Loreta’s Civil War: Excite terror in the hearts

Velazquez confronts her fear of capture by speaking directly to the Union detective hunting her.

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 40: Velazquez confronts her fear of capture by speaking directly to the Union detective hunting her.

******

He was a short, thick-set man, with a dull, heavy expression of countenance, deep-set eyes, thick eyebrows, and a coarse and rather scrubby mustache. He did not have the appearance of being a very brilliant genius, but then, as I well knew, it did not do to place too much reliance upon mere outward appearances, especially with members of the detective force.

After passing the compliments of the day we launched into a general conversation, I attempting to speak with a touch of the Irish brogue, thinking that it would induce him to believe me to be a foreigner. I would have addressed him with a Spanish accent but was fearful that it would help to betray me … Baker as well as others having been told that I was of Spanish extraction, while I did not know as yet how much real information the secret-service chief might have with regard to me or whether this fellow was one of his officers or not. I was playing a rather desperate game but I felt tolerably sure of being able to deal with the gentleman. I confess, however, to having felt considerable anxiety, although I strove to conceal it from my companion.

“You are going to Canada, are you not?” inquired my new-made friend.

“Yes, sir.”

“Do you live there?”

“Oh, no, sir. I live in England. I am only going to Canada to visit some friends.”

“Have you been in America long?”

“Only about eight months.”

“How do you like this country? Don’t you think it is a finer country than England?”

“Oh, I like living in England much better than I do here, and expect to go back as soon as I get through with my Canada visit. There is too much fighting going on here to suit me.”

“Oh, you need not mind that, besides, the war will soon be over now.”

“Do you think so?” I queried — I am afraid just with the least touch of sarcasm — and for fear he might have noticed something unpleasant in my tone, added, “I will be glad when the fighting is over. It is terrible to hear every day of so many men being killed.”

“Oh, that is nothing, we get used to it.”

“Yes,” I mentally said, “it may be nothing to such a shirk as you, for you will take precious good care to keep your carcass out of danger.”

The detective now took out of his pocket the photograph which my associate in New York had given him and which I was anxious to see, and, handing it to me, [he] said, “Did you ever see anybody resembling this? I am after the lady and would like very much to find her.”

“She is very handsome,” I replied. “Is she your wife?” — looking him straight in the eyes as I said this.

“Wife! No,” said he, apparently disgusted at the suggestion that he was in pursuit of a faithless spouse. “She is a rebel spy, and I am trying to catch her.”

“Why, what has she been doing? She looks like a very nice lady, and I hardly could think she would do anything wrong.”

“Well, she has been doing a good deal that our government would like to pay her off for. She is one of the smartest of the whole gang.” This I thought was rather complimentary than otherwise. “I am on her track now, however, sure.” — “Yes, the back track,” I thought – “and I am bound to catch her.”

“Well, if she has been doing anything against the law, I suppose she ought to be punished but I hope you won’t treat her unkindly if you do succeed in catching her.”

“She will have to look out for that. It don’t do to show any mercy to these she-devils — they give us more trouble than all the men together.”

“But perhaps this lady is not a spy, after all. She looks too pretty and nice for anything of that kind. How do you know about her?”

“Oh, some of our force have been on the track of her for a long time. She has been working for these Copperheads and rebel agents here at the North and has been running through the lines with dispatches and goods. She came through from Richmond only a short time ago, and she is now on her way to Canada with a lot of dispatches and a big sum of money, which I would like to capture.”

“Doubtless you would,” I thought and then said aloud, “I wonder how you can find out so much when there must be a great many people coming and going all the time. Supposing that this lady is a spy, as you say, how do you know that she has not already reached Canada?”

“Maybe she has,” he replied, “but I don’t think so. I have got her down pretty fine and feel tolerably certain of taking her before she gets over the line.”

This was a highly edifying and entertaining conversation to me, and I would willingly have prolonged it indefinitely, for the purpose of trying to get some points from my companion which might prove useful. As he, however, seemed inclined to change the subject, I was afraid to seem too inquisitive, and we consequently dropped into a general conversation of no interest to the reader.

The detective seemed determined to be as polite to me as he could, and on leaving the cars he carried my satchel, containing eighty-two thousand dollars belonging to the Confederate government and a variety of other matters which he would have taken possession of with the utmost pleasure, could he have known what they were. When we passed on board the boat I took the satchel from him, and, thanking him for his attention, proceeded to get out of his sight as expeditiously as I could.

When the custom-house officer examined my luggage, I gave him a wink and whispered the password I had been instructed to use, and he merely turned up the shawl which was on my arm and went through the form of looking into my satchel.

On reaching the Canada shore I was met by Mr. L., who gave me a very hearty greeting but I cautioned him to say as little as possible just then, as we might be watched. Glancing back, I saw my friend the detective, anxiously surveying the passing crowd, and, calling Mr. L.’s attention to him, I said, “Do you see that heavy man with the black eyebrows and scrubby mustache, who looks as though he had lost something?”

“Yes. What of him?”

“He has been traveling on the train with me all day and has been exceedingly polite and attentive. He is a detective, and I am the individual he is after, but he isn’t half smart enough to catch me.”

I then, as we moved off, related my adventure with the detective to my Canadian friend. He thought it a capital good joke and said that I seemed to be tolerably well able to take care of myself.

