Move Over, Andy

Daguerrotype of Andrew Jackson a few months before he died, in 1845, at age 78. Looks like all his hard living caught up with him.
Daguerrotype of Andrew Jackson a few months before he died, in 1845, at age 78. Looks like all his hard living caught up with him.

Andrew Jackson is getting kicked to the back of the $20 bill by a short little black lady. The Treasury department has announced that in 2020 our 20’s will grace the face of Harriet Tubman on the front, and Andy Jackson on the back.

How could this happen to ol’ Hickory? Why he’s the general who whupped the British in the Battle of New Orleans. He killed a man in a duel. And he carried that same man’s bullet embedded in his chest, near his heart, for the rest of his life. He fought Seminole Indians, and wrested Florida from Spain. And he rendered President John Quincy Adams completely feckless in a bitter political feud, that led to his own election as president.

You didn’t want to mess with Andrew Jackson. Unless maybe you were Harriet Tubman. So what did this little (5’2″) lady do that was so much tougher and greater than our seventh president?

Harriet Tubman (1922-1913) at age 73, looking tough as ever. She even kept Death scared away until the age of 91.
Harriet Tubman (1922-1913) at age 73, looking tough as ever. She even kept Death scared away until the age of 91.

Well first, she was born a slave. Just to survive that experience must require a lot of toughness in your bones. Then in 1849, at age 27, she escaped and made her way to Philadelphia. Now she had it made. She could live the rest of her life in freedom and peace. This was admirable of her, but not good enough for Harriet.

This escaped slave decided to return to her former home in Maryland and assist other slaves in traveling the “Underground Railroad” to the North. And she spent the next decade sneaking back and forth across the Mason-Dixon line, again and again, rescuing hundreds of people from slavery. She put her life at great risk doing this, because if she had been caught they surely would have hanged her.

When the Civil War broke out Harriet could have sat back and let the Union army finish the job of manumission. But instead she joined the army. She led a band of scouts in and around South Carolina, mapping unfamiliar terrain for the Union, and performing reconnoitering missions.

She was also the first woman to lead an armed assault during the Civil War. On June 2, 1863, she guided three steamboats through the Combahee River in South Carolina, and liberated over 750 slaves from plantations along the shore. Most of these slaves joined the Union army, fortifying the cause.

She spent more than two years working for the Union army, conducting raids, scouting Confederate territory, tending to liberated slaves, and nursing wounded soldiers.

After the war she became active in the women’s suffrage movement.

Our government dragged its feet in recognizing Tubman’s contribution to the war effort. But in 1899 she was finally granted a pension. Ironically it was in the amount of $20 a month.

Andrew Jackson was indeed a tough character. But he owned hundreds of slaves, so he couldn’t have had life that rough. Imagine being Harriet Tubman. Consider what she went through, wading through swamps and cold rivers, stumbling through the dark with slave hunters on her trail. Risking everything for the freedom of others, with no thought for her own personal fortune or advancement. It’s hard for me to think of any great Americans in history who did more for the cause and spirit of freedom than her.

When I weigh these two great Americans, I must agree with the Treasury department. I will feel very proud of my country when I see Harriet Tubman’s face on our currency. So move over, Andy.

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5 thoughts on “Move Over, Andy

  1. Thank you for improving my knowledge of Ms. Tubman. I knew about the underground railroad but not the work she did for the Union Army. Move over Andy indeed. Oh and I DO know that the Battle of New Orleans was fought after the War of 1812 was actually over.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. My pleasure to add a little knowledge to this world. I’ve been a big admirer of Harriet Tubman for some time now, so I was very pleased to learn she’ll be on our 20’s. Yeah, back in 1814 they didn’t have cell phones, so the British got a beating they could have otherwise avoided.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Loved this, a wonderful mix of humor and history lesson. Did they choose the $20 bill because that was the amount of her pension? Or maybe because that’s the bill we see most (spewing from ATM machines, etc) so she will get maximum exposure and remembrance. πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I don’t know why they chose the $20 bill. But I think I’ve heard criticism in the past about Andrew Jackson being on the 20, due to his history of slave ownership. So maybe Harriet provides counterpoise. I’m looking forward to seeing lots of “Harriets” spewing forth from ATM machines, if I can be so lucky. πŸ˜‰

      Liked by 1 person

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