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Amerikan Rambler: Are Historians Too Hard on Hollywood History?

While I understand historians’ desire, indeed duty, to make sure that filmmakers respect the integrity of a historical subject, my question is: should we be surprised when a movie — even a documentary — chooses drama or narrative flow over being true to the historical record? I think not.

via Are Historians Too Hard on Hollywood History? — Amerikan Rambler: Everybody Has a Story


Loreta’s Civil War: Undertook to be saucy to me

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 51: Velazquez disguises herself as a maid in Ohio as she gathers information on Unionist sentiments. But, before long, she gets into a fight with her employer.


The amount of money that was squandered through the system of recruiting adopted by the Federal government cannot be estimated, while evils far worse than the waste of money were encouraged. Playing the part I was, I had every reason to be satisfied with the way things were being managed, but now that the war is over, I suppose I have the same right to express an opinion with regard to this as any other matter of public policy. …

If there was any justice in the war at all, it was a rich man’s fight just as much as it was a poor man’s, and when the time came for deciding who should and who should not take a turn on the battlefield, the chances ought to have been equal between the rich men and the poor men of drawing prizes or blanks in the lottery.

Had things been managed as I have suggested, not only would impartial justice have been done but the proportions of the national debt would have been greatly curtailed while the generals in the field would have kept their ranks full and the downfall of the Confederacy would have occurred at a very much earlier day than it did.

During the whole time that I was interested in this bounty-jumping and substitute-brokerage business, it was a matter of constant surprise to me that some effort was not being made by the government to put a stop to the outrageous frauds that were being committed in the most open manner every day.

The matter finally was taken in hand by Col. Baker, who came on to New York and located himself at the Astor House for the purpose of instituting an investigation. He kept himself very quiet and endeavored to prevent those against whom he was operating from knowing that he was in the city until he was ready to deal with them. It was necessary that he should have some assistance, however, in order to begin right, and … something prompted him to send for me to see whether I would not undertake to find out certain things for him. …

When I received a “strictly private and confidential” note from Col. Baker, requesting me to call on him at seven o’clock on a certain evening at the Astor House, I scarcely knew what to make of it, and, fearful that something against me had been discovered, I was in considerable doubt as to whether to respond or not. My previous experience with Baker, however, had taught me that in dealing with him the bold way was much the best way. …

I accordingly went to the Astor House and sent up my name. The colonel met me in the parlor, and, as he seated himself beside me, he said, with a smile, “Now tell me, my good woman, what have you been doing with yourself?”

This might be a merely friendly greeting, and it might be just the opposite, but, although I almost feared that my time was come, I was determined not to give him a chance to suspect me by my words or manner. So I said, “Oh, I have been visiting my relations.”

“I received your letter,” continued the colonel, “but I have been a little surprised at not seeing you in Washington since your return from the West.”

“I didn’t go to Washington because I really didn’t care to see you. The fact is, I made such a bad failure in what I undertook to do on that trip that I was ashamed of myself.”

Baker, however, took a goodnatured view of what he was pleased to call my bad luck and went on to tell me what his errand in New York was and to ask me to aid him in certain matters that he mentioned.

I professed to know little or nothing about the bounty and substitute frauds, but, after discussing the subject pretty thoroughly with him, consented to try and find out what he wanted and to sound certain people for him in order to ascertain whether they were willing to aid him in carrying on his investigations.

The first thing I did after parting with Baker was to warn my associates so that they might close out before it was too late to do so on advantageous terms. What became of the others in the business I did not care and was rather glad than otherwise to have an opportunity of putting Baker on their track.

In a couple of days I furnished the colonel with the information he wanted, and … the whole bounty-jumping fraternity were thrown into consternation by his raid upon them.

