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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. …”

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Loreta’s Civil War: Hypocrites and traitors

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 37: As she prepares a new espionage operation in the heart of Washington D.C., Velazquez identifies her archenemy, Col. Baker, and pauses to study his character and the danger he may pose to her.

******

At the time of my arrival at the North the anti-war party was concentrating its strength for the approaching presidential campaign, and many men who were prominent in it were decidedly confident that the next election would place a president in the White House whose views about the proper policy to be pursued towards the South would be radically different from those of Mr. Lincoln. If an anti-war president could be elected … a speedy wind-up of the war on terms satisfactory to the Confederates would almost certainly follow his inauguration.

This being the situation, it was as much for the interest of the Richmond government that the political dissensions existing within the Federal lines should be kept alive and the success of the anti-war party promoted by every possible means as it was to win victories on the battlefield. Indeed, it was much more important, for victories cost men and treasure which the Confederacy could not well spare, and even more was to be gained by fighting the enemy on his own ground with the ballot than there was by shooting him on Confederate soil with the bullet.

It was an important part of the duty of the Confederate agents at the North to aid by every possible means the success of the anti-war party, and to this end they labored incessantly and effectively in various ways, but outside of the field of politics, there was an immense amount of highly important work being done, the like of which my brief experiences in New Orleans had barely given me a hint of. …

Many officials in the government employ were either secret service agents of the Confederacy or were in the pay of such. There was not a public building at Washington that did not contain a person or persons who was not only willing but eager to do much more than furnish information to the commanders of the Confederate armies and to the Richmond authorities, as far as it was possible to do so without placing themselves in peril. In all of the large cities were men and women, many of them in government employ, who were in constant communication with the Confederate agents, and in all of them were merchants who were rapidly growing wealthy by sending goods of all kinds, including arms and ammunition, to the South, either by having them smuggled through the lines or by shipping them to some neutral port for the purpose of having them transferred to blockade-runners.

Some of these merchants made no pretensions but sold to whoever would buy, having the avowed intention of making all the money they could by every safe means. They simply asked no questions, but took their cash and shipped according to order. Others were blockade-runners, pure and simple, and their only anxiety was to keep their operations concealed from the government detectives.

Millions of dollars’ worth of goods, however, were sold for the Southern market by men who were loud in their protestations of loyalty to the Federal government, who bitterly denounced the South in public and in private, who contributed largely to aid in carrying on the war, and who enjoyed in the fullest manner the confidence of the government, and of those of their fellow-citizens who honestly believed that the war was a just one.

I will not say that all of these men were hypocrites and traitors, for I am confident that very many of them were not. Some, however — and those not the least influential and wealthy — had different opinions about things in general, and the war, in particular, in public and in the social circles which they frequented, and in their counting-rooms, when certain people called on them for the purpose of buying goods. They were more than anxious to sell to any one who would buy, but in case the buyer was known to be, or was suspected of being, a Confederate agent, the question of the moment was to sell without being found out. Of course, some of them were detected occasionally, but there was generally a way to be found for dealing with these gentlemen with tender consciences and highly loyal reputations, by which their goods could be purchased for cash and their reputations spared at the same time.

Another element in the situation was the intense opposition to the conscription which was going on for the purpose of recruiting the armies — the supply of volunteers having long since failed. This opposition, before my arrival at the North, had culminated in bloody riots in New York and several other places which caused the greatest alarm because they indicated in a very positive manner that there was a very large disaffected class in the population, which, if excited to take up arms, might be able to start anew and formidable rebellion within the Federal lines. Many of those, too, who professed to favor the war were opposed to the conscription, that is, they were opposed to being conscripted themselves, although they were willing enough that other people should go and do their fighting for them.

