Loreta’s Civil War: Concealing my true form

Velazquez offers a detailed explanation of how she transformed her appearance from a Southern lady into a Confederate officer.

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Throughout 2016 and 2017, Stillness of Heart will share 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.

Part 6: Velazquez offers a detailed explanation of how she transformed her appearance from a Southern lady into a Confederate officer.

******

On the 8th of April my husband started for Richmond, apparently under the impression that, as I had said nothing for several days about accompanying him, I had abandoned all notion of doing so. He ought to have known me better, and to have been assured that a woman of my obstinate temper was not to be prevented by mere argument from carrying out a pet scheme which promised such glorious results as the one we had been discussing.

My husband’s farewell kisses were scarcely dry upon my lips, when I made haste to attire myself in one of his suits, and to otherwise disguise myself as a man. … The first thing to be done before I made any attempt to play a masculine role at all prominently in public was, of course, to get some properly fitting clothing. … I had, however, some time before taken notice of a small tailor’s shop on a retired street not very far from the hotel, the presiding genius of which was a not very brilliant-looking German, and I thought perhaps I might run the gantlet of his scrutiny without much fear of detection. … I accordingly went to this German tailor, and ordered two uniform suits, for which I agreed to pay him eighty-five dollars each. As he took my measure he eyed me pretty close, and seemed to imagine that something was not quite right. I was dreadfully afraid he would discover me to be a woman, but resolved, if he did, that I would endeavor to silence him with a handsome bribe for a few days, until he got my suits done and I could leave the city. …

“Ah,” said the tailor, looking at me rather sharply, “what you want to go to war for? You is too young for the fightin,’ isn’t you? What your mammy say to that, eh?”

I replied, with as careless an air as I could possibly assume, that I was twenty-two years of age, and was a graduate of West Point, following up this information with other fictitious statements which it somewhat staggered me to utter, and which, if he had been a trifle sharper, he would have had some difficulty in crediting. …

My coats were heavily padded in the back and under the arms to the hips, until I reached New Orleans. This served to disguise my shape; but the padding was very uncomfortable, and I soon made up my mind that it would never do for a permanent arrangement. So soon as I got to New Orleans, I went to an old French army tailor in Barrack Street, who I knew was very skillful, and who understood how to mind his own business by not bothering himself too much about other people’s affairs, and had him make for me half a dozen fine wire net shields. These I wore next to my skin, and they proved very satisfactory in concealing my true form, and in giving me something of the shape of a man, while they were by no means uncomfortable. Over the shields I wore an undershirt of silk or lisle thread, which fitted close, and which was held in place by straps across the chest and shoulders, similar to the shoulder-braces sometimes worn by men. A great many officers in the Confederate army have seen the impressions of these straps through my shirt when I have had my coat off, and have supposed them to be shoulder-braces. These undershirts could be rolled up into the small compass of a collar-box.

Around the waist of each of the undershirts was a band, with eyelet-holes arranged for the purpose of making the waistbands of my pantaloons stand out to the proper number of inches. A woman’s waist, as a general thing, is tapering, and her hips very large in comparison with those of a man, so that if I had undertaken to wear pantaloons without some such contrivance, they would have drawn in at the waist and revealed my true form. With such underwear as I used, any woman who can disguise her features can readily pass for a man and deceive the closest observers. So many men have weak and feminine voices that, provided the clothing is properly constructed and put on right, and the disguise in other respects is well arranged, a woman with even a very high-pitched voice need have very little to fear on that score. …

There were several points about my disguise which were strictly my own invention, and which, for certain good and sufficient reasons, I do not care to give to the public. These added greatly to its efficiency. Indeed, after I had once become accustomed to male attire, and to appearing before anybody and everybody in it, I lost all fear of being found out, and learned to act, talk, and almost to think as a man. Many a time, when in camp, I have gone to sleep when from fifty to sixty officers have been lying close together, wrapped in their blankets, and have had no more fear of detection than I had of drinking a glass of water.

