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Antislavery movements -- History. THE following little story was written by Mrs. Bradford, of Geneva, with the single object of furnishing some help to the subject of the memoir. Harriet Tubman's services and sufferings during the rebellion, which are acknowledged in the letters of Gen. Saxton, and others, it was thought by many, would justify the bestowment of a pension by the Government.
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But the difficulties in the way of procuring such relief, suggested other methods, and finally the present one. The narrative was prepared on the eve of the author's departure for Europe, where she still remains. It makes no claim whatever to literary merit. Her hope was merely that the considerably numerous public already in part acquainted with Harriet's story, would furnish purchasers enough to secure a little fund for the relief of this remarkable woman. Outside that circle she did not suppose the memoir was likely to meet with much if any sale.
In furtherance of the same benevolent scheme, and in order to secure the whole avails of the work for Harriet's benefit, a subscription has been raised more than sufficient to defray the entire cost of publication. This has been effected by the generous exertions of Wm. Wise, Esq. The whole amount was contributed by citizens Page ii of Auburn, with the exception of two liberal subscriptions by Gerrit Smith, Esq.
Wendell Phillips. Wise has also consented, at Mrs. Bradford's request, to act as trustee for Harriet; and will receive, invest, and apply, for her benefit, whatever may accrue from the sale of this book. The spirited wood-cut likeness of Harriet, in her costume as scout, was furnished by the kindness of Mr. Darby, of this city. IT is proposed in this little book to give a plain and unvarnished account of some scenes and adventures in the life of a woman who, though one of earth's lowly ones, and of dark-hued skin, has shown an amount of heroism in her character rarely possessed by those of any station in life.
Her name we say it advisedly and without exaggeration deserves to be handed down to posterity side by side with the names of Joan of Arc, Grace Darling, and Florence Nightingale; for not one of these women has shown more courage and power of endurance in facing danger and death to relieve human suffering, than has this woman in her heroic and successful endeavors to reach and save all whom she might of her oppressed and suffering race, and to pilot them from the land of Bondage to the promised land of Liberty.
Well has she been called "Moses," for she has been a leader and deliverer unto hundreds of her people. Worn down by her sufferings and fatigues, her health permanently affected by the cruelties to which she has been subjected, she is still laboring to the utmost limit of her strength for the support of her aged parents, and still also for her afflicted people--by her own efforts supporting two schools for Freedmen at the South, and supplying them with clothes and books; never obtruding herself, never asking for charity, except for "her people.
It is for the purpose of aiding her in ministering to the wants of her aged parents, and in the hope of securing to them the little home which they are in danger of losing from inability to pay the whole amount due--which amount was partly paid when our heroine left them to throw herself into the work of aiding our suffering soldiers--that this little account, drawn from her by persevering endeavor, is given to the friends of humanity.
The writer of this story has till very lately known less personally of the subject of it, than many others to whom she has for years been an object of interest and care. Put through relations and friends in Auburn, and also through Mrs. Commodore Swift of Geneva, and her sisters, who have for many years known and esteemed this wonderful woman, she has heard tales of her deeds of heroism which Page 3 seemed almost too strange for belief, and were invested with the charm of romance.
During a sojourn of some months in the city of Auburn, while the war was in progress, the writer used to see occasionally in her Sunday-school class the aged mother of Harriet, and also some of those girls who bad been brought from the South by this remarkable woman. She also wrote letters for the old people to commanding officers at the South, making inquiries about Harriet, and received answers telling of her untiring devotion to our wounded and sick soldiers, and of her efficient aid in various ways to the cause of the Union. By the graphic pen of Mrs.
Stowe, the incidents of such a life as that of the subject of this little memoir might be wrought up into a tale of thrilling interest, equaling, if not exceeding, anything in her world-renowned "Uncle Tom's Cabin;" but the story of Harriet Tubman needs not the drapery of fiction; the bare unadorned facts are enough to stir the hearts of the friends of humanity, the friends of liberty, the lovers of their country.