Baker at first represented himself as the agent of an interior county, and in that capacity he bought up a large number of forged enlistment papers and became acquainted with the men who had them for sale and with the manner of preparing them. … Finally, when he understood the whole business, he laid his plans and made an immense number of arrests, but before he had more than fairly gotten under way with his work the assassination of Mr. Lincoln occurred, and he was recalled to Washington to take a part in the search that was being made for Booth and his companions. …

Among the noted characters whose acquaintance I made at this period was Jim Fisk. I had heard a great deal about him and had a strong desire to see him. Hearing that he was to dine with certain parties at Delmonico’s, I hired a handsome turnout, and, dressing myself very elegantly, went there with a couple of friends.

On entering the dining-hall, I inquired of the waiter whether Mr. Fisk was in the room. He replied that he had just come in and pointed him out to me. I went with my friends to the table next to his, for I was anxious to have a good look at him and to hear him talk.

Fisk was one of the finest-looking men I ever saw. He had a very handsome head and a large, noble eye, and he was as pleasant and affable in his manners as he was attractive in his personal appearance. I was greatly taken with him at first sight and became inspired with a very ardent desire to make his acquaintance.

He glanced over at my little party with a smile, as much as to say, “I wonder who you are?” We were ready to leave before he was, but I said to my friends, “Let us wait a little. I am expecting someone,” my object being to find an opportunity to exchange words with Fisk. At length, I saw that he was through his dinner, and so said, “I do not believe my friend is coming, perhaps we had better not wait any longer.” We then walked slowly towards the door, and I lingered as long as I could at the cashier’s desk, paying for my dinner. Fisk passed by me, and as I and my companions went out, he was standing in the doorway, conversing with someone. When stepping into the carriage, I purposely dropped my handkerchief and had the satisfaction of seeing him come forward and pick it up. He handed it to me with a smile, and made a very courteous bow in return for my rather profuse expressions of thanks.

Fisk afterwards recognized me a number of times when I met him driving in the Park, and twice, when I went to see him on business, he complied with my requests without the least hesitation. One of my interviews with him was when I was on a begging expedition for the Soldiers’ Aid Society. He gave me three hundred dollars, of which I gave twenty-five dollars to the society and the balance to the Southern Relief Fund. My second call was to ask for a pass for some poor soldiers. He granted it immediately without asking any questions and did not have any idea that the soldiers were escaped Confederate prisoners who were trying to get through to Canada.

Fisk may have been profligate in his life, and, from a certain standpoint, may have been a bad man. He had some truly noble qualities, however, and it is no wonder that he had so many warm personal friends. …

Shortly after my interview with Col. Baker at the Astor House and my consequent withdrawal from all connection with the bounty and substitute brokerage business, I was requested to make a journey to the West for the purpose of procuring some information which my associates deemed of importance.

A number of the Confederate agents were maturing another grand scheme for the release of the prisoners and, I think, had some idea of organizing them into an army for the purpose of an attack in the Federal rear.

The Johnson’s Island failure had so completely discouraged me that I had no faith in any schemes of this kind, although my profound sympathy for the poor prisoners induced me to attempt anything in my power in their behalf. I thought that, even if I could not procure their release, I at least might do something to aid them and to promote their comfort. I therefore accepted the mission confided to me without hesitation and once more turned my face westward.

My first stopping-place was Dayton, Ohio. There, in accordance with my understanding with those who had sent me, I dressed myself as a poor girl and began to look for a situation to do housework. I was rather a novice at this business but thought that I was not too old to learn. …

I was not very long in obtaining a situation in a family of Union proclivities, and … I discovered that there were a number of “Copperheads” in the city and learned the names of some of the most prominent of them. I also picked up much other useful information that might otherwise have been unattainable.

Before I had been in the house three days, the bad temper of its mistress got the better of me, and, concluding that it would be impossible for me to endure her insolence any longer without unpleasant consequences to both of us, I resolved to leave.

This woman had a vile temper, and it seemed to me that she did nothing but scold and find fault from morning till night. As her treatment of me was undoubtedly exactly what she accorded to every young woman she took into her employ, I wondered how she ever managed to keep a servant. I am sure that had I been under the necessity of earning my bread and butter by doing housework I never could have endured such a temperament, and I felt sentiments of sincerest pity for poor girls who are compelled to put up with the insolence and bad tempers of people of this kind.

