Harriet Tubman at her home in Auburn, New York (1911)

Scenes in the Life of Harriet Tubman – Part 13

Of the many letters, testimonials, and passes, placed in the hands of the writer by Harriet, the following are selected for insertion in this book, and are quite sufficient to verify her statements.

A Letter from Gen. Saxton to a Lady of Auburn.

ATLANTA, GA., March 21, 1868.

MY DEAR MADAME: I have just received your letter informing me that Hon. Wm. H. Seward, Secretary of State, would present a petition to Congress for a pension to Harriet Tubman, for services rendered in the Union Army during the late war. I can bear witness to the value of her services in South Carolina and Florida.

She was employed in the hospitals and as a spy. She made many a raid inside the enemy’s lines, displaying remarkable courage, zeal, and fidelity. She was employed by General Hunter, and I think by Generals Stevens and Sherman, and is as deserving of a pension from the Government for her services as any other of its faithful servants.

 I am very truly yours,
Bvt. Brig.-Gen. U. S. A.

Letter from Hon. Wm. H. Seward

WASHINGTON, July 25, 1868.


MY DEAR SIR: Harriet Tubman, a colored woman, has been nursing our soldiers during nearly all the war. She believes she has a claim for faithful services to the command in South Carolina with which you are connected, and she thinks that you would be disposed to see her claim justly settled.

I have known her long, and a nobler, higher spirit, or a truer, seldom dwells in the human form. I commend her, therefore, to your kind and best attentions. Faithfully your friend,


Letter from Col. James Montgomery.

 ST. HELENA ISLAND, S. C., July 6, 1863.

BRIG.-GEN. GILMAN, Commanding Department of the South–

GENERAL: I wish to commend to your attention, Mrs. Harriet Tubman, a most remarkable woman, and invaluable as a scout. I have been acquainted with her character and actions for several years.

Walter D. Plowden is a man of tried courage, and can be made highly useful.

I am, General, your most ob’t servant,
Col. Com. Brigade

Letter from Mrs. Gen. A. Baird.

PETERBORO, NOV. 24, 1864.

The bearer of this, Harriet Tubman, a most excellent woman, who has rendered faithful and good services to our Union army, not only in the hospital, but in various capacities, having been employed under Government at Hilton Head, and in Florida; and I commend her to the protection of all officers in whose department she may happen to be.

She has been known and esteemed for years by the family of my uncle, Hon. Gerrit Smith, as a person of great rectitude and capabilities.


Letter from Hon. Gerrit Smith.

PETERBORO, N. Y., Nov. 4, 1867.

I have known Mrs. Harriet Tubman for many years. Seldom, if ever, have I met with a person more philanthropic, more self-denying, and of more bravery. Nor must I omit to say that she combines with her sublime spirit, remarkable discernment and judgment.

During the late war, Mrs. Tubman was eminently faithful and useful to the cause of our country. She is poor and has poor parents. Such a servant of the country should be well paid by the country. I hope that the Government will look into her case.


Testimonial from Gerrit Smith.

PETERBORO, Nov. 22, 1864.

The bearer, Harriet Tubman, needs not any recommendation. Nearly all the nation over, she has been heard of for her wisdom, integrity, patriotism, and bravery. The cause of freedom owes her much. The country owes her much.

I have known Harriet for many years, and I hold her in my high esteem.


Certificate from Henry K. Durrant, Acting Asst. Surgeon, U. S. A.

I certify that I have been acquainted with Harriet Tubman for nearly two years; and my position as Medical Officer in charge of “contrabands” in this town and in hospital, has given me frequent and ample opportunities to observe her general deportment; particularly her kindness and attention to the sick and suffering of her own race. I take much pleasure in testifying to the esteem in which she is generally held.

Acting Assistant Surgeon, U. S. A.
In charge “Contraband” Hospital.

Dated at Beaufort, S. C., the 3d day of May, 1864.

I concur fully in the above.

 R. SAXTON, Brig.-Gen. Vol.

The following are a few of the passes used by Harriet throughout the war.

Many others are so defaced that it is impossible to decipher them.

Feb. 19, 1863.

Pass the bearer, Harriet Tubman, to Beaufort and back to this place, and wherever she wishes to go; and give her free passage at all times, on all Government transports. Harriet was sent to me from Boston by Gov. Andrew of Mass., and is a valuable woman. She has permission, as a servant of the Government, to purchase such provisions from the Commissary as she may need.

D. HUNTER, Maj.-Gen. Com.

General Gillman, who succeeded General Hunter in command of the Department of the South, appends his signature to the same pass.


July 1, 1863.

Continued in force.

I. A. GILLMAN, Brig.-Gen. Com.,
Aug. 28, 1862.

Will Capt. Warfield please let “Moses” have a little Bourbon whiskey for medicinal purposes.

Act. Ass. Surgeon.


March 20, 1865.

Pass Mrs. Harriet Tubman (colored) to Hilton Head and Charleston, S. C., with free transportation on a Government transport.

By order of the Sec. of War
LOUIS H., Asst. Adj.-Gen., U. S. A.

To Bvt. Brig.-Gen. Van Vliet, U. S. Q. M., N. Y.
Not transferable.


July 22, 1865.

Permit Harriet Tubman to proceed to Fortress Monroe, Va., on a Government transport. Transportation will be furnished free of cost.

By order of the Secretary of War,

L. H., Asst. Adj.-Gen.
Not transferable.

Appointment as Nurse.

SIR:–I have the honor to inform you that the Medical Director Department of Virginia has been instructed to appoint Harriet Tubman nurse or matron at the Colored Hospital, Fort Monroe, Va.

Very respectfully, your obdt. servant,
V. K. BARNES, Surgeon-General.

Secretary of State, Washington, D. C.

Names of Harriet’s Assistants, Scouts, or Pilots.

Scouts who are residents of Beaufort, and well acquainted with the main land: Peter Barns, Mott Blake, Sandy Selters, Solomon Gregory, Isaac Hay-ward, Gabriel Cohen, George Chrisholm.

Pilots who know the channels of the rivers in this vicinity, and who acted as such for Col. Montgomery up the Combahee River: Charles Simmons, Samuel Hayward.

App’d, R. SAXTON, Brig.-Gen.

At this point the following good and kind letter from Rev. Henry Fowler is received:

AUBURN, June 23, 1868.

MY DEAR FRIEND:–I wish to say to you how gratified I am that you are writing the biography of Harriet Tubman. I feel that her life forms part of the history of the country, and that it ought not to depend upon tradition to keep it in remembrance.

Had not the pressure of professional claims prevented, I should have aspired to be her historian myself; but my disappointment in this regard is more than met by the satisfaction experienced in hearing that you are the chosen Miriam of this African “Moses;” the name by which she was known among her emancipated followers from the land of bondage. Blessed be God! a “Greater than Moses” has at last broken every bond.

As ever, with warm regard, your friend,


Previously: Some Scenes in the Life of Harriet Tubman — Part 9
Next: Some Scenes in the Life of Harriet Tubman — Part 11

This is part of a multi-part series published to celebrate Black History Month in 2012. The list of published posts can be found at Book Directory: Scenes In The Life Of Harriet Tubman. Use the Stay In Touch box below to recieve e-mail notifications about new posts.

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