There are those who will sneer, there are those who have already done so, at this quixotic attempt to make a heroine of a black woman, and a slave; but it may possibly be that there are some natures, Page 4 though concealed under fairer skins, who have not the capacity to comprehend such general and self-sacrificing devotion to the cause of others as that here delineated, and therefore they resort to scorn and ridicule, in order to throw discredit upon the whole story. Much has been left out which would have been highly interesting, because of the impossibility of substantiating by the testimony of others the truth of Harriet's statements.
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But whenever it has been possible to find those who were cognizant with the facts stated, they have been corroborated in every particular. A few years hence and we seem to see a gathering where the wrongs of earth will be righted, and Justice, long delayed, will assert itself, and perform its office. Then not a few of those who had esteemed themselves the wise and noble of this world, "will begin with shame to take the lowest place;" while upon Harriet's dark head a kind hand will be placed, and in her ear a gentle voice will sound, saying: "Friend!
The following letters to the writer from those well-known and distinguished philanthropists, Hon. Page 5 Gerrit Smith and Wendell Phillips, and one from Frederick Douglass, addressed to Harriet, will serve as the best introduction that can be given of the subject of this memoir to its readers:. Letter from Hon.
Gerrit Smith. Harriet Tubman. Of the remarkable events of her life I have no personal knowledge, but of the truth of them as she describes them I have no doubt. I have often listened to her, in her visits to my family, and I am confident that she is not only truthful, but that she has a rare discernment, and a deep and sublime philanthropy. Phillips, I bring you one of the best and bravest persons on this continent-- General Tubman, as we call her.
He then went on to recount her labors and sacrifices in behalf of her race. After that, Harriet spent some time in Boston, earning the confidence and admiration of all those who were working for freedom. With their aid she went to the South more than once, returning always with a squad of self-emancipated men, women, and children, for whom her marvelous skill had opened the way of escape.
After the war broke out, she was sent with indorsements from Governor Andrew and his friends to South Carolina, where in the service of the Nation she rendered most important and efficient aid to our army. In my opinion there are few captains, perhaps few colonels, who have done more for the loyal cause since the war began, and few men who did before that time more for the colored race, than our fearless and most sagacious friend, Harriet.
Letter from Frederick Douglass. 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 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 Page 8 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 to 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.
HARRIET TUBMAN, known at various times, and in various places, by many different names, such as "Moses," in allusion to her being the leader and guide to so many of her people in their exodus from the Land of Bondage; "the Conductor of the Underground Railroad;" and "Moll Pitcher," for the energy and daring by which she delivered a fugitive slave who was about to be dragged back to the South; was for the first twenty-five years of her life a slave on the eastern shore of Maryland. Her own master she represents as never unnecessarily cruel; but as was common among slaveholders, he often hired out his slaves to others, some of whom proved to be tyrannical and brutal to the utmost limit of their power.
She had worked only as a field-hand for many years, following the oxen, loading and unloading wood, and carrying heavy burdens, by which her Page 10 naturally remarkable power of muscle was so developed that her feats of strength often called forth the wonder of strong laboring men. Thus was she preparing for the life of hardship and endurance which lay before her, for the deeds of daring she was to do, and of which her ignorant and darkened mind at that time never dreamed.
The first person by whom she was hired was a woman who, though married and the mother of a family, was still "Miss Susan" to her slaves, as is customary at the South. 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. Page 11 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. 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--! 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 Page 12 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!
As soon as they were alone, Miss Emily said: "Now, Minty, show me how you do your work. 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. While with this woman, after working from early Page 13 morning till late at night, she was obliged to sit up all night to rock a cross, sick child. Her mistress laid upon her bed with a whip under her pillow, and slept; but if the tired nurse forgot herself for a moment, if her weary head dropped, and her hand ceased to rock the cradle, the child would cry out, and then down would come the whip upon the neck and face of the poor weary creature.
The scars are still plainly visible where the whip cut into the flesh. Perhaps her mistress was preparing her, though she did not know it then, by this enforced habit of wakefulness, for the many long nights of travel, when she was the leader and guide of the weary and hunted ones who were escaping from bondage. She was next hired out to the man who inflicted upon her the lifelong injury from which she is suffering now, by breaking her skull with a weight from the scales. The injury thus inflicted causes her often to fall into a state of somnolency from which it is almost impossible to rouse her.
