Recommended reading / viewing / listening

This week: Touring fire-ravaged Australia / A cuttlefish wears 3-D glasses / Check your email etiquette / Remembering sexual oppression / World War I in the Balkans

This week: Touring fire-ravaged Australia / A cuttlefish wears 3-D glasses / Check your email etiquette / Remembering sexual oppression / World War I in the Balkans

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. Learn more about my academic background here.

1. Going camping in apocalyptic Australia
Marketplace :: PRI | January 2020
“Brent Dunn is an architect whose home and studio are located in the bush south of Sydney. There’s no fire there for now. Dunn just returned from an annual camping trip that, this year, seemed apocalyptic: Wind as hot as a hairdryer’s blast, a thunderstorm raining down wet ash, and a smokey rainbow that stretched across the sky.”

2. As a Young Metropolitan Person, I Am Ready to Die on an Electric Scooter
By Maria Sherman | Jezebel | January 2020
“If you live in a metropolis and have felt irrationally annoyed by the increased number of electric scooter brands littering your beautiful city streets, well, turns out there’s an even bigger and better reason to hate them: they’re dangerous!”

3. Yes, This Cuttlefish Is Wearing 3-D Glasses
By Veronique Greenwood | The New York Times | January 2020
“Scientists knew octopuses and squid don’t have any depth perception, but they had a hunch their cuttlefish cousins might.”

4. This browser extension shows you which Amazon books are available free at your local library
By Rich Brolda | Cheapskate :: CNET | April 2019
“Available for Chrome and Firefox, the insanely great Library Extension saves you time and money.”

5. Is your email etiquette up to snuff?
By Kai Ryssdal and Maria Hollenhorst | Marketplace | January 2020
“Maybe you spent your holiday break on a social media detox or cleaning out your email inbox for the new year. Now that you’re back, you might want to brush up on your online etiquette.”

6. Feminist Icons in Love
By Vivian Gornick | Boston Review | October 2002
“The romantic obsessions of Colette, Simone de Beauvoir, and Marguerite Duras”

7. Remembering a Woman Who Was a Leader of the French Resistance
By Kati Marton | The New York Times Book Review | March 2019
“Just how did Hitler nearly fulfill his murderous vision, and why did so few resist his monstrous plans? Marie-Madeleine Fourcade certainly did, and with this gripping tale Lynne Olson pays her what history has so far denied her. France, slow to confront the stain of Vichy, would do well to finally honor a fighter most of us would want in our foxhole.”

8. Memories of Sexual Oppression
Evergreen Review | March 2019
“We all understand that because society needs to protect us from rape and assault, we are going to be restricted to a very narrow range of experience, which will stunt our imaginations.”

9. Notorious: The Same Hunger
By Angelica Jade Bastien | Current :: The Criterion Collection | January 2019
“The performances by Grant and Rains are dynamic high-water marks in their towering careers. But even amid these wonders, it is Bergman who is the crowning jewel. She brings an untold warmth, a sincerity, and a vulpine physicality that make her character a beguiling outlier not only in Hitchcock’s canon but also within forties cinema and Bergman’s own career.”

10. The Legacy of WWI in the Balkans and Middle East
By Christopher Rose | Not Even Past :: UT Austin Department of History | October 2018
“World War I dramatically changed the face of Europe and the Middle East. The war had caused millions of deaths and millions more were displaced. Two great multinational empires–the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the Ottoman Empire–were dissolved into new nation states, while Russia descended into a chaotic revolution.”

Recommended reading / viewing / listening

This week: Versace is back / Women in tech / The history of life after death / The reality of Jack Ruby / Trump and Castro’s Cuba / Puerto Rico still crippled after Maria

This week: Versace is back / Women in tech / The history of life after death / The reality of Jack Ruby / Trump and Castro’s Cuba / Puerto Rico still crippled after Maria

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. Easter Island Is Eroding
By Nicholas Casey and Josh Haner | The New York Times | March 2018
“Centuries ago, Easter Island’s civilization collapsed, but the statues left behind here are a reminder of how powerful it must have been. And now, many of the remains of that civilization may be erased, the United Nations warns, by the rising sea levels rapidly eroding Easter Island’s coasts.”

2. How women got squeezed out of tech
By Manuela Saragosa | BBC World Service | March 2018
“Women dominated the early days of programming — so how did men take over, and what can be done to balance things out again?”

3. Versace: the resurrection
By Luke Leitch | 1843 :: The Economist | April/May 2018
“Twenty-one years after her brother’s murder, Donatella Versace has revived the family brand. She tells Luke Leitch about her journey from the darkness to the light”

4. The Last Days of Jerry Brown
By Andy Kroll | California Sunday Magazine | March 2018
“After more than 40 years in public life, 15 as governor of California, he is as combative and contradictory as ever – and still trying to save the world from itself.”

5. Fine Specimens
By David S. Reynolds | The New York Review of Books | March 2018
“Americans in the second half of the nineteenth century had no sure prospect of resting in peace after death. If their bodies weren’t embalmed for public viewing or dug up for medical dissection, their bones were liable to be displayed in a museum. In some cases, their skin was used as book covers by bibliophiles and surgeons with a taste for human-hide binding.”

6. What 11 Female Authors Read When They’re Fed Up
By Madison Feller | Shondaland | March 2018
“Tayari Jones, Terese Marie Mailhot, and nine other women writers share the books that keep them keepin’ on.”

7. Who Was Jack Ruby?
By Gary Cartwright | Texas Monthly | November 1975
“How a small-time joint operator ushering in America’s age of violence.”

8. Up in smoke: should an author’s dying wishes be obeyed?
By Blake Morrison | The Guardian | March 2018
“Harper Lee never wanted Go Set a Watchman brought out, Sylvia Plath’s diary was burned by Ted Hughes — the controversial world of literary legacies.”

9. As Castro prepares to leave office, Trump’s Cuba policy is a road to nowhere
By Jon Lee Anderson | The New Yorker | March 2018
“Trump’s use of the bully pulpit to upbraid the island for its failings seems as hypocritical as it is counterproductive.”