Recommended reading / viewing / listening

This week: Emilia Clarke as 007 / Honoring Confederate veterans / Trump and Roy Cohn / Tanning addictions / Celebrating the film ‘Heat’

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This week: Emilia Clarke as 007 / Honoring Confederate veterans / Trump and Roy Cohn / Tanning addictions / Celebrating the film ‘Heat’

Most of these great items come from my social media networks. Follow me on Twitter, Tumblr, LinkedIn, and Facebook for more fascinating videos, photos, articles, essays, and criticism.

1. How many Americans have died in U.S. wars?
By Megan Crigger and Laura Santhanam | PBS NewsHour | May 24
“This Memorial Day, we decided to take a close look at the number of American service members who lost their lives during wartime in an effort to put their sacrifices into a broader perspective.”

2. ‘17,000 islands of imagination’: discovering Indonesian literature
By Louise Doughty | The Guardian | May 28
“Indonesia is home to hundreds of different ethnicities speaking as many languages, and, along with Hindus, Christians and Buddhists, has a majority Muslim population that is the largest in the world. But, as yet, little of its literature has been translated into English.”

3. Forgetting Why We Remember
By David W. Blight | The New York Times | May 29
“The Lost Cause tradition thrived in Confederate Memorial Day rhetoric; the Southern dead were honored as the true ‘patriots,’ defenders of their homeland, sovereign rights, a natural racial order and a ’cause’ that had been overwhelmed by ‘numbers and resources’ but never defeated on battlefields.”

4. LBJ’s Ad Men: Here’s How Clinton Can Beat Trump
By Robert Mann and Zack Stanton | Politico | May 29
“We talked to two of the geniuses behind the greatest ad campaign in political history. Here’s what they’d do in 2016.”

5. Yes, You Can Become Addicted to Tanning
By Esther Hsieh | Scientific American | November 2014
“UV light may trigger the same reward pathway in the brain as drugs such as heroin”

6. Latin America’s Fatal Gun Addiction
By Robert Muggah | Foreign Affairs | May 27
“Thanks to legal sales and illicit trafficking, the region’s criminal organizations, street gangs, private security firms, and vigilantes have access to a steady supply of weapons. In turn, Latin American countries and cities are the world’s most exposed to gun-related violence. The regional homicide rate hovers above 28 per 100,000 people, compared to a global average of closer to seven per 100,000.”

7. Emilia Clarke reveals her wishes to become the first female James Bond
By James Ingham | The Daily Star | May 29
The Game of Thrones star said, “I would love to play Jane Bond. My ultimate leading man would be Leonardo DiCaprio. No doubt about it.”

8. ‘He Brutalized For You’
By Michael Kruse | Politico | April 8
“How Joseph McCarthy henchman Roy Cohn became Donald Trump’s mentor.”

9. Why Heat Is Still an Action Masterpiece 20 Years Later
By Matt Patches | Esquire | September 2015
“Michael Mann was at an anniversary screening to reveal what makes the De Niro-Pacino heist movie a classic.”

10. Nixon and Pelé: No Meeting of the Minds
By Michael Beschloss | HistorySource :: The New York Times | June 2014
“Nixon kept his encounter with Pelé brief, perhaps because, by his political calculus, there were so few votes in soccer, and he was also busy trying to cope with a fast-escalating Watergate scandal.”

Loreta’s Civil War: Hard-drinking and blaspheming patriots

Velazquez follows her husband into a bar to learn what men are like when civilizing women are absent. He hopes to dissuade her from life among Confederate soldiers. But the experience makes her more determined than ever to join him the army and share his dangers and triumphs.

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Throughout 2016 and 2017, Stillness of Heart will share 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.

Part 5: Velazquez follows her husband into a bar to learn what men are like when civilizing women are absent. He hopes to dissuade her from life among Confederate soldiers. But the experience makes her more determined than ever to join him the army and share his dangers and triumphs.

