In 1863 during the American Civil War, Harriet Tubman led Colonel James Montgomery and his troops on a raid against plantations on the Combahee River. After the raid, Secretary of War Edward Stanton claimed it was the only time in American history that a woman led such a raid.
Harriet Tubman grew up as a slave in Maryland, but when she reached adulthood, she used the Underground Railroad to escape to the north. Instead of living in safety, she made many journeys back to the South to help free her family and other slaves. When the Civil War broke out, she aided the Union Army as a nurse, cook and armed scout. Because she was a short, plain-looking woman with missing teeth, she was able to travel incognito behind enemy rebel lines gathering information.
In the summer of 1863, Tubman guided several steamboats carrying Union troops through Confederate mines on the Combahee River. When they reached the shore, the troops attacked plantations, seized supplies and freed over 750 slaves, most of whom joined a black regiment in the Union army. During the Civil War, Tubman remained active in the Union army for three years. After the war, she helped to establish schools and find homes for elderly and indigent black people.