10. 6 months after Hurricane Maria, Puerto Rico pleads for help
By Danica Coto | Associated Press | March 2018
“As the six-month anniversary of the Category 4 storm approaches, only a fraction of the $23 billion in congressionally approved funds has actually been spent in Puerto Rico. In February, a $4.7 billion loan approved last year for Texas, Florida, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico was reduced by the U.S. Treasury Department to $2 billion for Puerto Rico, none of which has been disbursed.”

Recommended reading / viewing / listening

This week: Caesar’s literature / A fashion show in 1968 / The genocide surprise / My Lai remembered / The history of natural disaster

This week: Caesar’s literature / A fashion show in 1968 / The genocide surprise / My Lai remembered / The history of natural disaster

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. Trump’s Man in Moscow
By Amie Ferris-Rotman, Emily Tamkin and Robbie Gramer | Foreign Policy | March 2018
“Most of Washington is scared to meet with Russians. Jon Huntsman wants to meet as many as possible.”

2. Caesar Bloody Caesar
By Josephine Quinn | The New York Review of Books | March 2018
“When Julius Caesar was thirty-one years old in 69 BCE, so the story goes, and serving as a junior Roman magistrate in Spain, he once stood lamenting before a statue of Alexander the Great because he had achieved so little at an age by which Alexander had already conquered the world.”

3. The Conversation Favourites
By BBC World Service | March 2018
“Meet the women who have inspired us”

4. The 1968 Fashion Show, the History Lesson Melania Missed
By Kimberly Chrisman-Campbell | Politico Magazine | March 2018
“It was supposed to showcase America First fashion. But not long afterward, manufacturing moved to China, and eventually, the Trumps moved into the White House.”

5. The Genocide the U.S. Didn’t See Coming
By Nahal Toosi | Politico Magazine | March/April 2018
“The Rohingya have lived in Myanmar for generations, primarily in the country’s Rakhine state, and have long faced severe discrimination from the Buddhist majority, which views them as illegal migrants. But this latest wave of violence is the worst in modern memory.”

6. 50 years ago, the My Lai massacre shamed the US military
By Tran Van Minh and Grant Peck | Associated Press | March 2018
“The American soldiers of Charlie Company, sent on what they were told was a mission to confront a crack outfit of their Vietcong enemies, met no resistance, but over three to four hours killed 504 unarmed civilians, mostly women, children and elderly men, in My Lai and a neighboring community.”
Also see, from American Experience: “My Lai,” a documentary film

7. Disasters Have Histories
By Chad H. Parker, Andy Horowitz and Liz Skilton | Process :: The Journal of American History/The American Historian | March 2018
“To many observers, disasters can seem like they erupt out of nowhere, in a catastrophic instant, but as historians, it’s our job to place them in time and space. So when I approach events like the recent storms, I start by asking: who was in danger? When did they arrive there? Why? Almost by definition, seeing disasters as products of history makes them seem less random and less inevitable.”

8. Today’s Eerie Echoes of the Civil War
By Manisha Sinha | The New York Review of Books | March 2018
“Even before what historians call the political crisis of the 1850s, the rise of an interracial abolition movement had encountered mob violence in the streets and gag rules in Congress. From then on, abolitionism in the United States was tied to civil liberties and the fate of American democracy itself. By the eve of the war, in 1861, most people in the northern free states felt that the democratic institutions of the country were being subverted.”

9. The Daring Diplomat Who Proved One Person Can Thwart an Empire
By Emily Ludolph | Narratively | March 2018
“A whistleblower puts his life on the line to defy Soviet aggression. Sixty years later, this forgotten story of subterfuge, smears and suspicious death has never felt more timely.”

10. Does anyone have the right to sex?
By Amia Srinivasan | London Review of Books | March 2018
“Desire can take us by surprise, leading us somewhere we hadn’t imagined we would ever go, or towards someone we never thought we would lust after, or love. In the very best cases, the cases that perhaps ground our best hope, desire can cut against what politics has chosen for us, and choose for itself.”

Recommended reading / viewing / listening

This week: White House chaos / A stolen puppy returns / Cardi B’s success / McMaster’s surrender / Racism in ‘National Geographic’

This week: White House chaos / A stolen puppy returns / Cardi B’s success / McMaster’s surrender / Racism in National Geographic

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. 32 Weeks: The making of a cop
By Emilie Eaton | San Antonio Express-News | March 2018
“A reporter and photographer from the San Antonio Express-News spent a year following a group of cadets to document their training at the San Antonio Police Department’s nationally recognized academy.”

2. Cabinet chaos: Trump’s team battles scandal, irrelevance
By Jonathan Lemire | Associated Press | March 2018
“One Cabinet member was grilled by Congress about alleged misuse of taxpayer funds for private flights. Another faced an extraordinary revolt within his own department amid a swirling ethics scandal. A third has come under scrutiny for her failure to answer basic questions about her job in a nationally televised interview. And none of them was the one Trump fired.”

3. A pardon expert emailed me his life’s work. Then he killed his two sons and himself.
By Gregory Korte | USA Today | March 2018
“A White House correspondent tries to reconcile a professor’s valuable contribution to the study of the presidential mercy with his horrific final acts.”

4. Does the Adult Brain Really Grow New Neurons?
By Helen Shen | Scientific American | March 2018
“The observation that the human brain churns out new neurons throughout life is one of the biggest neuroscience discoveries of the past 20 years. … But new findings in humans, reported online in Nature on Wednesday, pump the brakes on this idea. In a direct challenge to earlier studies, the authors report adults produce no new cells in the hippocampus, a key hub for processing memories.”

5. A Texas family had their dog stolen. It was returned the next day, injured and with a note.
By Fernando Ramirez | Houston Chronicle | March 2018
“Michelle Carnline, an Austin-area resident, said her family’s 6-month-old chocolate Great Dane disappeared from her backyard on a Sunday evening two weeks ago. At first, the family thought their dog, Landon, had somehow managed to escape. But after finding muddy human footprints in the backyard, it didn’t take long to realize what had happened.”