******

Braiding my hair very close, I put on a man’s wig and a false mustache, and by tucking my pantaloons in my boots, as I had seen men do frequently, and otherwise arranging the garments, which were somewhat large for me, I managed to transform myself into a very presentable man. As I surveyed myself in the mirror I was immensely pleased with the figure I cut, and fancied that I made quite as good looking a man as my husband. My toilet once completed, it was not long before we were in the street, I doing my best to walk with a masculine gait, and to behave as if I had been accustomed to wear pantaloons all my life. I confess, that when it actually came to the point of appearing in public in this sort of attire, my heart began to fail me a little; but I was bent on going through with the thing, and so, plucking up courage, I strode along by the side of my husband with as unconcerned an air as it was possible for me to put on.

Presently we crossed over to a bar-room, which we found nearly filled with men smoking and drinking, and doing some pretty tall talking about the war, and the style in which the Yankees were going to be wiped out. … I was too frightened and bewildered by the novelty of my situation to pay very close attention to all I saw and heard, but it flashed upon me that some of these loud-talking, hard-drinking, and blaspheming patriots were not so valiant, after all, as they professed to be. My after experiences fully confirmed my first impressions, that the biggest talkers are not always the best fighters, and that a good many men will say things over a glass of whiskey in a bar-room, who won’t do a tenth part of what they say if they are once placed within smelling distance of gunpowder.

I had scarcely time to take a good look at the room and its occupants, when my husband caught sight of a couple of men who had belonged to his regiment, and who were very particular friends of mine. I was dreadfully afraid they would recognize me, but there was no escaping from them, as they came up so soon as they saw us, and I was introduced as a young fellow who was on a visit to Memphis to see the sights and to pick up war news.

My husband treated, he and his two comrades taking something strong, while I, in accordance with the instructions given me before starting out, called for a glass of cider, only a part of which I imbibed. After a little conversation, my husband whispered to me to call for the next treat. I was getting to be somewhat disgusted with the whole business, but was bound not to break down; so, stepping up to the bar, I invited the party, with as masculine a manner as I could put on, to drink with me. This time I took a glass of sarsaparilla, and when all had their drinks poured out, raising my tumbler, I cried out, “Gentlemen, here’s to the success of our young Confederacy.”

As I said this, my heart was almost ready to jump out of my throat. The men, however, gave a rousing cheer, and one of them yelled out, “We drink that toast every time, young fellow.” He then put his hand into his pocket, as if about to get his money to pay for the drinks, but I prevented him, saying, “Excuse me, sir, this is my treat,” and laid a twenty dollar gold piece on the counter. Each of us then took a cigar, I watching to see how they managed theirs before daring to put mine in my mouth. After I had gotten a light, I was not able to take more than three or four whiffs, for my head began to swim, and I knew if I kept on I should soon be deathly sick. As it was, I did not feel at all comfortable, but thought I could bear up, and said nothing for fear of being laughed at.

I was very glad to get out of the bar-room, and into the fresh air again; so, bidding our friends good night, we started off, I throwing my cigar away at the first opportunity I had of doing so without being observed. Eager to hear my husband’s opinion, I asked him if he did not think I played my part pretty well. He replied, “Oh, yes,” but I could see that he was very much dissatisfied with the whole performance. Before returning to the hotel we made a general tour of the city, visiting all the principal gambling-houses and saloons, my husband evidently hoping I should be so shocked with what I saw and heard that I should be ready to give up my wild scheme without farther talk about it.

When we were once more in our room he locked the door, and, throwing himself on the lounge, said, “Well, don’t you feel pretty much disgusted?”

To please him I said, “Yes,” adding, however, “but then I can stand anything to be with you, and to serve the sunny South.”

“Now, Loreta,” said he, “I have done this tonight for the purpose of showing you what men are like, and how they behave themselves when they are out of the sight and hearing of decent women, whom they are forced to respect. What you have seen and heard, however, is nothing to what you will be compelled to see and hear in camp, where men are entirely deprived of female society, and are under the most demoralizing influences. The language that will constantly greet your ears, and the sights that will meet your eye in camp, where thousands of men are congregated, are simply indescribable; and it is out of all reason that you should even think of associating in the manner you propose with soldiers engaged in warfare. …”

I pretended to be satisfied with his arguments, but was, nevertheless, resolved more firmly than ever, so soon as he took his departure, to put my plans into execution. …

Loreta’s Civil War: The dream of my life

The war begins, and Velazquez is ready to disguise herself as a man and join the fight. Her husband objects, and he decides to give her a preview of ‘masculine life.’

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Throughout 2016 and 2017, Stillness of Heart will share 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.

Part 4: The war begins, and Velazquez is ready to disguise herself as a man and join the fight. Her husband objects, and he decides to give her a preview of ‘masculine life.’

******

In the spring of 1860 I returned to St. Louis, while my husband went to Fort Arbuckle. During his separation from me, our third babe was born and died. In October of the same year he returned, having received a summons from his father — a resident of Texas — to the effect that there was reason to believe a war was about to break out between the North and the South, and desiring him to resign.

About this time my two remaining children died of fever, and my grief at their loss probably had a great influence in reviving my old notions about military glory, and of exciting anew my desires to win fame on the battlefield. I was dreadfully afraid that there would be no war, and my spirits rose and sank as the prospects of a conflict brightened or faded. When my husband’s State determined to secede, I brought all my influence to bear to induce him to resign his commission in the United States army, and my persuasions, added to those of his father, finally induced him, very reluctantly, to yield. It was a great grief for him to forsake the uniform he had worn so long with honor, and to sever the bonds which existed between him and his comrades. He much doubted, too, the wisdom of the Southern States in taking the action they did, and wished most sincerely that the political difficulties which caused their secession could be settled in some other manner than by an armed conflict.

As for me, I was perfectly wild on the subject of war; and although I did not tell my husband so, I was resolved to forsake him if he raised his sword against the South. I felt that now the great opportunity of my life had arrived, and my mind was busy night and day in planning schemes for making my name famous above that of any of the great heroines of history, not even excepting my favorite, Joan of Arc. having decided to enter the Confederate service as a soldier, I desired, if possible, to obtain my husband’s consent, but he would not listen to anything I had to say on the subject; and all I could do was to wait his departure for the seat of war, in order to put my plans into execution without his knowledge, as I felt that it would be useless to argue with him, although I was obstinately bent upon realizing the dream of my life, whether he approved of my course or not. …

While preparing for his departure, on the anniversary of our wedding, we talked over the whole situation; and I cannot tell how proud and delighted I felt when he attired himself in his elegant new gray uniform. He never looked handsomer in his life, and I not only gave full vent to my admiration, but insisted upon broaching my favorite scheme again. … He used every possible argument to dissuade me from my purpose, representing the difficulties and dangers in the darkest colors, and contending that it would be impossible for him to permit his wife to follow an undisciplined army of volunteers. The situation, he told me, was entirely different from anything I had ever been accustomed to, and that the hordes of rude, coarse men collected together in a camp in an emergency like this, would have but little resemblance to the regular troops in garrison with whom I had been familiar; and that a delicately nurtured and refined woman would find camp life, during such a war as that just commencing, simply intolerable. He was not to be persuaded, while I turned a deaf ear to all his remonstrances, and persisted in arguing the point with him to the last.

Finally, my husband, finding that his words made no impression, thought he would be able to cure me of my erratic fancies by giving me an insight into some of the least pleasing features of masculine life. The night before his departure, therefore, he permitted me to dress myself in one of his suits, and said he would take me to the bar-rooms and other places of male resort, and show me something of what I would be compelled to go through with if I persisted in unsexing myself. …

Loreta’s Civil War: Lavish affection bestowed upon me

Velazquez realizes she is willing to pay any price to begin her new life with her beloved, even in the face of family rejection.

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Throughout 2016 and 2017, Stillness of Heart will share 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.

Part 3: Velazquez realizes she is willing to pay any price to begin her new life with her beloved, even in the face of family rejection.

******

When my lover began to appear at my aunt’s as a pretty constant visitor, Raphael was quick to suspect him as a rival, who was more highly appreciated than himself, and became furiously jealous. I cannot tell what torture I suffered in endeavoring to be amiable to a man whom I hated, in order that I might prevent an explosion which would deprive me of the society of the one I really loved with the most devoted fondness. Finally Raphael, unable to endure the sight of his rival constantly in attendance upon me, and evidently finding extreme favor in my eyes, prevailed upon my aunt to forbid him admittance to the house, on the plea that he was becoming altogether too intimate with the betrothed of another. This gratified Raphael’s malignity, and it was a severe blow to both of us. …

In spite of my aunt’s endeavors to keep us apart, and in spite of Raphael’s jealous vigilance, William — for that was my lover’s name — found means to carry on a correspondence with me, to meet me at the houses of mutual friends, and to speak to me on the street on my way to and from school. …

[O]ne evening, as I was sitting at my window, in company with a young French Creole girl, I saw William pass and look up. I waved my handkerchief in salutation, and he recognized the signal by raising his cap. I then asked the young lady if she would not do me the favor of taking a letter to him, and of permitting us to have an interview at her home. She readily consented; and carrying a hastily written note to William, soon returned with an answer, to the effect that he would meet me in an hour’s time. My aunt did not permit me to go out alone in the evening; but as she suspected nothing wrong in the proposed visit to my friend’s house, she consented, without hesitation, for me to go under the escort of one of the servants. As my escort, of course, on our arrival at the rendezvous, remained with the servants of the house, I was able to converse with William without fear of espial, or of being interrupted.

My lover informed me that he expected soon to be ordered to one of the frontier posts. He declared that he could not exist without me, and proposed that we should elope, and get married privately. As this was my own plan exactly, I gave my consent, without any hesitation, the moment the proposition was made. On a little reflection, however, my conscience began to trouble me, for I knew that I should not be doing right; so I told him I would prefer that he should make an open and straightforward proposition for my hand to my parents. I considered that it was a duty I owed them to ask their consent first, but promised, if they opposed the marriage, that I would not let their disapprobation interfere with the consummation of our wishes. William himself thought that this was the proper and honorable course to pursue, and he accordingly wrote to my father, and asked his permission to marry me. A reply to his request was not long forthcoming, in which he was reprimanded in very harsh terms for daring to make it, knowing me to be the betrothed of another. This settled the matter; and accordingly, on the 5th of April, 1856, we were clandestinely married. …

My aunt was extremely indignant; and finding me obdurate, threatened to put me in the convent at Baton Rouge. I was terribly frightened at this, and concluded that it was time for me to act with decision. I accordingly informed my husband of the situation, and he came immediately and claimed me as his wife, presenting the certificate of marriage to my horror-stricken relative.

This was a terrible blow to my aunt, but a greater one to my parents, especially to my father, who idolized me. My father’s indignation got the better of his affection, and he promptly informed me that I might consider myself as repudiated and disinherited. The pangs this cruel message caused me were intense, but I was consoled with the lavish affection bestowed upon me by my handsome young husband, and with the thought that, in course of time, my parents would relent, and be willing to again receive me as their daughter. …

Loreta’s Civil War: Cry with rage and vexation

Loreta remembers her betrothal to a boy she did not love and her pursuit of the man with whom she wanted to spend the rest of her life.

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Throughout 2016 and 2017, Stillness of Heart will share 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.

Part 2: Loreta remembers her betrothal to a boy she did not love and her pursuit of the man with whom she wanted to spend the rest of her life.

