before the society to teach them but rather to be learn and taught.
The lessons learned in the late war by her, as scout, soldier, nurse, and protector of her people, recited in her graphic and quaint way, added much to the interest of her story; her experience was indeed thrilling.  She spoke affectionately of her friends of the later war, most of whom have passed away, among those personally mentioned were the late and honored Secretary William H. Seward, William Lloyd Garrison, John Brown and Wendell Phillips . . . Her recital of the brave and fearless deeds of women who sacrificed all for their country and moved in battle when bullets mowed down men . . . was graphic.  Loving women were on the scene to administer to the injured, to bind up their wounds and tend them through weary months of suffering in the army hospitals.  If those deeds do not place woman as man's equal, what do?  The speaker said that her prayers carried her through and they would eventually place woman at the ballot box with man, as his equal. 
Nelson Davis died of tuberculosis in 1888, after twenty years of marriage.  In 1890, a law was passed under which Harriet Tubman Davis was eligible to receive a war veteran widow’s pension of $8 a month. At the end of 1892, she was finally granted her monthly widow's pension: for the first time in her life, she a steady and reliable income. However, the application for her services in the civil war was stuck in the bureaucracy pipeline. 

In the spring of 1896, property next to her home came up for auction.  For many years, Tubman had wanted to establish a home and hospital for aged, sick and poor African Americans.  She told Bradford:
There was all white folks but me there, and there I was like a blackberry in a pail of milk. . . . I was hid down in a corner . . . Then others stopped bidding, and the man said, "All done! who is the buyer" "Harriet Tubman," I shouted.  "What! . . . Old woman, how are you ever going to pay for that lot of land?"
"I'm going home to tell the Lord Jesus all about it," I said.
She went to her supporters and connections, and raised funds for a down payment as well as a bank mortgage loan.

When the National Association of Colored Women was founded in 1896, Tubman was the
keynote speaker at its first meeting in July.  According to the official minutes:
When Mrs. Tubman stood alone on the front of the rostrum, the audience, which not only filled every seat, but also much of the standing room in the aisles, rose as one person and greeted her with the waving of handkerchiefs and the clapping of hands.  This was kept up for at least a minute, and Mrs. Tubman was much affected by the hearty reception given her. . . . At the request of some of the leading officers of the Convention, she related a little of her war experience.
Despite the weight of advancing years, Mrs. Tubman is the possessor of a strong and musical voice, which last evening penetrated every portion of the large auditorium. . .  
The founders included some of the most renowned African-American women in the 
country, including Frances Harper, Ida B. Wells-Barnett, and Mary Church Terrell, who became the organization's first president. The NACW adopted the motto "Lifting as We Climb." Their original intention was "to furnish evidence of the moral, mental and material progress made by people of color through the efforts of our women." During the next ten years, the NACW became involved in campaigns in favor of women's suffrage and against lynching and Jim Crow laws. They also led efforts to improve education, and care for both children and the elderly.

On November 18, 1896, the New York State Suffrage Association met in Rochester, New York; a reporter for the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle wrote:
Certainly the most picturesque, if not the most interesting incident of the afternoon's meeting was the appearance on the rostrum of Susan B. Anthony... leading by the hand an old colored woman.
Susan B. Anthony
 Miss Anthony introduced her as Mrs. Harriet Tubman...The old woman was once a slave, and as she stood before the assemblage in her cheap black gown and goat, and big black straw bonnet without adornment, her hand held in Miss Anthony's, she impressed one with the venerable dignity of her