The most obnoxious feature of the draft, however, had been in a measure overcome — the different states, cities, and towns offering liberal bounties for men to enlist. In this manner most of the quotas were filled, but the payment of bounties — a demoralizing proceeding under any circumstances — opened the way for the most shameless and gigantic frauds. The story of the bounty jumping during the last two years of the war is not one that any patriotic American citizen can read with complacency or satisfaction, and for pure infamy I think that it surpasses anything that the future historian of the war will be compelled to put on record.

I had a good deal to do with these bounty-jumping frauds and with a number of other matters very nearly as bad … and it may be thought that I was as culpable as those whom I now denounce. To those who are only willing to consider such a subject as this from one point of view, I have simply nothing to say. But fair-minded persons, North and South, will, however, freely admit that my actions as a secret agent of the Confederate government are not to be put in comparison with those of the dealers in human flesh and blood, the counterfeiters, and others who did what they did solely from motives of gain. At any rate, acting as I was under orders from the only government the authority of which I acknowledged, and animated only by an ardent desire to advance the interests of the cause which I had espoused, I felt that I was justified in embarrassing the enemy by any means in my power, and that the kind of warfare which I carried on in the rear of the Federal armies was just as legitimate as that which was carried on face to face with them in the field. …

It took me some little time, of course, to master the entire situation, but a very brief residence at the North enabled me to see that there was a vast amount of most important and valuable work to be done within the Federal lines, and that it was exactly the kind of work that I could do with the very best effect. I arranged my plans, therefore, for a series of operations in behalf of the Confederate cause, and, at the earliest practicable moment, placed myself in communication with the Richmond authorities and with the various secret service agents in the Northern States and in Canada, and also with Federal officials of various kinds with whom I desired to establish confidential relations. …

[In] going to Washington I had no very definite idea of what I would do, or, indeed, what I could do. I was now about to work under different auspices from any under which I had hitherto been placed, and it was necessary for me to look around a bit and study the situation. In a general sort of way I hoped to get access to the different departments so that I would be able to find out what was going on and to place myself in communication with persons who would be able to give me such information as I desired. It was also important that I should make the acquaintance of and be on friendly terms with officers of the army and others who would have the power to help me in case I wanted to run through the lines, or in event of my getting into any trouble through meddling with affairs that the government might not desire an irresponsible outsider like myself to know too much about.

The visit I had paid to the prison where my brother was confined made me think deeply about the privations and sufferings endured by the brave Southern boys captured on a hundred battlefields and now in the hands of the Federal authorities. The more I thought of them the more I was moved by an intense desire to do something to secure their release, and more than one crude suggestion of a plan for the accomplishment of so desirable an end floated through my mind. …

I hoped, on going to Washington, to find there someone with whom I was acquainted and through whom I might fall in with those who could aid me in the execution of my designs [or] meet some of my military friends of the good old days before the war, and I was not long in learning that Gen. A and Capt. B were both on duty in or near Washington. I will remark here that I designate these gentlemen by the two first letters of the alphabet because I desire to avoid giving any clue to their real names. They were both men of unimpeachable honor, and, had they suspected in the least what my designs really were, I believe that they would immediately have procured my arrest, in spite of any private friendship they might have had for me. I made use of them for the furtherance of my plans in the interest of the Confederacy, but they neither of them, on any occasion, wittingly gave me any information that they should not have given. On the contrary, they declined to be of any assistance to me in visiting the departments or in going to the front, on the plea that the stringent rules in force would not permit them to do so. … [T]he chief aid which they extended was in introducing me to people whom I could use and in maintaining intimate and friendly personal relations with me by which I was enabled to gain a standing in certain quarters without trouble.

The general, when I introduced myself to him, appeared to be very glad to see me and asked me innumerable questions about myself, my friends, and my adventures since we last had seen each other. I had a plausible story ready to tell him, in which fact and fiction were mingled with some degree of skill, and expressed myself with considerable bitterness concerning the rebels, wishing that I could do something to aid in securing a speedy termination of the war by their defeat. After a very pleasant intercourse with the general, I parted from him with a request that he would do me the honor to call on me at the hotel, which he promised to do.

