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Scenes in the Life of Harriet Tubman

Scenes in the Life of Harriet Tubman
Title: Scenes in the Life of Harriet Tubman
Release Date: 2018-08-31
Type book: Text
Copyright Status: Public domain in the USA.
Date added: 27 March 2019
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title page






Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1869,


In the Clerk's Office of the District Court for the Northern District
of New York.



The following little story was written by Mrs. Sarah H. Bradford, ofGeneva, with the single object of furnishing some help to the subject ofthe memoir. Harriet Tubman's services and sufferings during therebellion, which are acknowledged in the letters of Gen. Saxton, andothers, it was thought by many, would justify the bestowment of apension by the Government. But the difficulties in the way of procuringsuch relief, suggested other methods, and finally the present one. Thenarrative 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 inpart acquainted with Harriet's story, would furnish purchasers enough tosecure a little fund for the relief of this remarkable woman. Outsidethat circle she did not suppose the memoir was likely to meet with muchif any sale.

In furtherance of the same benevolent scheme, and in order to secure thewhole avails of the work for Harriet's benefit, a subscription has beenraised more than sufficient to defray the entire cost of publication.This has been effected by the generous exertions of Wm. G. Wise, Esq.,of this city. The whole amount was contributed by citizens of Auburn,with the exception of two liberal subscriptions by Gerrit Smith, Esq.,and Mr. Wendell Phillips.

Mr. Wise has also consented, at Mrs. Bradford's request, to act astrustee for Harriet; and will receive, invest, and apply, for herbenefit, whatever may accrue from the sale of this book.

The spirited wood-cut likeness of Harriet, in her costume as scout, wasfurnished by the kindness of Mr. J. C. Darby, of this city.

S. M. H.

Auburn, Dec. 1, 1868.


[Pg 1]


It is proposed in this little book to give a plain and unvarnishedaccount of some scenes and adventures in the life of a woman who, thoughone of earth's lowly ones, and of dark-hued skin, has shown an amount ofheroism in her character rarely possessed by those of any station inlife. Her name (we say it advisedly and without exaggeration) deservesto be handed down to posterity side by side with the names of Joan ofArc, Grace Darling, and Florence Nightingale; for not one of these womenhas shown more courage and power of endurance in facing danger and deathto relieve human suffering, than has this woman in her heroic andsuccessful endeavors to reach and save all whom she might of heroppressed and suffering race, and to pilot them from the land of Bondageto the promised land of Liberty. Well has she been called "Moses," forshe has been a leader and deliverer unto hundreds of her people.

[Pg 2]

Worn down by her sufferings and fatigues, her health permanentlyaffected by the cruelties to which she has been subjected, she is stilllaboring to the utmost limit of her strength for the support of her agedparents, and still also for her afflicted people—by her own effortssupporting two schools for Freedmen at the South, and supplying themwith clothes and books; never obtruding herself, never asking forcharity, except for "her people."

It is for the purpose of aiding her in ministering to the wants of heraged parents, and in the hope of securing to them the little home whichthey are in danger of losing from inability to pay the whole amountdue—which amount was partly paid when our heroine left them to throwherself into the work of aiding our suffering soldiers—that this littleaccount, drawn from her by persevering endeavor, is given to the friendsof humanity.

The writer of this story has till very lately known less personally ofthe subject of it, than many others to whom she has for years been anobject of interest and care. But through relations and friends inAuburn, and also through Mrs. Commodore Swift of Geneva, and hersisters, who have for many years known and esteemed this wonderfulwoman, she has heard tales of her deeds of heroism which[Pg 3] seemed almosttoo 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 wasin progress, the writer used to see occasionally in her Sunday-schoolclass the aged mother of Harriet, and also some of those girls who hadbeen brought from the South by this remarkable woman. She also wroteletters for the old people to commanding officers at the South, makinginquiries about Harriet, and received answers telling of her untiringdevotion to our wounded and sick soldiers, and of her efficient aid invarious ways to the cause of the Union.

By the graphic pen of Mrs. Stowe, the incidents of such a life as thatof the subject of this little memoir might be wrought up into a tale ofthrilling interest, equaling, if not exceeding, anything in herworld-renowned "Uncle Tom's Cabin;" but the story of Harriet Tubmanneeds not the drapery of fiction; the bare unadorned facts are enough tostir the hearts of the friends of humanity, the friends of liberty, thelovers of their country.

There are those who will sneer, there are those who have already doneso, at this quixotic attempt to make a heroine of a black woman, and aslave; but it may possibly be that there are some natures,[Pg 4] thoughconcealed under fairer skins, who have not the capacity to comprehendsuch general and self-sacrificing devotion to the cause of others asthat 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, becauseof the impossibility of substantiating by the testimony of others thetruth of Harriet's statements. But whenever it has been possible to findthose who were cognizant with the facts stated, they have beencorroborated in every particular.