appearance.
Her face was very black, with her race characteristics, but through it all there shows an honesty and true benevolence of purpose which commanded respect.
An 1897 suffragist newspaper reported a series of receptions in Boston honoring Tubman and her lifetime of service to the nation. However, Tubman was still living in poverty, and had to sell a cow to buy a train ticket to these celebrations. In 1898, several of her friends again pursued Tubman’s application for a veteran’s pension. Tubman was already 76 years old at the time. An affidavit signed by Onim McCarthy and Elsie McCarty on behalf of  Tubman claimed a pension for her services as a nurse, cook, and as scout during the war. A compensation for $1,800 was requested.
My claim against the U.S. is for three years' service as nurse and cook in hospitals, and as commander of several men (eight or nine) as scouts during the late War of the Rebellion, under direction and orders of Edwin M. Stanton, Secretary of War, and of several Generals. 
Sereno Payne wrote a letter to George Ray, the Chairman of the Committee on Invalid Pensions, on behalf of Tubman; he testified that she was employed as a nurse, cook and spy. The purpose of the letter was to propose an increase to the $8 pension she was receiving as a widow instead of the previous bill HR2711 that requested a lump sum payment of $1,800.  On January 19, 1899, bill HR4982 proposed an increase of her current pension to $25 a month for her services as a nurse in the U.S. Army.  The Senate Report in response to Bill HR4982 determined that the Committee of Pensions objected the increase to $25. While acknowledging her service and dedication to the country as a nurse, it argued that the number of nurses on the pension roll at a rate higher than $12 a month were very few, and that there were no valid reasons why Tubman should receive a pension of $25 a month, which would open the way to a demand for pension increases by others. The Committee of Pensions instead decided that her widow pension would be increased to $20 a month in consideration of her services to the country.  The Act was approved by Congress on February 28, 1899.

It had taken 34 years for Tubman to get a veteran's pension.

In January 1903, Susan B. Anthony wrote in her copy of  Harriet, the Moses of
her People
This most wonderful woman - Harriet Tubman - is still alive - I saw her the other day at the home of Eliza Wright Osborne, the daughter of Martha C. Wright - in company with Elizabeth Smith Miller - the only daughter of Gerrit Smith.  Miss Emily Howland - Rev. H. Thaw - and Miss Ella Wright Garrison, the daughter of Martha C. Wright & wife of William Lloyd Garrison, Jr. - all of us were visiting at the Osbornes - a real love feast of the few that are left - and here came Harriet Tubman!



Later that year, Tubman transferred the mortgage of the property she owned to the AME Zion Church in Auburn, under the instruction that it be made into a home for "aged and indigent colored people."  The home did not open for another five years, and Tubman was dismayed when the church ordered residents to pay a $100 entrance fee. She said:
They make a rule that nobody should come in without they have a hundred dollars. Now I wanted to make a rule that nobody should come in unless they didn't have no money at all.
She was upset by the rule, but was the guest of honor when the Harriet Tubman Home for the Aged celebrated its opening.

On May 26, 1905, Tubman was the guest of honor at a reception in Boston, held by a group associated with the Women's Christian Temperance Union.
During the evening this rare old woman told extremely interesting reminiscences of the exciting events in which she participated.  For a woman of so great an age she is remarkably erect, her voice is clear, her manner bright and her wit keen . . . She arrived in town yesterday morning from Auburn, N.Y., and told her friends she guessed it would be the last time she would be up this way  Then she beamed from ear to ear, with a peculiar twinkle in her eye, which seemed to say: "But I'll be somewhere else on this good earth for a year or two longer, honey."   . . . Mrs. Tubman received the congratulations of some of the very people who she had helped to escape years ago.
A Boston suffrage journal published a fund-raising appeal for her in 1908:
Aunt Harriet, as she is known by her people, has at her home an old man who depends on her for his daily bread, and an old lady totally blind who has no other home . . . Mrs. Tubman's only brother (that she knows anything about) is depend on her. . . . She no can no longer go out and bring in money, and the small pension she receives from the government is about all she has to depend on for support.  Her little place of seven acres was once the resource by which she fed so many.  Then she raised pigs, chickens, and ducks.  She sold vegetables, fruit and milk from her cows.  Through old age and other causes, she is deprived of these helps.  
1911 photgraphy of Tubman and group
in front of John Brown Hall 
By 1910, Tubman was wheelchair-bound; she was so frail that she had to be admitted into the home named in her honor. A New York newspaper described her as "ill and penniless," prompting supporters to send more donations.  On May 19, 1911, it was necessary for her to move into the Harriet Tubman Home for the Aged.  As her monthly pension was only $20 a month, and private nursing cost twice that amount, new appeals for donations were sent out to private individuals, newspapers, and organizations.

