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Underground Railroad Research Forum

Re: HARRIET TUBMAN - Union Army Spy and Scout

Okay, clearly you do not interpret Bradford's work the way I do, but some of the newer Tubman authors, like Beverly Lowry, do. Lowry, although her work is popular, and not academic because there is a lack of endnotes, seems skeptical of many events.

One of the accounts of Mongomery's Raids is going to be posted on my University's digital history web page. As soon as it is made available I will post the link up so everyone can read it. I wrote an introduction to the primary document, which does not mention Tubman at all, located all of the supporting official records, newspaper articles, letters, so on and so forth. All of which will be on the website. I also wrote a short essay on Tubman's involvement and we are posting Wood's Manuscript history. My evaluation of Tubman includes aspects from Bradford, Sanborn, you, the Wisconsin State Journal, and Wood, of course. Basically I just argue the same as I have here, that I doubt Tubman was the first woman to "lead" a military expedition.

Now, the primary document written by the officer does not talk about the roll of black scouts, but- there is the recon. piece in the ORA with Capitan Ely's report from 1862 where he used black scouts. There is also a report from a Confederate officer, after the fact, that claims there were bright black slaves that were familiar with the area that escaped to the other side and probably assisted the Union Army. I think the fact that there were black scouts being used in 1862 to provide a detailed recon. and intelligence report on the Ashepoo and Combahee rivers is very interesting.

Now, the Wisconsin State Journal article bothers me because of its inaccuracies. Sanborn went behind that author and wrote a correction, but is that reliable? I could correct an article about President Bush, let us say for argument's sake, and make it into Bill Clinton. I do not think that is a reliable source. I think we are beating against fundamental differences of what makes a source reliable or not. I do not think the word of anonymous writer and two abolitionists is enough so solidify the claim that Tubman led the raid, you do. That is fine. You are not going to change my mind unless there is another account from an officer that was present at the raid. Once again, I am not saying that Tubman was not there, I do not think she led the raid. The slaves in that region were Gullah slaves, they were afraid of their masters, and too isolated to know that there were white abolitionists. I do think Tubman was comforting and they saw her as their leader. I think she educated them on what was going on in the world and helped them cope. Once they became acclimated, the two documents I have one from an officer and one from Montgomery, say 150 men voluntarily enlisted in Darien and the rest of the able-bodied men were conscripted.

Again, I have said before that I am convinced that Tubman was there, she scouted, and she did other amazing things for our country and the freedom of black people. I think she had a right to a pension for her service and as a widow, as did she which is why she fought for it. I do not think, however, that she LED the raid on the Combahee River. I really feel like Bradford thought her story would not require as much merit if TUbman had not LED the raid. As for Sanborn, how would he know if Bradford got her facts wrong in regards to the raids? All of the primary documents I have read say Montgomery led the raid, which was not made available until years after the war. The only thing he could have corobborated with was the Wisconsin State Journal article. They were called "Montgomery's Raids;" not "Tubman's Raids." Mongomery came under serious fire for his "total war" attitude, way before Sherman and it is totally overlooked by Grimsley in The Hard Hand of War. Wouldn't Tubman have been a great scapegoat if she had ordered all of the destruction along the South Carolina coast? I am positive some government official on the Confederate side would have written about how unsuited blacks, especially women, were to conduct warfare. COnfederate officers, such as Lowndes who lost the most slaves wrote to the Union Secretary of War about how "ungentlemenly" they were behaving. She did NOT order that destruction, Montgomery did. And he did it again in Darien when he burned it to the ground. You know Shaw hated what Montgomery did and blamed his attitude for the wanton destruction of Darien.

18 Dec 2002 :: 14 Nov 2008
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