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OTD: Harriet Tubman’s Raid on Combahee Ferry

Harriet Tubman’s Raid on Combahee Ferry

  • Date: Jun 2, 1863
  • Location: Combahee River, South Carolina
  • Freedom Fighters: Harriet Tubman, 150 freed slaves, and the Union Navy
  • Result: A successful raid that freed 750 enslaved people


Harriet Tubman was a former slave who became a conductor on the Underground Railroad, helping enslaved people escape to freedom in the North. In 1863, she led a daring raid on Combahee Ferry, South Carolina, where she guided 150 freed slaves to freedom aboard three Union Navy gunboats.

The Raid

Tubman and the freed slaves boarded the gunboats at night and sailed up the Combahee River. They avoided Confederate mines and patrols, and eventually reached the Union-controlled town of Beaufort. The raid was a complete success, and Tubman was hailed as a hero.

“Once ashore, the Union troops set fire to the plantations, destroying infrastructure and seizing thousands of dollars worth of food and supplies. When the steamboats sounded their whistles, slaves throughout the area understood that it was being liberated. Tubman watched as slaves stampeded toward the boats. “I never saw such a sight,” she said later, describing a scene of chaos with women carrying still-steaming pots of rice, pigs squealing in bags slung over shoulders, and babies hanging around their parents’ necks.

Although their owners, armed with handguns and whips, tried to stop the mass escape, their efforts were nearly useless in the tumult. As confederate troops raced to the scene, steamboats packed full of slaves took off toward Beaufort. More than 700 slaves were rescued in the Combahee River Raid. Newspapers heralded Tubman’s ‘patriotism, sagacity, energy and ability,’ and she was praised for her recruiting efforts – most of the newly liberated men went on to join the Union army.” – African Archives Educational Center


The Combahee Ferry Raid was a major victory for the Union and a turning point in the Civil War. It also marked the first time that a woman had led a military operation in the United States. Tubman’s courage and determination inspired others, and she became a symbol of the struggle for freedom.