Disabled and sick, her flesh all wasted away, she was returned to her owner. He tried to Page 14 sell her, but no one would buy her. 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 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 Page 15 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. 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.
Harriet was married at this time to a free negro, who not only did not trouble himself about her fears, but did his best to betray her, and bring her back after she escaped. She would start up at night with the cry, "Oh, dey're comin', dey're comin', I mus' go! Her husband called her a fool, and said she was like old Cudjo, who when a joke went round, never laughed till half an hour after everybody else got through, and so just as all danger was past she began Page 16 to be frightened. But still Harriet in fancy saw the horsemen coming, and heard the screams of terrified women and children.
I always fell before I got to the line. One Saturday it was whispered in the quarters that two of Harriet's sisters had been sent off with the chain-gang. That morning she started, having persuaded three of her brothers to accompany her, but they had not gone far when the brothers, appalled by the dangers before and behind them, determined to go back, and in spite of her remonstrances dragged her with them. In fear and terror, she remained over Sunday, and on Monday night a negro from another part of the plantation came privately to tell Harriet that herself and brothers were to be carried off that night.
The poor old mother, who belonged to the same mistress, was just going to milk. Harriet wanted to get away without letting her know, because she knew that she would raise an uproar and prevent her going, or insist upon going with her, and the Page 17 time for this was not yet. But she must give some intimation to those she was going to leave of her intention, and send such a farewell as she might to the friends and relations on the plantation. Those communications were generally made by singing. They sang as they walked along the country roads, and the chorus was taken up by others, and the uninitiated knew not the hidden meaning of the words These words meant something more than a journey to the Heavenly Canaan.
Harriet said, "Here, mother, go 'long; I'll do the milkin' to-night and bring it in. Harriet took down her sun-bonnet, and went on to the "big house," where some of her relatives lived as house servants. She thought she could trust Mary, but there were others in the kitchen, and she could say nothing. Mary began to frolic with her. She threw her across the kitchen, and ran out, knowing that Mary would follow her.
But just as they turned the corner of the house, the master to whom Harriet was now hired, came riding up on his horse. Mary darted back, and Harriet Page 18 thought there was no way now but to sing. But "the Doctor," as the master was called, was regarded with special awe by his slaves; if they were singing or talking together in the field, or on the road, and "the Doctor" appeared, all was hushed till he passed.
But Harriet had no time for ceremony; her friends must have a warning; and whether the Doctor thought her " imperent " or not, she must sing him farewell. So on she went to meet him, singing:. The Doctor passed, and she bowed as she went on, still singing:. She reached the gate and looked round; the Doctor had stopped his horse, and had turned around in the saddle, and was looking at her as if there might be more in this than "met the ear.
She lifted up the gate as if she had not latched it properly, waved her hand to him, and burst out again:. And she started on her journey, "not knowing whither she went," except that she was going to follow the north star, till it led her to liberty. Cautiously and by night she traveled, cunningly feeling her way, and finding out who were friends; till after a long and painful journey she found, in answer to careful inquiries, that she had at last crossed that magic "line" which then separated the land of bondage from the land of freedom; for this was before we were commanded by law to take part in the iniquity of slavery, and aid in taking and sending back those poor hunted fugitives who had manhood and intelligence enough to enable them to make their way thus far towards freedom.
There was such a glory ober ebery ting; de sun came like gold through the trees, and ober the fields, and I felt like I was in Heaben. But then came the bitter drop in the cup of joy. She said she felt like a man who was put in State Prison for twenty-five years. All these twenty-five Page 20 years he was thinking of his home, and longing for the time when he would see it again. At last the day comes--he leaves the prison gates--he makes his way to his old home, but his old home is not there. The house has been pulled down, and a new one has been put up in its place; his family and friends are gone nobody knows where; there is no one to take him by the hand, no one to welcome him.
