Harriet Tubman was a conductor on the Underground Railroad for eight years and she helped many enslaved Black Americans escape to freedom. As she went back and forth, leading people from the South to the North she learned a lot about plantations in the South.
That is why, in 1862, Massachusetts Governor, John Andrew asked her to go South again, to South Carolina, to work as a spy and scout for the Union Army. He knew the knowledge she gained while working as a conductor on the Underground Railroad would be valuable to the Union Army.
Harriet worked with 2nd South Carolina Volunteers as a nurse, cook, scout and spy. In June 1863, under the command of Colonel James Montgomery, she led 150 black soldiers on a raid of plantations along the Combahee River in Beaufort. During the operation 700 enslaved people were freed.
Harriet was the first woman in the United States to lead a military operation.
Women supported the Union Army throughout the war but were not paid, and Harriet Tubman was no exception. After the war she did receive a pension as the widow of her second husband, Nelson Davis. With the support of others, she fought for a pension in her own right. In 1899 she was granted a pension for her services to the federal government.
Harriet Tubman spent the latter part of her life working on behalf of women’s suffrage.