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Amerikan Rambler: Podcast 7: Graham Dozier and Civil War History

The book contains 100 letters written by Carter, an artillery officer in Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia. Graham is also the editor of the “Virginia Magazine of History and Biography” at the Virginia Historical Society.

via Podcast 7: Graham Dozier and Civil War History — Amerikan Rambler: Everybody Has a Story


Amerikan Rambler: ‘A Great and a Terrible Day’: The Battle of Antietam

Lee got lucky to have fought the North to a draw in Maryland. However, despite being outnumbered 2:1, Lee held a psychological advantage over McClellan that allowed him to fight a better battle tactically. McClellan always thought Lee had more men, and it was this delusion that gave Lee confidence that he could carry the day.

via “A Great and a Terrible Day”: The Battle of Antietam — Amerikan Rambler: Everybody Has a Story

Amerikan Rambler: New Documents Shed Light on Nation’s Seventh President

Jackson’s “Secret Diary,” which was written in code, provides grim details of the president’s decision to dine on White House staff when food ran out in the nation’s capital. The blizzard of January 17-20, 1831 was the worst in Washington D.C.’s history. The storm left six feet of snow in the nation’s capital. Many people were house-bound for weeks. Some, such as Jackson, resorted to eating fellow Washingtonians.


via New Documents Shed Light on Nation’s Seventh President — Amerikan Rambler: Everybody Has a Story

Amerikan Rambler: Historians and the Do-It-for-Free Trap

Teaching can be a very rewarding job — financially and personally. Unfortunately, however, many academics, especially aspiring ones, do far too much for free. Often, it’s part of their job. Other times, it becomes a kind of borderline bad habit. And yet, it’s easy for historians to get into the habit of writing or talking too often for free. Perhaps the best example of the do-it-for-free trap is the book review.

via Historians and the Do-It-for-Free Trap — Amerikan Rambler: Everybody Has a Story

Amerikan Rambler: Podcast, Episode 4: Robert E. Lee and the Politics of Historic Preservation

In this episode, Colin talks about the recent efforts to remove statues of Confederate leaders, including one of Robert E. Lee, in New Orleans. Is this a good idea? And if so, by what criteria do we measure historical figures?

via Podcast, Episode 4: Robert E. Lee and the Politics of Historic Preservation — Amerikan Rambler: Everybody Has a Story

Loreta’s Civil War: No apologies to offer

Throughout 2016 and 2017, Stillness of Heart shared edited excerpts from the extraordinary memoir of Loreta Janeta Velazquez, who chronicled her adventures throughout the Civil War — either as herself, as a Confederate spy, or in disguise as Confederate Lt. Harry T. Buford. She fought and led men in terrible battles, fell in love, bore and lost children, and traveled throughout the U.S. and Europe, ultimately fulfilling her childhood dream of a rich and adventurous life.

You can read the entire 1876 memoir online here. Learn more about Velazquez (and the incredible documentary film Maria Agui Carter made about her) here.

Read previous chapters of her incredible story here.

Part 70: In this final excerpt, Velazquez ends her journey in Texas, where she reflects on her life of war and peace, and where she looks optimistically to the future. She is satisfied and proud that she fulfilled her dream to live a rich and adventurous life.


Once on the road again, we followed the valley southward, stopping the next day for our dinner at an Indian village, which was situated at the foot of a lofty mountain and which overlooked the Rio Grande. After having dined, we struck across a stretch of high, dry table land, covered with sagebushes, of which we gathered a quantity as we went along to be used as fuel in cooking our supper. We reached the Rio Grande again about nightfall and had a grand supper, some of the gentlemen having succeeded in killing half a dozen wild ducks and one rabbit, and in catching one fish.

From this point, we pursued our way down the valley, passing a number of old Mexican towns and plantations of cotton and sycamore, which indicated that the land had once been thickly settled with people of no mean civilization, until we reached Fort McRae.