Having made up my mind to leave, I commenced looking about me for another situation and very speedily found one to my liking in a Copperhead family.

My arrangements being made, the next time the madam undertook to be saucy to me, I answered her in her own fashion, and in a few moments we were engaged in a furious quarrel which I doubt not would have appeared amusing enough, and ridiculous enough, to any impartial looker-on. Finally, I said, with all the dignity I could command, “Madam, I will leave your house this instant, for you shall never have the satisfaction of saying that you discharged a Cuban from your employ.”

“Why, are you a Cuban?” she said, calming down somewhat.

I then began to speak Spanish to her, and at this unexpected development she put on the most puzzled expression imaginable.

Without paying any more attention to her I went out, and engaging a man to take my trunk, began to prepare for my departure. When my trunk, with the Cuban express card on it, came downstairs, I pointed it out to her, and she opened her eyes considerably. She now began to be a trifle more gracious in her manner … making a rather awkward apology for her behavior, saying that she did not mean anything, and that I must not mind her being a little hasty tempered, and requested me to reconsider my determination to leave.

I told her that there was no use saying anything on that point, as I had already made an engagement elsewhere. She inquired where, and I said, with so and so around the corner, mentioning the names of the persons.

“Why,” said she, opening her eyes and throwing up her hands in horror, “you are not surely going with them! Don’t you know that they are rebels?”

“Well, suppose they are — they are as good as other people if they behave themselves. We have plenty of rebels in Cuba.”

Seeing that it was impossible to restrain me from going, she offered to pay me for the time I had been in her employ but, with a rather contemptuous wave of my hand, I told her she might keep it, or, if she wished, give it to some charitable object, as I was not in need of it, and without more words with her, walked out of the house and betook myself to my new quarters.

Loreta’s Civil War: The poor devils

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 50: Velazquez sadly remembers how immigrants could be so easily deceived and re-directed into military service.


I posted to Washington, and having notified my confederate there when he might expect me, he met me in the Capitol grounds, and I gave him a statement of the account between us as it then stood, turning over to him the borrowed money and half of the profits of the speculations that had been carried on with it. He informed me that I was just in the nick of time, as the reports had not yet been made out, but they were about being, and he was beginning to get the least bit uneasy concerning me.

I continued to take an active part in such transactions as these for several months, traveling to and fro between Washington, Philadelphia, and New York, and often having about me immense sums of money. At length, however, I became afraid to risk it any longer, as Col. Baker had commenced his investigations in the Treasury Department and accordingly went out of the business of money-making for the time being. I did the fair thing by the Treasury people in giving them a hint with regard to Baker and then made haste to get out of the way until the storm should blow over.

As things turned out, it was not, by any means, as much of a storm as I expected it to be. Baker failed to strike the right trail, and the revelations which he made, while sufficiently scandalous were with regard to matters of very secondary importance, and he dallied so much with these that the scamps were able to get ready for him. …

It was not the woman who was working for the Confederacy, and who was under obligations to do those whom she regarded as her enemies and the enemies of her cause all the injury in her power, who fell into Baker’s hands, but certain high Federal officials who were under oath and who were entrusted with some of the most responsible duties that could possibly be entrusted to any men. …

In the matter of notes and bonds printed from the duplicate plates obtained from the treasury, an immense business was done both in this country and in England. The person to whom I gave the first plate delivered to me printed eighty-five thousand dollars’ worth of one hundred-dollar compound interest notes from it. These were, so far as appearances were concerned, just as good as the genuine ones issued from the Treasury Department. Of this batch, twenty-five thousand dollars’ worth were sent to England, and we received exchange for them. The rest were disposed of to the banks and through various channels.

The bankers and brokers both here and in England took these bogus notes and bonds without any hesitation whatever, as indeed there was every reason they should, for there was nothing to distinguish them from the genuine ones that could avail for their detection by ordinary purchasers.

