Using a remarkable array of elusive primary resources, Bordewich reveals the underground railroad to be an escape system far more extraordinary than previously believed. He also uncovers compelling stories that shock, humble, and inspire. One hardened slave catcher, for example, watches a fugitive cling to her newborn as she crosses the ice-choked Ohio River, leaping from ice floe to ice floe. With tear-filled eyes, he refuses to arrest her. And there's the slave who rows hundreds of runaways across the Ohio--until he becomes his own final passenger, decades later.