Skip to content Skip to navigation

The Tubman Command: A Novel

Wednesday, June 19, 2019 - 12:00pm to 1:00pm
Registration is required
Members Free and Non-members Free with admission ($10)

The Tubman Command: A Novel

Elizabeth Cobbs

In celebration of Juneteenth.

By the bestselling author of The Hamilton Affair, The Tubman Command is an impeccably researched historical novel that brings to light the bravery and brilliance of American icon Harriet Tubman.

It’s May 1863. Outgeneraled and outgunned, a demoralized Union Army has pulled back with massive losses at the Battle of Chancellorsville. Fort Sumter, hated symbol of the Rebellion, taunts the American navy with its artillery and underwater mines.

In Beaufort, South Carolina, one very special woman, code named Moses, is hatching a spectacular plan. Hunted by Confederates, revered by slaves, Harriet Tubman plots an expedition behind enemy lines to liberate hundreds of bondsmen and recruit them as soldiers. A bounty on her head, she has given up husband and home for the noblest cause: a nation of, by, and for the people.

The Tubman Command tells the story of Tubman at the height of her powers, when she devises the largest plantation raid of the Civil War. General David Hunter places her in charge of a team of black scouts even though skeptical of what one woman can accomplish. For her gamble to succeed, “Moses” must outwit alligators, overseers, slave catchers, sharpshooters, and even hostile Union soldiers to lead gunships up the Combahee River. Men stand in her way at every turn--though one reminds her that love shouldn’t have to be the price of freedom.

An award-winning novelist, historian, and documentary filmmaker, Elizabeth Cobbs is the author of eight books, including the New York Times bestselling novel, The Hamilton Affair, and The Hello Girls: America's First Women Soldiers. Elizabeth earned her Ph.D. in American history at Stanford University. She holds the Melbern Glasscock Chair at Texas A&M University and is a Senior Fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution. She lives in La Mesa, California.


1-2 pm, Print Study Room

Immediately following Cobbs’s book talk, join the Boston Athenæum’s Polly Thayer Starr Fellow in American Art and Culture Theo Tyson for a special Juneteenth conversation in the Print Study Room (second floor). Tyson will encourage visitors to look closely at materials from the Athenæum’s special collections—including a signed copy of the Emancipation Proclamation—and consider them within a cultural context that explores the range of sentiments in Boston’s antebellum community, from support for the Confederacy to anti-slavery.

Theo Tyson is a curator and scholar with interests in feminism, race, gender, identity, and sexuality using fashion and photography to explore the sociocultural implications of clothing. Her experience as a fashion director and stylist has most recently benefited the SCAD FASH Museum of Fashion & Film. The Spelman College Museum of Fine Art continues to leverage her project management and marketing acumen in support of their exhibitions, publications, and programming. She will be curating an original exhibition highlighting nineteenth-century Black Bostonian women in autumn of 2021 as the cornerstone of her fellowship.

Assistive Listening Devices image

Most programs held in the Bayard Henry Long Room on the Athenaeum's first floor are amplified and assistive listening devices are available for patron use.

ASL Interpretation image

To request ASL interpretation services for any of the Athenaeum's programs, please contact Hannah Weisman at 617-720-7617 or