It is impossible for me to give any idea of the enormous amount of this kind of counterfeiting that was done without apparently any serious effort being made on the part of the Federal government to check it. I and my associates had the handling of bogus paper representing immense sums, which we disposed of advantageously but the amounts that passed through our hands only represented a very small proportion of what was issued during the war.

The headquarters of the dealers in bogus currency and securities were chiefly in Wall and Fulton Streets, although a number of these swindlers were located on Broadway. With each succeeding month, during the continuance of the war, the spirit of speculation seemed to increase, and men became more and more eager to make money and less particular how they made it. It was not always obscure men and insignificant banking concerns that were wittingly engaged in this traffic in unlawful paper, but there were plenty who stood high in the esteem of the public and whose reputations for probity were supposed to be unimpeachable.

As for myself and other Confederates, we took all the advantage we could of the general demoralization and not only replenished our treasury, so as to be able to carry on many operations that otherwise would have been impossible, but worked in many ways to turn the criminal selfishness and unpatriotic greed of people … for the benefit of our cause.

The bounty-jumping and substitute-brokerage frauds arose out of a contest between the efforts of the Federal government to maintain the armies in the field at their maximum strength and the determination of nearly the entire body of male citizens to escape military duty by any means in their power.

Under the terms of the conscription law, persons drafted were permitted to furnish substitutes if they could get them, and consequently the purchasing of substitutes became an important branch of industry, in which many thousands of dollars capital were invested and in which immense sums of money were made. This traffic in human flesh and blood would have been bad enough had it been honestly conducted, but, from its very nature, it held out inducements for fraudulent practices which were irresistible to a majority of those engaged in it.

Anything like volunteering … had ceased long before my arrival at the North, but each locality being anxious to avoid the conscription made desperate efforts to fill its quota of men by offering bounties, greater or less in amount, to encourage enlistments. The payment of these bounties was a direct encouragement to desertion, and, as a very different class of men were tempted by them from those who had enlisted out of patriotic motives at the outbreak of the war, a vast number of those who pocketed these premiums were very willing to go through with the same operation again and as often as it was practicable to do so.

Bounty-jumping, or escaping from the recruiting officers and enlisting over again, was carried on … all over the country but the headquarters of the bounty-jumpers and substitute-brokers was in New York.

It was to New York that the agents of interior counties came for the purpose of filling their quotas, and they always found a horde of brokers ready to accommodate them with real and bogus enlistment papers, each one of which was supposed to represent an able-bodied man, fit for military duty, who had passed the mustering officers, been accepted, and was then ready for service. Whether the papers were bogus or genuine mattered very little to those who purchased, so long as they could obtain credit on them from the authorities at Washington. It would probably not be making too large an estimate to put down one half of the enlistment papers sold to country agents and others as forgeries, while not one half of the genuine ones, no, not one fourth, represented men actually ready for duty.

Of course such stupendous frauds as these could not have been carried on without the criminal connivance of the officials of various kinds who were … connected with the enlistments. There may have been some honest officers, soldiers, and civilians connected with this service in New York during the last year of the war, but I was never lucky enough to meet any. So far as I could see, the whole of them — commissioned officers, non-commissioned officers, surgeons, clerks, notaries public, and others — were intent only upon making all the money they could while the opportunity for making it lasted.

The bounty-jumping and substituting-frauds were perpetrated in such an open and barefaced manner that I could not help wondering why some efforts were not made by the authorities at Washington to check them. At length, however, the services of Col. Baker were called in, and he succeeded in creating quite a panic among the swindlers by the investigations which he instituted and the large number of the arrests he made. The war, however, came to an end before he succeeded in discovering a hundredth part of the rascalities that were going on, so that, practically, his investigations were of very little benefit to the government.

The rates which were paid for substitutes varied from five hundred to twenty-one hundred dollars. The parties with whom I was associated enlisted chiefly for the army and did very little for the navy. The bulk of our profits, so fast as they were made, went to Canada or England, and some of the parties who received the money are today living in luxury on it.