On my arrival in Canada I was welcomed with great cordiality by the Confederates there, who were eager to know all about my trip, how things were looking at Richmond, whether I had letters for so and so and anything else that I was able to tell them. I distributed my letters and dispatches according to instructions, mailed packages for the commanders of the cruisers Shenandoah and Florida, which I had received with special injunctions to be particularly careful of, as they were very important, and then proceeded to the transaction of such other business, commercial as well as political, as I had on hand.

As this was my first visit to Canada, there was much for me to do and much to learn. I therefore became acquainted with as many people as I could, and found out all I could about the methods of transacting commercial and financial business, who the proper parties to deal with were, and everything else worth knowing that I could think of.

There were a good many matters of more importance than trade and finance, however, which demanded my immediate consideration, and many and long were the conferences held with regard to the proposed grand movement on the enemy’s rear. There were a number of points about this grand scheme that I would have liked to have been informed of but those who were making the arrangements for the raid were so fearful of their plans in some way getting to the ears of the Federal authorities that they were unwilling to tell me and other special agents, more than was absolutely necessary for the fulfillment of the duties entrusted to us. This excessive caution was, perhaps, demanded by the peculiarities of the situation but it is certain, in my opinion, that could there have been a more definite understanding between the various co-workers, the chances of success would have been very largely increased. I, for one, could have performed my part with far more efficiency — although I did all that it was arranged that I should do — had I been trusted more largely with the details of the proposed movement.

As it was, I was merely furnished with a general idea of the contemplated attack and was assigned to special duties in connection with it. These duties were to visit Johnson’s Island in Lake Erie, and, if possible, other military prisons for the purpose of informing the Confederates confined in them of what was being done towards effecting their release, and what was expected of them when they were released. I was then to telegraph to certain agents that the prisoners were warned and such other information as I might deem it important for them to be possessed of, in accordance with an arranged system of signals. This being done, I was to proceed to the execution of other tasks, the exact details of which, however, were made dependent upon circumstances, and upon directions I might receive from the agents in the States, under whose orders I was to act.

This plan for a grand raid by way of the lakes excited my enthusiasm greatly, and I had very strong hopes of its success. I knew how desperate the situation at the South was getting to be and felt that a diversion of this kind, which would excite terror in the hearts of the people of the North, and which would probably cause a considerable force to to withdrawn from the front, would help the Confederate cause at this particular juncture more, even, than a series of brilliant victories on the well-trodden battlegrounds of the South. A large number of the people of the North were, I knew, getting heartily sick of the war, and I thought that it would only need a brilliant movement for transferring some of the fighting and some of the desolation to Northern ground to cause the anti-war policy to demand that peace should be had at any price.

Whether the proposed raid would have accomplished all that was expected of it can, of course, never be determined. It is probable, however, that I, as well as others interested, underrated the difficulties of executing such a complicated scheme. Be that as it may, something could have been done, more than was done, had everybody been as enthusiastic and as determined as myself and had there been no traitors with us. The scheme failed when it should have been, at least, partly successful but it need not have failed so utterly as it did, had it been managed with wisdom, backed up by true daring.

Loreta’s Civil War: My denunciations of the rebels

Velazquez, now a double-agent working for the Union, uses the cover of her first assignment to make contact with her Confederate allies. But someone might be following her.

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 39: Velazquez, now a double-agent working for the Union, uses the cover of her first assignment to make contact with her Confederate allies. But someone might be following her.

******

Everything being ready, off I started and had but little difficulty in getting through the Federal lines on the passes furnished me by Baker. To get through those of the Confederate forces was a more troublesome operation but, as when I came to the outposts, I was able to declare my real errand, I was not seriously impeded, and once in Richmond I was, of course, perfectly at home.

On my arrival in that city, I immediately communicated with the authorities, delivered the messages and dispatches submitted to me, sent letters to merchants in Wilmington and Savannah as I had been directed to do, and gave all the information I could about the condition of things at the North, the proposed raid, and other matters.

While waiting to hear from the men in Wilmington and Savannah, and for the preparation of such instructions as I was to carry back from the Richmond people, I found myself falling short in funds and accordingly tried to see what could be done with Baker’s bogus Confederate notes. I had no difficulty in passing them and consequently invested the entire batch in greenbacks, but, as the United States promises to pay were worth more, even in Richmond, than those of the Confederacy, I did not make an even exchange. … Indeed, the greenbacks which I pocketed by this operation amounted to a very moderate sum, all of which I knew would be required for my return journey.

Within a few days I heard … from the parties in Wilmington and Savannah. This man delivered to me a package which was to be taken through to Canada [along with] orders and sailing directions for certain blockade-runners and drafts which were to be cashed, and the money disposed of in certain ways for the benefit of the Confederate cause. I also received directions from parties in Richmond to confer with the Confederate agents, and, if agreeable on all sides, to visit the prisons, it being thought that, as a woman, I would be able to obtain admission and be permitted to speak to the prisoners, where a man would be denied.

Then, freighted with my small but precious package, several important dispatches, and other papers, and a number of letters for Confederates in Canada, I started to return. I would have been a rich prize for the Federals if they should capture me, and, while on my way back, I wondered what Col. Baker would think and say in case some of his emissaries should chance to lay hands upon me and conduct me into his presence, laden with all this contraband of war.

In consideration of the value of the baggage I was carrying, it was thought to be too great a risk for me to attempt to reach the North by any of the more direct routes, and I was consequently compelled to make a long detour by way of Parkersburg, in West Virginia. This involved a long and very tiresome journey but it was undoubtedly the best course for me to pursue.

