In the bible, it was Moses who led the Israelites out of Egypt and across the Red Sea so they could escape death. During the time when slavery was prominent, a fearless Underground Railroad “conductor” emerged to help others gain their freedom that she was known as “Moses of her people.” Her name was Harriet Tubman.

Before She Became Harriet Tubman

Born somewhere between 1820 and 1822 in Dorchester County, Maryland, Araminta Ross was born into slavery. Her parents, Harriet Green and Benjamin Ross had 9 children, including Araminta, whom they fondly called Minty. When she was five, her owner rented her out as a house servant. When she was twelve, she tried to intervene when her master was beating an enslaved man who tried to escape. Her head was hit with a two-pound weight that caused her to abruptly lose consciousness and a lifetime of severe headaches. In 1844, she entered a marital union with a free black man named John Tubman. She took his last name and then his mother’s first name and called herself Harriet Tubman.

Transporting Slaves

It all started when 1849, Harriet and two of her brothers escaped in fear of being sold. For reasons still unknown, her brothers changed their minds and went back, which forced her to come back with them. However, that didn’t last long as Harriet escaped again after a few months, this time on her own. She left behind her husband and family and used the Underground Railroad to make her way north through Delaware and Pennsylvania. She would stop periodically at a series of hideouts either to rest or to hide. She escaped successfully, but when she heard that her nieces were to be sold, she returned to save them. That started her journey of saving slaves through the tunnel, which ended up with two dozens of missions throughout her life.

According to History, “One of the most complicated myths about Tubman is the claim (first mentioned in a 19th-century biography) that she escorted more than 300 enslaved people to freedom over the course of 19 missions. Tubman herself never used this number; instead, she estimated that she had rescued around 50 people by 1860—mostly family members.

Historians now believe that it’s likely that she was personally responsible for ushering around 70 people to freedom along the Underground Railroad in the decade before the Civil War. It’s also unlikely that there was ever a substantial bounty offered for Tubman’s capture during her years as an undercover operator, let alone one worth tens of thousands of dollars, as some publications claimed.”

Harriet Tubman (c. 1820 – March 10, 1913), far left, with family and neighbors, circa 1887, at her home in Auburn, NY. Left to right: Harriet Tubman; Gertie Davis {Watson} (adopted daughter born 1874, died ?) behind Tubman; Nelson Davis (husband and 8th USCT veteran); Lee Chaney (neighbor’s child); “Pop” John Alexander (elderly boarder in Tubman’s home); Walter Green (neighbor’s child); Blind “Aunty” Sarah Parker (elderly boarder); Dora Stewart (great-niece and granddaughter of Tubman’s brother Robert Ross aka John Stewart).

What we know for sure was never caught and never lost a “passenger” throughout her escape missions.

Participation in the Civil War

Harriet played an important role as a spy and scout during the Civil War. Her vast knowledge of the town and transportation routes through the Underground Railroad made her a valuable asset. Often, she would disguise herself as an old woman and would then wander the streets of the Confederates to learn about where the Confederate troops were stationed and their supply lines. She would gather this information from the enslaved population, too. As per the National Women’s History Museum, “Tubman helped many of these individuals find food, shelter, and even jobs in the North. She also became a respected guerrilla operative. As a nurse, Tubman dispensed herbal remedies to black and white soldiers dying from infection and disease.”

Other Things She Had Done

Harriet had done many other great things throughout her life: she was the reason why the raid at Combahee Ferry in June 1863 succeeded. She also worked alongside Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony to fight for women’s right to vote. She also remarried and used a plot of her land for her family and friends to take refuge. Harriet even donated part of her property to the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church.

Harriet Tubman in old age.

She also had to fight for her military pension, despite her contributions to the war. After more than two decades of requesting one, she was finally granted $8 per month as a military widower for her second husband in 1895 and $20 in 1899 for her service. Harriet died surrounded by her loved ones in 1913.

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