The recruits, when they were enlisted, and when they did not escape from the recruiting stations — as hundreds of them did every day — were sent to Governor’s Island. It might be supposed that once there, they would have been safe. They would have been, had the officers, commissioned and non-commissioned, been honest. The temptations for gain, however, were too great, and there was not a person in authority on the island who was not pocketing hundreds of dollars every week by conniving at the escape of recruits. I have known some of the regular professionals jump as high as sixteen bounties, walking away from Governor’s Island every time they were sent there with as much ease as if there was no such thing as army regulations and martial law in existence.

The way this was managed was by the purchase of passes. In going through the boat-house, a slip of paper with the number of passes on it would be put in a book on the table, and on returning, the passes would be found in the same book. The money for these could either be folded in the slip or an order on the broker’s office be given to the sergeant.

One application for a substitute that was made at the office with which I was connected was from a very prominent and very wealthy gentleman of New York, who was willing to pay as high as twenty-one hundred dollars for some one to take the place of his son, who had been drafted. This old gentleman was noted for his advocacy of the war and for his bitterness in denouncing the South, and yet, when it came to letting his son go and do some of the fighting, his patriotism tapered down to a very fine point, and he was willing to send any number of substitutes if necessary. … He was a very fair sample of the kind of patriots I was in the habit of meeting, and I could not help contrasting the whole-souled enthusiasm of the Southern people with the disposition shown by so many prominent adherents of the Federal cause. … As it was all in the way of business, however, I and my partners endeavored to accommodate this old gentleman.

I knew of a couple of barbers in Brooklyn, well built and hearty young colored fellows, and I accordingly went to them and finally induced one of them to enlist as a substitute for the old man’s son. He came over to our office, and on being enrolled received five hundred dollars with a promise that the rest of his bounty would be handed to him by the officer on the island. Privately, however, he was told how he might make his escape by giving the sergeant at the gate fifty dollars [and] was warned not to return to the city or he would be arrested and tried for desertion. He acted according to instructions and deserted so easily that he was tempted to try it over again several times, and I believe he managed to pocket several bounties without being caught.

The emigrant depot at Castle Garden, however, was the great resort of the bounty and substitute brokers, some of whom actually had agents in Europe who deceived the poor people there with all kinds of promises and then shipped them to become the prey of scamps on this side of the Atlantic so soon as they set foot on our shores.

All manner of inducements to enlist were held out to the poor Irish and Germans at Castle Garden. They were surrounded by crowds of shouting and yelling brokers until they were fairly bewildered and found themselves enlisted before they well knew what was the matter with them. To those who hesitated, the most lavish promises were made — their wives and children were to be cared for; they were to receive one hundred and sixty acres of land; money in larger sums than they had ever beheld before was flaunted in their faces. One fellow would shout, “Here you are, sir, come this way. I’m your man. I have five hundred dollars for you.” Another would say, “Here is five hundred dollars and a land warrant,” and another, “I have twenty-one hundred dollars for you if you will come with me.”

The poor devils — deafened by the clamor around them, tempted by the magnificent inducements held out to them, and believing that they really had at last reached the Eldorado of which they had been dreaming — … were marched off to act as substitutes for able-bodied American citizens who had no fancy for fighting the rebels. Every broker’s office had its runners, just the same as the hotels, who were posted at the emigrant station whenever a vessel load of human beings came into port, and among them the poor foreigners, who came over here to better their fortunes, had but little chance to become anything but food for Confederate bullets.

On one occasion I saw a squad of Germans who had just landed and who seemed to be looking for someone. As a runner approached them, their head man, who acted as interpreter, drew from his pocket a letter and asked, “Are you Capt. P.?”

“I am here in his place,” replied the runner. “What can I do for you?”

The German hesitated a moment, and before the runner could fairly commence work with him. Capt. P. made his appearance from the purser’s office, where he had, doubtless, just been receiving intelligence of the arrival of his human cargo. The runner, seeing P. and knowing that his opportunity was now gone, went off to seek for his prey elsewhere, while the captain proceeded to take the party in charge with small ceremony.