6. Ta-Nehisi Coates Talks Writing, President Trump, and Quitting Twitter For Good
By Doyin Oyeniyi | Texas Monthly | March 2018
“At his SXSW keynote speech, Coates shared the thoughts that he’ll no longer be tweeting.”

7. For Decades, Our Coverage Was Racist. To Rise Above Our Past, We Must Acknowledge It
By By Susan Goldberg | National Geographic | April 2018
“We asked a preeminent historian to investigate our coverage of people of color in the U.S. and abroad. Here’s what he found.”

8. Cardi B: The Artist Thriving in a System Not Meant for Her
By Amy Zimmerman | The Daily Beast | March 2018
“Cardi B’s remarkable story is one of merit shining through in an industry and a country that’s far from a meritocracy.”

9. Introduction to Reading Other Women
By Rafia Zakaria | Boston Review | September 2016
“Literature can be a primary engine of dialogue and empathy, but it — or rather, the reading public — is often complicit in the silencing of global women of color.”

10. Dereliction of Duty?
By Jonathan Stevenson | The New York Review of Books | March 2018
“His rationale — or at least his rationalization — was likely that the position would best be filled by a warrior-scholar with the spine and rectitude to protect the country against Trump’s rash leadership.”

Recommended reading / viewing / listening

This week: Teaching your daughters / ‘Project Runway’ and depression / Donald Glover / Women rewriting the story / Black fatherhood and ‘Star Trek: Deep Space Nine’

This week: Teaching your daughters / ‘Project Runway’ and depression / Donald Glover / Women rewriting the story / Black fatherhood and ‘Star Trek: Deep Space Nine’

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. Why I’m Teaching My Daughters to Be Rude
By Danielle Lazzarin | The Cut :: New York Magazine | February 2018
“I would no longer teach them that they owe anyone smiles or gratitude for being noticed. I would no longer train them to weaken their boundaries for the sake of being polite.”

2. How ‘Project Runway’ Helped Me ‘Make It Work’ When I Was Depressed
By Juliet Escoria | Vice | February 2018
“Although I hate to admit it because it makes me feel sappy and basic, the show is inspiring — and Tim Gunn is a literal angel.”

3. Donald Glover Has Always Been Ten Steps Ahead
By Bijan Stephen | Esquire | February 2018
“He’s become one of the most powerful and influential individuals in town. So what’s next? We sat down with the legend in the making.”

4. Pushing back: why it’s time for women to rewrite the story
By Sarah Churchwell | The Guardian | February 2018
“Poe, Updike, Roth, Mailer: many male authors have contributed to a culture in which the credibility of women is undermined. It’s time to put a stop to the gaslighting.”

5. A Kingdom of Dust
By Mark Arax, Trent Davis Bailey and Denise Nestor | The California Sunday Magazine | January 2018
“I grew up in the suburbs where our playgrounds were named after the pioneers of fruit and canals of irrigation shot through our neighborhoods to the farms we did not know. For half my life, I never stopped to wonder: How much was magic? How much was plunder?”

6. Radiation Will Tear Elon Musk’s Rocket Car to Bits in a Year
By Rafi Letzter | LiveScience | February 2018
“Down on Earth, a powerful magnetic field and the atmosphere largely protect human beings (and Tesla Roadsters) from the harsh radiation of the sun and cosmic rays. But spacefaring objects have no such protections.”

7. New members of the editorial board
By Kristen Epps | Muster :: The Journal of the Civil War Era | February 2018
“The talented historians joining us in 2018 are Tera Hunter, Fitzhugh Brundage, Laura Edwards, Pekka Hämäläinen, and Susannah Ural.”

8. Controlling the Chief
By Charlie Savage | The New York Review of Books | February 2018
“Trump’s generals — some still in uniform, some now civilians — are clearly trying to mitigate turmoil and curb potential dangers. That may be at once reassuring and disturbing.”

9. Port Aransas Isn’t Giving Up
By Rachel Pearson | Texas Monthly | January 2018
“Returning to my devastated hometown, I found my friends and family putting on a brave face in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.”

10. Deep Space Nine Is TV’s Most Revolutionary Depiction of Black Fatherhood
By Angelica Jade Bastien | Vulture | January 2018
“The family they represent is wholly unique on television: a window into the future of black identity that never forgets the trials of our past or the complexity of our humanity.”

Loreta’s Civil War: No apologies to offer

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

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

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

Read previous chapters of her incredible story here.

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

******

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE END

Loreta’s Civil War: The gold fever

Gold and silver fever swirl around Velazquez, and her husband is not immune. She marvels at the different schemes employed to swindle the desperate settlers who share her aspirations for a new and better life.

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

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

Read previous chapters of her incredible story here.

Part 67: Gold and silver fever swirl around Velazquez, and her husband is not immune. She marvels at the different schemes employed to swindle the desperate settlers who share her aspirations for a new and better life.

******

Shortly after my marriage I made a flying trip to New Orleans, for the purpose of seeing my brother and some of my relatives. Immediately a rumor was started that I had run away, and when I returned I found that all kinds of stories had been set afloat about me. My reappearance, however, set them all at rest, and, as my husband and myself zealously attended to our own business and let that of other people alone, we were permitted to dwell together in peace.

When I got back from New Orleans, we purchased a snug little stone house, and I devoted myself to advancing my husband’s interests as much as possible and to making our home comfortable and attractive.

My husband, for a time, prospered in his mining operations, and, although there were some envious people who spoke ill of him and of me, we succeeded in gaining the esteem of such of our neighbors as were worth knowing and did not disturb ourselves about what might be said of us by those who were disposed to speak evil.

The city of Austin, which is near the center of Nevada, at this time (1868) contained from fifteen hundred to two thousand inhabitants, most of whom were in some way connected with the mines. There were about a dozen stores, one hotel, four or five lodging-houses, half a dozen restaurants, more drinking- saloons than I ever undertook to count, Catholic and Methodist churches, a Masonic hall, and five quartz crushing-mills — only one, however, of which was in operation.