A few years hence and we seem to see a gathering where the wrongs ofearth will be righted, and Justice, long delayed, will assert itself,and perform its office. Then not a few of those who had esteemedthemselves the wise and noble of this world, "will begin with shame totake the lowest place;" while upon Harriet's dark head a kind hand willbe placed, and in her ear a gentle voice will sound, saying: "Friend!come up higher!"

S. H. B.

The following letters to the writer from those well-known anddistinguished philanthropists, Hon.[Pg 5] Gerrit Smith and Wendell Phillips,and one from Frederick Douglass, addressed to Harriet, will serve as thebest introduction that can be given of the subject of this memoir to its readers:

Letter from Hon. Gerrit Smith.

Peterboro, June 13, 1868.

My Dear Madame: I am happy to learn that you are to speak to thepublic of Mrs. Harriet Tubman. Of the remarkable events of her lifeI have no personal knowledge, but of the truth of them as shedescribes them I have no doubt.

I have often listened to her, in her visits to my family, and I amconfident that she is not only truthful, but that she has a rarediscernment, and a deep and sublime philanthropy.

With great respect your friend,

Gerrit Smith.

Letter from Wendell Phillips.

June 16, 1868.

Dear Madame: The last time I ever saw John Brown was under my ownroof, as he brought Harriet Tubman to me, saying: "Mr. Phillips, Ibring you one of the best and bravest persons on thiscontinent—General Tubman, as we call her."

[Pg 6]

He then went on to recount her labors and sacrifices in behalf ofher race. After that, Harriet spent some time in Boston, earningthe confidence and admiration of all those who were working forfreedom. With their aid she went to the South more than once,returning always with a squad of self-emancipated men, women, andchildren, for whom her marvelous skill had opened the way ofescape. After the war broke out, she was sent with indorsementsfrom Governor Andrew and his friends to South Carolina, where inthe service of the Nation she rendered most important and efficientaid to our army.

In my opinion there are few captains, perhaps few colonels, whohave done more for the loyal cause since the war began, and few menwho did before that time more for the colored race, than ourfearless and most sagacious friend, Harriet.

Faithfully yours,

Wendell Phillips.

Letter from Frederick Douglass.

Rochester, August 29, 1868.

Dear Harriet: I am glad to know that the story of your eventfullife has been written by a[Pg 7] kind lady, and that the same is soon tobe published. You ask for what you do not need when you call uponme for a word of commendation. I need such words from you far morethan you can need them from me, especially where your superiorlabors and devotion to the cause of the lately enslaved of our landare 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 hasbeen in public, and I have received much encouragement at everystep of the way. You on the other hand have labored in a privateway. I have wrought in the day—you in the night. I have had theapplause of the crowd and the satisfaction that comes of beingapproved by the multitude, while the most that you have done hasbeen witnessed by a few trembling, scared, and foot-sore bondmenand women, whom you have led out of the house of bondage, and whoseheartfelt "God bless you" has been your only reward. The midnightsky and the silent stars have been the witnesses of your devotionto freedom and of your heroism. Excepting John Brown—of sacredmemory—I know of no one who has willingly encountered more perilsand hardships to serve our enslaved people than you have. Much thatyou have done would seem [Pg 8]improbable to those who do not know youas I know you. It is to me a great pleasure and a great privilegeto bear testimony to your character and your works, and to say tothose to whom you may come, that I regard you in every way truthfuland trustworthy.

Your friend,

Frederick Douglass.

[Pg 9]


Harriet Tubman, known at various times, and in various places, by manydifferent names, such as "Moses," in allusion to her being the leaderand guide to so many of her people in their exodus from the Land ofBondage; "the Conductor of the Underground Railroad;" and "MollPitcher," for the energy and daring by which she delivered a fugitiveslave who was about to be dragged back to the South; was for the firsttwenty-five years of her life a slave on the eastern shore of Maryland.Her own master she represents as never unnecessarily cruel; but as wascommon among slaveholders, he often hired out his slaves to others, someof 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[Pg 10]naturally remarkable power of muscle was so developed that her feats ofstrength often called forth the wonder of strong laboring men. Thus wasshe preparing for the life of hardship and endurance which lay beforeher, for the deeds of daring she was to do, and of which her ignorantand darkened mind at that time never dreamed.

The first person by whom she was hired was a woman who, though marriedand the mother of a family, was still "Miss Susan" to her slaves, as iscustomary at the South. This woman was possessed of the good things ofthis life, and provided liberally

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