Until now, I haven't had much time or energy for reading. I'm making up for it today. I'm reading stories from The Underground Railroad: Authentic Narratives and First-Hand Accounts by William Still. I read a story about a plan to free an enslaved wife and children in Alabama, in order to reunite them with a man who had purchased his own freedom and was now living in the North. The plan was that Seth Concklin would meet up with the woman and children--using a cape given to him by the husband to use as a signal that he was someone who could be trusted. They would use a skiff to travel the Tennessee River and the Ohio and Wabash Rivers before heading overland. Sitting here today, close by the Tennessee River, in these weather conditions, I'm stunned by the courage it took to attempt these escapes.
The escape--from Alabama to Indiana-- went mostly as planned, with the escaping slaves often lying in the bottom of the skiff covered with blankets. At one point, Concklin ignored voices (and gunshots) hailing him from shore by acting like he didn't hear anything.
Unfortunately, the slaves were recaptured in Indiana, and Concklin was imprisoned. (This was 1851 and the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 meant that escaped slaves were not safe from recapture, even after they made it to the North.) Concklin made some kind of escape at some point but was later found "drowned, with his hands and feet in chains and his skull fractured." Most escapes were unsuccessful, and people paid a high price in pursuit of liberty.