There was any amount of speculation in mines and mining stocks and any amount of the worst kind of swindling going on all the time. Some of the mines were good ones but others were mere pretences and were worth nothing at all. Many of these bogus mines were sold to eastern capitalists by experts, who made a specialty of working frauds of this description.

It was while residing in Austin that I first heard the expression “salting” applied to mines and learned what it meant. Salting, however, was only one of a number of frauds that were practiced every day.

It grieved me greatly that my husband should be compelled to associate and to transact business with such scoundrels as the men about him. His partner, especially, was as worthless a scamp as there was in the district, and, as I felt certain that he would in time be held responsible for some of the doings of this fellow, I persuaded him to give up mining and to seek a home in some locality that offered greater advantages for living, as decent people ought to live, than Austin did.

My husband accordingly sold out his interest in the mines, and we removed to California, where we purchased a lovely place in the Sacramento Valley. This was just such a home as I had always sighed for, and I was perfectly happy in the idea of settling down and living a quiet, contented life for the rest of my days.

It was not to be, however. My husband had the gold fever, and he found it impossible to be satisfied with what would have satisfied most reasonable people. He was restless and irritable and was all the time anxious to be off to the mines again.

We had not been settled in our new home more than a few months, when, to my infinite regret, he insisted on starting off for the new Eldorado in Utah. He then passed a year prospecting in Bingham Canyon, Camp Floyd, Eureka, and Tintic, and expended all his money without achieving anything. He was then compelled to accept the foremanship of a mine in the Lucine district, and after he had been working in that capacity for some time was promoted to superintendent.

One of the members of the firm by whom my husband was employed was a gentleman, and was honest, as honesty went in that region. The other was a drunkard and a fraud of the worst kind. This man, some time before this, had started a settlement which he named after himself and had built a smelting furnace, all for the purpose of selling some bogus mines. He also perpetrated an infamous swindle on some English capitalists, in relation to a mine in Nevada.

The way the thing was done was this, and it will serve as an illustration of the kind of swindles that were constantly being perpetrated in connection with mines. He sent to Virginia and purchased some rich ore from the Comstock mine for the purpose of salting the mine which he wished to sell. This was a silver-bearing lead, but there was not enough metal in the ore to pay for getting it out. It was necessary, however, in order to effect a sale, to give the impression that it was very rich. The smelter, therefore, run out about three thousand bars, which were supposed to be silver, but which were in reality half lead.

These were hauled to the depot, where the persons who proposed to purchase could see them but after dark they were taken back to the mine, and the next day the teams took them to the depot again. This was done for three successive days, and the Englishmen, seeing such enormous amounts of metal, became greatly excited and offered a million dollars for the mine. The speculator refused, and then they offered a million and a half. This offer he closed with, and a day was set for the inspection of the mine.

The “dumps” were thoroughly salted, and arrangements were made for the assayer and mining expert to be in attendance. The proposed purchasers had their expert with them, a German professor from Freiburg. This professor had a large sack with him in which to put samples of ore, and when going down into the mine he gave it to one of the men to carry for him.

The speculator had on a large blanket-coat with immense pockets in it, which were filled with rich ore. The man with the sack was also provided with a small quantity to be used in case of emergency. Every time the professor put a piece of ore in the sack, so soon as his back was turned the speculator or his man would drop in some of the rich ore. The result was that when the assays were made, they rose from three thousand to fifteen thousand dollars to the ton.

The Englishmen were in ecstasies and insisted on the contract being drawn up immediately. Part of the purchase money was then paid down, and the rest was to be forthcoming in thirty days. When the thirty days expired the purchasers took possession, only to find that they had been duped in a most outrageous manner. By the time the discovery of the fraud was made, however, the swindlers had fled, and the Englishmen had nothing to do but to return to London with empty pockets.

One of them, however, tried his luck again in Little Cottonwood, in the Wellington district, but with no better success.

My husband was at this time superintendent of one of the Wellington mines, and I consequently had ample opportunities to study mining life and to become acquainted with the numerous frauds that were going on. I was also thrown in a good deal with the Mormons and was able to study their characters and manners.

Little Cottonwood Canyon is about twelve miles long, is very narrow and very deep. A stream runs down the middle of it, which is very swift in the months of June and July, when it is full, on account of the melting of immense quantities of snow in the mountains.

Tannersville is a town or settlement named in honor of a woman who kept a hotel or stage-station there. There was a mill and smelter at that place at the time of which I am writing.

Alta City, at the foot of the two canyons — Big and Little Cottonwood — is a town of rather more importance. When I was there it had three stores, a hotel, a couple of lodging-houses, a livery stable, and a large number of drinking-saloons. The dwelling-houses were mostly very small and were entirely invisible in winter, being covered by the snow. The snow usually commences to fall about the middle of September, but I have seen it in August. During the winter many parts of the canyon are impassable, except by the use of sledges and snow-shoes, and there is constant danger from avalanches, which carry everything before them.

The Wellington mine lost its foreman and a miner through an avalanche while I was there, and many men have lost their lives in this canyon, their bodies remaining buried beneath the snow until spring.

I doubt whether many of the mines in this district will ever be successfully worked. The Emma is one of the best, and I think could be made to pay if judiciously operated. This mine is situated in the side of the mountain and is almost perpendicular. On looking at it, it is impossible not to wonder how the owners ever reached it or are able to work it. I believe that there is an immense lead of silver here which will yet be unearthed.

This part of the country offers a rich field for the botanist and naturalist. The flowers are in the greatest profusion and are of every imaginable hue. They grow from the mouth of the canyon to some of the highest points on the mountains.

The wild cherry, the whortleberry, the serviceberry, the thimbleberry, and the dewberry are very abundant.

On the very summits of this immense range will be found clear blue lakes, filled with spotted trout. How they have managed to get there is more than I can tell.

