MYSTERY PHOTO: Oaks might be a big clue

Lots of river oaks in this photo might be a clue to this week’s mystery.  Where is it and is this place important?  Send your best guess to:  feedback@statehousereport.com and make sure to include your name and hometown.  If possible, write “Mystery Photo” in the subject line.

Several people guessed that last week’s photo was of abolitionist Sojourner Truth when, in fact, it is a recently uncovered rare photo of Underground Railroad heroine Harriet Tubman.  The image shows Tubman in her late 40s.  Previous images pictured her later in life.

Hats off to those who correctly identified Tubman:  Phillip Tanner, Florence, S.C.; Shirley Hinson, Hanahan, S.C.; Philip Cromer, Beaufort, S.C.; Lisa Dabney and Susannah Sheldon, both of , Charleston, S.C.; Mary Greene, Columbia, S.C.; Sundra Proctor Smith, Duncan, S.C.; and George Graf of Palmyra, Va.

The late 1860s photo, provided courtesy of Swann Auction Galleries in New York, was recently in the news because it was found in an album of books that included portraits of abolitionists.  The album sold for $161,000 at auction – more than five times its estimated pre-auction sales price.

Graf provided more context about how Tubman, an escaped slave born in Maryland, was related to South Carolina:

Harriet served as a nurse in Port Royal [during the Civil War], preparing remedies from local plants and aiding sick soldiers. She made money selling pies and root beer, which she made in the evenings.

She led a band of scouts around Port Royal. Her skills at traveling in secret and avoiding enemies made her a valuable leader. She and her group helped map out the area around Port Royal so Union troops could plan attacks further inland.

In 1863, Harriet became the first woman to lead an armed assault during the Civil War. When Colonel Montgomery and his troops attacked some plantations along the Combahee River, Harriet served as a key adviser and accompanied the raid. On the morning of June 2, 1863, she guided three steamboats around Confederate mines in the waters leading to the shore. Due to the efforts in planning and intelligence provided by Harriet and her contacts, more than 750 slaves were freed as a result of the raid. Many of the men joined the Union Army.

Also, according to the Postandcourier.com, the Union Army moved up the South Carolina coast from Port Royal to the Stono Inlet, to Edisto Island, Seabrook Island, Folly Island and Johns Island. Harriet Tubman moved with the troops as a cook and a nurse. She accompanied the Massachusetts 54th to Folly Island and to James Island and then to Morris Island in Charleston Harbor.  The Battle of Battery Wagner on Morris Island took place from July 10 to July 18, 1863 and was a Union disaster.  Tubman helped bury 1,500 dead and wounded white and black soldiers after the Union’s defeat at Battery Wagner.

  • Send us a mystery:  If you have a photo that you believe will stump readers, send it along (but make sure to tell us what it is because it may stump us too!)  Send to:  feedback@statehousereport.com and mark it as a photo submission.  Thanks.

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