‘The Tubman Command’ by Elizabeth Cobbs
Harriet Tubman led over 300 slaves to freedom through the Underground Railroad, making 19 life-threatening trips to the South. She guided fugitives north under the cover of darkness, evading slave catchers and mercenaries.
I remembered these facts from history class, but not much more. When I saw this book on the library shelf, curiosity about Harriet made me pick it up. Reading inside the cover, I discovered that this incredibly courageous woman later served in the Union Army.
I was increasingly curious, but I don’t tend to read books with military themes and wasn’t sure I’d get through it. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
I sped through “The Tubman Command,” barely able to put it down. The book brings to life a time after her service in the Underground Railroad, when she served as a spy, scout and nurse for the Union. The author masterfully combines a military account with a touching and emotionally complex portrait of Harriet. I was completely immersed in a different time and place, spellbound by this stunning historical novel.
What especially impressed me about “The Tubman Command” was how well it blended details of Harriet’s daily life with a suspenseful account of a military raid. On one page, she was making gingerbread with her pet cat nearby. On another page, she was leading a Union Army ship up the Combahee River, using her stealth to scout out each large plantation and alert slaves that rescue was coming.
Wanting to see how much of the story was true, I read the brief biography written during her lifetime by her friend Sarah Bradford, called “Harriet Tubman: The Moses of Her People.” The real-life characters and events portrayed there are quite similar to the fictional ones in “The Tubman Command.” Proof of her military service was documented by letters written by Union Army leaders, who sent them with her on scouting missions to vouch for her trustworthiness. Friends and fellow abolitionists attested to other details of her life. These facts were clearly relied upon in the creation of this novel.
Thanks to “The Tubman Command,” my ignorance turned into total awe of Harriet. The story describes how she humbly, yet brilliantly, used her inside knowledge of plantation life to mastermind and coordinate the ambitious Combahee River attack in North Carolina. Serving alongside military leaders, most of whom acknowledged her usefulness yet maintained their view of women as inferior, she simply carried on.
“The Tubman Command” is a great mix of history and heart. Don’t miss this page-turning tribute to Harriet and her cause.
The Garfield County Public Libraries submit a monthly book review to run in the Post Independent. “The Tubman Command” was reviewed by Janelle Schuler, library specialist at the Rifle Branch Library.
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