The wisdom in choosing this route was demonstrated by the result, and I succeeded in reaching Parkersburg without being suspected in the least by anyone. At that place I found Gen. Keiley in command, and from him procured transportation to Baltimore, on the strength of my being an attache of Col. Baker’s corps, which was a very satisfactory stroke of business for me as it saved both trouble and expense.

The instructions under which I was moving required me to go to Baltimore and from there inform the different parties interested of my arrival and wait to hear from them as to whether they were ready to meet me at the appointed places. … I was also to wait there for some drafts for large sums which were to be cashed in New York and the money taken to Canada. This involved considerable delay, which was particularly unpleasant just then, as I was getting very short of funds, and was, moreover, quite sick, the excitement I had gone through with — for this was a more exciting life even than soldiering — and the fatigues of a very long and tedious journey having quite used me up.

On arriving in Baltimore, fearing that I would not have enough money to see me through until I could obtain a remittance, I went to a store kept by a lady to whom I was told to appeal in event of being detained on account of lack of funds, and explaining who I was and the business I was on, asked her if she would not assist me. She looked very hard at me, asked me a great many questions, and requested me to show her my papers. I said that this was impossible, as not only my honor and life were at stake but that interests of great moment were involved in the preservation of the secrets I had in possession.

This, I thought, ought to have satisfied her but it apparently did not, for she evidently regarded me with extreme suspicion. Her indisposition to trust me might have been caused by my rather dilapidated appearance, although my soiled traveling dress ought to have been proof of the fact that I had just been making a long and very rough journey. Finally, another lady coming in, she walked back in the store with her, and I, supposing that she did not intend to take any more notice of me, arose to go out. She, however, seeing this movement, called for me to wait a moment. Shortly after she returned, and, handing me a sum of money, said, “I am a Union woman but as you seem to be in distress, I will have to aid you. This is as much as I can afford to give.”

I, of course, understood that this speech was intended for any other ears than mine that might be listening, and, merely giving her a meaning glance, walked out of the store without saying anything further. …

That night I was so sick that I had to send for a doctor. I offered him my watch for his services, stating that I was out of funds and was detained in Baltimore through the non-arrival of money which I was expecting. He, however, refused to take it and said that I might pay him if I ever was able but that it would not matter a great deal one way or the other. The next day I was considerably better and was able to go about a little, and I continued to improve with rest and quiet.

While stopping at Barnum’s Hotel, I became acquainted with a young captain in the Federal army, and, as I made a practice of doing with all Federal officers — I did not know when they might be useful to me — I courted his friendship and told him a story about myself similar to that I had told on several other occasions with which the reader is familiar and was especially bitter in my denunciations of the rebels. The captain was so affected by my pitiful narrative that he introduced me to Gen. E. B. Tyler, who was very affable and courteous, and who, learning that I was anxious to travel northward, and was short of money, kindly procured for me a pass to New York.

Finally, I received notice that one of the blockade-runners with whom I was to communicate was at Lewes, Del., and, on proceeding to that place, found an English brig, the captain of which was anxiously waiting to receive instructions as to what port he was to sail for. The cargo was principally powder, clothing, and drugs, and the captain was exceedingly glad to see me, as he wanted to get away as fast as he could, there being a liability that the Federal authorities might pounce upon him at any moment. I accordingly gave him his sailing papers, which contained directions for him to proceed to Wadling’s Island, on the north of Cuba, where he was to transfer his cargo to another vessel, which was to run for any port it could make in the Confederacy. The captain handed me the cards of several houses in Liverpool and Havre, which were extensively engaged in blockade-running, and I bade him adieu, wishing him a safe and pleasant trip.

This errand having been satisfactorily dispatched, I went to Philadelphia, where I took a room at the Continental Hotel and telegraphed for my papers, money package, etc., to be forwarded to me from New York by express. The next morning I received, in reply to this, my expected drafts, and also the following characteristic letter:

“Quebec, Canada.

“Mrs. Sue Battle: You will find enclosed a card of your government agent here, B. Any orders you have for your government, if forwarded, we will execute and dispatch quickly, according to your instructions. Messrs. B. & T. have several clippers, which they will put in the trade, if desired. I will drink your ladyship’s good health in a bottle of good old Scotch ale. Let us hear from you at your earliest convenience. I will await your answer to return to Europe. With great respect, and with hopes of success,

“I am, madam, yours truly, R.W.L.”

I now proceeded, without further delay, to New York, where I was met at the Desbrosses Street ferry by my associate in that city, who conducted me to Taylor’s Hotel, where he had engaged a room for me. He said that he had been getting somewhat anxious for my safety, the more especially as he was informed that the detectives had received some information of my doings and were on the watch for me. This made me a trifle uneasy, as I did not know but my friend, Col. Baker, had discovered some facts about me which had served to convince him that I was not likely to be as valuable a member of his corps as he had supposed I would when he started me on my Richmond trip. Since my return to the North, I had been endeavoring to keep myself concealed from Baker and all his people, as I did not wish to renew my acquaintance with the colonel until I had visited Canada. That accomplished, I proposed to see him again and to make use of his good offices for the purpose of putting into execution a still more daring scheme.

My New York accomplice said that he did not think I was in any immediate danger, although I would have to take care of myself. He himself had seen one of the detectives who were on my track, and, while I was evidently the person he was after, the description he had of me was a very imperfect one, so that, by the exercise of a little skill, I ought to be able to evade him. To put him on the wrong track, my accomplice had told this detective that he thought he knew the person he was searching for and had procured a photograph of a very different-looking woman and given it to him.