The next day I met Capt. B in the street and we exchanged greetings. He, too, promised to call upon me. This promise he kept, and I had quite a long talk with him on general topics, preferring to see more of him before attempting to make him useful.

I saw both the general and the captain several times after that, and in the course of conversation with one of them, I forget which, he happened to say something about Col. Baker which excited my interest and induced me to make particular inquiry concerning him. I had never heard of this individual before, but I now speedily learned that he was the chief government detective officer and that he was uncommonly expert in hunting down rebel spies and in putting a stop to their performances. I immediately concluded that Col. Baker was a personage whom it was eminently desirable that I should become acquainted with at the earliest possible moment and that it would be much more advantageous for me to make his acquaintance through the introduction of one of my military friends than through finding him on my track just when I had some enterprise for the benefit of the Confederacy in process of consummation.

Whichever of the two it was that I had my original conversation with about Baker, it was the general who made me acquainted with him and who spoke of me in such a manner as to put me in the good graces of this terrible man at the start.

Col. Lafayette C. Baker occupied at Washington a somewhat similar position to that held by Gen. Winder at Richmond, although he scarcely had the large powers and extensive authority of the chief of the Confederate secret service department. In fact, Col. Baker was a detective officer more than anything else, and he had comparatively little to do with military matters. The chief employment of himself and his assistants was to hunt down offenders of all kinds, and he was much more successful in this than he was in procuring information for the use of the war department, although he prided himself considerably on his own performances as a spy and upon several not unsuccessful secret service expeditions into the Confederacy that had been made by his directions. …

I confess that I came into the presence of so formidable an individual with some degree of trepidation but I very soon learned to regard him as not half so ferocious as he looked and as very far from being as difficult and dangerous a personage to deal with as he was made out to be. …

Baker was a tolerably fair-looking man, after a certain fashion. He was a returned Californian, having resided in San Francisco for a number of years before the war, and having been a member of the famous vigilance committee which made such short work with the rogues of that city in 1856. He had the bronzed face and the wiry frame of a western pioneer, and his manners were marked by a good deal of far-western brusqueness. His hair was dark and thick, and he wore a full and rather heavy beard but his eyes were the most expressive feature of his face. These were a cold gray, and they had a peculiarly sharp and piercing expression, especially when he was talking on business. He also had a particularly sharp and abrupt manner of speaking at times, and more than once, when I have had reason to think that he might have knowledge of some of my transactions as a Confederate secret service agent, I have felt cold creeps all over me as he looked me straight in the eyes and spoke in that cutting tone of voice he was in the habit of using on occasions.

Col. Baker was, in my opinion, a first-rate detective officer and nothing more, for something more is necessary in the chief of a secret service department in time of war than to be a good hand at hunting down offenders. Give him a definite object to go for, and a very slight clue, and he would … accomplish a creditable piece of work. He had, however, very little skill in starting enterprises for himself. Gen. Winder, in his place, would have made Washington a much more uncomfortable residence for Confederate spies and agents than it was during the war, and the fact that I was able to play double with the colonel … and to carry on … a number of important operations on behalf of the Confederacy, so to speak, under his very nose, was not very creditable to him. …

Colonel Baker, however, was not without his good qualities, even if he was far from being as great a personage as he thought he was. He was stern and severe, but he was a kinder man at heart than Gen. Winder, although he lacked the intellectual attainments of the Confederate officer. With regard to the relative honesty of the two, it is perhaps as well that I should express no opinion.

Celebrating Women’s History Month: The Mexican American Business and Professional Women’s Association of San Antonio

A great collection

The Top Shelf

This blog post was written by student clerk Alesia Hoyle.

