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Underground Railroad Research Forum

Re: HARRIET TUBMAN - In Search of Back Pay....

Though this news is very exciting in that it helps celebrate and bring attention to Tubman's work during the Civil, the premise of the claim is erroneous. Harriet Tubman DID receive her own pension. Tubman applied for and received an $8.00 per month pension as the widow of her second husband, Nelson Davis, who fought with the 8th USCT. In 1899, Syrano Payne petitioned Congress to give Tubman a pension totalling $25.00 (a seemingly arbitrary figure) to account for her Civil War work as a nurse and spy. The amount was reduced to $20, voted upon and passed by Congress. The $25.00 figure was not approved from the beginning. The $20.00 was approved because it represented the $8.00 widow's pension and a $12.00 nurse's pension. Tubman was not given a lesser pension than other Civil war nurses. She actually received, at $20.00 per month, more than most women, white or black. So, from what I have discovered in my research, Tubman received all the money that was due her in regards to a pension. What Tubman did not receive, however, was back pay she petitioned for after the war for her services as a spy. In 1865 she claimed the government owed her $966, less $200 she had already been paid, for a total of $766 back pay. She, like thousands of other petitioners, never recieved the back pay she asked for. Also, Tubman supposedly had no children, so there would not have been a descendant living to receive the pension upon her death. Even if she had direct descendants, they would have had to have been minors at the time of Tubman's death, dependent upon her support, in order to continue receiving her pension. While the premise for the $11,750 is inaccurate, it is only a portion of what Tubman should have been paid for her services during the Civil War. She was destitute and struggled financially for years after the War, when she had a household full of dependents who could have benefitted greatly from that back pay.

18 Dec 2002 :: 14 Nov 2008
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