Having cashed my drafts and gotten everything ready, I started for Canada, carrying, in addition to valuable letters, orders, and packages, the large sum of eighty-two thousand dollars in my satchel. Mr. L., the correspondent whose letter has been quoted, was requested by a telegraphic dispatch to meet me on my arrival in Canada.

Under ordinary circumstances, the great value of the baggage I was carrying would not have disturbed my peace of mind but I knew that, in addition to the money I had with me, my capture would involve the officers of the Federal government obtaining possession of papers of the utmost importance, from which they would scarcely fail to gain quite sufficient information concerning tlie proposed raid to put them on their guard, and enable them to adopt measures for preventing the execution of the great scheme. It was not comfortable, therefore, for me to feel that the detectives were after me. …

I was absolutely startled when, on approaching the depot, my companion, pointing to a man in the crowd, said, “There, that is the fellow to whom I gave the photograph. He is looking for you, so beware of him.” Then, thinking it best that we should not be seen together by Mr. Detective, he wished me good luck and said goodbye, leaving me to procure my ticket and to carry my heavy satchel to the cars myself.

I watched the detective as well as I could without looking at him so hard as to attract his attention, and saw that he was rather anxiously surveying the people as they passed into the depot. I was really curious to know how he managed to get on my track, for, although he might not be sufficiently posted about me for purposes of identification, it was evident that he was working on some tolerably accurate information with regard to my movements. I also wondered whether Col. Baker had any suspicion of me but made up my mind that he scarcely could have or else this officer would have been better posted.

After getting into the cars I lost sight of the detective until the arrival of the train in Rochester and was congratulating myself that, not seeing the original of the photograph, he had remained in New York. At Rochester, however, to my infinite horror, he entered the car where I was and took a seat near me.

When the conductor came through, after the train had started, the detective said something to him in a low tone and showed him a photograph. The conductor shook his head on looking at it and made a remark that I could not hear. I did, however, hear the detective say, “I’ll catch her yet,” to which I mentally replied, “Perhaps.”

This whispered conference reassured me a little, as it showed that the officer was keeping his eye open for the original of the photograph which he had in his pocket, while the woman whom he was really after was sitting within but a few feet of him. I concluded that I would try and strike up an acquaintance with this gentleman in order to find out what he had to say for himself and because I thought that perhaps I could say or do something to make him even more bewildered than he was already.

I, therefore, picked up my shawl and satchel and removed the seat immediately back of him. The window was up, and I made a pretense of not being able to put it down, so that after a bit the detective’s attention was attracted, and he very gallantly came to my assistance. When he had closed the window, I thanked him with a rather effusive politeness, and he, probably feeling a trifle lonesome, and also, perhaps, a trifle discouraged, seated himself beside me, and opened a conversation.

Recommended reading / viewing / listening

This week: Rape at University of Texas / Trump goes down in defeat / Granddaughter, grandfather both remember war / Selena fans / Great television sagas

This week: Rape at University of Texas / Trump goes down in defeat / Granddaughter, grandfather both remember war / Selena fans / Great television sagas

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

1. This is what I thought war was supposed to look like
By Tara Copp | The Dallas Morning News | March 2017
This is the first of four excerpts from Copp’s new book The Warbird: Three Heroes. Two Wars. One Story
Also see: Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

2. Selena super-fans celebrate her in song, dance, likeness
By Julie Garcia | Corpus Christi Caller-Times | March 21
“With blunt cut bangs, long brown hair and a spectacular red shade of lipstick, Nadia Garcia is the image of a young Selena Quintanilla Perez. Garcia twirled on a stage in the center court at La Palmera mall to “Baila Esta Cumbia” dressed in a white bustier and matching white pants in front of a crowd of people who came to celebrate the late Tejano songstress.”

3. 15 percent of female undergraduates at UT have been raped, survey says
By Lauren McGaughy | The Dallas Morning News | March 24
“The study was comprehensive, surveying 28,000 students during the 2015 academic year at 13 UT academic and health campuses. A project of the School of Social Work’s Institute on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, this survey is just the first round. A second one will be repeated in two years …”

4. How The Americans Became the Best Show on Television
By Matt Brennan | Paste | March 24
“No longer limited to marriage and espionage, The Americans is now the evocative saga of a family that just happens to have two spies in it.”

5. ‘The closer’? The inside story of how Trump tried — and failed — to make a deal on health care
By Robert Costa, Ashley Parker, and Philip Rucker | The Washington Post | March 24
“Shortly after House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) unveiled the Republican health-care plan on March 6, President Trump sat in the Oval Office and queried his advisers: ‘Is this really a good bill?’ And over the next 18 days, until the bill collapsed in the House on Friday afternoon in a humiliating defeat — the sharpest rebuke yet of Trump’s young presidency and his negotiating skills — the question continued to nag at the president.”

6. The Art of Paying Attention
By Michelle Dean | New Republic | March 20
“Why we need critics to think about power and how it works.”

7. ‘Sometimes I laugh at this farce’: six writers on life behind bars in Turkey
By Kareem Shaheen and Maeve Shearlaw | The Guardian | March 23
“Six persecuted writers describe the mental and physical toll of living in the country that jails more journalists than any other”

8. How Many Books Will You Read Before You Die?
By Emily Temple | Lit Hub | March 22
“It depends, of course, on how you’re counting, but for our purposes here, it’s down to two primary factors.”