In honor of March being Women’s History Month, UTSA Special Collections staff have chosen to highlight the prominent and prolific Mexican American Business and Professional Women’s Association (MABPW) of San Antonio.  Select items from the collection are now on exhibit in the two glass cases outside Special Collections on the 4th floor of the John Peace Library. The exhibit was curated by graduate student workers Alesia Hoyle and Mindi Gandara, and showcases the history of the organization, including its organizational values and objectives. The exhibit also gives a face to MABPW members and illustrates some of the local events the organization sponsored.

The red purses carried by MABPW members symbolize that women’s pocketbooks are always “in the red” because of the inequality of women’s pay compared to what men make.

This nonsectarian, nonpartisan, nonprofit organization was founded by Luz Escamilla…

View original post 277 more words

Loreta’s Civil War: Introduced to entirely new scenes

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 36: Velazquez successfully manages a parole for her brother, and as she moves into the Northern states, she gains a close-up view of the society determined to destroy her beloved Confederacy.

******

I had quite a lengthy conversation with Lieutenant B. about my brother and about affairs generally, and, having announced to him my intention of visiting the North and perhaps of acting as a secret service agent if I saw opportunities for doing anything for the advancement of the Confederate cause, I obtained from him quite a number of hints about the best methods of proceeding, and he gave me the names of persons in different places who were friends of the Confederacy and with whom I could communicate. He also advised me to talk with certain parties … in Memphis who could advise me and give me much valuable information.

The next day I conferred with some of the persons whom he had mentioned, and, having become thoroughly posted, I began to prepare for my departure. My friend the Federal lieutenant, whose attentions had been getting more and more ardent every day, was, or pretended to be, very much cut up when he heard that I intended to leave. I promised, however, to write to him as soon as I arrived in New York — having given him to understand that that city was my immediate destination — and intimated that I might possibly correspond regularly. He, in return for the very slight encouragement which I gave to his hopes that we might meet again when the fighting was all over, procured for me a pass and transportation from Gen. Washburn, and off I started, leaving Memphis, where I was liable at any time to be recognized and consequently get into trouble, with but little regret. As for the lieutenant, I certainly appreciated his attentions to me, but I thought that any heart pangs he might feel at parting would scarcely be so severe that he would not be able to recover from them in course of time.

My first object was to see my brother, to give him such assistance as 1 was able, and to discover whether I could not do something towards having him released. I had not seen him for a number of years, and, as the reader will remember, had only learned of his being in the Confederate army some little time before my second marriage. He was the only relative I had in the country, and I felt very anxious about him, fearing greatly that he might be sick or suffering for some of the necessities of life. I therefore pushed forward as rapidly as I could and made no stoppage of any moment until I reached Louisville, Ky., where I took a room at the Gait House and communicated with a Mr. B., a gentleman whose name had been given me as one in whom I could confide and to whom I could appeal in case I was in need of assistance. …

I had no hesitation in informing him that after having seen my brother and made an effort to procure his release, my intention was to operate as a secret service agent, as I had had considerable experience in that line of duty. I did not think it necessary or proper to entertain him with a recital of the enterprises in which I had been engaged, but told him just enough about myself to let him understand that my pretensions were genuine and that I really meant business. He, for his part, posted me very thoroughly about the best method of going to work, not only for procuring the release of my brother but for picking up information of value to the Confederate authorities, and [he] gave me the names of a number of persons in New York and Washington as well as in the West with whom it would be well for me to become acquainted as early as possible. …

Before taking his leave, he suggested that I should retire early and be ready to go by the first train in the morning, and said that he would see that I was provided with funds. The name of this gentleman I could never discover, although I had considerable curiosity on the subject. He was very much of an enthusiast on the subject of the Confederacy and was evidently an efficient secret worker for the cause but he was either excessively timid or else he believed that he could do more to advance the interest of the cause by being, as far as practicable, unknown even to those with whom he co-operated.

