By Eric Poplin and Carol Poplin
National Underground Railroad Conference
In June, 2013, Eric Poplin presented a paper to the 2013 National Underground Railroad Conference focused on Harriet Tubman and the little-known history of the Combahee River Raid. An abstract of the paper is below, and full version of the presentation, including graphics, is provided in the attached PDF.
On the night of June 1-2, 1863, a Federal raiding force led by the 2nd SC Volunteer Infantry (African Descent) and guided by Harriet Tubman ventured up the Combahee River in lower South Carolina. Harriet Tubman gathered intelligence prior to the raid and spread the word for action among the enslaved laborers on Combahee River plantations. She helped calm the people as they fled to the Union gunboats. This raid carried over 700 enslaved people to freedom on this night, one of the largest single events of emancipation in the state or nation. Although well documented in the historical record, this event has been largely ignored in discussions of the American Civil War until the present. Widening of US Highway 17 and replacement of the Combahee River bridge (now the Harriet Tubman Memorial Bridge) prompted the creation of the Combahee Ferry Historic District. The District encompasses the inland extent of the 1863 Combahee River Raid, including portions of several rice plantations whose laborers escaped to freedom. This is one of the few places and events directly associated with Harriet Tubman in South Carolina. The South Carolina Department of Transportation is ensuring that this story does not remain forgotten in dusty archives but is told to the people of South Carolina and the United States through on-site interpretation, a traveling interpretive exhibit for local museums and entities, and a web-based history and guide of the Combahee Ferry Historic District.