When the highest points are reached, if one looks aloft the broadwinged eagle may be seen wheeling in the air, while upon the ground are the beautiful mountain squirrels, busily engaged in gathering their winter stores. I have often sat for hours and watched these nimble little animals. There are as many as six different varieties of squirrels, some of which are not larger than mice, while others, the size of the common gray squirrels of the Eastern states, are beautifully striped and vary in color from light gray to dark brown. The greatest enemies of these harmless animals are the eagle and the mink.

Large rats abound in the woods, as do also the brown weasels. These last-named animals are about eighteen inches in length from the nose to the tip of the tail. The head is small, and the eyes, which are very prominent, are of a soft, lustrous black. The weasels are very cunning and are especially destructive to the mice and squirrels. I have seen two old ones kill as many as six or eight mice in a day in my home and carry them, one at a time, across the ravine to their young in the woods. While carrying a mouse, however, should a squirrel appear, the weasel will throw down the mouse, and go after this fresh game, and then come back and get the mouse.

Loreta’s Civil War: That queer gait of his

Velazquez returns to the U.S., where she decides to restart her life in the West, far from the post-war ruins of the former Confederacy.

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 64: Velazquez returns to the U.S., where she decides to restart her life in the West, far from the post-war ruins of the former Confederacy.

******

Shortly after Gen. Mansana’s death I took the steamer for the United States and was soon in New York, making but one brief stoppage at Matanzas on the way.

On my return to the United States, I found the financial and political situations, especially at the South, more deplorable than ever. The era of true Reconstruction seemed to be even farther off than it did when Lee surrendered, and the freedmen and carpetbaggers were having things completely their own way throughout the length and breadth of the late Confederacy. The people were oppressed and harried without mercy and without hope of redress by the black and white adventurers whom the fortunes of war had given the control of their affairs, and it was very apparent that there could be no revival of business worth speaking of while such a state of affairs existed. I greatly desired to settle in the South, but my own fortunes were at a low ebb, and I saw very plainly that if I expected to improve them it would be necessary to go elsewhere.

After giving the matter mature consideration and making inquiries in a number of quarters, I determined to try my luck in the mining regions of the Pacific slope, as they seemed to hold out inducements that no other part of the country did. Apart, however, from all questions of pecuniary profit, I was animated by a strong desire to explore for myself a territory concerning which I had heard so much.

Having once resolved to cross the continent in search of a home, I did not stop to make many or very elaborate preparations, being too old a traveler to encumber myself with an excess of baggage. Purchasing a ticket for Omaha, I was soon on my way to that place by the Niagara, Fort Wayne, and Chicago route.

At Omaha, I found snow on the ground and the weather quite cold, too cold for one who had just come from a tropical climate to venture on a stage journey of many hundred miles, through the wilderness with no thicker or warmer clothing than that which I had with me. I was now in somewhat of a predicament and began to regret that I had trusted quite so much to my traveler’s luck and had not furnished myself with a more comfortable outfit.

I went to a dry goods store to purchase some woolen underclothing but was unable to procure any. Fortunately, at the International Hotel, where I was stopping, there was a lady who intended to remain at Omaha for some time and when she learned of my difficulties, offered to sell me hers. This offer I accepted without hesitation, and thus, by the merest chance, found myself equipped in proper style for my long and tedious journey and its necessary exposures to the weather.

At the International I had the good fortune to meet an old friend whom I had not seen for a number of years and with whom it was a pleasure of the most genuine kind to renew my acquaintance. This was the veteran soldier Gen. W.S. Harney. He was, apparently, as glad to see me as I was to see him and insisted on escorting me in to dinner, rather, I think, to the astonishment of some of the guests.

The general had a special table for himself and friends, and as we took our seats the eyes of everybody in the room were fixed on us. The dinner was a good one in its way, the bill of fare being largely made up of buffalo and antelope meat and various kinds of game, and, as I was desperately hungry, I enjoyed it greatly. While we were dining the general chatted very freely and narrated many curious incidents of his career in the army and expressed his views on the late war with the utmost freedom. He said that he was a true Southerner in his sympathies and that his extreme age alone had prevented him from offering his services to the Confederacy. He, however, had helped the Cause as much as he could with his means and influence, and his only regret was that he had not been able to take an active part in the great conflict.

Gen. Harney, it appears, had heard some mention of my adventures and was very anxious to ask me about them. He did not, however, think that the dinner-table of the International Hotel of Omaha was exactly the suitable place to bring up a subject about which I might have some hesitation in speaking, and so deferred asking me any questions until a better opportunity offered.

When we returned to the drawing-room I met some St. Louis people whom I knew, and, engaging in conversation with them, the general politely asked to be excused and said that he would like very much to have a conversation with me in his private parlor after four o’clock.

When he was gone, Gov. C, a tall, lank, shambling backwoodsman, stalked up to me, and, in an awkward sort of a way, introduced himself. He desired to make the acquaintance of Gen. Harney and wished to know if I would not do the “polite thing” for him, that is, give him an introduction to the general. It struck me that, considering his official position, he might as well have introduced himself but, as he apparently did not know how to do this gracefully, I told him that if the general was willing, he and the governor should become acquainted after four o’clock, if he would meet me in the drawing room.

At the appointed hour I descended from my room, where I had been arranging my toilet, and found this model specimen of a statesman pacing uneasily backwards and forwards in the hall, waiting for me. For a wonder, his hat was in his hand instead of on his head, which I took to be an indication that his mother had taught him one or two points of etiquette in his youth, which he had managed to retain in his memory.

When he saw me, he came shambling up with that queer gait of his, and said, with a grin, “I am on hand, you see. We Western men are generally prompt when we have engagements with the fair sex.”

“Yes, I see you are punctual. It is a good habit. I once knew a man who made a large fortune by punctuality.”

“Haw, haw, haw!” roared the governor, stretching, his mouth nearly from ear to ear. “That’s pretty good. All of us people out here are trying to make fortunes and to make ‘em quick, so I guess we’d better make a point of being punctual. Haw, haw, haw!”

I then led him to the general’s private parlor without more ado and gave the desired introduction.