******

How well I did play my part, happily, does not depend upon my own testimony alone, for some of the most distinguished officers of the Confederate Army, and many equally distinguished civilians, can and will testify to the truthfulness of the story I am about to relate, and to the unblemished character I bore while in the Confederate service. I not only assumed the garment of my sex once more with the credit of having done the state some important services, and of having labored with efficiency, courage, and energy to secure the independence of the Confederacy, but, with my womanly reputation unblemished by even a suspicion of impropriety. …

Both in Spain and in the Spanish dominions on this side of the Atlantic, is the name of Velazquez well known and highly honored. Don Diego Velazquez, the conqueror and the first governor of Cuba, under whose superintendence the expedition which discovered Mexico was sent out, was one of my ancestors, and Don Diego Rodriguez Velazquez, the greatest artist that Spain ever produced, was a member of my family. It will thus be seen that I came of excellent, although somewhat fiery and headstrong stock, and, if in assuming the garments of a man, and endeavoring to do a man’s work on the battlefield, I transgressed against the conventionalities of modern society … despite the fact of my being a woman, I might be able to enjoy the excitements of the battlefield, and win for myself a warrior’s fame. …

In 1840, my father was appointed to an official position in Cuba, and two years later I, his sixth and last child, came into the world in a house on the Calle Velaggas, near the walls in the city of Havana, on the 26th of June, 1842. I was christened Loreta Janeta. …

From my earliest recollections my mind has been filled with aspirations of the most ardent possible kind, to fill some great sphere. I expended all my pocket money … in the purchase of books which related the events of the lives of kings, princes, and soldiers. … I wished that I was a man, such a man as Columbus or Captain Cook, and could discover new worlds, or explore unknown regions of the earth. … While residing with my aunt, it was frequently my habit, after all in the house had retired to bed at night, to dress myself in my cousin’s clothes, and to promenade by the hour before the mirror, practicing the gait of a man, and admiring the figure I made in masculine raiment.

I was betrothed to a young Spaniard, Raphael R., in accordance with plans which my relatives had formed with regard to me, and without any action on my part. Indeed, my consent was not asked, my parents, thinking that they were much better qualified to arrange a suitable alliance than I was, and that, provided other things were satisfactory, love was something of minor importance, that could very well be left to take care of itself. They were mistaken, however … I had no difficulty in coming to the conclusion that the choice of a husband was something I ought to have a voice in. …

A marriage by parental arrangement was the last thing in the world to suit a scatter-brained, romantic girl like myself, whose head was filled with all sorts of wild notions, and it is not to be wondered at, therefore, that I rebelled. When I was betrothed to Raphael, however, I had not the slightest notion of objecting; and although I did not feel a particle of affection for him, I accepted him for my future husband, as a matter of course, and received his visits with a proper degree of complacency. … I consequently took no steps to get rid of Raphael until I chanced to make the acquaintance of a young American army officer who was paying particular attention to one of my schoolmates, Nellie V.

Nellie was a beautiful girl, of about sixteen years of age, and a very warm regard subsisted between us up to the time of her discovery that I was endeavoring to capture her lover. Her affection for me did not last long after that, and she said a great many disagreeable things about me, for which I have long since forgiven her, as I doubt not she has [forgiven] me for running away with her handsome young officer.

He was indeed a handsome young officer, and his manly and graceful appearance, especially when attired in his brilliant uniform, made such an impression on my heart, that I soon could think of nothing else. I found now that love was a reality, and my thoughts by day and my dreams by night had no other object than the gentleman who, while paying his assiduous attentions to Nellie, never imagined what ravages he was making in the heart of her schoolmate. I learned to hate Raphael, and his attempts to make himself agreeable to me only served to increase my dislike. Of Nellie I soon became savagely jealous, and was ready to cry with rage and vexation whenever I saw her lover paying her any delicate attentions. We, however, to all appearances, continued fast friends, and it was not for several months that she discovered I was her rival. The object of my devotion was also profoundly ignorant of my feelings towards him, and I had not the courage to tell him. At length I became desperate … to acquaint the young officer with the affection I entertained for him. …

One evening Nellie and I agreed to exchange partners, for the purpose of finding out how much they loved us. Raphael did not fancy this maneuver a bit, but submitted to it with as good a grace as possible. The officer and myself managed to get out of earshot of the other couple, but, now that the opportunity I had sighed for was mine, I was afraid to open my mouth on the subject nearest my heart. I trembled all over, but was determined before we separated to let him know the state of my heart. Finding that I had not courage to speak, I wrote a few words in his pocket diary, which told him everything.