9. Life with migraines: ‘It feels like a creature is pushing itself through my skull’
By Anna Altman | The Guardian | November 2016
“When I was 26, I started suffering from dizziness, brain fog, fatigue and chronic pain. I’d had migraines since childhood, but these felt different”

10. Jackie Robinson and Nixon: Life and Death of a Political Friendship
By Michael Beschloss | HistorySource :: The New York Times | June 2014
“In 1968, furious over Nixon’s courtship of Senator Strom Thurmond of South Carolina, who had once led the segregationist ‘Dixiecrats,’ Jackie backed the Democratic nominee, Hubert Humphrey.”

Unique Transgender publications donated to UTSA Special Collections

The Top Shelf

Female Mimics, 1963

In February 2017, UTSA Special Collections received a treasure trove of unique items in a donation from the Digital Transgender Archive (DTA). “The purpose of the DTA is to increase the accessibility of transgender history by providing an online hub for digitized historical materials, born-digital materials, and information on archival holdings throughout the world.”[1] Because the DTA does not maintain physical materials on-site, after they digitize donations they find a suitable home among their contributing partners for the materials. In this instance, K.J. Rawson of the DTA contacted UTSA Special Collections as a possible repository for these items. Ten issues of Female Mimics magazine including the 1963 Premiere Issue are a jewel of the donation. The magazine was the first “glossy publication to focus on cross-dressers.”[2]  Issues now held in UTSA Special Collections date from   1963 through 1967.

Drag Magazine, 1973

Two issues of Drag magazine from…

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Loreta’s Civil War: I am willing to risk it

Velazquez angles her way into a job as a spy for the Union. It’s a crucial part of her role in an astounding Confederate covert operation to turn the tide of the war.

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.

Read previous chapters of her incredible story here.

Part 38: Velazquez angles her way into a job as a spy for the Union. It’s a crucial part of her role in an astounding Confederate covert operation to turn the tide of the war.

******

On being introduced to Col. Baker by Gen. A., I asked him if he could not give me a position in his detective corps in some capacity, explaining as my reason for making a request that, having lost everything through the rebellion, I was in urgent need of obtaining some remunerative employment by which I could support myself. … I told pretty much the same story that I had to the Federal officers at Memphis: I was of Spanish extraction, and all of my friends and relatives were either in Spain or Cuba. My husband, who was a United States army officer … had died about the outbreak of the war, and I had been plundered and otherwise so badly treated by the rebels that I had been compelled to come North, where I had resided for a considerable period, but without being able to do much in the way of supporting myself. I was well acquainted throughout the South, having traveled a great deal … and I did not doubt but that I possessed much information that would be of value to the government and believed that I could obtain more. …

Baker asked me a good many questions — not particularly skillful ones it seemed to me — about myself, my family, how long I had been at the North, what induced me to take up with the idea of joining the secret service corps, what employment I had hitherto been engaged in, and a variety of other matters. To his interrogatories I replied promptly and with seeming frankness, and I left his presence tolerably confident that he believed all I had told him. … [But] was cautious — he would see about it, he would talk further with me on the subject, he did not know that he had anything he could give me to do just at present, but he might have need of me shortly, and would let me know when he wanted me — and all that sort of thing. …

This interview with Col. Baker convinced me that he was the man to begin with if I wanted to get admission behind the scenes at Washington and if I wanted to execute any really masterly coup at the North in behalf of the Confederacy. As a member of his corps, I would not only be able to do many things that would be impossible otherwise. … As for Baker himself, I made up my mind that he was an individual wise in his own esteem, but with no comprehensive ideas whom it would not be difficult to fool to the top of his bent. All that it would be necessary for me to do, in case he employed me, would be the performance of some real or apparently real services for him to secure his fullest confidence, while at the same time I could carry on my real work to the very best advantage.

Having waited about Washington for a week or two without hearing anything from Col. Baker … I decided to return to New York as I thought, from a hint given me in a letter from my brother, that I might be able to commence operations there. I resolved, however, to cultivate Baker’s acquaintance at the earliest opportunity but thought that perhaps it would be best not to trouble him again until I had some definite scheme to propose.

When I reached New York and saw my brother, he was expecting every day to be exchanged, and he told me that he had been visited by several Confederate agents who wanted him to try and carry some documents through when he went South. He was afraid, however, to attempt anything of this kind, and, besides, did not think that it would be honorable under the circumstances. Without saying anything about my plans to him, therefore, I went and saw the agents in question, told them who I was, referred them to people who knew me in the West, and in a general way disclosed to them my schemes for aiding the Confederacy. I did not, however, tell them about my interview with Col. Baker or that I had the intention of becoming an employee of his. This, I thought, was a matter I had best keep to myself for the present for fear of accident.

These agents were exceedingly glad to see me and had several jobs of work cut out which they were anxious that I should attend to. They did not strike me as being very important, but I thought that they would do to begin with and that they would aid me in becoming acquainted with the Confederate working force in the North. I, therefore, promised to give them my aid so soon as my brother should leave for the South.

They then evinced a great eagerness to have me persuade my brother to carry some dispatches through but I said that it would be useless to ask him, and that the most I could expect of him was that he would take a verbal message from myself to the officials who knew me in Richmond to the effect that I was at the North, endeavoring to aid the Confederate cause by every means in my power, and filled with zeal to do whatever was to be done. It required considerable persuasion to induce my brother to do even this much, but finally, to my great satisfaction, he consented.

