Harriet Tubman Escape Techniques
(Paraphrased from Harriet Tubman A Biography By Earl Conrad; pages 64, 65, 66 and 70)
There were several techniques that Harriet Tubman used in her efforts in helping Blacks escape from slavery.
There was this one ruse that she started using, only after several years of experience, which was one of her favorites. On the first stage of the journey, she would use a horse and carriage, which was usually the master’s property! This daring strategy was based on the idea that no slave would be bold enough to attempt such a thing. “Negroes driving a horse and buggy must certainly be going on an errand for their master. Usually they drove all night Saturday and all day Sunday before abandoning the horse and buggy. Harriet urged this procedure upon escaping groups that could arrange to take off this way, pointing to it as an unsuspecting means of gaining much distance before search began.” She would then put the escapees “in a cart covering them with vegetables, and drive them to hiding place.”
Another strategy that she used was common to all battlefield operations; the knowledge of knowing how and when to retreat. Many references were made to Harriet Tubman’s moves when she suspected that she was in danger. “When she feared the party was closely pursued, she would take it for a time on a train southward bound. No one seeing Negroes going in this direction would, for and instant, suppose them to be fugitives.”
Once on her return she was at a railroad station. She saw some men reading a poster and she heard one of them reading it aloud. It was a description of her, offering a reward for her capture. She took a southbound train to avoid suspicion.
One time when she heard some men talking about her, she pretended to be reading a book that she carried. One man remarked, “This can’t be the woman. The one we want can’t read or write.” Harriet only hoped that she had the book right side up.
Legend has it that she was once discovered by her friends asleep on a local park bench underneath a poster offering a reward for her capture. Since she could not read, it clearly had no meaning to her.
Of all of the incidents she encountered, there was one that was perhaps her fondest.
On one of her expeditions she had the incredible nerve to enter a village where one of her former masters lived. It was necessary for her to do so in order to carry out the plans for her trip.
So she disguised herself as an old decrepit woman, which she was known to do, before she entered. She also had the foresight to buy some live chickens, whose legs she loosely tied together by a cord.
When she turned a corner, she saw headed straight towards her none other than her former master. However, before he could recognize her, she loosened the cord letting the chickens free. All of the bystanders roared with laughter as she chased after them. Thusly, she made her escape as they flew squawking over a nearby fence.