How Was Tubman Able Evade Capture ?

gem

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Oct 26, 2012
Harriet Tubman was probably the most famous 'conductor' on the underground railroad , freeing numerous slaves on multiple trips into the South.

How was she able to evade capture, while others were much less successful?
 
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mo
Harriet Tubman was probably the most famous 'conductor' on the underground railroad , freeing numerous slaves on multiple trips into the South.

How was she able to evade capture, while others were much less successful?
Would think in part because she had no qualms about crossing the line into kidnapping people against their will.

Her first runaway attempt was a failure, she tried to escape with two of her brothers, after initially getting away, her brothers changed their minds and elected to return so she had to as well.

When as a UGRC I read she carried a gun to prevent people from electing to turn back. Its easy to see why some may have had changes of heart, after all they were abandoning their family.

An interesting aspect of the UGC or jayhawkers is that at times they blurred the lines between taking someone of their own free will, to kidnapping against their will.
 
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CivilWarTalk

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With the exception of a few posts, I've decided that we are going to have a "do-over" in this thread.

Many posts have been removed.

If you wish to participate in this thread, make sure your reply keeps to the topic.

If there is another member in the thread posting and you disagree with their comments, you may react to what they said, but then move on. Don't comment on the poster, and don't try to change their opinion. Don't dwell on side issues and stick to the topic.

So, the rule of the day is: "Post about the topic, not the person who made the post."

Thanks for your understanding!
 

byron ed

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Although the new movie doesn't get into it, Harriet apparently had kind of a trapper's knowledge of the Maryland countryside and people. It was for this that the U.S. Army hired her as a scout, although she was no slouch with firearms, even long arms. She in effect did "lead" (guide) a U.S. Army attack on CS held territory.
 

CLuckJD

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… She had no qualms about crossing the line into kidnapping people against their will. Her first runaway attempt was a failure, … her brothers changed their minds … so she had to as well.
This contradicts reports by all other known credible sources, including Ms. Tubman's own firsthand account. She made no mention about forcing people already held in lifelong captivity against their will to go anywhere. And per Harriett's biography, on September 17, 1849, she and her 2 brothers Ben and Henry would try to preempt … plans to sell them. The three siblings took off, and by October, Brodess’s widow (their bereaved “mistress”) had placed an ad offering $100 (or $3,000 in 2015) for each runaway. The stress and fear proved simply too much for Harriet’s brothers, … After two weeks in the woods, Ben and Henry began to change their minds, … Ben left behind his wife and children, … Their sister had other plans. She too left behind husband, parents, siblings, and all she ever knew, but there wasn’t enough guilt or fear to make her return willingly . Ultimately, Harriet’s brothers disregarded her feelings when they made the decision to return. They were willing to face the consequences and compel their older sister to join them. Ben and Henry dragged their sister back to the farm. This would be the last time Harriet let a man control her movements (emphases added) (Dunbar 44-46). She made good on this promise by taking off again sans men less than one week after blood kin forced her back into bondage.

As for gun toting, it’s no more than what bounty hunters did who ran after Harriet when she led others to safety. Who expects any less on her part? Being smart enough to outrun pursuers on every trip, she knew it’s dumb to start out defenseless. Beside this, a large extent of danger was inside groups she was in charge of rescue.

For instance, consider one scenario described below:

A group followed Harriet into cold swamps of Maryland’s Eastern Shore, where they hid during the daylight (and) traveled north at night, trying to ignore empty stomachs and waning confidence. This journey took its toll on the whole group, but one man broken by terror and fatigue announced his plan to go back and take whatever torture lie in store. He turned a deaf ear to fellow refugees who begged him to persevere. When he refused to move, Harriett gave the runaway slave an ultimatum. Get back on track or die on the spot after being shot dead and buried full of lead from her high-caliber gun barrel.

Harriet said, “if he’s weak enough to give up, he'll unseal his lips fast under a lash. Can I let us all die for one coward man? (Dunbar 45). She had to protect everyone and others who still awaited rescue on return trips. So, she didn’t let one weak link jeopardize all lives. The coward man moved on, which proved wise when he was among the group who got to see Canada's free shore in a few more days.

I’ve also read many narratives where ex-slaves talk about weapons used to facilitate an escape. Charles Ball had sewn a Revolutionary War sword into his vest. He was glad when that blade left 8 dogs in a 14-bloodhound pack dead off his track as lifeless canines lay still on the ground with no head attached to lifeless carcasses. Another who escaped with 3 fellow captives had to kill slave catchers in a shootout from rafters inside a dilapidated barn where all 4 men hid before the farm owner betrayed them for reward money.

