Harriet Tubman, 1868; photo by Benjamin Powelson (Library of Congress)
Harriet Tubman holds a revered place in American history and culture. Her accomplishments in helping fugitive slaves to freedom are among the most significant aspects of the abolitionist movement. A new Hollywood biopic is set for release in 2019, and there is talk of Tubman’s likeness replacing Andrew Jackson’s on the $20 bill.
Drawing on her new novel The Tubman Command, historian Elizabeth Cobbs examines a chapter in Tubman’s life that is less well-known: her Civil War military service in South Carolina. Tubman worked for the Union army as a nurse, a cook, and a spy. She recruited a group of former slaves to hunt for rebel camps and report on the movement of the Confederate troops. In 1863, she was the first woman to spearhead an armed expedition in the war when she guided a raid at Combahee Ferry, a mission Not long after the Civil War, Congress awarded men who had served under her the pensions of scouts, while Tubman petitioned 30 years for her own, and was finally awarded the annuity of a nurse—less than half the pay of a scout.
An award-winning novelist and documentary filmmaker, Cobbs is the author of eight books, including the nonfiction The Hello Girls: America’s First Women Soldiers and New York Times bestselling historical novel, The Hamilton Affair.
The Tubman Command (Arcade) is available for sale and signing.
Learn more about a special Harriet Tubman portrait put on display at the National Museum of African American History and Culture.