Early the next morning I was awakened by a knock on my door, and someone outside asked if I was going on the early train. I replied that I was and hastened to dress myself for the journey. As I was dressing, I was somewhat startled to see a large envelope on the floor, which must either have been pushed under the door or thrown in over the transom during the night. On opening the envelope I found in it five hundred dollars in greenbacks and letters to a couple of persons in Columbus, Ohio. This money was very acceptable, for I had very little cash with me, and it enabled me to resume my travels with a mind completely free from care. …

I concluded, before delivering the letters I had received in Louisville, that I would try and see what my own unaided efforts would do for my brother. I therefore, the next day, called upon the general in command — I have forgotten his name — and introducing myself, said, that if it was allowable, I would like very much to visit that rebel brother of mine. The general asked me if I had a brother in the prison, and I told him that such was unfortunately the case, but that, notwithstanding he was on the wrong side, I could not help having an affection for him and was desirous of assisting him in case he should be in need.

The general asked me a number of questions about myself and my brother, in answer to which I gave him to understand that I was from New York, was a strong Unionist, and had only recently heard that my brother was a prisoner, although I was aware that he entered the rebel army shortly after the breaking out of the war. Having satisfied himself that I was all right, the general without hesitation gave me the desired permit, and, with a profusion of thanks, I bowed myself out of his presence.

On reaching the Todd Barracks, where the prisoners were confined, I found a one-armed major in command. He was very polite indeed and entered into quite a conversation with me, during which he told me that he had lost his arm in the Mexican War. When my brother came, the major gave us his own private room so that we might talk together without fear of interruption.

My meeting with my brother was a most affectionate one. It had been a very long time since we had seen each other, and there was much that each of us had to say. I disclosed to him part of my plans and instructed him how to talk and act towards me. He was to call me his Union sister and was to speak of me as a New Yorker. I expressed considerable hope that I would be able to effect his release and stated that I would go on to Washington for the purpose, if necessary, and see the president and secretary of war.

This proceeding, however, I found to be unnecessary, for Gov. Brough of Ohio, a hearty, pleasant-spoken, and good-natured old gentleman, happened to be stopping at the same hotel with me, and I contrived to obtain an introduction to him. I cultivated the acquaintance of the governor with considerable assiduity, and he took quite a fancy to me, so much so that he promised to use his influence to obtain a parole for my brother. This promise the governor kept, and in a short time the prisoner was released and ordered to proceed east and to report first to Gen. Cadwalader at Philadelphia and then to Gen. Dix, at New York, the idea being that he was to remain with me in the last-named city.

In company with my brother, therefore, I proceeded east, and went to New York, where I left him while I went on to Washington for the purpose of seeing what could be done in the way of aiding the Confederate cause by a series of operations at the Federal capital.

I was now introduced to entirely new scenes, new associations, and a new sphere of activity. I had never before been farther north than Washington, and my visit to the Federal capital was the hasty and secret one made shortly after the Battle of Ball’s Bluff. …. It was almost like going into another world to pass from the war-worn Confederacy to the rich and prosperous states which adhered to the Federal government, and when I saw the evidences of apparently inexhaustible wealth around me, and contrasted them in my mind with what I was leaving behind in the yet unconquered Confederacy, I confess that my heart began to fail, and I despaired of the Cause more than I had ever done before.

In a great portion of the South the towns and villages were few and far between, the forests large and dense, the population thin and scattering, while the most imposing of the Southern cities were far less splendid than New York and Philadelphia, and such prosperity as they had at one time enjoyed was now all but destroyed through the rigidness of the Federal blockade. Back of the Northern cities, too, was a rich, highly cultivated, and thickly populated country, with numerous large towns, abounding in wealth, and with apparently as many men at home, attending to the ordinary duties of life, as if there was no war going on, and no huge armies in the field.

Not only was there no blockade to put an end to commerce and to cause a deprivation of many of the necessaries of life, but commerce, as well as all manner of home industries, had been greatly stimulated, so that the war — while it was starving the South and forcing the male population into the field until there were scarcely left enough to carry on absolutely needful trade and tillage — actually appeared to be making the North rich, and thousands of people were literally coining money with government contracts and by means of innumerable industries brought into being by the great conflict.