She wrote her will 1912, naming as her heirs her niece, Mary Gaston (one of her brother
Harriet Tubman
John Henry's daughters), her grandniece Katy Stewart (the adopted daughter of her brother James Isaac), and Frances Smith, the matron of the Harriet Tubman home. Her grandniece, Alice Lucas Brickler, (daughter of her adopted niece, Margaret Lucas) who knew her and was 13 years when Tubman died, wrote years later:

For sometime before her death, Aunt Harriet had lost the use of her legs.  She spend her time in a wheel chair . . . It is said that on the day of her death, her strength returned to her. She arose from her bed with little assistance, ate heartily, walked about the rooms of the Old Ladies’ Home which she liked so much and then went back to bed and her final rest. Whether this is true or not, it is typical of her. She believed in mind [over] matter. Regardless of how impossible a task might seem, if it were her task she tackled it with a determination to win.
Harriet Tubman died of pneumonia on March 10, 1913. She was around 90 years old.

The Auburn Citizen of Tuesday, March 11, 1913: 


HARRIET TUBMAN IS DEAD 

“I GO TO PREPARE A PLACE FOR YOU” 

THE LAST WORDS SHE UTTERED.

BORN IN SLAVERY NEARLY 100 YEARS AGO
________________

She Rendered Wonderful Service To The Cause Of The
Abolitionists And Her “Underground Railroad” Had A
Record Of Never Running A Train Off The Track or 
Losing A Single Passenger--Too Feeble To Withstand 

Pneumonia—A Sketch Of Her Career. 

Harriet Tubman Davis, Aunt Harriet, died last night of pneumonia at the home she founded on South Street Road near here. Born lowly, she lived a life of exalted self – sacrifice and her end closes a career that has taken its place in American history. Her true services to the black race were never known but her true worth could never have been rewarded by human agency.
Harriet’s death was indeed the passing of a brave woman. There was no regret but on the contrary she rejoiced in her final hours. Conscious within a few hours of her final passing she joined with those who came to pray for her and the final scene in the long drama of her life was quite as thrilling as the many that had gone before.
Yesterday afternoon when the trained nurse, Mrs. Martha Ridgeway of Elmira, and Dr. G. B. Mack had decided that her death was but the question of a few hours, Harriet asked for her friends, Rev. Charles A. Smith and Rev. E. U. A. Brooks, clergyman of the Zion A. M. E. Church. They with Eliza E. Peterson, national superintendent for temperance work among colored people of the W.C.T.U., who came here from Texarkana, Tex., to see Harriet, and others, joined in a final service which Harriet directed. She joined in the singing when her cough did not prevent, and after receiving the sacrament she sank back in bed ready to die.
To the clergyman she said “Give my love to all the churches” and after a severe coughing spell she blurted out in a thick voice this farewell passage which she had learned from Matthew: “I go away to prepare a place for you, and where I am ye may be also”. She soon afterward lapsed into a comatose condition and death came at 8:30 o’clock last evening. Those present when she died included Rev. and Mrs. Smith and Miss Ridgeway, the colored nurse.
Two grandnieces of Harriet, Miss Alida Stewart and Miss Eva Stewart, were in Washington attending the inaugural and had not returned to Auburn. Harriet ‘s nephew, William H. Stewart and his son, Charles Stewart, were in attendance during the final hours.
Tubman was buried with military honors in the Auburn’s Fort Hill Cemetery. Mary B. Talbert, one of the speakers at Tubman's public funeral, said:
One month ago she told me of the sweet spirit in that home and of the happiness she felt was there. . . . She grasped my hand firmly and whispered, "I've been fixing a long time for my journey but now I'm almost home.  God has shown me the Golden Chariot, and a voice spoke to me and said . . 'Jesus does all things well.'" . . . Finally, as I shook her hand to say good-bye, she smiled that peaceful smile of hers and said, "I am at peace with God and all mankind." 
Tubman's Funeral
The Empire State Women's Federation erected a monument at her gravesite within a year of her death and in 1937, replaced it with the current three-foot granite marker.