This valley of the Rio Grande is a magnificent route for a railroad, and I doubt not that in a few years it will be found worthwhile to build one. There is plenty of water and timber, and the country offers many inducements to industrious settlers. The principal towns are Albuquerque, Valencia, Socarro, Dona Ana, and Mesilla. The Pueblo Indians have a number of settlements, and the portions of country inhabited by them are generally in a high state of cultivation. These Indians own a great many cattle, sheep, and horses, and they support a number of churches and schools.

Near Fort McRae is the famous hot spring. It is situated on a high mound, and its depth has never been sounded. This spring is in a state of constant ebullition, is very clear, very hot, and is possessed of valuable medicinal properties. Consumptives are especially benefited by the use of its waters. Around the edge is a rough crust of lime, which takes all imaginable shapes. The water of the spring will cook eggs quicker than ordinary boiling water, and when cool it is very pleasant to the taste. A short distance off is a cold spring, near which is a famous Indian camping ground.

Striking south-westward from Fort McRae, we came to Rio de los Mimtres, near the head of which is Mowry City, founded by Lt. Mowry, who could not have had any very clear ideas as to what he was about when he attempted to make a settlement in such a place. Mowry City has a hotel, one or two stores, and more drinking-saloons than do it any good. That it will ever be much of a place I do not believe. There is not water enough in the river the greater part of the time to float two logs together, and in very dry weather one can step across it without wetting the feet. A sudden shower will, however, convert this puny creek in a short time into a raging river, which carries everything before it, and then it will subside as suddenly as it arose.

From Mowry City, which I regarded as a fraud of the worst kind, we went to Pachalalo, where we found a very beautiful ranch, owned by a Canadian who had taken a great deal of pains in improving and beautifying his place. He had made a pretty artificial lake, which, like the rest of the ranch, was supplied with water brought down from the mountains.

A visit was now made to Silver City, a new settlement in the mountains, containing probably about fifteen hundred inhabitants. There were three quartz mills, but nothing worth talking about appeared to be doing in the way of getting out metal. None of the mines were paying expenses, chiefly, I thought, through a lack of competent persons to treat the ore, which seemed to be rich enough. Another and very great difficulty in working these mines, however, was the absence of transportation facilities and the presence of hostile Indians. A railroad will aid immensely in developing this country, which is one of the richest in the world in minerals. On the San Domingo, San Francisco, and Gila Rivers are admirable grazing lands, which will be very valuable to somebody in the course of time. The attractions of this country are very great, and it will doubtless be rapidly settled in a few years.

This country, however, did not hold out any great inducement for me at the time of my visit, and, after taking a look at it, I turned back, and passing through Mesilla, went to El Paso, in Texas, where I remained two days, preparatory to taking the overland stage for a journey across the Lone Star State.

El Paso is the terminus of the overland stage route, the mails being conveyed from there to the interior on horseback. This town is one of the prettiest on the Rio Grande, and there is more business done there than in any place in that whole region outside of Santa Fe. El Paso contains a number of really fine buildings, which would do credit to some Eastern cities. The country in the vicinity produces corn, wheat, and all kinds of vegetables in great abundance. Excellent grapes grow without cultivation, from which the best wine I ever drank, outside of France, is made. The climate is very healthy, the soil fertile, being capable of producing anything that will grow in Louisiana, and the water abundant for all purposes.

The overland stage from El Paso passes through a number of small villages, along the banks of the Rio Grande, until Fort Bliss is reached. This country contains some of the finest grazing lands for sheep in the world. The next place is Fort Quitman, where a large garrison is stationed, and leaving this, the road passes through a well-timbered country, abounding in live-oak, cedar, and taskata — a species of pine which makes a very intense heat when used for fuel. Eagle Spring, a short distance from Fort Quitman, takes its name from the immense number of eagles that build their nests and rear their young in the rocky cliffs. The scenery here is very beautiful but it is considered one of the most dangerous spots on the route, on account of the opportunities which it offers to the Indians for an effective attack.

Leaving the river and making the interior, we were not long in arriving at about as rough and unpleasant a piece of ground as I ever traveled over. In this strip of territory, of about thirty miles in width, rattlesnakes and horned toads are more abundant than the scorpions on Scorpion Rock at St. Thomas.