This ceremony performed, the governor evidently did not know what to say or do, but after a moment’s hesitation he extended his hand, and seizing that of the general, shook it as if he were working a pump-handle. The general, who understood what kind of a customer he had to deal with, stood up and saluted his new friend with a characteristic gesture and passed a few formal words with him. After a very brief conversation, the governor, impressed by the general’s peculiar manner and appreciating the force of the maxim that “two are company and three a crowd,” said that he would give himself the pleasure of calling again and bowed himself out.

When we were alone, in compliance with the general’s request I gave him an account of my adventures while acting as an officer in the Confederate army and as a secret-service agent. He appeared to be intensely interested and frequently interrupted me to ask questions or to express commendation. We conversed for two hours, when the announcement was made that supper was ready.

After supper we returned to the private parlor again, and I explained my plans for the future and asked his advice. This he gave in the kindest manner, and, as his experience of affairs in the West and his knowledge of the western country and people was most extensive, it was extremely valuable to me.

He said that I was a young woman yet, and that I would, undoubtedly, have offers of marriage but, for my own sake, he hoped that if I did marry again, I would choose the right kind of a man and not permit myself to fall into the hands of some adventurer. He thought that I was taking a great risk in going out to the mining region and believed that it would be much better for me to settle in my native island or else somewhere in the South. After all that I had done for the South, he said that I ought to be able to live there like a princess.

I told him, however, that the idea of receiving any assistance from the Southern people, situated as they were, was most abhorrent to me, and that, as I was young and in good health, I preferred to seek my own fortune and in my own way.

“Have you any arms?” he inquired.

“Yes, two strong ones,” I replied, holding them out.

The general laughed and said, “Yes, those will be of service to you if you are going to seek your fortune, but out among the mines you will need arms of another kind.”

He then gave me a revolver, saying that I might have need for it, and also a buffalo robe and a pair of blankets, which he was certain I would find useful.

That night I slept but little, thinking of the general’s advice and of the unknown future before me. Towards morning I fell into something like a doze, but before I was fairly asleep I was called and told that it was time to get ready for the stage.

I found Gen. Harney up and waiting for me. We took breakfast together, and as I got up to go to the stage, he said, “Remember the advice of your best friend. I only wish that I was thirty-five years younger — you should not make this journey alone.”

This was so flattering that I could not help permitting my wishes to run in the same channel.

After I was seated in the back of the coach, snugly wrapped up in my blankets and buffalo robe, a basket of eatables was handed in to me, and just as we were about to start the general leaned in, and, kissing me on the forehead, said, “Farewell, my child. If we should never meet again, God will take care of you,” and then turning to the driver, he told him to take good care of me, as I was a particular friend of his.

The driver said, “All right, sir. I will look after her,” and, cracking his whip, off we went, with nearly half the continent yet before me to be traveled before my journey should be ended.

Loreta’s Civil War: Quite a brilliant audience

Velazquez ends her Caribbean tour in Havana, where she relaxes with relatives, makes a new friend, and confronts personal tragedy once again.

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 63: Velazquez ends her Caribbean tour in Havana, where she relaxes with relatives, makes a new friend, and confronts personal tragedy once again.

******

Through the exertions of my friends to make my visit to St. Thomas a pleasant one, the time passed rapidly, and when the arrival of the steamer Pelyo gave me warning that I must prepare for my departure, I would gladly have prolonged my stay for a number of days more had it been possible to do so.

The time of leave-taking was come, however, and I was escorted on board the steamer by quite a large party, many of whom, as I said goodbye, eagerly requested me to correspond with them and to keep them posted about my movements as they expected that I would scarcely be satisfied unless I undertook some strange adventures.

The steamer stopped at Porto Rico but I did not go on shore, not liking the looks of the place. We only remained for a few hours to take in some freight and passengers and then were off to sea again. Among the passengers was a young Spanish officer. Capt. F. Martinez, whom I had met before and who knew that I had served in the Confederate army. He came up to me and gave an officer’s salute, at which I laughed and held out my hand to him, saying that the time for that sort of thing had passed. We then fell into an animated conversation about the war and other matter, and during the rest of the trip he paid me every attention in his power.

As we were promenading the deck together in the evening, he informed me that he was engaged to a young lady in Santiago de Cuba, and he was very solicitous that I should stop there and see her. I was not unwilling, as I had relations residing near the city whom I was anxious to visit, and so I made arrangements for a return to another of the homes of my childhood.

When we reached Santiago, I called with Capt. Martinez upon his betrothed and was much pleased to see that he had made so excellent a choice. The young lady was very pretty and amiable and belonged to a wealthy family.

Having notified my cousin, who was married to a Prussian gentleman, of my arrival, I went out to her home about ten miles in the country and remained a day or two with her.

In the city, I was waited upon by many distinguished people and was invited to dine at the mansion of the general in command of the Spanish forces. At this dinner my health was proposed, with some complimentary remarks, at which honor I was immensely flattered, and after it was over, the company adjourned to the grand plaza to listen to the military band and to see the beauty and fashion of Santiago.

Santiago de Cuba is a very old town, and it has an extensive commerce. The chief exports are coffee, sugar, cigars, and fruit. The harbor is a fine one, and during the war it was a favorite resort for blockade-runners.

The day after the dinner at the general’s mansion, I went on board the steamer and started for Havana. That city was reached in due time, and once more I found myself on familiar ground and among friends who were ready to extend me a hearty welcome for the sake of old times.

My brother’s family and other relatives resided outside of the walls. I sent them word of my arrival but did not go to the house, on account of differences with my sister-in-law. During my stay in Havana my brother visited me frequently, as did also my niece — my sister’s daughter — and my nephew, who acted as my escort to the theater and other places.

In addition to my relatives, I had many acquaintances in Havana who were glad to extend the hospitality of the place to me. Among others, Gen. Juaquin Mansana and the officers of his staff were all warm friends of mine, and they seemed never to tire of paying me attentions. I was also acquainted with a great number of people with whom I had had confidential business relations during the war, and they too did what they could to make the time pass pleasantly.