“Is your name P.?” queried the leader.

“Yes, and you are …” and without more ado, he hurried them off to a den in Greenwich Street, where they were forthwith enlisted in the Federal service.

These people, like thousands of others, had been picked up in Europe by agents under all kinds of pretexts and promises and shipped for this side of the ocean just like so many cattle. Capt. P. considered himself as their owner, and he sold them to the government exactly as he would have sold cattle, if that sort of traffic had been as profitable as dealing in white human beings. …

TED Ideas: 4 amazing archeological finds — and how you can help protect others like them

Space archaeologist Sarah Parcak highlights 4 thrilling recent finds — and shows us how we can safeguard ancient sites with GlobalXplorer, her new online citizen science platform. Archaeologists worship at the temple of possibility. We travel thousands of miles and dig for years under hot suns, hoping to discover something that will help us unravel the…

via 4 amazing archeological finds — and how you can help protect others like them —

Amerikan Rambler: Stonewall Jackson’s Arm

Stonewall Jackson was wounded at the battle of Chancellorsville in May 1863 by his own troops while scouting a mission in the dark. Anxious Confederate pickets thought he was a Yankee and opened fire on him and those riding with him.

via Stonewall Jackson’s Arm — Amerikan Rambler: Everybody Has a Story

Loreta’s Civil War: Punctuality is the road to wealth

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 49: Velazquez secures the necessary currency printing equipment, and she and her team in the U.S. and England get to work.


It so happened, however, that Mr. Chase, of his own motion, called Baker in to assist him in discovering some suspected wrong-doing in the department, and that individual, having then obtained the requisite authority, immediately went to work with even more than his accustomed zeal to find out what was wrong in the printing bureau.

Baker, however, was either somewhat obtuse, or else the person to whom I have alluded as at the head of the ring, and his confederates, were successful in getting him on the wrong track, for the first man he laid his hands on was Dr. Stewart Gwynn. This old gentleman was an eccentric inventor who had a lot of queer, original ideas about proper methods of printing the currency and bonds. Mr. Chase believed that he was a great genius, and it is possible he may have been. I regarded him, however, as a mere catspaw for the others, and have never thought that he was guilty of any intentional wrongdoing.

Dr. Gwynn was arrested by Baker and was lodged for a number of months in the Old Capitol Prison. Nothing criminal, however, was proved against him, although it was shown very conclusively that some of his schemes were not very profitable to the government. Much sympathy was felt for this old man, and I, among others, went to Mr. Chase to beg for his release.

I had quite a long talk with Mr. Chase on this occasion, and he was very emphatic in stating that the method in vogue in the Treasury Department for printing notes and bonds was an effectual check on counterfeiting. I, of course, knew very well what a serious delusion he was laboring under, and it would have given me great pleasure to have undeceived him. …

Having captured Dr. Gwynn, Baker next made an expose of the conduct of the other treasury official whom I have mentioned, and certain female employees of the department, but he did not get at the facts with regard to the bogus plates and other matters of equal importance until a considerable time after. Indeed, I am not sure that it was his investigation that brought the worst practices of the printing bureau to light, but think that someone else had a hand in making that revelation.

It is probable that the manner in which he was treated by those who should have supported him, after proving how the two men mentioned were conducting themselves with the female employees, may have disgusted him with the whole business and discouraged him from prosecuting his investigations any further. The expose with regard to the women created a great excitement when it got into the newspapers but the implicated treasury officials had sufficient influence to brave public opinion and to retain their positions in spite of the clamor for their removal that was raised. Indeed, so great was the prejudice against Col. Baker in certain quarters that, I have no doubt, many very good people actually believed the parties accused by him were innocent and were the victims of a conspiracy.

Besides this, the public attention at that period was tolerably well occupied with war matters, and Baker, having been bluffed off, the scandal was forgotten in a short time. Baker, however, was very sore over the treatment he received from Mr. Chase, Mr. Jordan, Mr. Garfield, and others; and was especially indignant that the rogues who were robbing the people should not only be permitted to go unpunished but should be actually protected in their villainies by their official superiors.

