• Jun 14, 2024
  • 1:07 AM

Harriet Tubman: Union Soldier


In the mid-nineteenth century, Harriet Tubman (c. 1822 -1913), a runaway slave from Maryland, helped fellow enslaved African Americans make their journey to freedom through the Underground Railroad (a collection of escape routes and safe houses). Moreover, during the Civil War, Tubman was the first African American woman to serve in the military.

In the Union Army, Tubman honed her talents as spy, scout, nurse, and sometimes guerilla solider. In her work with the Underground Railroad, she learned the landscape of southern towns and different transportation routes, which proved to be invaluable intelligence to the Union Army. As a spy, Tubman disguised as an elderly woman would wander unobserved through rebel territory, obtaining information from enslaved African Americans while at the same time watching Confederate troop movement, locations, ammunition depots, and supply lines.

In 1862, she traveled to Beaufort, South Carolina and spent three years nursing soldiers and African Americans who were recently liberated from slavery. Lastly, as a guerilla fighter in 1863, under the command of Colonel James Montgomery, during the Combahee Ferry Raid, Tubman became the first woman to lead an armed military assault. She and 150 African American soldiers from the 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment attacked plantations and destroyed Confederate mines, storehouses, and crops along the Combahee River in South Carolina. During this raid, she and her fellow black soldiers rescued 700 slaves. After the war ended, she waged a long campaign to receive recognition for her service in the military, in 1899, she was awarded $20 month for a nurse’s pension.

Additional Information:

National Women’s History Museum

American Battlefield Trust

National Park Service: Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad