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Loreta’s Civil War: A derangement of the plans

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 53: As news of President Lincoln’s assassination spreads, Velazquez is torn between respect for the man and loyalty to the Confederacy.

******

As I did not know and certainly did not appreciate the full extent … of the great disaster that had befallen the Confederate cause, so soon as my business in Wall Street was brought to a conclusion I sought a conference with the agents with whom I had been co-operating. They were inclined to take the gloomiest possible view of the situation. With the fall of Richmond and the surrender of Lee’s army, the people of the North seemed to have concluded that the long contest with the South was over. … It was but natural, perhaps, in view of the intense excitement which prevailed and the unanimity of public opinion that the Confederate agents should have regarded the future of the contest in a great degree from a Northern standpoint and should have been largely influenced by the opinions which they heard expressed on every side.

I, however, was not disposed to give up while a Southern soldier remained in the field, and, after a full discussion of the condition of affairs, I persuaded my companions to view matters as I did. Richmond was our capital, but it was not the whole South, and Lee’s army, important as it was, was far from being the whole Confederate force. Gen. Joe Johnston had an army of veterans very nearly if not quite as large as that of Lee’s and was capable of prolonging the contest for an indefinite period while throughout the West there were a number of detached commands of more or less strength. If these could be united and a junction effected with Johnston, or communication established with him so that they could act in concert, it would be possible to keep the Federals at bay for a good while yet. If the fight was continued resolutely, there was no knowing what might happen to our advantage, for, as we all knew, the people of the North were heartily sick of the war, while England and France were impatient to have it come to an end and would much prefer to have it end with a victory for the Confederates.

Having professed an eager desire to work for the Cause so long as there was a Cause to work for, my associates suggested that I should proceed immediately to Missouri … for the purpose of consulting with the agents in the West with regard to the best methods of proceeding in the present perplexing emergency.

I accepted the mission without hesitation, and, always ready to attend to business of this kind at a moment’s notice, with scarcely more than a change of clothing in my traveling satchel, I was soon speeding westward. … I went to Columbus, Ohio, where I found considerable confusion prevailing on account of the escape of some prisoners. I took rooms at the Neil House and had conferences with several persons concerning the affairs at the South. At an unusually early hour I retired, being very weary on account of having traveled almost without interruption for several days and having lost my sleep the night before but feeling rather happy on account of a Confederate victory of which I had heard.

I was soon asleep, but could not have been so very long before I was awakened by the continual buzzing of the telegraph wires, which were attached to the corner of the hotel. I paid but little attention to this singular noise and dozed off again. A second time I was awakened by it and began to conjecture what could be the matter. I knew that something very important must have happened and thought that the Federals must either have achieved a great victory or have met with a great defeat. I was too tired, however, to attempt any inquiry just then, and, with all sorts of fancies floating in my mind … I dropped off into a sound sleep and did not awaken until morning.

I arose quite early and going to the window saw that the whole front of the building was draped in mourning. Wondering what this demonstration could mean, and thinking that the death of some prominent general must have occurred, but never for a moment suspecting the terrible truth, I made my toilet and descended to find out what was the matter.

A great number of people, notwithstanding the early hour, were moving about the hotel, and a considerable crowd was already assembled in the hall. Still wondering what could have happened, I asked a gentleman whom I met hurrying down stairs what was the news, and he told me that President Lincoln had been assassinated by one J. Wilkes Booth the night before!

This intelligence startled me greatly, both on account of the terrible nature of the crime itself and because I felt that it could work nothing but harm to the South. I also felt for Mr. Lincoln and his family, for I liked him and believed that he was an honest and kindhearted man who tried to do his duty, as he understood it, and who was in every way well disposed towards the South.

Descending to the drawing-room, I found a large number of ladies there, many of whom were weeping, while, in the street, the crowd was increasing, and everyone seemed to be in the greatest excitement. Across the street, the State House was being draped in mourning, while a number of persons already wore mourning emblems. Before the day was over nearly everyone had on some badge of mourning, and nearly every house was draped in a greater or less degree in black. I did not attempt to imitate my neighbors in this matter. I was sincerely sorry both for personal and political reasons that this dreadful event had occurred but, nevertheless, Mr. Lincoln was the enemy of the cause I loved and for which I labored, and it would have been intensely repugnant to my feelings to have made any outward manifestations of mourning. At the same time it is possible I may have mourned in my heart with more sincerity than some of those who were making a greater show of their grief.

This sad event rendered it necessary that I should have an immediate conference with my associates in the East, and I therefore returned as fast as I could to New York, and from thence went on to Washington.

The assassination of Mr. Lincoln had caused a derangement of the plans, and no one knew exactly what had best be done next. I was requested, however, to make a trip west again for the purpose of communicating with certain parties and accordingly departed on my last errand in behalf of the Confederacy.

My business being transacted, I started to return and again found it necessary to pass through Columbus. When I arrived there the body of Mr. Lincoln was lying in state. The town was crowded with people, and it was impossible to get a room at any of the hotels. I went to the Neil House but was obliged to content myself with a bed on the drawing-room floor, my accommodations being, however, quite as sumptuous as those of hundreds of others.

I doubt if the little city ever had so many people in it before, and all day long a stream of men and women poured in at one door and out at the other of the apartment where the casket containing the remains of the president was lying in state. It was a sad sight, and it troubled me greatly — so greatly that I was scarcely able to eat or sleep, for, in addition to my natural grief, I could not prevent my mind from brooding on the possibly detrimental effects which the assassination would have on the fortunes of the South.

After an early breakfast the next morning, I took the eastward-bound train and returned to Washington, and on reaching that city called to see Col. Baker. We exchanged but a few words, as Baker said that he had an engagement, which he would be compelled to attend to immediately, but he would see me at half past seven o’clock at my hotel. …

In the Capitol, I met a Confederate officer whom I knew. I was astonished to see him, and going up, I said, “Oh, what could have induced you to come here at such a critical time as this?”

“To see and hear what is going on,” he replied.

“This is an awful affair.”

“Yes, and it is particularly unfortunate that it should have happened at this particular time.”

“When will you return?”

“Tonight, if somebody less amiable than you are does not recognize me and take me in charge.”

I then asked him if he would carry a letter through for me to my brother, and on his promising me that he would, I made an engagement for him to go to my room in the hotel. He would find the door unlocked and the key inside, and I would meet him at five o’clock or shortly after. I then took leave of him, bidding him be careful of himself, as the people were excited and suspicious and he might easily get himself into serious trouble.

Returning to the hotel, I noticed quite a number of ladies in the drawing-room as I passed by. I thought I would join them for the sake of listening to the different conversations that were going on, thinking that perhaps I might hear something that it would be advantageous for me to know. On reaching my room, therefore, I dressed myself in a handsome black gros-grain silk dress, and putting a gilt band in my hair, descended and took a seat at one of the drawing-room windows facing on Pennsylvania Avenue.

Those around me all appeared to be discussing the tragedy and many absurd theories and speculations were indulged in with regard to it. I was indignant … to hear President Davis and [other] Confederate leaders accused of being the instigators of the crime. I well knew that they were incapable of anything of the kind, and Mr. Davis, in particular, I had reason to believe entertained a high respect for Mr. Lincoln and most sincerely lamented his death and especially the manner of it, feeling that he and the whole people of the South would be … held censurable for something they had nothing to do with and which they were powerless to prevent.

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Loreta’s Civil War: My heart burned hot within 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 52: Velazquez makes her way to Canada, England, and then back to New York City in time to hear that the Army of Northern Virginia has surrendered.

******

In the evening, as I was going out of the room where the family were at supper, I heard the old gentleman who sat at the head of the table say to his wife, “Where did you come across that nice, tidy piece of furniture?”

The lady replied, “Oh, she was at Mrs. B.’s, and they were too much down on the rebels to suit her.”

When I came into the room again, the old gentleman, turning towards me, inquired, “Are you a Yankee girl?”

“No, sir,” I replied, “I am a Cuban and am a true Southern sympathizer.”

“Well, if that is the case, you have got into the right place at last. I am from old Virginia, and I would not have one of those d—-d Yankee women about the house.”

In the evening the lady of the house came to my room just as I was unpacking my trunk. She seemed to be surprised at the extent and style of my wardrobe and exclaimed, “Dear me, what a lot of nice things you have there!”

“Yes,” I replied. “Where I came from we are accustomed to having nice things.”

As I thought that some curiosity with regard to me would be excited, I resolved to try and overhear the conversation between the old lady and her husband, so, when she left me, I hastily slipped off my shoes and, cautiously following her downstairs, stood at the door of the parlor and listened. She gave quite a glowing account of the elegant dresses and other matters she had seen in my trunk and said, “I wonder who she is, for she has not always been a servant, that is certain.”

“No, she don’t look like a servant,” said the old gentleman.

“Suppose she should be a spy?”

“Well, she may be, and we will have to be cautious what we say before her. Is she in her room?”

“Yes.”

“I will have a talk with her tomorrow and try and get her to say something with regard to who she is and where she comes from.”

This was all very satisfactory, so far as it went, and I crept back to my room as softly as I could and went to bed.

The next morning the old gentleman came into the room when I was arranging the breakfast table and said, without any preliminaries, “Were you ever married?”

“Yes, sir, I am a widow.”

“And you were never married again?”

“No, sir.”

“Wouldn’t you like to be?”

“Well, I wouldn’t mind if the right kind of a man offered himself. I don’t care to marry any of your Yankees, however, and the Southern boys are all in the field.”

“Look here, ain’t you from the South?”

“I have been there.”

“I thought so. Because you found yourself among strangers and got out of money is, I suppose, the reason why you have hired out.”

“Yes, sir. It is rather hard, after having had plenty, and after being waited on by servants, to do this kind of work but it is honorable.”

“Put down those plates,” said the old gentleman, with considerable emphasis, “You can’t do any work for me but my house is open to you, and you are welcome to stay as long as it suits you.

“Here, old woman,” he cried to his wife, who just then came into the room, “She is not going to be a servant in our house. She is a genuine Southerner, and we must treat her as well as we know how.”

I was forthwith installed as a privileged guest, and in the course of a few days I was introduced to a number of Southern sympathizers. Among my new acquaintance was a Confederate soldier who had escaped from one of the prison camps and who was endeavoring to make his way South. From him I learned that Cleveland was a general rendezvous for prisoners, and I accordingly resolved to go there.

I had given my entertainers to understand that I was on some secret errand but did not tell them what, while they appreciated the importance of saying no more than was necessary about such matters and asked me no impertinent questions. When I made up my mind to leave, I went to the old gentleman and told him that I desired to go South, where I had friends, and where I could get money.

He asked me how much money I would require for my journey, and I told him that I thought about six hundred dollars would see me through.

“Well,” said he, “I can get that for you,” and going out, he soon returned with the amount, remarking as he gave it to me, “We Copperheads can always raise some money for the Cause, even if we have no men.”

The old gentleman took me to the depot in his buggy and bought me a ticket for Cincinnati. He also gave me a letter to the head of the Copperhead ring there. This document I had, however, no use for, although I accepted it as I did the six hundred dollars. I had at the time the sum of ninety-three thousand dollars on my person and had in deposit in several banks over fifty thousand dollars. The six hundred dollars I accepted as a contribution to the Cause and on the principle that every little helps.

Bidding my aged friend farewell, I took my seat in the train and was soon on my way to Columbus, for I had no intention of going to Cincinnati. On reaching Columbus, I took rooms at a new hotel near the depot and made some inquiries with regard to the prisoners but before I could make any definite arrangement concerning them I received a telegraphic dispatch directing me to go to Canada immediately.

I, therefore, contributed three thousand dollars of the money which I had with me … for the relief of the prisoners and for the purchase of necessary clothing. A Mrs. R. had charge of this prisoners’ relief fund, and I had every confidence that the money in her hands would be properly bestowed.

Proceeding as rapidly as I could to Canada, I had a conference with the agent there and then hastened to New York. In that city I found a host of Confederates who were anxiously waiting to receive their instructions from me. One was to go to Nassau as supercargo. Another was to sail by the next steamer for Paris to receive opium and quinine. A third was to proceed to Missouri. A fourth to the northwestern part of Texas, and so on. Giving each his proportion of cash for expenses and telling them whom to draw on in case they were short, I bade them goodbye and wished them success.

These matters being arranged, I went to see the broker with whom I was in partnership and found him considerably exercised. We had a long talk about the situation, and he expressed himself as very uneasy about the march Sherman was making through the Carolinas and its effect upon the Confederate bonds we had on hand. I was not as easily frightened as he was but I could not help acknowledging that if Sherman succeeded in accomplishing what he aimed at, it would be bad for the cause of the Confederacy and that it would do much to kill the sale of the bonds. I therefore allowed myself to be persuaded into making a trip to London for the purpose of a personal interview with our agent there, the idea being, without letting him or others see that we were uneasy, to persuade him to sell off the paper we held at almost any price.

I accordingly proceeded to London by the next steamer, and on finding the agent, was soon plunged into business with him. Confederate bonds were not selling very well just at that time, but as ours cost us very little, we could afford to dispose of them at very moderate figures and still make a handsome profit. I put mine on the market as rapidly as I was able but before I had cleared out the lot, intelligence was received that Sherman had established communication with Grant, and many persons jumped at the conclusion that this was a virtual end of the rebellion. When this news was received, I was on a flying visit to Paris. I did not think that the end was as near as many persons supposed, but saw very clearly that there was no market in London just then for Confederate bonds. … I posted to Liverpool and arrived there just in time to catch a steamer.

As we were going into New York harbor we heard the news of Lee’s surrender — which had taken place the day before — from the pilot. He was unable to give us any particulars, and everyone on the steamer was consequently in a fever of anxiety to get ashore and learn the full extent of the disaster to the Confederate arms. No one was more anxious than myself, as no one had reason to be, and the idea that the hitherto invincible army of Virginia … should at last be compelled to yield to the enemy fairly stunned me.

Many of the passengers seemed to think that this was practically the winding up of the war. I could not bring myself to believe this, for I knew that the Confederacy had other armies in the field who were both able and willing to fight, and who were led by generals as skillful and as indomitable as Lee. My heart burned hot within me to continue the fight, and I resolved to stick by my colors to the last and to labor with even more than my accustomed zeal for the Confederacy so long as a shadow of hope remained.

When the vessel reached the wharf I went ashore and proceeded to the Lafarge House, from whence, as soon as I could get some of the sea rust from my person, I called a carriage and ordered the driver to take me as fast as he could to the office of the broker in Wall Street with whom I was in partnership.

Wall Street, especially in the vicinity of the Exchange, was fairly packed with a furious, excited mass of human beings, selling, shouting, cursing, and not a few absolutely weeping.

It was a spectacle to be remembered — nothing that I had ever beheld — and I had certainly participated in many exciting scenes, … Some of the thousands of faces were surcharged with unspeakable horror. Despair, overpowering despair, was written on others. Curses and blasphemies were heard on every side, and it might have been supposed that all the lunatics in the country had been turned loose in this narrow thoroughfare.

Anyone familiar with this section of New York, however, could see at a glance that some momentous event had occurred which had seriously affected innumerable important financial operations, and that in a moment great fortunes had been lost and won.

At length, we reached the office I was seeking, and my partner came out to meet me and to assist me to alight from the carriage. His face wore a very sickly smile as he said, “I am glad to see you. You have made a quick trip.”

“Yes,” I replied as we hurried into the back office. “Regent Street has no charms for me in such times as these.”

“Well,” said he, as he turned the key in the lock of the door, fairly gasping for breath as he asked the question, and pale as a sheet: “Have we lost?”

“No, we have not exactly lost, but we have not made anything worth speaking of.”

“Well, so long as we have not lost, we have done pretty well.”

“What is the news?”

“Lee has surrendered, and the Confederacy has gone up — that is the whole sum and substance of it.”

“But there are other armies in the field, and they will probably be able to hold out. It does not follow that the Confederacy is gone up because Lee has surrendered.”

“People about here think differently — at any rate, the Confederate bond business is killed.”

I did not care to argue this point with him, as his only interest in the Confederacy was in what he could make out of it. So I asked, “Have you got in all the money?”

“Yes,” he replied, “but the bonds have gone up higher than a kite.”

“Well, you bring your books and make out your statement. We will have a settlement at once, for I intend to get out of the country as fast as I am able.”

The next day I met him in accordance with our agreement and presented my statement with a proposition that he should take half the bonds in my hands and we stand equal losses. This he refused point-blank to do and professed to be highly indignant that I should make such a proposition.

I then refused to settle, at which he got very angry and threatened to have me arrested, indulging in some strong language, which did not frighten me a bit, for, apart from the fact that I did not scare easily, I knew that I had the advantage of him and that he would not dare, for his own sake, to carry his threat into execution. I had about sixty thousand dollars of his money, while he had only about eighteen thousand of mine [and so] he finally consented to settle on equal terms — share and share alike, both in the profits and the losses. This matter being arranged, I bade him farewell, glad enough to get rid of him and glad to get out of such a business. Such was the end of my secret banking and brokerage transactions.

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 — ideas.ted.com

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

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