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," she said; "I said to de Lord, 'I'm gwine to hole stiddy on to you, an' I know you'll see me through. She came to Philadelphia, and worked in hotels, in club houses, and afterwards at Cape May. Whenever she had raised money enough to pay expenses, she would make her way back, hide herself, and in various ways give notice to those who were ready to strike for freedom.
When her Page 21 party was made up, they would start always on Saturday night, because advertisements could not be sent out on Sunday, which gave them one day in advance. Then the pursuers would start after them. Advertisements would be posted everywhere. She had traveled in the cars when these posters were put up over her head, and she heard them read by those about her--for she could not read herself. Fearlessly she went on, trusting in the Lord. She said, "I started with this idea in my head, 'Dere's two things I've got a right to, and dese are, Death or Liberty--one or tother I mean to have.
No one will take me back alive; I shall fight for my liberty, and when de time has come for me to go, de Lord will let dem kill me. She remembers that she went eleven times from Canada, but of the other journeys she kept no reckoning. While Harriet was working as cook in one of Page 22 the large hotels in Philadelphia, the play of "Uncle Tom's Cabin" was being performed for many weeks every night. Some of her fellow-servants wanted her to I go and see it. I've seen de real ting, and I don't want to see it on no stage or in no teater.
I will give here an article from a paper published nearly a year ago, which mentions that the price set upon the head of Harriet was much higher than I have stated it to be. Hear her story of going down again and again into the very jaws of slavery, to rescue her suffering people, bringing them off through perils and dangers enough to appall the stoutest heart, till she was known among them as 'Moses.
I have looked into her dark face, and wondered and admired as I listened to the thrilling deeds her lion heart had prompted her to dare. She had been tending and caring for our Union black and white soldiers in hospital during the war, and at the end of her labors was on her way home, coming in a car through New Jersey. A white man, the conductor, thrust her out of the car with such violence that she has not been able to work scarcely any since; and as she told me of the pain she had and still suffered, she said she did not know what she should have done for herself, and the old father and mother she takes care of, if Mr.
She had a letter from W. Seward to Maj. Hunter, in which he says, 'I have known her long, and a nobler, higher spirit, or truer, seldom dwells in the human form. It will be impossible to give any connected account of the different journeys taken by Harriet for the rescue of her people, as she herself has no idea of the dates connected with them, or of the order in which they were made.
She thinks she was about 25 when she made her own escape, and this was in the last year of James K. Polk's administration. From that time till the beginning of the war, her years were spent in these journeyings back and forth, with intervals between, in which she worked only to spend the avails of her labor in providing for the wants of her next party of fugitives.
By night she traveled, many times on foot, over mountains, through forests, across rivers, mid perils by land, perils by water, perils from enemies, "perils among false brethren. At one time she collected and sent on a gang of thirty-nine fugitives in the care of others, as from some cause she was prevented from accompanying them.
Sometimes, when she and her party were concealed in the woods, they saw their pursuers pass, on their horses, down the high road, tacking up the advertisements for them on the fences and trees. Here she procured food for her famished party, often paying out of her hardly-gained earnings, five dollars a day for food for them. But she dared not go back to them till night, for fear of being watched, and thus revealing their hiding-place. After nightfall, the sound Page 26 of a hymn sung at a distance comes upon the ears of the concealed and famished fugitives in the woods, and they know that their deliverer is at hand.
They listen eagerly for the words she sings, for by them they are to be warned of danger, or informed of safety. Nearer and nearer comes the unseen singer, and the words are wafted to their ears:. I give these words exactly as Harriet sang them to me to a sweet and simple Methodist air. And so by night travel, by hiding, by signals, by threatening, she brought the people safely to the land of liberty.
But after the passage of the Fugitive Slave law, she said, "I wouldn't trust Uncle Sam wid my people no longer; I brought 'em all clar off to Canada. Of the very many interesting stories told me by Harriet, I cannot refrain from telling to my readers that of Joe, who accompanied her upon her seventh or eighth journey from Maryland to Canada. Joe was a noble specimen of a negro, and was hired out by his master to a man for whom he worked faithfully for six years, saving him the expense of an overseer, and taking all trouble off his hands.
