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Harriet Tubman is renowned for leading dozens of slaves to safety via the Underground Railroad, but all of her heroics weren't done so quietly. The woman nicknamed "Moses" also served in the Union Army, partnering with Colonel James Montgomery and the Second South Carolina Volunteers to plan and carry out the rescue of more than 700 enslaved people in what is known as the Combahee Ferry Raid of 1863.
The operation in South Carolina was secretly designed not only to free slaves but also to destroy rice plantations and recruit freedmen into military service.
"First and foremost, her priorities would be to defeat and destroy the system of slavery and in doing so, to definitely defeat the Confederacy,” said Brandi Brimmer, a history professor at Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia. Because Tubman had been denied an education, she was illiterate and couldn't write down the plan's details. Instead, she committed them to memory.
Harriet Tubman, American hero:
- Hit by a metal weight in her youth, Tubman suffered from narcolepsy, falling into sleeping spells that were hard to bring her out of.
- Tubman cleverly planned slave escapes on Saturdays because slave owners allowed Sundays as a day of rest, so escapees would have an extra day to flee unnoticed.
- In later life, Tubman became active in the women's suffrage movement.