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Underground Railroad Research Forum

Re: HARRIET TUBMAN - Union Army Spy and Scout

Elizabeth,
I am suirprised by the tone of your posting to the list-serv regarding Tubman's service to the Union during the Civil War, including the Combahee Raid. I am confident you are a serious researcher, but perhaps you are unaware that not all war records were compiled in the Official Records - in fact, many are not. This is one of the great frustrations with using those records, particluarly when trying to find information about African Americans, women, irregular or non-commissioned officers and soldiers, etc. In response to your condemnation of the records you have seen - Franklin Sanborn, Sarah Bradford, the Wood Manuscript, the Wisconsin State Journal article written the day following the raid, etc., you seem to willfully discredit all those sources and only credit the Official Records. Tubman left other interviews where she describes her participation in the raid. why would she continuously claim this - from the date of the raid to the early 1900s when she died - and in such great detail, if it were not true? She was a spy for the Union Army, which is not only documented by letters and interviews with Union officials who knew her, but also records at the National Archives, including records for payment of over $200 to her for spy services. The Harriet Tubman Home has private papers revealing Tubman was believed to be owed another $766 for her espionage work. No where in the records that I have seen does it say that she demanded (I think that is what you meant in your posting) that Montgomery lead the raid - Bradford implies that Tubman agreed to particpate because Montgomery was the commanding officer. Much of the documentation was written contemporaneously, so when you claim "fervent abolitionists filling in the gaps of history with rhetoric," you seem to ignore the immediacy of the documentation. Walter Plowden, one of the scouts, and who was not a former slave, is also not mentioned in the Official Records, and yet he too filed for back pay as a scout and spy. George Garrison, William Lloyd Garrison's son also wrote about Tubman's work, as did other people. Also, I am confused as to why you would doubt Tubman's words, too, or Sanborn, (Bradford actually quotes much of Sanborn's writings). According to court martial records, Tubman also had unfettered access to Union officers and was highly regarded for her skills. Perhaps you might ask yourself that if she was merely a nurse and a cook, why did so many Union officers hold her in such high regard, and so many people understand and write about her being a scout and spy. Best regards, Kate

18 Dec 2002 :: 14 Nov 2008
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