These were times to try men’s souls, just prior to the Civil War in our country. This is probably one of many such stories of men and women rising to the occasion to do the right thing. It is special to me, as this has been my adopted home for the last many years, and special to the residents of Troy, New York, as one of her shining moments. Charles Nalle and I have Virginia in common as we were both born there. I am very glad that he escaped to freedom on the Underground Railroad , and that the great Harriet Tubman was in the area and unselfishly lead the rescue. Most of all, I am proud of the brave ordinary people of Troy, who disregarded their own safety, and charged ahead to help “the stranger among them”.
Nalle was born into slavery in 1821 near Winchester, Virginia. While in his teens, he escaped to freedom in the north to work for an industrialist from Troy, New York. He lived with William Henry, a black grocer who was a member of Vigilance Committee. There was an active group in Troy involved in the Underground Railroad. These were people committed to helping runaway slaves move from place to place in the dark of night on their way to freedom. The Fugitive Slave Act was a national law requiring a recaptured runaway slave be returned to his or her master. Harriet Tubman, herself an escaped slave, lead many of her people to freedom hence her name of “Moses.”
On a day in late April, 1860, Nalle was on the way to the bakery when he was arrested by an U S Deputy and a slave catcher from Virginia. His friends noticed his disappearance, determined what had happened, and gathered outside the U S Commissioner’s office where he was being processed to be returned to his owner as property. Below is the account from a local newspaper, of that day, telling the story of the brave Trojans lead by Harriet Tubman.
The lane was opened, and the man was brought out — a tall, handsome, intelligent man, with his wrists manacled together, walking between the U. S. Marshal and another officer, and behind him his brother and his master, so like him that one could hardly be told from the other. The moment they appeared, Harriet roused from her stooping posture, threw up a window, and cried to her friends: “Here he comes — take him!” and then darted down the stairs like a wild-cat. She seized one officer and pulled him down, then another, and tore him away from the man ; and keeping her arms about the slave, she cried to her friends: “Drag us out! Drag him to the river! Drown him! but don’t let them have him!” They were knocked down together, and while down, she tore off her sun-bonnet and tied it on the head of the fugitive. When he rose, only his head could be seen, and amid the surging mass of people the slave was no longer recognized, while the master appeared like the slave. Again and again they were knocked down, the poor slave utterly helpless, with his manacled wrists, streaming with blood. Harriet’s outer clothes were torn from her, and even her stout shoes were pulled from her feet, yet she never relinquished her hold of the man, till she had dragged him to the river, where he was tumbled into a boat, Harriet following in a ferry-boat to the other side. But the telegraph was ahead of them, and as soon as they landed he was seized and hurried from her sight. After a time, some school children came hurrying along, and to her anxious inquiries they answered, “He is up in that house, in the third story.” Harriet rushed up to the place. Some men were attempting to make their way up the stairs. The officers were firing down, and two men were lying on the stairs, who had been shot. Over their bodies our heroine rushed, and with the help of others burst open the door of the room, and dragged out the fugitive, whom Harriet carried down stairs in her arms. A gentleman who was riding by with a fine horse, stopped to ask what the disturbance meant; and on hearing the story, his sympathies seemed to be thoroughly aroused; he sprang from his wagon, calling out, “That is a blood-horse, drive him till be drops.”
The poor man was hurried in; some of his friends jumped in after him, and drove at the most rapid rate to Schenectady. [His freedom was later purchased].
Namaste……This is New York