Shortly after this my brother went South on a cartel of exchange, and in due time I received information that my message had been delivered and that I was recognized as a Confederate secret service agent.

In the meanwhile I made a large number of acquaintances among the adherents of both the Federal and Confederate governments and did a great deal of work of one kind or another. None of my performances, however, for several months were of sufficient importance to warrant special mention in these pages, and their chief value to me was that they kept me employed and taught me what kind of work there was to do and how to do it. During this time, I visited Washington frequently and always made it a point to see Col. Baker, to whom I furnished a number of bits of information, the majority of which were of no particular value to him, although several were of real importance and aided him materially in his effort to break up certain fraudulent practices and to bring the rogues to justice.

By this means I retained his favor and succeeded in gaining his confidence to a degree that the reader will probably think rather astonishing, considering my antecedents and the kind of work that I was engaged in sub rosa. It should be borne in mind, however, that Baker did not know and could not know anything of my previous history, that I had been highly recommended to him, and that I was constantly proving useful to him. …

My grand opportunity at length did arrive, and the cunning secret service chief fell into the trap laid for him as innocently and unsuspectingly as if he had never heard of such a thing as a spy in his life. The colonel, as I have before remarked, was not a bad sort of a fellow in his way, and as I had a sincere regard for him, I am sorry he is not alive now that he might be able to read this narrative and so learn how completely he was taken in, and by a woman, too. He was a smart man but not smart enough for all occasions. …

[My] magnificent scheme was on foot during the summer and fall of 1864, for making an attack upon the enemy in the rear, which, if it had been carried out with skill and determination might have given a very different ending to the war. As it was, the very inefficient attempt that was made created an excitement that almost amounted to a panic and seemed to show how effective a really well-directed blow … would have been. … A large extent of country was to be operated upon, [and] several distinct movements of equal importance were to be carried on at the same time, the failure of any one of which would imperil everything, and a neutral soil was to be the base of operations.

That a considerable number of persons should be informed of the essential points of the proposed campaign could not be avoided, and, of course, each person admitted to the secret diminished the chances of it being kept. … Besides all this, two great difficulties in the way of success existed. There was no thoroughness of organization … and there was no recognized leader whose authority was admitted by all and who had the direction of all the movements. …

We were utterly unable to tell how much we could count on in the way of active assistance from the Southern sympathizers, or “Copperheads,” as they were called. … These people were really traitors both to the South and the North, and in the long run they did the cause of the Confederacy far more harm than they did it good. They professed to believe that the South was right, and yet they were not willing to take up arms for her. … They annoyed the government by their captious criticisms of all its actions, by opposing the prosecution of the war in every way that they could with safety to themselves, and by loud expressions of Southern sympathy. All they accomplished, however, was a prolongation of the war and the disfranchisement of nearly the entire white population of the South after the war was ended, for to them — more than to the Southerners themselves — was due the imposition of the hard terms which were the price of peace. To the “Copperheads,” therefore, as a class, the South owe little or nothing, and, according to my view, they were the kind of friends that people in difficulties had best be without.

The great scheme to which I have alluded was no less than an attack upon the country bordering upon the Great Lakes; the release of the Confederate prisoners confined at Johnson’s Island in Lake Erie, near Sandusky, Ohio, and at other localities; their organization into an army, which was to engage in the work of devastating the country, burning the cities and towns, seizing upon forts, arsenals, depots, and manufactories of munitions of war, for the purpose of holding them … or of destroying them; and … of creating such a diversion in [the Union] rear as would necessitate the withdrawal of a large [Federal] force from the front.

It was expected … that the Federal forces would be placed between two fires and that the commanders of the Confederate armies in the South and in the North would be able between them to crush the enemy and dictate terms of peace, or at least give a new phase to the war by transferring it from the impoverished and desolated South to the rich, prosperous, and fertile North. …

While the plans for the proposed grand attack in the rear was maturing, I was asked to attempt a trip to Richmond and consented without hesitation. I was to consult with and receive final instructions from the Richmond authorities with regard to the proposed raid on the lakeshores and was also to attend to a variety of commercial and other matters, and especially to obtain letters and dispatches for Canada.

Now was my time to make use of Col. Baker, and I accordingly resolved to see what I could do with him without more delay. Having received my papers and instructions, therefore, I went to Washington and called on the colonel, who received me … and asked what he could do for me, for he saw … that I had some definite project on hand and began to believe that I really meant serious business.

In order to understand the situation from Col. Baker’s point of view, it may be necessary to state that more than once rumors that attempts to liberate the Confederate prisoners were to be made had been in circulation and that Baker, as I knew, was exceedingly anxious to effect the arrest of some of the more active of the Confederate agents engaged in this and similar schemes.

I told him, therefore, that I had obtained information to the effect that a noted Confederate spy had been captured and was now in one of the prisons, from whence he could doubtless find means to communicate with Confederates outside. My proposition was that I should go to Richmond, where, by passing myself off as a Confederate among people with whom I was acquainted, I would not only … succeed in finding out exactly who this man was and where he was, but what he and his confederates were trying to do. I suggested, also, that I could most likely pick up other information of sufficient value to pay for whatever the trip would cost the government.

When I had explained what I proposed to do, Baker said, “I am afraid if you attempt to run through the lines the Rebs will capture you. [If] they do, they will use you rough.”

I replied, “I am not afraid to take the risk if you will only give me the means of making the trip and attend to getting me through the Federal lines.”

“It will be a troublesome thing to get you through our lines,” said Baker, “for it don’t do to let everybody know what is going on when a bit of business like this is on hand, and after you pass our lines you will have to get through those of the rebels, and that you will find no easy job, I can tell you, for they are getting more and more suspicious and particular every day.”

“Oh, as for that,” said I, “I can … go to Havana, where my relatives are living, and try and run through from there. I believe, however, that I can get through from here if I make the right kind of an effort — at any rate, I would like to make the attempt, if only to show you what I am capable of.”

The colonel laughed at my enthusiasm and said, “Well, you are a plucky little woman, and as you seem to be so anxious to spy out what the Rebs are doing, I have half a notion to give you a chance. You must not blame me, however, if you get caught, and they take a notion to hang you, for, you know, that is a way they have of dealing with people who engage in this sort of business, and your sex won’t save you.”

“Oh,” said I, “I don’t think that my neck was ever made to be fitted in a noose, and I am willing to risk it.”

[H]e gave me a variety of instructions about how to proceed and about the particular kind of information I was to endeavor to obtain. I saw very plainly that he did not entirely trust me, or, rather, that he was afraid to trust me too much, but I attributed his lack of confidence in me to the fact that I was as yet untried and consequently might be led by my enthusiasm into underrating the difficulties of the task I was undertaking rather than to any doubt in his mind with regard to my fidelity. I resolved, therefore, to give him such proofs of my abilities as well as of my fidelity as would insure me his entire confidence in the future.

It having been determined that I should make the trip, Baker told me to get ready for my journey immediately, and, in the mean time, he could procure me the necessary passes to enable me to get through the Federal lines, and money to meet my expenses.

When we next met, he gave me five thousand dollars in bogus Confederate bills and one hundred and fifty dollars in greenbacks, which he said ought to be enough to see me through all right. I suggested that if the Confederates caught me passing bogus currency, they would be apt to deal harder with me than they would simply as a spy. Baker laughed at this and said that that was one of the risks I must run but that he did not think there was any danger, as these bogus notes passed more readily in the Confederacy than the genuine ones did, which he could only account for on the supposition that the Confederacy was a bogus government. He seemed to think that this was rather a good joke, although I was not able to see exactly where the laugh came in, and am afraid that I must have struggled hard with the faint smile that I attempted.

Longreads: Robert B. Silvers, 1929-2017

“I believe in the writer—the writer, above all.”

via Robert B. Silvers, Editor of The New York Review of Books: 1929-2017 — Longreads

TED Ideas: 7 thrillingly new perspectives on the world and how we live today

Social geographer Danny Dorling explodes the traditional maps of the world and creates lively, ever-changing depictions of why and how we live. Channeling our twin urges to explore and understand, we geographers strive to uncover the hidden connections of human existence. These seven maps — produced with cartographer Benjamin Hennig — offer new ways to understand…

via 7 thrillingly new perspectives on the world and how we live today — ideas.ted.com

Recommended reading / viewing / listening

This week: Camilla and Queen Elizabeth II / The best of SXSW 2017 / Nixon’s lessons for Trump / Peruvian mudslides / Science and cuteness

This week: Camilla and Queen Elizabeth II / The best of SXSW 2017 / Nixon’s lessons for Trump / Peruvian mudslides / Science and cuteness

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

1. Critics’ Picks: The Best of SXSW 2017
By John DeFore, Michael Rechtshaffen, Sheri Linden, and David Rooney | The Hollywood Reporter | March 17
“A dazzling comedy from James Franco, a buzzy new Netflix series, an L.A. noir pairing Lola Kirke and Zoe Kravitz and docs dealing with race and police violence were among THR critics’ faves from the fest.”

2. ‘London Bridge is down’: the secret plan for the days after the Queen’s death
By Sam Knight | The Guardian | March 17
“She is venerated around the world. She has outlasted 12 US presidents. She stands for stability and order. But her kingdom is in turmoil, and her subjects are in denial that her reign will ever end. That’s why the palace has a plan.”

3. Delicate but Critical Dance for New U.N. Leader and New U.S. Envoy
By Sonia Sengupta | The New York Times | March 16
“He’s the new leader of the United Nations, an international diplomat who spent years focused on the plight of the world’s refugees. She’s a diplomatic neophyte representing an ‘America First’ administration that seeks travel bans for refugees and mocked the United Nations. It is an awkward relationship. But … it is a critical relationship for both the secretary general, António Guterres, and the United States ambassador, Nikki R. Haley.”

4. What is it with Trump and handshakes? This is getting awkward
By Moustafa Bayoumi | The Guardian | March 18
“From the Abe Assault to the Trudeau Standoff and the May Grab we now have: the Merkel Moment”

5. We lost a war: Russia’s interference in our election was much more than simple mischief-making
By Timothy Snyder | Daily Intelligencer :: The New York Daily News | March 19
“We no longer need to wonder what it would be like to lose a war on our own territory. We just lost one to Russia, and the consequence was the election of Donald Trump. The war followed the new rules of the 21st century, but its goal was the usual one of political change.”

6. An Inside Job: Lessons from Watergate for the Trump Era
By Michael Bourne | The Millions | March 16
“[I]f there is any truth to leaked claims that Trump’s aides had contact with Russian intelligence officials involved in hacking into the Clinton campaign’s email servers during the 2016 election, Trump and his team would do well to heed the hard lessons of Nixon’s discovery of the Watergate leaker, Mark Felt.”