Would you leave your gun at home before going off to war? Do you admire Patrick Henry's demand for liberty or death? Then, it should be no mystery why slaves rather die than exist in perpetual bondage and run any risk for liberty, including death as its only alternative.

Works Cited:

Dunbar, Erica A. "The Auction Block." She Came to Slay: The Life and Times of Harriet Tubman, Simon & Schuster, 2019, pp. 44-46.
 
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This contradicts reports by all other known credible sources, including Ms. Tubman's own firsthand account. She made no mention about forcing people already held in lifelong captivity against their will to go anywhere. And per Harriett's biography, on September 17, 1849, she and her 2 brothers Ben and Henry would try to preempt … plans to sell them. The three siblings took off, and by October, Brodess’s widow (their bereaved “mistress”) had placed an ad offering $100 (or $3,000 in 2015) for each runaway. The stress and fear proved simply too much for Harriet’s brothers, … After two weeks in the woods, Ben and Henry began to change their minds, … Ben left behind his wife and children, … Their sister had other plans. She too left behind husband, parents, siblings, and all she ever knew, but there wasn’t enough guilt or fear to make her return willingly . Ultimately, Harriet’s brothers disregarded her feelings when they made the decision to return. They were willing to face the consequences and compel their older sister to join them. Ben and Henry dragged their sister back to the farm. This would be the last time Harriet let a man control her movements (emphases added) (Dunbar 44-46). She made good on this promise by taking off again sans men less than one week after blood kin forced her back into bondage.

As for gun toting, it’s no more than what bounty hunters did who ran after Harriet when she led others to safety. Who expects any less on her part? Being smart enough to outrun pursuers on every trip, she knew it’s dumb to start out defenseless. Beside this, a large extent of danger was inside groups she was in charge of rescue.

For instance, consider one scenario described below:

A group followed Harriet into cold swamps of Maryland’s Eastern Shore, where they hid during the daylight (and) traveled north at night, trying to ignore empty stomachs and waning confidence. This journey took its toll on the whole group, but one man broken by terror and fatigue announced his plan to go back and take whatever torture lie in store. He turned a deaf ear to fellow refugees who begged him to persevere. When he refused to move, Harriett gave the runaway slave an ultimatum. Get back on track or die on the spot after being shot dead and buried full of lead from her high-caliber gun barrel.

Harriet said, “if he’s weak enough to give up, he'll unseal his lips fast under a lash. Can I let us all die for one coward man? (Dunbar 45). She had to protect everyone and others who still awaited rescue on return trips. So, she didn’t let one weak link jeopardize all lives. The coward man moved on, which proved wise when he was among the group who got to see Canada's free shore in a few more days.

I’ve also read many narratives where ex-slaves talk about weapons used to facilitate an escape. Charles Ball had sewn a Revolutionary War sword into his vest. He was glad when that blade left 8 dogs in a 14-bloodhound pack dead off his track as lifeless canines lay still on the ground with no head attached to lifeless carcasses. Another who escaped with 3 fellow captives had to kill slave catchers in a shootout from rafters inside a dilapidated barn where all 4 men hid before the farm owner betrayed them for reward money.

Would you leave your gun at home before going off to war? Do you admire Patrick Henry's demand for liberty or death? Then, it should be no mystery why slaves rather die than exist in perpetual bondage and run any risk for liberty, including death as its only alternative.

Works Cited:

Dunbar, Erica A. "The Auction Block." She Came to Slay: The Life and Times of Harriet Tubman, Simon & Schuster, 2019, pp. 44-46.
Actually you contradict most accounts......from Harriet tubman.org "Tubman carried a handgun for self protection and urge slaves not to give up". Have seen other accounts that said she carried a gun to dissuade people from turning back.

not sure what you'd call it, but if someone decides they'd wish to return home.......and someone uses a gun a to coerce them not to, by todays standards they crossed into kidnapping by using a gun for coercion.

Not to mention her own neice alleged she was kidnapped by Tubman.......

But if you somehow think its acceptable to use a gun to force others to do your will, I'll agree to disagree, as the law would too.
 
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byron ed

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Joined
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Location
Midwest
Regarding Underground Railroad, as in this example of Harriet Tubman, it is a misnomer to regard UGRR as more legend that an on-the-ground reality of Antebellum life in the U.S.