At length this man found him so absolutely necessary to him, that he determined to buy him at any cost. His master held him proportionably high. However, by paying a thousand dollars down for him, and promising to pay another thousand in a certain Page 28 time, Joe passed into the hands of his new master. As may be imagined, Joe was somewhat surprised when the first order issued from his master's lips, was, "Now, Joe, strip and take a whipping! But he called to mind a scene which he had witnessed a few days before, in the field, the particulars of which are too horrible and too harassing to the feelings to be given to my readers, and he thought it best to submit; but first he tried remonstrance.
Habn't I worked through sun an' rain, early in de mornin', and late at night; habn't I saved you an oberseer by doin' his work; hab you anyting to complain of agin me? So Page 29 the first thing they've got to do, is to be whipped; if they resist, they got it all the harder; and so I'll go on, till I kill 'em, but they've got to give up at last, and learn that I'm master. Joe thought it best to submit. He stripped off his upper clothing, and took his whipping, without a word; but as he drew his clothes up over his torn and bleeding back, he said, "Dis is de last!
One fine morning Joe was missing, and his brother William, from another plantation; Peter and Eliza, too, were gone; and these made part of Harriet's next party, who began their pilgrimage from Maryland to Canada, or as they expressed it, from "Egypt to de land of Canaan. Their adventures were enough to fill a volume; they were pursued; they were hidden in "potato holes," while their pursuers passed within a few feet of them; they were passed along by friends in various disguises; they scattered and separated, to Page 30 be led by guides by a roundabout way, to a meeting-place again.
They were taken in by 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; and so, hunted and hiding and wandering, they came at last to the long bridge at the entrance of the city of Wilmington, Delaware. The rewards posted up everywhere had been at first five hundred dollars for Joe, if taken within the limits of the United States; then a thousand, and then fifteen hundred dollars, "an' all expenses clar an' clean, for his body in Easton Jail," Eight hundred for William, and four hundred for Peter, and twelve thousand for the woman who enticed them away.
The long Wilmington Bridge was guarded by police officers, and the advertisements were everywhere. The party were scattered, and taken to the houses of different colored friends, and word was sent secretly to Thomas Garrett, of Wilmington, of their condition, and the necessity of their being taken across the bridge.
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 Page 31 hand and means, in aiding these poor fugitives, and rendered most efficient help to Harriet on many of her journeys back and forth. A letter received a few days since by the writer, from this noble-hearted philanthropist, will be given presently. As soon as Thomas Garrett heard of the condition of these poor people, his plan was formed. He engaged two wagons, filled them with bricklayers, whom of course he paid well for their share in the enterprise, and sent them across the bridge.
They went as if on a frolic, singing and shouting. The guards saw them pass, and of course expected them to re-cross the bridge. After nightfall and fortunately it was a dark night the same wagons went back, but with an addition to their party. The fugitives were on the bottom of the wagons, the bricklayers on the seats, still singing and shouting; and so they passed by the guards, who were entirely unsuspicious of the nature of the load the wagons contained, or of the amount of property thus escaping their hands.
And so they made their way to New York. When they entered the anti-slavery office there, Joe was recognized at once by the description in the advertisement. Oliver Johnson, "I am glad to Page 32 see the man whose head is worth fifteen hundred dollars. If the advertisement had got to New York, that place which it had taken them so many days and nights to reach, he thought he was in danger still.
When told how many miles, for they were to come through New York State, and cross the Suspension Bridge, he was ready to give up.
The rest were very joyous and happy, but Joe sat silent and sad. Their fellow-passengers all seemed interested in and for them, and listened with tears, as Harriet and all their party lifted up their voices and sang:. The cars began to cross the bridge. Harriet was very anxious to have her companions see the Falls.
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William, Peter, and Eliza came eagerly to look at the wonderful sight; but Joe sat still, with his head upon his hand. Joe, you fool you, come see de Falls! At length Harriet knew by the rise in the center of the bridge, and the descent on the other side, that they had crossed "the line. Then Joe's head went up, he raised his hands on high, and his face, streaming with tears, to heaven, and broke out in loud and thrilling tones:.