He was intensely surprised but he declared, with much warmth, that he had long wished to speak with me on this very matter, and would have done so, were it not that he thought I was betrothed, and that under any circumstances there would be no chance for an American to win my affections. My new lover behaved in the most honorable manner, for, as soon as he obtained my consent for him to pay his addresses, he went to my aunt, and asked permission to visit at her house. She granted his request, with the condition that he was to understand that I was betrothed, and would demean himself towards me accordingly. This condition he listened to, but with a determination to pay little heed to it, his main object being accomplished in securing the right to see me without fear of being interfered with.

Loreta’s Civil War: The woman in battle

Throughout 2016, “Stillness of Heart” will share edited excerpts from the extraordinary memoir of Loreta Janeta Velazquez, who chronicled her adventures throughout the U.S. Civil War — either as herself, as a Confederate spy, or in disguise as Confederate Lt. Harry T. Buford.

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Throughout 2016, Stillness of Heart will share edited excerpts from the extraordinary memoir of Loreta Janeta Velazquez, who chronicled her adventures throughout the U.S. 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 an 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.

Part 1: Velazquez introduces us to her life, her heroes, and her aspirations. She is ambitious, confident, romantic, and determined to live life on her terms.

******

The woman in battle is an infrequent figure on the pages of history, and yet, what would not history lose were the glorious records of the heroines — the great-souled women, who have stood in the front rank where the battle was hottest and the fray most deadly — to be obliterated? When women have rushed to the battlefield they have invariably distinguished themselves; and their courage, their enthusiasm, and their devotion to the cause espoused, have excited the brave among the men around them to do and to dare to the utmost, and have shamed the cowards into believing that it was worthwhile to peril life itself in a noble cause, and that honor to a soldier ought to be more valuable than even life.

The records of the women who have taken up arms in the cause of home and country; who have braved the scandals of the camp; who have hazarded reputation — reputation dearer than life — and who have stood in the imminent deadly breach, defying the enemy … are glorious nevertheless; and if steadfast courage, true-hearted loyalty, and fiery enthusiasm go for anything, women have nothing to blush for in the martial deeds of those of their sex who have stood upon the battlefield. …

Catalina de Eranso, the Monja Alferez, or the nun-lieutenant, who was born in the city of Sebastian, Spain, in 1585, was one of the most remarkable of the heroines who have distinguished themselves by playing the masculine role, and venturing into positions of deadly peril. This woman, becoming disgusted with the monotony of convent life, made her escape, and in male garb joined one of the numerous expeditions then fitting out for the New World. Her intelligence and undaunted valor soon attracted the notice of her superior officers, and she was rapidly promoted. Participating in a number of hard-fought battles, she won the reputation of being an unusually skillful and daring soldier, and would have achieved both fame and fortune, were it not that her fiery temper embroiled her in frequent quarrels with her associates. …

After traversing a large portion of the New World, and encountering innumerable perils, she returned to Europe, where she found that the trumpet of fame was already heralding her name, and that there was the greatest curiosity to see her. Traveling through Spain and Italy, she had numerous exceedingly romantic adventures, and while in the last named country she managed to obtain an interview with Pope Urban VIII., who was so pleased with her appearance and her conversation that he granted her permission to wear male attire during the balance of her life. …

From my early childhood Joan of Arc was my favorite heroine; and many a time has my soul burned with an overwhelming desire to emulate her deeds of valor, and to make for myself a name which, like hers, would be enrolled in letters of gold among the women who had the courage to fight like men — ay, better than most men — for a great cause, for friends, and for fatherland.

