On a drizzly spring day in April, I had an opportunity to join a small group of women and take a driving tour along part of the Harriet Tubman Byway. Although I had read about Harriet Tubman while homeschooling my children, I learned more about this courageous woman who experienced freedom for herself and for many others by holding steady on to the Lord, Who did indeed see her through.
By age 12 she toiled in the fields, and later she chopped timber destined for the shipyards of Baltimore with her father, who taught her much about navigating the waterways and landscape of the Eastern Shore. Although Harriet was only five feet tall, she was physically strong and could work as hard and steady as a man. Throughout her life, she worked and saved money, which enabled her to help others. And as her physical strength grew, so did her spiritual faith. “..and I prayed to God to make me strong and able to fight, and that’s what I’ve always prayed for ever since.”
In 1861 Harriet Tubman served the Union Army in many ways. She supported a Massachusetts troop in Virginia as a cook, nurse, and laundress. Because I am a soap maker, I find it highly probable that Harriet, when she worked as a laundress, knew the labor intensive soap making process used during that time period and made soap. In 1862 Harriet worked as a nurse in a freedman's hospital in South Carolina. In 1863 she was the commander of a group of espionage scouts and reported directly to the generals in charge. More than 750 slaves were liberated in the Combahee River Raid when Harriet led a troop of black Union soldiers on a surprise raid of several rice plantations near the river. Many of these freed slaves joined the Union Army. This astonishing woman was the first woman in the United States to lead a successful military operation.
Harriet Tubman continued to serve the Union Army and returned to her home in Auburn, New York after the war ended. She later remarried, actively supported the women's suffrage movement, and built a home for the elderly on property she had acquired near her home.
Although she was once a fugitive slave, today the legacy of Harriet Tubman is celebrated and preserved in Dorchester County. Her legacy will be honored further when her portrait graces the redesigned United States twenty dollar bill.