Shortly after I reached Havana, there was a grand religious festival, and, at the suggestion of Gen. Mansana, I consented to appear in the procession in uniform. The general, enjoining me to keep the matter a secret, presented me with a handsome Spanish military suit. I attired myself in this, and arranging my disguise so that my most intimate friends would not know me, I took my place in the procession in a carriage beside Col. Montero, which drove just behind that of the general.

The colonel especially requested me not to let the other officers and soldiers know who I was, as there might be some excitement created if any one suspected that a woman disguised as an officer was in the procession. I accordingly kept my secret and was not recognized. During the day, I … passed quite close to Mr. Savage, the United States consul, and the members of his staff, and it amused the general greatly to see that they had not the slightest suspicion as to who I was. I was also introduced to a number of ladies as a young Spanish officer who had been educated in England. …

This procession took place on Friday, and Gen. Mansana, as we were about starting out, told me that there was a steamer in the harbor with some emigrants on board who were going to South America. He asked me if I would not see them, and, by relating my experiences, try and persuade them to return home again. This I promised to do.

In the evening, after the ceremonies were over, we went to the theater, where we found quite a brilliant audience assembled. Before the performance was over, Gen. Mansana said that he was hungry and retired. The rest of the party remained until the curtain fell, when we went to a restaurant and had supper. After supper we drove to the Plaza de Armas, where a room had been assigned me in the palace, and I changed my costume as rapidly as I could, appearing once more in female attire.

As I was coming out. Col. Montero met me in the hall and said that the general had been taken quite sick. I asked if I could see him, and on a messenger being sent, word was conveyed to the colonel that the general wished to speak with him. He soon returned and invited me to go into the sick chamber. The general was in bed, and the doctor was in attendance on him. He complained of severe cramps but did not think that anything serious was the matter and invited me to call on him the next morning, when he expected to be better.

After breakfast, the next morning, I went to the general’s quarters but the guard had orders not to admit any one. I sent in my card, however, and in a few moments the chief of staff came down and asked me to walk up to the reception room. The surgeon in attendance made his appearance and said that the general was worse instead of better but that I could see him if I would promise not to speak. I accordingly went into the sick-room and found the general looking very bad indeed. He smiled at me and seemed to be glad that I had called. I then retired, as I found that I could be of no assistance, and went to see the emigrants.

I gave them an account of my experiences and observations in South America and advised them in the strongest possible terms not to pursue their journey any farther, but to return home, and, if they wanted to get away from the South, to go West. Some of them were much impressed with what I said and came on shore to see me. I invited them to the hotel to take dinner and went into the matter more particularly, showing them the great risks they would run and the small chance they would have of establishing themselves in a satisfactory manner.

This interference on my part was bitterly resented by some of the leaders of the expedition, who expressed a desire that I should not come on board the steamer again. I had no wish to do this, having performed my duty, and I was willing now that they should take their own course and abide the consequences, although I was sorry for some of the poor women who I knew would regret not having followed my advice.

My expostulations proved of no avail, and the steamer sailed for South America after her old, worn-out and worthless boiler had been patched. The vessel itself, like the boiler, was worn out, and they were obliged to put in at St. Thomas with her and charter another boat. Some of the people, I believe, returned to the United States from St. Thomas, while the rest were glad to get back the best way they could after a very brief experience of Para, the port for which they were bound. After reaching their destination and endeavoring to effect a settlement, they very soon came to the conclusion that my advice was good.

On Sunday morning I learned, to my infinite sorrow, that Gen. Mansana was dead. The funeral took place the next day, and the body, having been embalmed, was carried through the streets, followed by his carriage, dressed in crape, and his favorite horse. The funeral was an imposing but sorrowful spectacle, for the general was a good man, and although, like other public men, he had his enemies, he deserved and enjoyed a great popularity.

With this visit to Havana concluded my trip to South America and the West Indies. In some of its aspects it was far from being enjoyable, and yet, on the whole, I managed to have a pretty good time, and I did not regret the journey. I had learned a great deal about a part of the world that it was worthwhile to know something about, and I had met a great many good friends whom I was exceedingly glad to meet. Taking it all in all, the pleasures of the trip far more than counterbalanced its disagreeable features, and the main thing I had to complain of was that I returned to the United States with a much lighter pocket-book than when I set out.

Loreta’s Civil War: Sadness and strangeness

Velazquez continues her Caribbean tour with a stop in St. Lucia, where she tries to come to terms with her younger self before the Civil War.

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 62: Velazquez continues her Caribbean tour with a stop in St. Lucia, where she tries to come to terms with her younger self before the Civil War.

******

Being bent upon visiting my relatives and my early home, I purchased a ticket permitting me to stop at St. Lucia until the next steamer, and after a short and pleasant cruise, which was not marked by any incident of note, we reached the island which was endeared to me as being my mother’s birthplace, and on account of my residence on it, being among the most fascinating recollections of my childhood.

As I was preparing to leave the steamer, I was surprised by the steward bringing me a beautiful basket filled with different kinds of fruit. A card which accompanied it told me that it was from Capt. F., who had been obliged to stop at St. Lucia for repairs, having broken a mast. On going on shore, I sent the captain a note, requesting him to call on me at the residence of my cousin, the old family homestead. This he did, and I introduced him to my relatives. His visit was a short one, however, as his vessel was almost ready for sea, and so he said goodbye again, and for the last time. I have never seen him since.

It was not without a certain feeling of sadness and strangeness that I found myself once more domiciled in the old-fashioned stone house where I had lived with my father and mother and brothers and sisters when a little girl. The house and its surroundings were much the same as they were many years before, and yet there was something oddly unfamiliar about them, and it took me some time to reconcile my recollections with the realities. The stone house, built in the English fashion, the marble floor, the ancient furniture of Spanish make, the stone water-pool and stone filter, and the banana and prune bushes which grew at my mother’s window were, however, all as they had been, and as if I had left them but yesterday.