The Leon Holes, which our stage next reached, are three in number, and the water is very brackish. No bottom has ever been found to them. They say that a freighter who wished to tighten the tire of a wheel, threw it into one of these holes, but when he was ready to start it was not to be seen, having passed completely out of sight.

About seven miles from the Leon Holes is Fort Stockton, and beyond that is a station-house kept by a man who had the reputation of dishing up for his guest pretty near everything and anything that could be eaten. The place, however, was neat and clean, and as the cooking looked inviting, I, being too hungry to be over-fastidious, ate what was before me and asked no questions.

We next traveled through a number of beautiful valleys and over rolling prairies, abounding in buffaloes, antelopes, and deer until the Rio Pecos was reached. This is a bold and muddy stream, and when, as the stagemen say, it gets on a rampage, it rushes on in a perfect torrent. The station-keeper at this point was a small man who blasphemed enough for six large ones. In spite of his foul language, however, he was a good housekeeper, and everything about his place looked nice and in good order.

Our stage now rolled through one of the richest stock-raising countries in America — a country which, when the Texas and Pacific Railroad is built, will certainly be rapidly settled.

The farther we now proceeded the more frequent became the signs of civilization, and, as with this journey, through a most interesting but little-known section of the country, was the last of my adventures that is likely to be of interest to the majority of readers, this seems to be a proper place to bring this narrative to a close.

Perhaps my story was worth the telling, perhaps not — the great public, to whom I have ventured to confide a plain and unpretentious account of my adventuresome career, will be a better judge of that than I am. All I claim is that my conduct, under the many trying and peculiar circumstances in which I have been placed, shall be judged with impartiality and candor, and that due credit shall be given me for integrity of purpose and a desire to do my whole duty as I understand it.

For the part I took in the great contest between the South and the North I have no apologies to offer. I did what I thought to be right, and, while anxious for the good opinion of all honorable and right-thinking people, a consciousness of the purity of my motives will be an ample protection against the censure of those who may be disposed to be censorious.


Loreta’s Civil War: This kind of life

Throughout 2016 and 2017, Stillness of Heart shared edited excerpts from the extraordinary memoir of Loreta Janeta Velazquez, who chronicled her adventures throughout the Civil War — either as herself, as a Confederate spy, or in disguise as Confederate Lt. Harry T. Buford. She fought and led men in terrible battles, fell in love, bore and lost children, and traveled throughout the U.S. and Europe, ultimately fulfilling her childhood dream of a rich and adventurous life.

You can read the entire 1876 memoir online here. Learn more about Velazquez (and the incredible documentary film Maria Agui Carter made about her) here.

Read previous chapters of her incredible story here.

Part 69: Velazquez, now a mother to a baby boy, moves on to Colorado and New Mexico Territory, and the natural beauty takes her breath away.


With my little baby boy — born during my sojourn in Salt Lake City — in my arms, I started on a long journey through Colorado, New Mexico, and Texas, hoping but scarcely expecting to find the opportunities which I had failed to find in Utah, Nevada, and California for advancing my pecuniary interests. Apart, however, from profits that might result from it, the journey would be worth making for its own sake, for, from what I had heard of this section of the Western country, great things were to be expected of it in the near future, and the satisfaction of seeing and judging of the nature and extent of its resources would amply repay me for the trouble of making a trip through it.

After leaving Salt Lake City, the first place of importance reached was Denver, Colo., on the Platte River. This I found to be a well built and very thriving town of about eight or ten thousand inhabitants. Among its public institutions were a branch of the United States Mint and several hotels, churches, and banks. Denver was, until the completion of the Pacific Railroad, the chief trading center in this region. Since the completion of the railroad, however, its importance in comparison with other places has in some degree diminished but as the country becomes settled, it may be expected to increase in wealth and population, and it will probably, ere a great many years, be one of the finest cities in the whole West.

