For her three years of dedicated service to the United States Army in the Civil War, Harriet Tubman only received about $200. After the Civil War, she embarked on a decades-long pursuit of the additional compensation owed to her. Tubman’s friends and neighbors in Auburn, New York, supported her mission, sending this petition to Congress in the late 1890s.
More than 50 of Tubman’s neighbors urged New York Representative Sereno Payne, the powerful chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, to pursue compensation for Tubman’s Civil War service. “The claim for her personal valuable services to the government during the late war of the rebellion as scout[,] nurse and spy,” the petitioners explained, “was presented to congress several years ago by the Hon. C. D. MacDougall and a bill was passed allowing her $1,800 but no further action was taken and the bill failed to become a law.” Tubman’s fellow New Yorker Clinton MacDougall continued to support Tubman’s efforts even after he had retired from the House of Representatives by adding his name to the petition. In 1899, Tubman finally received additional compensation when Congress authorized an increase to the widow’s pension she was previously granted for her late husband’s Civil War service.