In gazing on these familiar objects, I was forced, in spite of myself, to think of the many years that had passed since I had last seen them and of the many things that had happened. The happy family that had gathered under this roof had been scattered and most of its members were dead, while I, the darling of my father and of my gentle mother, what a strange career I had gone through — stranger far than that of many a heroine of romance whose adventures had fascinated my girlish fancy. I was yet, too, a young woman, and what strange things might not the future have in store for me? It was enough, however, just then to think of the past and of the present without perplexing myself with speculations as to the future, and I gave myself up to such enjoyment as a visit of this kind to a fondly remembered home of childhood was able to afford.

After viewing the old house and its immediate surroundings, I went to the family burying ground in search of the weather-stained vault, which contained the earthly remains of near and dear relatives, among others, of a sister and a brother, whose faces I never beheld after I left Cuba to go to New Orleans to school. The ivy and the myrtle grew so thick about it as almost to hide the inscription, and yet there was something beautiful in the appearance of the spot, which marked it as the fitting resting place for the beloved dead. As I stood by this vault and thought how lonely I was in the world and how unpropitious the future seemed, I thought that if it could be the will of God that my spirit should be taken to Himself, I would gladly have my body rest here beside those of my brother and sister. I was reluctant to leave the place but felt impelled to go on and seek the destiny that awaited me in another land and resolved to be as courageous as ever in meeting whatever fate or position the future might have in store for me. Before leaving the tomb, I knelt down to pluck some ivy leaves to carry away as remembrances, but as I stretched out my hand to gather them, something restrained me, and I went away empty-handed as I had come.

I remained in the old homestead, enjoying the hospitality of my cousins until the arrival of the steamer and then said farewell to St. Lucia — my visit to it having been the happiest episode of my journey.

From St. Lucia, I went to the Danish island of St. Thomas, where one of my friends of the war time, to whom I had written announcing my intention of revisiting the place, was expecting my arrival. When we entered the harbor, the passenger boat, which was to take us ashore, came off to the steamer, and as she neared, I recognized my friend. I waved my handkerchief to him, and he took off his hat, and when the boat came alongside he sprang on board, and shook me most cordially by the hand, expressing, as he did so, the greatest gratification at seeing me again.

When we reached the wharf, I met another of my old war acquaintances, the Italian consul. He also was glad to see me and asked me all manner of questions about where I had been and what I had been doing since the blockade-running business had come to a standstill. I walked between my two friends up to the hotel, where I found that a fine large room had been engaged for me, and, once fairly installed in it, the visitors came pouring in, one after the other — first, the proprietor and his wife, then the Danish commandant’s wife, then half a dozen others, until I was obliged to go into the drawing room and hold a regular reception.

Nowhere during my trip had I been welcomed with a more hearty and sincere courtesy or with a more evident disposition to make a heroine of me. All through the evening people were coming in, some of them acquaintances, who, having heard of my arrival, were anxious to extend a welcome, and others, strangers who had learned something of my adventurous career, were desirous of being introduced to me. One of the most agreeable of my visitors was Mr. English, the correspondent of a newspaper in Manchester, England. He was a fine, dashing young fellow, overflowing with wit and humor, and his lively conversation created a great deal of entertainment.

During the evening, some of the company amused themselves with dominoes, others with cards, while I was surrounded constantly by quite a little crowd of persons who persisted in having me relate to them some of my adventures. After a time, wine, ale, and cakes were brought in, and the gentlemen and some of the ladies, too, regaled themselves with cigars and cigarettes. It was nearly twelve o’clock when the Italian consul, a white-haired old gentleman, arose, and asking to be excused, wished us good night. As I was tired I followed him, asking my kind friends to excuse me, and so the party broke up.

I slept late the next morning and was awakened by a tap at my door. It was Mrs. Capt. B., who wished to know if I was sick. I said that I was quite well, whereat she smiled and said she would send me a cup of chocolate. The girl soon came with the chocolate, and after drinking it, I dressed myself and went down to the drawing room. As I passed the consul’s office, he came out and gave me a “good morning” and offered me his arm to take me in to breakfast.

After breakfast, I was joined in the drawing room by quite a large party of ladies and gentlemen, who proposed that I should go with them through the fort and up to the top of the hill to see the scenery.

The town of Charlotte is built on three hills, from the summits of which beautiful views of the harbor and the island are obtained. One of the features of the scene is a rock, called Frenchman’s Cap. It is almost perpendicular, and is, I believe, considered dangerous to shipping. Scorpion Rock is inhabited only by the horrid reptiles from which it takes its name. They are unusually abundant there, and for that reason it is generally given a wide berth, as no one cares to make its intimate acquaintance.

The principal fortifications of St. Thomas are Fort Christiana, and Prince Frederick’s and Mohlenfe’s batteries. These are occupied by a small force of Danish soldiers, who are clean and tidy looking but otherwise are not remarkable in appearance.

It was under the guns of Fort Christiana that the blockade-runners were accustomed to receive their cargoes and, notwithstanding the supposed vigilance of the United States fleet, most of them managed to get off in safety. On my former visit to St. Thomas, one of the Federal officers was pointed out to me as being in the trade himself. On one occasion, at least, where the consul notified him, he permitted a vessel with a contraband cargo to put to sea and did not pretend to give chase until she was so far away that there was no hope of overtaking her.

As the reader will, perhaps, remember, on the occasion of my previous visit to St. Thomas, I had the satisfaction of seeing the Confederate cruiser Florida come in, and coal, and get away again in safety through a clever trick played upon the Federals. The Florida took in her coal and supplies at the King’s wharf, and when she was ready for sea, one of the sailors pretending to be an Englishman went to the consul, Mr. Smith, and told him that as they were coming in they saw the Florida off to the westward of the island. Mr. Smith, accordingly, gave orders to the Federal man-of-war to go out and look for her, and so soon as the Federal cruiser was out of the harbor, and heading westward. Capt. Maffitt, having steam up, put on all speed and went out after her. Before the Federal commander discovered that he had been duped, the Florida was out of sight and out of danger.

The Danish commandant told me that he was heartily sorry the war closed so soon, for the people of St. Thomas profited greatly by it. He was of the opinion that could the South have held out for another year, the great powers of Europe would have interfered in her behalf and she would have secured her independence.