Naivety breeds interpretation, and this is where Lost Cause, for instance, finds an opening to promote the idea that slavery was a system beneficial even to slaves, "most" of whom didn't actually want to be freed (not to say that some truly didn't want to be freed; one of those on-the-ground realities). Any chance to besmirch the intent and careers of prominent anti-slavers or UGRR agents -- or to paint them all as Abolitionists -- is just what Lost Cause does. (btw some Abolitionists truly were self-serving and effete; another one of those on-the-ground realities).

Anyway, back to thread, no one involved in the UGRR acted in a particular regimented or typical way. The flag goes up when claimed otherwise. Harriet in particular was one who engaged as she saw fit for the situation she was in. If in a particular instance she felt a show of iron would accomplish her purpose she would do it. Her bouts of premonition were something she acted on, and she was very adaptable and clever -- much to the frustration of those chasing her, basically her intellectual inferiors.

And btw, carrying iron was something that UGRR Conductors would do, because between cities, even in the free North, there was no reliable presence of law enforcement. Slave catchers, though legally practicing their craft, were not prone to rigidly following the law in those Northern rural counties through which they travelled. And back to on-the-ground reality, travelers in general would carry a gun as a deterrent to banditti, let alone slave catchers.
 
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CLuckJD

Private
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Location
MS, USA
Actually you contradict most accounts...
No sir. How so? My position has been the same one you now claim by new revision of some fiction about Ms. Tubman's first escape that 'had to fail' when she came back home but went out with gun in fist again to roam Dixieland for victims to abduct as travel companions. Wow! 180 Total turnabout from your 1st edition with no mention of self-protection or urging slaves not to give up. In fact, it's almost an exact verbatim quote from my post.

Not sure what you'd call it, but if someone decides to return home.... and someone uses a gun a to coerce them not to, by todays standards they crossed into kidnapping.
Yes, I call it all the same ways you do by today's standards. But this day is not that one. So there is no way to compare the two. In fact, either one is an exact opposite of the other scenario. Slaves who ran away back then were seen as lawbreakers because they were to stay put where captors held them in lifelong bondage against their will. But now that war has been fought and won over this issue long ago, white folks are more willing to accept Black folks as fellow human with right to move about freely. (At least, we are in theory). Thus, the law has come full circle to reversal of past tradition, as your position has done. And one more fact vital to be aware of is that no man at home can also be captive when he's king of the castle who takes zero hassle from a lowly peon surf. So, how can a peon claim the same spot as home turf? Fugitive slaves never ran away from "homes" they never possessed anyway. Their presence was more like fixtures such as lamps or furniture there to serve some useful purposes for putative "owners''. Slaves were home-LESS with nowhere to go but UP from there. Any reluctance to go away elsewhere was fear of unknown outcome versus misery but certainty they left behind.

PS: Although it might be hard to grasp, I know law quite well as a LAWyer who passed 2 bar exams by flying colors 🤯 (That's also why 'JD' is at the end of my username on this site or in real life. It stands for 'Juris Doctorate,' the degree awarded by ABA-approved law schools across our 50-State Wannabe Great Union Today).
 
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Joined
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Location
mo
And you contradict yourself by a new spin on your first tale about an initial escape that had to fail when Mrs Tubman went home, then headed back out with gun in hand to roam across Dixie Land in search of fellow slave chattel to round up like cattle as unwilling travel companions. Now it changes to self protection and urging slaves not to give up? Could have sworn on a stack of Bibles that was my claim all along! In fact, it's almost the exact same verbatim text quoted from another far more authoritative source than you or silly me! Gosh, willie gee I musta lost my head.

not sure what you'd call it, but if someone decides they'd wish to return home.......and someone uses a gun a to coerce them not to, by todays standards they crossed into kidnapping by using a gun for coercion.

But if you somehow think its acceptable to use a gun to force others to do your will, I'll agree to disagree, as the law would too.
No I simply stated what I've read many times, the sum of ones actions includes all their actions, sorry if some of her actions dont fit your agenda, but they are simply historical fact.

As was her niece alleging Tubman kidnapped her.......she was living as a free black.......one doesnt "liberate" someone already free.............

But as usual whenever someone wants to put someone on a marble pedestal, they seem to excuse or overlook what normally one doesn't excuse or overlook such as using a gun to to force your will on others.......

I'll agree to disagree with your she rounded up chattel like cattle as unwilling companions, no idea what you read to come up with this stuff.......

However if you willingly agree to go somewhere with me, then change your mind that you wish to go home, you think I should pull a gun on you and say I'm not going to let you?.......I would think that's called kidnapping at that point.......if using a gun is ok to force others to do your will, I suppose a whip wouldn't be alot different.......
 