The cars stopped on the other side. Joe's feet were the first to touch British soil, after those of the conductor.
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Loud roared the waters of Niagara, but louder still ascended the anthem of praise from the overflowing heart of the freeman. And can we doubt that the strain was taken up by angel voices, and that through the arches of Heaven echoed and reechoed the strain:. Folks 'll think you're crazy! The ladies were crying, and the tears like rain ran down Joe's sable cheeks. A lady reached over her fine cambric handkerchief to him. Joe wiped his face, and then he spoke. 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. John saw the city, didn't he? Yes, John saw the city. Well, what did he see? He saw twelve gates--three of dose gates was on de north--three of 'em was on de east--and three of 'em was on de west --but dere was three of 'em on de South too; an' I reckon if dey kill me down dere, I'll git into one of dem gates, don't you?
Whether Harriet's ideas of the geographical bearings of the gates of the Celestial City, as seen in the Apocalyptic vision, were correct or not, we cannot doubt that she was right in the deduction her faith drew from them; and that somewhere, whether north, south, east, or west, to our dim vision, there is a gate to be opened for Harriet, where the welcome will be given, "Come in thou blessed of my Father. Many of the stories told me by Harriet, in answer to questions, have been corroborated by letters, Page 37 some of which will appear in this book.
Of others, I have not been able to procure confirmation, owing to ignorance of the address of those conversant with the facts. I find among her papers, many of which are defaced by being carried about with her for years, portions of letters addressed to myself, by persons at the South, and speaking of the valuable assistance Harriet was rendering our soldiers in the hospital, and our armies in the field. At this time her manner of life, as related by herself, was this:. 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.
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.
When our armies and gun-boats first appeared in any part of the South, many of the poor negroes were as much afraid of "de Yankee Buckra" as of Page 39 their own masters. It was almost impossible to win their confidence, or to get information from them. But to Harriet they would tell anything; and so it became quite important that she should accompany expeditions going up the rivers, or into unexplored parts of the country, to control and get information from those whom they took with them as guides.
Hunter asked her at one time if she would go with several gunboats up the Combahee River, the object of the expedition being to take up the torpedoes placed by the rebels in the river, to destroy railroads and bridges, and to cut off supplies from the rebel troops. She said she would go if Col. Montgomery was to be appointed commander of the expedition. Montgomery was one of John Brown's men, and was well known to Harriet. Accordingly, Col. Montgomery was appointed to the command, and Harriet, with several men under her, the principal of whom was J.
Plowden, whose pass I have, accompanied the expedition. Harriet describes in the most graphic manner the appearance of the plantations as they passed up the river; the frightened negroes leaving their work and taking to the woods, at sight of the gun-boats; then coming to peer out like startled deer, and scudding away like the wind at the sound of the Page 40 steam-whistle. They came down every road, across every field, just as they had left their work and their cabins; women with children clinging around their necks, hanging to their dresses, running behind, all making at full speed for "Lincoln's gun-boats.
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, 'tother 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 Page 41 brought two pigs, a white one, an' a black one; we took 'em all on board; named de white pig Beauregard, an' 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'. When they stood on the shore, and the small boats put out to take them off, they all wanted to get in at once. After the boats were crowded, they would hold on to them so that they could not leave the shore.
The oarsmen would beat them on their hands, but they would not let go; they were afraid the gun-boats would go off and leave them, and all wanted to make sure of one of these arks of refuge. At length Col. Montgomery shouted from the upper deck, above the clamor of appealing tones, "Moses, you'll have to give 'em a song. Come along! The masters fled; houses and barns and railroad bridges were burned, tracks torn up, torpedoes destroyed, and the expedition was in all respects successful.
This fearless woman was often sent into the rebel lines as a spy, and brought back valuable information as to the position of armies and batteries; she has been in battle when the shot was falling like hail, and the bodies of dead and wounded men were dropping around her like leaves in autumn; but the thought of fear never seems to have had place for a moment in her mind. She had her duty to perform, and she expected to be taken care of till it was done.
