The Tubman Command

Written by Elizabeth Cobbs
Review by Jessica Brockmole

In the spring of 1863, the Union army is reeling from defeats. One of their spies, working along South Carolina’s Combahee River under the code name Moses, proposes a daring raid of plantations along the river that could damage crops and bloody the nose of Confederate elites, but, most importantly, could free hundreds from enslavement on the plantations. Though she’s a woman, the army trusts Moses to reconnoiter and plan the raid with a small band of boatmen and scouts, all escaped slaves. Navigating the explosive-riddled river and skirting the Confederate patrols on the banks is a dangerous enough endeavor, but even more so for Moses and her scouts. Though they know how to move undetected, they risk re-enslavement if caught. But Moses—the code name for famed and fearless Underground Railroad conductor Harriet Tubman—knows that the risk is worth it if she can save more lives.

Americans are most familiar with Harriet Tubman’s work on the Underground Railroad when, after escaping from enslavement, she returned to the South thirteen times to lead others to safety and freedom. Her role as “General Tubman,” spying for the Union army and commanding a band of scouts in the occupied South is less familiar. Cobbs brings this little-known history of Tubman and her role in the Combahee River Raid to vivid life. Meticulously researched and carefully written, The Tubman Command is a true story with the pacing and suspense of a mystery novel. Cobbs takes the reader right into the anxious uncertainty of the occupied South in the midst of the Civil War alongside one of history’s most fascinating and complex figures. Through Cobbs’ pen, Harriet Tubman becomes more than a legendary historical figure; she becomes an irresistible and compelling character.