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byron ed

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
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Location
Midwest
...However if you willingly agree to go somewhere with me, then change your mind that you wish to go home, you think I should pull a gun on you and say I'm not going to let you?.......I would think that's called kidnapping at that point.......if using a gun is ok to force others to do your will, I suppose a whip wouldn't be alot different...

This seems an almost a willful misunderstanding of what was at stake when an UGRR "conductor" was leading folks out of bondage. They couldn't afford to risk the route on behalf of their current or future escapees by allowing one person to turn-back who will be captured and questioned. These were extremely high stakes that involved the entire course of many peoples' lives over many years.

Were there complicated factors that would keep a slave from making a clean break? Yes. Lifelong family and community relations were involved. So yes, Harriet at times had to provide spine for those she was saving. People are complex (yes, black people too) none of them are necessarily all-in or all-out, and they had doubts, as with Harriet's niece (being a "free" black in the South was no panacea, meh)

From our comfortable perspective, having nothing today personally at risk, how easy it is to smugly condemn that someone would threaten a turn-back with a gun, or give a baby rum to keep it quiet on the run, or force someone to hole up in the bush for several days, or take a horse or a boat without asking. All bad acts out of context, but all venial in the extreme when compared to redeeming human lives, in some cases preventing imminent maiming or even death (some caught slaves were sold deep South, basically a death sentence).

"How is this not kidnapping?" you say. Well obviously because there was no personal gain or profit in it, if fact there was additional risk in it. It was to achieve a higher goal of saving fellow humans. No kidnapper does that.

btw let's contrast that with the way your namesake conducted himself in Missouri in similar clandestine circumstances - unapologetic stealing, kidnapping and nearly indiscriminate killing of the unarmed in the name of a cause (a cause primarily based on maintaining chattel slavery), not actually protecting or saving any person or people from an instance of personal danger. How can you admire and apologize for Archie Clement for his clandestine activity yet besmirch and deride Harriet Tubman for her clandestine activity?
 
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Joined
Sep 17, 2011
Location
mo
This seems an almost a willful misunderstanding of what was at stake when a "conductor" was leading folks out of bondage. They couldn't afford to risk the route on behalf of their current or future escapees by allowing one person to turn-back who will be captured and questioned. These were extremely high stakes that involved the entire course of many peoples' lives over many years.

Were there complicated factors that would keep a slave from making a clean break? Yes. Lifelong family and community relations were involved. So yes, Harriet at times had to provide spine for those she was saving. People are complex (yes, black people too) none of them are necessarily all-in or all-out, and they had doubts, as with Harriet's sister.

From our comfortable perspective, having nothing today personally at risk, how easy it is to smugly condemn that someone would threaten a turn-back with a gun, or give a baby rum to keep it quiet on the run, or force someone to hole up in a bush for several days, or take a horse or a boat without asking. All bad acts out of context, but all venial in the extreme when compared to redeeming human lives, in some cases preventing imminent maiming or even death (some caught slaves were sold deep South, basically a death sentence).
So your idea od
"How is this not kidnapping?" you say. Well obviously because there was no personal gain or profit in it, if fact there was additional risk in it. It was to achieve a higher goal of saving fellow humans. No kidnapper does that.

btw let's contrast that with the way your namesake conducted himself in Missouri in similar clandestine circumstances - unapologetic stealing, kidnapping and nearly indiscriminate killing of the unarmed in the name of a cause (a cause primarily based on maintaining chattel slavery), not actually protecting or saving any person or people from an instance of personal danger. How can you admire and apologize for Archie Clement for his clandestine activity yet besmirch and deride Harriet Tubman for her clandestine activity?

So you give freedom by denying people free will of choice...........hmmmmm ........ BTW it wasn't some military necessity operation at all, but simply an illegal operation to begin with. You may not like a law, it doesn't change its the law however........nor does it excuse breaking the law. Your "conductor" is simply a synonym for "criminal"

BTW I've never excused or apologized for Archie Clement, although I'm not aware of any connection between Clement and Tubman.......So no idea how you think it relates to the OP as it doesn't, perhaps a separate thread if your curious about Clement.

Again you'll find I seldom can be accused of putting people on marble pedestals to pretend they are some comic book hero.......real people are fallible and have warts and all.......dont see the need to pretend otherwise. Whether its any figure from the CW from either side.

I agree today it is probably easy for someone to smugly discount kidnapping and "providing spine for others".....after all your not the one having your will denied at the point of a gun........I do agree there......... its easy to make excuses as a keyboard commando, I dont make excuses, I simply acknowledge what happened......which includes the good bad and ugly. I leave the excuses to others edited
 
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