Among the new towns which have recently sprung up in Colorado is Pueblo, nearly two hundred miles south of Denver and the terminus of the narrow-gauge railroad which taps the Pacific Railroad at Cheyenne. This town takes its name from the Pueblo Indians, who are much farther advanced in civilization than most of the aborigines and who deserve much credit for their industrious habits and their efforts to prosper.

Trinidad, still farther to the south, is an old Mexican town and is the center of an extensive cattle and sheep raising country. There is a constant war going on in this region on the subject of stock between Americans, Mexicans, and Indians. Cattle thieves, who steal stock from Texas and Mexico, rendezvous near Trinidad, and, as they are not particular whom they plunder so long as they are able to do it with impunity, their presence is anything but agreeable to people who desire to live reasonably peaceable lives and to get along by minding their own business.

Some distance from Trinidad is Stockton’s Ranch, in the midst of a wild, unsettled country, and the only house within a circuit of many miles’ ride. This is a noted headquarters of the desperadoes who infest New Mexico and Lower Colorado. The building is two stories in height, is quite large, and contains a store and drinking saloon. On a mound above the house is a graveyard, in which twenty-one people have been buried. Only three out of this number had died natural deaths, the others having been shot down like dogs for some real or fancied offenses. Stockton has killed several men himself, while many more have fallen by the hands of his confederates.

Stockton was a small man, restless in his movements and with a fierce black eye. He had a wife and a very interesting family for whom I felt much sympathy when I learned what a desperate character he was. His wife, who seemed to be a very nice, clever woman, was much troubled with regard to him. She told me that she was always uneasy about him when he was away from home, and that, at times, even when he was sleeping in his bed, she was harassed with fears lest someone should come and take him for the purpose of shooting him.

While I was at the Ranch, Stockton sent out some of his men to get some cattle at Maxwell’s Ranch, which he claimed as his. His instructions were to take the cattle at all hazards and to capture the men who were supposed to have stolen them, dead or alive. The herders were generally selected for their utter recklessness, and as a rule they cared neither for God nor man but would shoot down anyone who offended them, without pity or remorse. Most of these herders are very young men and are generally athletic and handsome. Some of them, from their appearance and conversation, appear to have been well-reared, and if asked why they have come to the frontiers to lead such a wild life as this, they will frankly say that they are trying to make their fortunes, and that they expect to do it in a couple of years. They are usually disappointed in these expectations, and those who do not give up in disgust and return to civilization fall into the habits of the country and soon become as finished desperadoes as those who have been born and brought up there. Some of them, however, engaged in this kind of life because they really like it and because they feel a certain freedom and unrestraint in roaming about in the open air.

Whenever a freight train, either American or Mexican, passed, Stockton would buckle on his belt of six-shooters, and, with a big negro armed in a similar manner as his bodyguard, step out into the road with a roll of brands in one hand and a pistol in the other and inspect the brands on each head of cattle. Should the brands compare with his, he would take them from the train and let the freighters make out the best way they could. He has many times stopped and broken up freight trains bound for Sante Fe and the interior, to the infinite injury of the merchants who depend upon the freighters for their goods. The traders, however, appear to be powerless before this and other desperadoes, and the government which takes their taxes under the plea of affording them protection ought certainly to do something to prevent them from being at the mercy of men who recognize no laws but their own fierce wills.

On one occasion Stockton, through some of his employees, duped two men from Maxwell’s Ranch, who, he asserted, had stolen cattle from him. When he had them in his power he started off, leaving the impression on the minds of their friends that he intended to take them to Trinidad for the purpose of delivering them up to the sheriff. Instead of doing this, however, he carried them into a side road and there shot them, leaving their bodies to be devoured by the coyotes, or, perhaps, buried by some casual passer-by. For this deed he was arrested and lodged in jail. He was liberated, however, almost immediately, without even the form of a trial, the officers being too much afraid of him and of his confederates to detain him.

The occurrences which I have related will illustrate the kind of life that is led in the cattle-raising country of Colorado, New Mexico, southwestern Kansas, and Texas. I named this place Bandit House and the ford in the stream nearby Dead Man’s Crossing — which are expressive and appropriate, if not poetical.

