SIERRA VISTA, Ariz. (KGUN) — Harriet Tubman is best known as a woman who helped people escape slavery and move to lives of freedom. But she fought slavery in another way----as a Union spy in the Civil War.
At Fort Huachuca, the Military Intelligence Hall of Fame is dedicated to the people behind the ultimate weapon: the information that maintains the peace or decides where we will go to war. Now the Hall of Fame is honoring a woman who was active in the fight against slavery and who spied for Union forces in the Civil War.
Harriet Tubman escaped from a plantation in Maryland. Well before the Civil War she used skills like a spy’s to set up the Underground Railroad, a secret network that helped people escape slavery and reach freedom in Canada.
At Fort Huachuca Tubman’s Great Great Great Grand Niece Ernestine Martin Wyatt accepted Tubman's induction into the Military Intelligence Hall of Fame. She was one of eleven men and women recognized for extraordinary service. The award honors Tubman’s value as a Union spy in the Civil War.
If the Rebels caught her they’d kill her but Wyatt says Tubman had a spy’s survival skills and powers of observation---and she says prejudice kept the Confederates from seeing a woman of color as someone to worry about.
“That was one of the things that allowed her to be able to move. She knew how to disguise herself. They’re looking for someone young, she made herself old, to look old. They’re looking for someone that looked like they’re half-witted. There was one person who said about her, ‘She may have had that look but when you looked in her eyes you knew how sharp she was.’”
The Governor of Massachusetts asked Tubman to go to South Carolina and help a unit fighting there. She set up a spy network and gathered intelligence from people who escaped the plantations.
The Army says she became the first American woman to plan and lead a military raid when she used gunboats and soldiers to destroy six plantations full of Confederate supplies. The raid freed about seven hundred people. Many of them became Union soldiers.
Ms Wyatt says Harriet Tubman’s fight continues in the drive to protect voting rights and to amend the part of the Constitution that stills allows unpaid labor for people like prisoners.
She says Harriet Tubman was powered and propelled by her faith and says anyone could have done what she did.
KGUN 9 reporter Craig Smith said, “You say anyone could do what she did; but so few people do..”
Ms Wyatt: “Right. Because they’re selfish. They think of themselves first; and she didn’t.”