Would that instead of taking them in this poor way at second-hand, my readers could hear this woman's graphic accounts of scenes she herself witnessed, could listen to her imitations of negro preachers in their own very peculiar dialect, her singing of camp-meeting hymns, her account of "experience meetings," her imitations of the dances, and the funeral ceremonies of these simple people. The corpse was laid upon the ground, and the people all sat round, the group being lighted up by pine torches.
The old negro preacher began by giving out a hymn, which was sung by all. I wish you could hear 'em sing, Missus," said Harriet. The old preacher began his sermon by pointing to the dead man, who lay in a rude box on the ground before him. Shum, David? Now I want you all to flec' for moment. Who ob all dis congregation is gwine next to lie ded-a-de-dah? You can't go nowheres, my frien's and bredren, but Deff 'll fin' you.
You can't dig no hole so deep an' bury yourself dar, but God A'mighty's far-seein' eye 'll fine you, an' Deff 'll come arter you. You can't go into that big fort Page 44 pointing to Hilton Head , an' shut yourself up dar; dat fort dat Sesh Buckner said de debil couldn't take, but Deff 'll fin' you dar. All your frien's may forget you, but Deff 'll nebber forget you. Now, my bredren, prepare to lie ded-a-de-dah! This to the same tune, till every hand had been shaken by every one of the company.
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The body was then placed in a Government wagon, and by the light of the pine torches, the strange, dark procession moved along, singing a rude funeral hymn, till they reached the place of burial. Harriet's account of her interview with an old negro she met at Hilton Head, is amusing and interesting. He said "I'd been yere seventy-three years, workin' for my master widout even a Page 45 dime wages. I'd worked rain-wet sun dry. I'd worked wid my mouf full of dust, but would not stop to get a drink of water. I'd been whipped, an' starved, an' I was always prayin', 'Oh! Lord, come an' delibber us!
One day I look up, an' I see a big cloud; it didn't come up like as de clouds come out far yonder, but it 'peared to be right ober head. Der was tunders out of dat, an' der was lightnin's. Den I looked down on de water, an' I see, 'peared to me a big house in de water, an' out of de big house came great big eggs, and de good eggs went on trou' de air, an' fell into de fort; an' de bad eggs burst before dey got dar.
Den de Sesh Buckra begin to run, an de neber stop running till de git to de swamp, an' de stick dar an' de die dar. Praise de Lord! I 'd prayed seventy-three years, an' now he 's come an' we's all free. 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. But the conductor took her forcibly by the arm, and said, "I'll make you tired of trying to stay here. 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! 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 Page 47 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. 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.
All Aboard; or, Life on the Lake A Sequel to "The Boat Club"
The writer here finds it necessary to apologize for the very desultory and hasty manner in which this little book is written. Being herself pressed for time, in the expectation of soon leaving the country, she is obliged to pen down the material to be used in the short and interrupted interviews she can obtain with Harriet, and also to use such letters and accounts as may be sent her, as they come, without being able to work them in, in the order of time.
A very material assistance is to be rendered her by the kind offer of an account of Harriet's services during the war, written by Mr. Charles P. Wood, of Auburn, and kindly copied by one of Harriet's most faithful and most efficient friends, Mrs. Hopkins, of that place. It was a wise plan of our sagacious heroine to leave her old parents till the last to be brought Page 48 away. They were pensioned off as too old to work, had a cabin, and a horse and cow, and were quite comfortable.
If Harriet had taken them away before the young people, these last would have been sold into Southern slavery, to keep them out of her way. But at length Harriet heard that the old man had been betrayed by a slave whom he had assisted, but who had turned back, and when questioned by his wife, told her the story of his intended escape, and of the aid he had received from "Old Ben.
He was to be tried the next week, when Harriet appeared upon the scene and, as she says, "saved dem de expense ob de trial, ["] and removed her father to a higher court, by taking him off to Canada. The manner of their escape is detailed in the following letter from Thomas Garrett, the Wilmington Quaker:. I may begin by saying, living as I have in a slave State, and the laws being very severe where my Page 49 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 ; from that time till , I Page 50 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 Page 51 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.