7. The new science of cute
By Neil Steinberg | The Long Read :: The Guardian | July 2016
“Kumamon, a cartoon bear created to promote tourism in an overlooked part of Japan, has become a billion-dollar phenomenon. Now, a new academic field is trying to pinpoint what makes things cute – and why we can’t resist them”

8. In Peru, Woman Narrowly Escapes Mudslide
The New York Times | March 16
“A woman managed to pull herself from debris and mud on the outskirts of Lima on Wednesday, after heavy rains triggered floods across the country. Since the beginning of the year, 550,000 people have been displaced and dozens killed by the flooding.”

9. Prince Charles’ Plan To Make Camilla ‘Queen’
By Tom Sykes | The Daily Beast | February 2017
“An informed Royal source tells the Daily Beast that there is a plan afoot to declare Prince Charles’s wife ‘queen’ soon after the present Queen’s death.”

10. Penn Station: A Place That Once Made Travelers Feel Important
By Michael Beschloss | HistorySource :: The New York Times | January 2015
“Completed in 1910, the original Penn Station was intended to symbolize not only its powerful corporate owner but also New York’s status as the most vital city in a nation that was becoming a political and economic superpower.”

Think Before You (Lamp) Post

This is too funny. Thanks to Brooks Simpson for highlighting on his great blog “Crossroads.”

Crossroads

New Orleans has seen its share of debates over Civil War statues and monuments lately (although it interests me that the monument to the Battle of Liberty Place, a Reconstruction event that was clearly linked to the restoration of white supremacy, is sometimes classified as a “Civil War” monument). It looks as if three clearly Confederate monuments may be relocated, although I’ll believe it when I see it (note that this blog has not taken a position on removing such monuments, believing that it’s up to the community to decide …  a point lost on some readers, particularly those who want to erect straw men to go with their whine).

Now comes a project that I find amusing, to say the least. New Orleans has recently opened a new streetcar line along North Rampart Street, which is northeast of historic Jackson Square.

Green NOLA Courtesy WGNO.

In keeping with a restoration theme,

View original post 288 more words

Recommended reading / viewing / listening

This week: The priceless Oxford comma / Trump and Spicer tangle with GCHQ / Paris Hilton: Empire builder / Reversing Earth’s rotation / Find free money

This week: The priceless Oxford comma / Trump and Spicer tangle with GCHQ / Paris Hilton: Empire builder / Reversing Earth’s rotation / Find free money

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

1. White House Tries to Soothe British Officials Over Trump’s Wiretap Claim
By Peter Baker and Steven Erlanger | The New York Times | March 17
“The GCHQ quickly and vehemently denied the contention in a rare statement issued by the spy agency on Thursday, calling the assertions ‘nonsense’ and ‘utterly ridiculous.’ By Friday morning, Mr. Spicer’s briefing had turned into a full-blown international incident. British politicians expressed outraged and demanded apologies and retractions from the American government.”

2. Paris Hilton: I’m not the dumb blonde people thought
By Richard Johnson | The New York Post | March 16
“[T]he Champagne-quaffing, table-dancing party monster has morphed into a businesswoman who’d rather stay home and cook dinner for her boyfriend than go out clubbing into the wee hours.”

3. If Earth’s spin reversed, everything would be different
By Hannah Fry and Andrew Pontzen | BBC Future | March 15
“What would happen if our planet suddenly started turning the opposite way, or slowed to a crawl? One thing is for sure, it wouldn’t be a smooth outcome for civilisation …”

4. Is Trump Trolling the White House Press Corps?
By Andrew Marantz | The New Yorker | March 20
“At daily briefings, Sean Spicer calls on young journalists from far-right sites. The mainstream media sees them as an existential threat.”

5. Lack of Oxford comma costs Maine company millions in overtime dispute
By John Waller | The Boston Globe | March 16
“A class-action lawsuit about overtime pay for truck drivers hinged entirely on a debate that has bitterly divided friends, families and foes: The dreaded — or totally necessary — Oxford comma, perhaps the most polarizing of punctuation marks.”

6. Racing in Cocaine Valley
Witness :: Al Jazeera | February 2017
“In the jungles of Peru, young coca farmers risk everything to win a deadly motor race, now a vibrant local tradition.”

7. The Nazi Spy with 1,000 Faces
By Marc Worthman | The Daily Beast | February 2017
“‘Come and get me,’ he taunted authorities, but this spy and killer could not be taken down — until his Nazi spy masters slipped up.”

8. The Right Words for the Job: How Gendered Language Affects the Workplace
By Deb Liu | Medium | February 2017
“What surprised me was how deep our gender-specific language runs. These words were not said with misogynistic or negative intent, but rather they were used in apparently innocuous ways.”

9. Free, Official Sources to Find Unclaimed Money
USA.gov | February 2017
“There might be unclaimed funds or property waiting for you from savings or checking accounts, wages and pensions, tax refunds, life insurance policies, and a lot more. Companies may offer to find this money for a fee. And scammers may try to trick you with fake promises of money from the government. But you can find your unclaimed money yourself for free.”

10. When J.F.K. Secretly Reached Out to Castro
By Michael Beschloss | HistorySource :: The New York Times | December 2014
“Ambassador William Attwood, a Kennedy delegate to the United Nations, secretly called Castro’s aide and physician, Rene Vallejo, to discuss a possible secret meeting in Havana between Attwood and Castro that might improve the Cuban-American relationship. …”