With these matters, however, I had nothing to do, having discontinued my operations in connection with the treasury before Col. Baker commenced to examine into the gross mismanagement of affairs in that important department.

In accordance with my agreement with the printing bureau official, I called at his office at the appointed hour and was referred by him to one of his subordinates. With this man I made an arrangement for a conference under a certain cedar tree in the eastern part of the Smithsonian Institution grounds at nine o’clock in the evening.

This man and his father were printers in the bureau and were confederates in the dishonest practices that were going on, by which the government was defrauded of immense sums and by which immense quantities of bogus notes and bonds were foisted on the public. One of these men had a mistress who was employed to do some work about the printing presses. This woman conveyed the electrotype duplicates of the plates to parties outside and performed other services of a similar character, for which she was paid handsomely.

Some time before the appointed hour I strolled into the grounds of the Smithsonian Institution, and after finding the cedar tree, hid myself in some bushes near by, not being at all certain that some trick would not be played upon me, for it occurred to me that perhaps these people might not fancy my having anything to do with the matters we were negotiating about and would take a notion to have me put out of the way in some manner.

My apprehensions, however, were groundless, for I had approached them in such a manner that they were compelled to trust me, whether they wanted to or not, and their only idea was, with the assistance of myself and associates, to make the grandest haul on the treasury that had ever yet been attempted.

Ere a great while I heard footsteps approaching and presently some one coughed in a significant manner, which I interpreted as a signal for me. I accordingly looked out from my hiding place and saw the man I was expecting. Having assured myself that he was alone, I went up to him, and said, “Good evening.”

“You are her, are you?” said he.

“Yes, I am always punctual on business; punctuality is the road to wealth.”

We then sat down together on the grass to arrange our plans. The scheme I had to propose was quite a modest one, all things taken into consideration. It was, that I, as receiver and bearer for certain other parties, should be given electrotype duplicates of bond and currency plates, such as we had information manufactured by certain parties in the Treasury Department. For them we would either pay so much or would share the profits.

My new acquaintance, however, was in favor of going into business on quite a grand scale. He suggested, in rather indefinite terms, that he had a scheme for bleeding the treasury, which would, if proper management was used, be an even more expeditious and safer method of making money than by issuing bogus paper but he seemed to be a little hesitating about confiding all the details to me.

I therefore said, after we had talked for some time without coming to any conclusion, “Well, sir, what are your plans? I have no notion of rendering myself liable to imprisonment for the plans of another person unless I know all about them and understand exactly what risks I run and what I am likely to gain. If it were not for the sake of a great object I have in view, I would not engage in this business on any terms and would not risk my life and reputation as I am and have been doing.”

“What is your object?”

“That is a personal secret, and it has nothing to do with any one individual.”

“Well,” said he, “this plan of mine is the biggest thing that has ever been tried on yet, and I am certain we can manage it if we only go to work in the right way. I have facilities for carrying on an affair of this kind such as are possessed by no other man in Washington. I know all the men in every department and know exactly who can and who cannot be trusted. I am acquainted with every private entrance to the public buildings in this city and am familiar with a great part of the rascality that is going on every day and every night.”

“If that is so, you certainly have advantages, and if your scheme is a practicable one, I will take it into consideration.”

He then went on to tell me how he proposed using government money and bonds, which were to be taken from the treasury for certain speculative purposes and also for floating bogus bonds, both Federal and Confederate, upon the English market. He was to manage the matter in the Treasury Department, I was to act as go-between, and certain brokers and others in Philadelphia and New York were to attend to the outside business.

When he had fully explained himself, I said, “I am almost afraid to undertake such an enterprise. It will be no small matter to carry on such operations as you propose without detection. Don’t you think you are trying to do too much?”