I said, "Harriet, I am glad to see thee! I suppose thee wants a pair of new shoes. 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 Page 53 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.
Friend Garrett probably refers here to those who passed through his hands. Harriet was obliged to come by many different routes on her different journeys, and though she never counted those whom she brought away with her, it would seem, by the computation of others, that there must have been somewhere near three hundred brought by her to the Northern States and Canada. Extracts from a letter written by Mr. Phillips has sent me your note, asking for reminiscences of Harriet Tubman, Page 54 and testimonials to her extraordinary story, which all her New England friends will, I am sure, be glad to furnish.
I never had reason to doubt the truth of what Harriet said in regard to her own career, for I found her singularly truthful. Her imagination is warm and rich, and there is a whole region of the marvelous in her nature, which has manifested itself at times remarkably. Her dreams and visions, misgivings and forewarnings, ought not to be omitted in any life of her, particularly those relating to John Brown.
She was in his confidence in , and he had a great regard for her, which he often expressed to me. She aided him in his plans, and expected to do so still further, when his career was closed by that wonderful campaign in Virginia. The first time she came to my house, in Concord, after that tragedy, she was shown into a room in the evening, where Brackett's bust of John Brown was standing.
The sight of it, which was new to her, threw her into a sort of ecstacy of sorrow and admiration, and she went on in her rhapsodical way to pronounce his apotheosis. Horace Mann, and other well known persons. They all admired and respected her, and nobody doubted the reality of her adventures. She was too real a person to be suspected. In , I think it was, she went from Boston to Port Royal, under the advice and encouragement of Mr.
Garrison, Governor Andrew, Dr. Howe, and other leading people. I regard her as, on the whole, 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. Of the "dreams and visions" mentioned in this Page 56 letter, the writer might have given many wonderful instances; but it was thought best not to insert anything which, with any, might bring discredit upon the story.
When these turns of somnolency come upon Harriet, she imagines that her "spirit" leaves her body, and visits other scenes and places, not only in this world, but in the world of spirits. And her ideas of these scenes show, to say the least of it, a vividness of imagination seldom equaled in the soarings of the most cultivated minds.
Not long since, the writer, on going into Harriet's room in the morning, sat down by her and began to read that wonderful and glorious description of the heavenly Jerusalem in the two last chapters of Revelations. When the reading was finished, Harriet burst into a rhapsody which perfectly amazed her hearer--telling of what she had seen in one of these visions, sights which no one could doubt had been real to her, and which no human imagination could have conceived, it would seem, unless in dream or vision.
There was a wild poetry in these descriptions which seemed to border almost on inspiration, but by many they might be characterized as the ravings of insanity. All that can be said is, however, if this woman is insane, there has been a wonderful "method in her madness. At one time, Harriet was much troubled in spirit about her three brothers, feeling sure that some great evil was impending over their heads. She wrote a letter, by the hand of a friend, to a man named Jacob Jackson, who lived near there. Jacob was a free negro, who could both read and write, and who was under suspicion at that time, as it was thought he had something to do with the disappearance of so many slaves.
It was necessary, therefore, to be very cautious in writing to him. Jacob had an adopted son, William Henry Jackson, also free, who had come South; and so Harriet determined to sign her letter with his name, knowing that Jacob would be clever enough to understand, by her peculiar phraseology, what meaning she intended to convey to him. She, therefore, after speaking of indifferent matters, said, "Read my letter to the old folks, and give my love to them, and tell my brothers to be always watching unto prayer, and when the good old ship of Zion comes along, to be ready to step aboard.
The letter was signed "William Henry Jackson. Page 58 They, therefore, got together, wiped their glasses, and got them on, and proceeded to a careful perusal of this mysterious document. What it meant, they could not imagine; William Henry Jackson had no parents or brothers, and the letter was incomprehensible.
White genius having exhausted itself, black genius was called in, and Jacob's letter was at last handed to him.