"THE MOST REMARKABLE WOMAN OF THIS AGE"
Harriet Tubman, the famous fugitive slave from Maryland, risks her life
sneaking into slave territory to free slaves. Slaveholders posted a $40,000
reward for the capture of the "Black Moses."
One of the teachers lately commissioned by the New-
Freedmen's Aid Society is probably the most remarkable woman of this age.
That is to say, she has performed more wonderful deeds by the native power of
her own spirit against adverse circumstances than any other. She is well
known to many by the various names which her eventful life has given her;
Harriet Garrison, Gen. Tubman, &c.; but among the slaves she is
universally known by her well earned title of Moses,-
the deliverer. She is a rare instance, in the midst of high civilization and
intellectual culture, of a being of great native powers, working powerfully,
and to beneficient ends, entirely untaught by schools or books.
Her maiden name was Araminta Ross. She is the granddaughter of a native
African, and has not a drop of white blood in her veins. She was born in 1820
or 1821, on the Eastern Shore of Maryland....
She seldom lived with her owner, but was usually "hired out" to different
persons. She once "hired her time," and employed it in the rudest farming
labors, ploughing, carting, driving the oxen, &c., to so good advantage
that she was able in one year to buy a pair of steers worth forty dollars.
When quite young she lived with a very pious mistress; but the
slaveholder's religion did not prevent her from whipping the young girl for
every slight or fancied fault. Araminta found that this was usually a morning
exercise; so she prepared for it by putting on all the thick clothes she could
procure to protect her skin. She made sufficient outcry, however, to convince
her mistress that her blows had full effect; and in the afternoon she would
take off her wrappings, and dress as well as she could. When invited into
family prayers, she preferred to stay on the landing, and pray for herself;
"and I prayed to God," she says "to make me strong and able to fight and
that's what I've allers prayed for ever since...."
In her youth she received a severe blow on her head from a heavy weight
thrown by her master at another slave, but which accidentally hit her. The
blow produced a disease of the brain which was severe for a long time, and
still makes her very lethargic....She was married about 1844 to a free colored
man named John Tubman, but never had any children. Owing to changes in her
owner's family, it was determined to sell her and some other slaves; but her
health was so much injured, that a purchaser was not easily found. At length
she became convinced that she would soon be carried away, and she decided to
escape. Her brothers did not agree with her plans, and she walked off alone,
following the guidance of the brooks, which she had observed to run North....
She remained two years in Philadelphia working hard and carefully
hoarding her money. Then she hired a room, furnished it as well as she could,
bought a nice suit of men's clothes, and went back to Maryland for her
husband. But the faithless man had taken to himself another wife. Harriet
did not dare venture into her presence, but sent word to her husband where she
was. He declined joining her. At first her grief and anger were
excessive...but finally she thought..."if he could do without her, she could
without him," and so "he dropped out of her heart," and she determined to give
her life to brave deeds. Thus all personal aims died out of her heart; and
with her simple brave motto, "I can't die but once," she began the work which
has made her Moses,-
deliverer of her people. Seven or eight times she has returned to the
neighborhood of her former home, always at the risk of death in the most
terrible forms, and each time has brought away a company of fugitive slaves,
and led them safely to the free States, or to Canada. Every time she went,
the dangers increased. In 1857, she brought away her old parents, and, as
they were too feeble to walk, she was obliged to hire a wagon, which added
greatly to the perils of the journey. In 1860 she went for the last time, and
among her troop was an infant whom they were obliged to keep stupefied with
laudanum to prevent its outcries....
She always came in the winter when the nights are long and dark, and
people who have homes stay in them. She was never seen on the plantation
herself; but appointed a rendezvous for her company eight or ten miles
distant, so that if they were discovered at the first start she was not
compromised. She started on Saturday night; the slaves at that time being
allowed to go away from home to visit their friends-
that they would not be missed until Monday morning. Even then they were
supposed to have loitered on the way, and it would often be late on Monday
afternoon before the flight would be certainly known. If by any further delay
the advertisement was not sent out before Tuesday morning, she felt secure of
keeping ahead of it; but if it were, it required all her ingenuity to escape.
She resorted to various devices, she had confidential friends all along the
road. She would hire a man to follow the one who put up the notices, and take
them down as soon as his back was turned. She crossed creeks on railroad
bridges by night, she hid her company in the woods while she herself not being
advertised went into the towns in search of information....
The expedition was governed by the strictest rules. If any man gave out,
he must be shot. "Would you really do that?" she was asked. "Yes," she
replied, "if he was weak enough to give out, he'd be weak enough to betray us
all, and all who had helped us; and do you think I'd let so many die just for
one coward man." "Did you ever have to shoot any one?" she was asked. "One
time," she said, "a man gave out on the second night; his feet were sore and
swollen, he couldn't go any further; he'd rather go back and die, if he must."
They tried all arguments in vain, bathed his feet, tried to strengthen him,
but it was of no use, he would go back. Then she said, "I told the boys to
get their guns ready, and shoot him. They'd have done it in a minute; but
when he heard that, he jumped right up and went on as well as any body...."
When going on these journeys she often lay alone in the forests all
night. Her whole soul was filled with awe of the mysterious Unseen Presence,
which thrilled her with such depths of emotion, that all other care and fear
vanished. Then she seemed to speak with her Maker "as a man talketh with his
friend;" her child-
petitions had direct answers, and beautiful visions lifted her up above all
doubt and anxiety into serene trust and faith. No man can be a hero without
this faith in some form; the sense that he walks not in his own strength, but
leaning on an almighty arm. Call it fate, destiny, what you will, Moses of
old, Moses of to-
believed it to be Almighty God.
Source: Commonwealth (July 17, 1863); Freeman's Record (March