Harriet Tubman in her Scout Garb

Scenes in the Life of Harriet Tubman – Part 8

Of the very many interesting stories told me by Harriet, I cannot refrain from telling to my readers that of Joe, who accompanied her upon her seventh or eighth journey from Maryland to Canada.

Joe was a noble specimen of a negro, and was hired out by his master to a man for whom he worked faithfully for six years, saving him the expense of an overseer, and taking all trouble off his hands. At length this man found him so absolutely necessary to him, that he determined to buy him at any cost. His master held him proportionably high. However, by paying a thousand dollars down for him, and promising to pay another thousand in a certain time, Joe passed into the hands of his new master.

As may be imagined, Joe was somewhat surprised when the first order issued from his master’s lips, was, “Now, Joe, strip and take a whipping!” Joe’s experience of whippings, as he had seen them inflicted upon others, was not such as to cause him particularly to desire to go through the same operation on his own account; and he, naturally enough, demurred, and at first thought of resisting. But he called to mind a scene which he had witnessed a few days before, in the field, the particulars of which are too horrible and too harassing to the feelings to be given to my readers, and he thought it best to submit; but first he tried remonstrance.

Mas’r,” said he, “habn’t I always been faithful to you? Habn’t I worked through sun an’ rain, early in de mornin’, and late at night; habn’t I saved you an oberseer by doin’ his work; hab you anyting to complain of agin me?”

No, Joe; “I’ve no complaint to make of you; you’re a good nigger, and you’ve always worked well; but the first lesson my niggers have to learn is that I am master, and that they are not to resist or refuse to obey anything I tell ’em to do. So the first thing they’ve got to do, is to be whipped; if they resist, they get it all the harder; and so I’ll go on, till I kill ’em, but they’ve got to give up at last, and learn that I’m master.”

Joe thought it best to submit. He stripped off his upper clothing, and took his whipping without a word; but as he drew his clothes up over his torn and bleeding back, he said, “Dis is de last!” That night he took a boat and went a long distance to the cabin of Harriet’s father, and said, “Next time Moses comes, let me know.

It was only a week or two after that, that the mysterious woman whom no one could lay their finger on appeared, and men, women, and children began to disappear from the plantations. One fine morning Joe was missing, and his brother William, from another plantation; Peter and Eliza, too, were gone; and these made part of Harriet’s next party, who began their pilgrimage from Maryland to Canada, or as they expressed it, from “Egypt to de land of Canaan.”

Their adventures were enough to fill a volume; they were pursued; they were hidden in “potato holes,” while their pursuers passed within a few feet of them; they were passed along by friends in various disguises; they scattered and separated, to be led by guides by a roundabout way, to a meeting-place again.

They were taken in by Sam Green, the man who was afterwards sent to State Prison for ten years for having a copy of “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” in his house; and so, hunted and hiding and wandering, they came at last to the long bridge at the entrance of the city of Wilmington, Delaware. The rewards posted up everywhere had been at first five hundred dollars for Joe, if taken within the limits of the United States; then a thousand, and then fifteen hundred dollars, “au’ all expenses clar an’ clean, for his body in Easton Jail.” Eight hundred for William, and four hundred for Peter, and twelve thousand for the woman who enticed them away.

The long Wilmington Bridge was guarded by police officers, and the advertisements were everywhere. The party were scattered, and taken to the houses of different colored friends, and word was sent secretly to Thomas Garrett, of Wilmington, of their condition, and the necessity of their being taken across the bridge.

Thomas Garrett is a Quaker, and a man of a wonderfully large and generous heart, through whose hands, Harriet tells me, two thousand self-emancipated slaves passed on their way to freedom. He was always ready, heart and hand and means, in aiding these poor fugitives, and rendered most efficient help to Harriet on many of her journeys back and forth.

A letter received a few days since by the writer, from this noble-hearted philanthropist, will be given presently.

Previously: Some Scenes in the Life of Harriet Tubman — Part 4
Next: Some Scenes in the Life of Harriet Tubman — Part 6

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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