This lady with a lamp was put up late last year across from Auburn, NY, City Hall, next door to the house of Harriet Tubman's friend William H. Seward. His statue is a little farther down South Street, and her home, on land she bought from him in 1859, is farther down from that. It is now a National Park Service site. (The statue, unfortunately, is on the property of a new Equal Rights Heritage Center opened recently by New York State. The displays at the state site, as I discovered on a visit yesterday, unhistorically and heavy-handedly try to link the modern movement for abortion rights to the activism of 19th-century women such as Tubman.)
Another statue went up recently in Schenectady, NY, of Tubman and Seward together.
Since, as I was arguing the other day, it is generally a bad idea to tear down historical statues, and a better one to provide context and new memorials to tell the story of the Civil War, I am glad to see these representations of Tubman, and do not regard them as politically correct window dressing.
Her voluntary wartime service is not as well known as her work on the Underground Railroad, but is just as important and admirable. In one 1863 raid in which she participated on the Combahee River in South Carolina, which was commanded by Col. James Montgomery (whose biography I am currently writing), more than 750 slaves were freed. That is at least twice and probably several times as many enslaved people as the total number she had brought to freedom before the war.
This tiny (under five feet), illiterate, epileptic (the apparent result of a head injury inflicted by an overseer in her youth), middle-aged, dark-skinned black woman, born and raised in slavery, provided valuable intelligence on multiple occasions to Montgomery and other Union officers, risking her own life and freedom in so doing. She also served additional roles through most of the war to Union soldiers and freed slaves, primarily as a nurse but also as laundress, cook and mentor. After the war, she farmed and did other work in the Auburn area, eventually opening an infirmary and a home for the aged on her property.