At length an opportunity offered, in the breaking out of the conflict between the North and the South in 1861, for me to carry out my long-cherished ideas; and it was embraced with impetuous eagerness, combined with a calm determination to see the thing through, and to shrink from nothing that such a step would involve. …

So many persons have assured me that my story is full of romance, and that it cannot fail to interest readers both South and North. … they will find in these pages an unaffected and unpretending but truthful and I hope interesting narrative of what befell me while attached to the army of the Confederate States of America, and while performing services other than those of a strictly military character under the pseudonym of Lieutenant Harry T. Buford. …

[I]t is probable that a vast number of my late associates will now for the first time learn that the handsome young officer — I was accounted an uncommonly good-looking fellow, when dressed in my best uniform, in those days — was a woman, and a woman who was mentally making some very uncomplimentary notes with regard to much of their very naughty conversation. My experience is that the language used by the very best men in masculine society is too often not such as pure-minded women would like to listen to, while that of the worst is so utterly revolting, that it is a pity some men cannot always have decent women at their elbows to keep their tongues from being fouled with blasphemy and obscenity. …

Recommended reading / viewing / listening

This week: Trump’s first 100 days? / Trump’s battle against Clinton / Freak kangaroo / Boots on the ground / Does Texas still matter in politics?

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This week: Trump’s first 100 days? / Trump’s battle against Clinton / Freak kangaroo / Boots on the ground / Does Texas still matter in politics?

Most of these great items come from my social media networks. Follow me on Twitter, Tumblr, LinkedIn, and Facebook for more fascinating videos, photos, articles, essays, and criticism.

1. Trump: The First 100 Days
By Matt Latimer | Politico Magazine | February 2016
“It’s time to start thinking about his — gulp — presidency.”

2. The Republican Horse Race Is Over, and Journalism Lost
By Jim Rutenberg | Mediator :: The New York Times | May 5
“[Y]ou have to point the finger at national political journalism, which has too often lost sight of its primary directives in this election season: to help readers and viewers make sense of the presidential chaos; to reduce the confusion, not add to it; to resist the urge to put ratings, clicks and ad sales above the imperative of getting it right.”

3. Trump’s deportation plan could slice 2 percent off U.S. GDP: study
By Luciana Lopez | Reuters | May 5
“About 6.8 million of the more than 11 million immigrants living in the United States illegally are employed, according to government statistics. Removing them would cause a slump of $381.5 billion to $623.2 billion in private sector output. …”

4. Yes, It’s Early, but Donald Trump Would Have Uphill Battle Against Hillary Clinton
By Nate Cohn | The Upshot :: The New York Times | May 3
“Trump’s biggest problem is that he would be the most unpopular major party nominee in the modern era, with nearly two-thirds saying they have an unfavorable opinion of him.”

5. Analysis: Texas Political Influence Nosedives in National Campaign
By Ross Ramsey | The Texas Tribune | May 3
“[I]t’s not only the state’s candidates who were getting knocked around in the race for president; the ideas that have propelled Texas Republicans for the past two decades — ideas like federalism and social conservatism — have taken a hit, too. Texas is getting clobbered this year.”

6. How Does Ted Cruz Return To The Senate?
By Abby Livingston | The Texas Tribune | May 3
“[W]hen he returns to the Senate with two and a half years left in his freshman term, he will enter hostile territory.”

7. Watch Kangaroo Crack Car Windshield In Terrifying Feet-First Leap
By Lee Moran | Huffington Post | May 3
“The driver unleashes a series of curse words as it hits the window.”

8. Q&A: When is a Boot on the Ground not a Boot on the Ground?
By Lolita C. Baldor | Associated Press | May 3
“The semantic arguments over whether there are American ‘boots on the ground’ muddy the view of a situation in which several thousand armed U.S. military personnel are in Iraq and Syria.”

9. Trump’s VP: Top 10 contenders
By Jonathan Easley | The Hill | May 5
“It could be a difficult undertaking, as some potential candidates might be hesitant to hitch their political future to a polarizing figure like Trump. But there will be plenty willing to roll the dice and join Trump’s historic outsider campaign.”

10. History’s Lessons in Crisis Management
By Michael Beschloss | HistorySource :: The New York Times | July 2014
“A student of history, as well as a sardonic, self-protective political operator, J.F.K. was always attuned to the possibility that some unforeseen event could quickly send history into an unwanted direction.”