This Day in History

June 2, 1863: Harriet Tubman Frees Nearly 800 People

Time Periods: Civil War Era: 1850 - 1864
Themes: African American, Slavery and Resistance, Wars & Related Anti-War Movements, Women's History

Combahee River Raid. Harper’s Weekly, July 4, 1863.

Harriet Tubman. Photograph by H. B. Lindsley ca. 1860-1875. Source: Library of Congress.

On June 2, 1863, Harriet Tubman planned and guided a significant armed raid (becoming the first woman to do so in the Civil War) against Confederate forces, supply depots, and plantations along the Combahee River in coastal South Carolina.

BlackPast’s profile of the raid explains,

On the night of June 2, three federal gunboats set sail from Beaufort, South Carolina up the Combahee River.

Tubman had gained vital information about the location of Rebel torpedoes, planted along the river, from people who traded information for freedom.

Because of this information Tubman was able to steer the Union ships away from any danger. She led the ships to specific spots along the shore where fugitives from slavery were hiding and waiting to be rescued.

This is known as the Raid at Combahee Ferry.

Tubman and the 2nd Regiment South Carolina Volunteer Infantry (African-American regiment) destroyed millions of dollars worth of Confederate supplies and freed close to 800 people from slavery.

Read a detailed July 10, 1863 report from the Boston newspaper, The Commonwealth at

Podcast The Uncivil history podcast, hosted by journalists Jack Hitt and Chenjerai Kumanyika, includes a 24-minute segment called “The Raid.” Let us know if you share the podcast with your students.