Beyond Stockton’s is General Maxwell’s Ranch. Maxwell is the wealthiest American in southern Colorado. I believe he got his start in life by marrying a Mexican woman who inherited an extensive Spanish grant. Maxwell has quite a large family, and he bears a better reputation than do most of the old settlers. He is a great gambler and is much interested in horse-racing but is disposed to be kind and hospitable to strangers.

Crossing quite an extensive piece of country, the Dry Cimmaron is reached. Here some enterprising Englishmen, headed by a Mr. Read, have taken up a large tract of land and have established a colony. They have built a very neat little town, and when I passed through there, their affairs seemed to be in a thriving condition. The town is located on a rather high and dry elevation, which takes its name from the scarcity of water in the branch of the Cimmaron River, which runs by it.

Dry Cimmaron was for a time a stopping-place for the stages from the Elizabethtown mines, which connected with the Southern lines. It is on a more direct route for the cattlemen and freighters but, although it has plenty of wood, it is open to objection as a cattle and freight station on account of the insufficiency of the water supply.

The next point of interest is Fort Union, in New Mexico, about sixty miles south of Dry Cimmaron. This fort, which, at a distance, looks like a small city, is built of adobe, or white bricks, and is plastered inside and out with gypsum, which gives it a rather dazzling-white appearance. The garrison consists of five companies of infantry and one of cavalry. Fort Union is the central supply depot for the frontiers and is a very important position. Some distance off, in the mountain, is a steam saw-mill, which supplies all the lumber used in and about the fort. This saw-mill is protected by an armed guard of soldiers. There is also a blacksmith shop, a wagon shop, a carpenter shop, and a post office. Each company has a garden and several cows, and the men seem to take a great deal of pride in keeping everything in the best possible order. This fort and its surroundings do much credit to the officers who planned them and who have succeeded in making such a nice-looking place out of a frontier military post.

From Fort Union to Santa Fe the traveler passes over some rough country. Santa Fe is the oldest city in New Mexico and one of the oldest in the country. It has been, and undoubtedly for a long time will be, an important center of trade between the United States and Mexico. The ground in and about the city is all owned by Mexicans or people of Mexican descent, who refuse to sell on any terms, but who will lease to Americans. The houses are chiefly one- and two-story structures, built of adobe, and covered with tile or thatch. They are cool, pleasant, and comfortable in summer. The hotel, which is kept by an American, but which is owned by a Mexican, who has refused to permit any alterations or improvements to be made, stands on the corner of the plaza, or great public square, which was laid out by the founders of the city. During the war, the Union soldiers insisted on erecting a monument on the plaza to the memory of their fallen comrades. This gave great offense to the old residents, who regarded the structure as an injury to the appearance of their public square but as they were powerless to prevent its erection, they were compelled to submit with the best grace they could. As the monument is not a very elegant-looking affair, it is not surprising that those who were not interested in it could not bring themselves to admire it.

So old a city as Santa Fe, of course, has an interesting history, but a recital of the events which have made it famous is scarcely called for in such a narrative as this. It is, in its peculiar way, a handsome place and has a venerable appearance, which is quite imposing. Santa Fe contains about twenty thousand inhabitants.

It was in the month of November that our little party started down the fertile valley of the Rio Grande from Santa Fe, but the weather was warm and pleasant, the great elevation giving this region a deliciously dry and healthful climate. There were seven of us in all, and for the sake of companionship and mutual protection we engaged a large wagon drawn by six mules.

It was about ten o’clock in the morning when we rolled out of Santa Fe, and our first camping-place was an Indian village, where we found a neat little adobe house, of which we took possession while resting ourselves and preparing our supper. One of the gentlemen made the coffee, while the others employed themselves in cooking the provisions, or in roaming about, looking at, and trying to converse with the Indians, or viewing the scenery. My traveling companions were all pleasant people, and we enjoyed ourselves hugely. Mr. McKnight, the owner of the wagon and mules, was an exceedingly gentlemanly man, and I shall always bear him in kindly remembrance for his attentions to me and to my little boy during this journey.

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