“I know that we will be operating on a rather large scale, but if we go about the matter in the right way there need be no serious danger. We can begin on a moderate basis and extend our business as we go on, replacing the borrowed money in the treasury as it comes back to us. I and my two friends will be responsible for procuring the capital, if you will consent to be the bearer between here and Philadelphia and New York.”

“Oh, sir, you must not let me be known to any third party in an affair of this kind. If you will deliver to me the money in person, or cause it to be placed where I can get it without danger of being detected, I will undertake the job.”

“Well, that is all right. I will arrange everything for you so that you will be in no danger. I want this to bring in something handsome, for I am anxious to get out of Washington, and so soon as I can make enough money I intend to go South. My feelings have always been with the Southern people, and I consider that they have been the victims of unnumbered outrages.”

“Why, ain’t you afraid to talk in that manner, you a government employee? Don’t you know that I am for the Union?”

“So am I,” said he, “but, for all I can make out, the Union is a great big hobby-horse for speculations, and as other people are making money out of it, I don’t see why I might not.”

I then returned to what had been my chief object in meeting him, by telling him that I wanted one of those electrotype plates. He seemed to be rather disinclined to accommodate me in this matter at first but as I was persistent, he finally consented, and we parted with the understanding that we were not to meet again until I was ready to report the result of our operations and hand him his share of the profits.

The next day a plate was delivered to me at the Kirkwood House, which I immediately put under lock and key in my trunk. Subsequently I received a note informing me that I would find a package under the cedar tree in the Smithsonian grounds, and that I had better go and get it as soon after dark as possible, for fear some of the workmen might pick it up.

The package … was found to contain fifty-five thousand dollars’ worth of government paper. … Securing my booty, I returned to the hotel, rang the bell for my bill, and started for Philadelphia with all possible expedition. The plate which I had in my trunk was for one hundred dollars’ compound interest notes. Not very long after, I and my associates obtained another one for printing fractional currency.

On reaching Philadelphia, I commenced operations immediately in connection with certain brokers and others and bought a large amount of bogus Confederate bonds. Having obtained these, I went to New York, where I took rooms in a private house on Greenwich Street, deeming a hotel rather too conspicuous, and communicating with my associates there, we went to work with energy to turn the money belonging to Uncle Sam in our possession over and over as rapidly as we could, making it pay us a handsome profit at each turn.

Some of this cash was put into the bounty and substitute brokerage business, but a large part of it was invested in bogus Confederate and other securities, which were sold to brokers for the English market. One private banker took sixty-two thousand dollars’ worth, and another twenty-one thousand dollars’ worth, while smaller amounts were scattered about in various directions, we receiving English exchange and gold at market rates, which we turned into greenbacks.

This business finally grew to such an extent that it was found to be convenient to communicate with London direct. Correspondence was therefore established with a banking house on Regent Street, and until the close of the war a lively traffic in real and bogus Federal and Confederate securities was maintained.

After we had been operating six days with the money obtained from the treasury, I telegraphed to my confederate in Washington, stating how much had already been made and asking whether I should keep on. The reply was to give myself plenty of time, and to keep the thing going for ten days longer, and then close out and return to Washington in time for the monthly reports to be made out. At the end of the ten days there was but five thousand dollars’ worth of Confederate bonds remaining on our hands undisposed of.


Willie Velásquez Day

The Top Shelf

willie day The official memorandum for Willie Velasquez Day from the SVREP Collection

Today we celebrate Willie Velasquez Day here in Texas! May 9th also marks Willie’s birthday where he would have celebrated his 73rd birthday! We encourage everyone to make sure you and your loved ones are registered to vote. More importantly, encourage everyone around you to go out and vote! It is great to take the first step to register but it is VITAL that we allow our voices to be heard in the upcoming election by showing up at the polls. “Su Voto Es Su Voz!” We can celebrate and honor Willie’s history and legacy by continuing to empower Latinos by participating in any way possible in our country’s democratic process.

As the UTSA team continues to work towards completing the SVREP Collection, we hope that not only researchers, but the community as well can use the work completed…

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