Alice Lucas Brickler wrote in a letter to a biographer, Earl Conrad:
I believe that every age, every country and every race, especially during the darkest history, has had its unusual Souls who were in touch with some mysterious central originating Force, a comprehensive stupendous Unity for which we have no adequate name.
Aunt Harriet was one of those unusual souls.  Her religion, her dreams or visions were so bound together that nobody, and I certainly should not attempt it, could separate them.  . . . It was her dreams which saved her life often, and it was her superhuman courage and beliefs which gave her the power to accomplish what she had undertaken. 
Earl Conrad published his biography, Harriet Tubman, in 1943:
I chose to write about Harriet Tubman - one of the great women of all history - because I saw in her a symbol of the Negro suffering and greatness. . . . Somehow I felt that I . . . must do something, however little, to expiate the crime which white, ruling class America has visited upon one generation after another of people of color for three centuries.  I think it is only a little thing . . . But if enough Negroes and enough whites do some one little thing . . . maybe we can, together, kick over that damned wall.
Harriet Tubman is the subject of more children's books than any other African American historical figure, including Frederick Douglass.  Tubman is better known as an American icon than as a person. Only recently have scholars begun to produce a more detailed and accurate historical picture of Tubman and her career.  In the past decade, five new biographies have been published.  Reviews appeared in the New York Times: 
Tubman remained illiterate her entire life. She left not a single document in her own hand. To find, as Jean M. Humez seeks to do in ''Harriet Tubman: The Life and the Life Stories,'' ''the private woman whose life has virtually disappeared behind the heroic public icon,'' is no small challenge. Humez, who teaches women's studies at the University of Massachusetts, Boston, cites the ''advantage of a much larger number of primary sources'' than earlier students of Tubman.
Bound for the Promised Land, Kate Larson
 Indeed, she and Kate Clifford Larson, in her first book, ''Bound for the Promised Land,'' have both done extensive and imaginative research in local historical sources that tell us almost more than we want to know about the Eastern Shore in the mid-19th century; in the papers of antislavery activists who interacted with Tubman; in the correspondence of an earlier Tubman biographer who in the 1940's interviewed individuals who had been alive long enough to remember her. . . Having eluded slave catchers and Confederate soldiers so successfully, Tubman -- or at least the ''private woman'' Humez seeks -- largely eludes us still. But Humez spends less than half her book on a biographical treatment of Tubman. The final 200 pages consider the contemporary stories and texts through which we know Tubman, with most of this space devoted to excerpts from the documents themselves. Humez has compiled what she calls Tubman's ''core stories,'' accounts of her life Tubman told regularly in her public appearances, and descriptions written by those who interacted with her. Presented as a chronology of her life, these materials paint a far more vivid portrait than any biographer's account. The reader gains not just glimpses of Tubman, but sees how she confounded even those admirers who still could not comprehend a black woman who behaved like the bravest of men. John Brown, for example, could not conceive of her as a woman and referred to her not just as ''General'' but with a masculine pronoun: ''He is the most of a man, naturally, that I ever met with.''
The Life and the Life Stories, Jean Humez
And the racism of even the most progressive of antislavery figures appears unmistakably, illustrating some of the obstacles to Tubman's ready incorporation into the historical record. Franklin Sanborn, a Boston editor and one of the Secret Six who conspired with John Brown to overturn slavery, wrote after the Civil War: ''I regard her as . . . the most extraordinary person of her race I have ever met. She is a Negro of pure or almost pure blood, can neither read nor write, and has the characteristics of her race and condition. But she has done what can scarcely be credited on the best authority, and she has accomplished her purposes with a coolness, foresight, patience and wisdom, which in a white man would have raised him to the highest pitch of reputation.'' Unable to deal with her complexity, her inherent challenge to every expectation of race and sex, history in the early 20th century all but forgot her. An era of growing racial equality rediscovered her only to reduce her to myth.
In 2007, Milton C. Sernett published Harriet Tubman: Myth, Memory and History:
Almost from the moment she entered into the collective consciousness of Americans in the nineteenth century, Harriet Tubman has been more important as a symbol than she has been as an ordinary human being, flaws and all. . . 
"History" and "memory" jostle together in confusing fashion in the public mind.  While professional historian explore the past with the intent of discovering "the way it really was," none have been totally successful in extracting themselves from "the politics of memory."  All of us, this writer included, come to the topic of Harriet Tubman's place in the American memory conditioned by being situated in a particular consciousness.  . . . "Memory," David W. Blight argues, "is often treated as a sacred set of potentially absolute meanings and stories, possessed as the heritage of a community.  Memory is often owned; history, interpreted.  Memory is passed down through generations; history is revised.  Memory often coalesces in objects, sacred sites, and monuments; history seeks to understand contexts and the complexity of cause and effect.  History assets the authority of academic training and recognized canons of evidence; memory carries the often powerful authority of community membership and experience."
. . . Since the past cannot be remembered in its totality, individuals and groups create their histories out of selective memories . . . It is necessary, therefore, to heed Kammen's advice as we begin examining the process by which Harriet Tubman has become an American icon: "What history and memory share in common is that both merit our mistrust, yet  both must be nevertheless nourished." 
The National Park Service did a study of Underground Railroad sites which concluded that 13 places, including two associated with Harriet Tubman, warranted a closer look to determine if they might be included in the national park system: the Tubman home in Auburn, New York, and what was assumed to be her birthplace in Dorchester County, Maryland.  Congress in November 2000 passed a law mandating this special resource study. The law names five Tubman sites in Auburn, New York, and two in Dorchester County, Maryland, for investigation. Dorchester County is where Tubman was born and grew up, and Auburn is where she made her home for more than 40 years until her death in 1913.  The Harriet Tubman Special Resource Study was undertaken to explore the question of whether the National Park Service should be involved with recognizing and honoring Harriet Tubman and preserving sites associated with her. The study determined that resources (buildings and places) in Auburn, New York, and Dorchester, Caroline, and Talbot counties, Maryland, met criteria for units of the park system. According to the National Park Service website:
Despite her lifelong illiteracy, Harriet Tubman was a most effective participant in the world around her; she was brave, determined, tenacious, and generous. As a woman whose legacy as a humanitarian who devoted her life to selflessly helping others, she would be considered a most remarkable heroine in any generation.
Harriet Tubman Mural by Mike Alewitz
In 2000, the board of the Associated Black Charities in Baltimore, Maryland unanimously rejected a mural by Mike Alewitz of Harriet Tubman carrying a musket, which had been commissioned for its downtown building.  The mural was originally planned to stand 25 feet tall on a wall facing Meyerhoff Symphony Hall. The musket in the mural design stirred an outcry about historical truth vs. contemporary reality.  Some suggested that Alewitz's design, showing Tubman holding a musket as she symbolically parts a Red Sea and leads slaves to freedom, condones gun violence.  The issue triggered debate about whether it was appropriate for Associated Black Charities'wall in a city that records at least 300 homicides a year.

"It has started the community discussing slavery, race and history," said Donna Jones Stanley, the Associated executive director, who recommended against Alewitz's design. It was agreed that Tubman carried a gun for protection, but Stanley declared, "It is not historically correct. She carried a pistol, not a rifle. It's his vision, but it's our wall."

A few urged Alewitz to substitute a staff for the musket. He refused, saying, "I will not disarm Harriet Tubman. . . There was nothing safe about her." 



In New York, Alison Saar was given a commission to design the statue of Tubman; her two-ton statue of Tubman, titled "Swing Low," was placed in Harlem in a triangular traffic island. It was dedicated on November 13, 2008. Saar covered Tubman’s skirt with the faces of freed slaves; interspersed with an iron key representing their slavery, worn shoe soles, a padlock, and shackles with a broken chain. A trail of roots stretch from the rear of Tubman’s skirt: a tradition of oppression uprooted thanks to the efforts of one determined woman who did not forget those who were still enslaved.



















The spiritual "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot" was a favorite of Harriet Tubman.



Swing low, sweet chariot,
Coming for to carry me home,
Swing low, sweet chariot, 
Coming for to carry me home.

I looked over Jordan and what did I see
Coming for to carry me home,
A band of angels coming after me, 
Coming for to carry me home.

If you get there before I do,
Coming for to carry me home,
Tell all my friends that I'm coming, too,
Coming for to carry me home.




“I said to the Lord, I’m going to hold steady on to you,
and I know you will see me through”

2 comments:

  1. You are to be commended for this remarkable account of the life of 'Minty" Ross. I was wondering if you might share the date and source for the photo, "Slave sale in Easton, Maryland." I was also wondering about the education and experience that serves your passion (not the cats :-)
    Thanks Elyce

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  2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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