The subjugation of the South was therefore simply a question of time, if matters continued as they were, and the Federals would achieve the ends they had in view by sheer force of numbers and practically inexhaustible resources, no matter how valiantly the Confederate soldiers might fight or how skillfully they might be led. Was this subjugation of the South inevitable, however? This was the question that addressed itself to my mind and upon the determination of which the course it would be best for me to pursue in the future would have to depend.

I was not very long in coming to the conclusion that a triumph of the Confederate cause was not by any means an impossibility, provided the right means were used to bring it about. I also speedily satisfied myself that the interests of the cause could be advanced just as much by diligent and zealous workers at the North as by the men who were fighting the battles of the Confederacy in Virginia, Georgia, Tennessee, Mississippi, and Arkansas, and I was so well convinced that at last I had found the best field for the exercise of my own peculiar talents that I greatly regretted not having made my way into the midst of the enemy’s country long before.

For very nearly a year now I had done very little that was at all satisfactory to myself, or at all really helpful — that is, helpful in a large and positive way — to the Confederate cause, whereas, all this time I might have been carrying on a series of important operations at the North. It looked, indeed, like a great waste of time but, if it was wasted, I resolved to do my best to redeem it by the activity of my performances in the future, and I had great reason to hope that these performances would be productive of not unimportant results.

It required but a slight acquaintance with the condition of affairs to discover that the surface indications of wealth, prosperity, and overpowering strength at the North were delusive. The North certainly was wealthy and powerful but, unfortunately for the Federal government’s efforts to conquer the South and to put a speedy end to the war, the people were very far from being united.

At the South there were few, if any, genuine adherents of the Federal government, and public opinion was united on the subject of achieving independence. At the period of which I am writing — the winter of 1863-64 — there may have been, and doubtless were, many persons who were heartily tired of the war and who would have been glad of peace on almost any terms. The vast majority, however, were still in favor of fighting the thing out in spite of poverty and in spite of the privations of every kind which they were compelled to suffer.

At the North, on the other hand, the majority of the people had entered upon the war with reluctance — many who did go into it with considerable enthusiasm, with the idea of preserving the Union, were disgusted when it became day by day more apparent that the emancipation of the slaves was a part of the policy of the government. … [M]any who went into it for the sake of seeing some fighting were heartily tired and wanted to stop. … and many more who were eager enough to begin a fight, simply out of animosity to the Southerners, sickened of the thing when their pockets were touched by the enormous advance in prices and by the heavy taxes which the prolongation of the contest necessitated, and [they] were quite willing for peace at almost any price.

In addition to these elements of discord, there was a large, influential, powerful, and wealthy anti-war party composed of people who were and always had been opposed to the war, and who numbered among them many who were not only opposed to the war, but who were warm and earnest friends of the South. These latter believed that the government had no right to coerce states which desired to leave the Union to remain in it, and they were bitterly antagonistic to any and all attempts to subjugate the South and did everything in their power to baffle the efforts of the government to carry on the war efficiently. These people constantly aided, with their money and their influence, the Confederate agents who were working and scheming for the advancement of their cause at the North and did a great deal to embarrass the Federal government.

Besides these, there were a great number of weak-kneed or indifferent people who had no opinions of their own worth speaking of, and whose chief anxiety was to be on the winning side. These were for the war or against it, as the tide of battle turned in favor of the Federals or the Confederates. The news of a tremendous defeat inflicted on the Confederates or of the capture of an important position would excite their enthusiasm and make them talk loudly of fighting the thing out until the rebels were whipped, while a season of prolonged inactivity or a succession of Confederate victories caused them to look gloomily on the situation and to suggest that there had been about enough fighting, that it was about time prices were coming down a little, and that as the war had been going on so long, without any practical results, there was not much use in killing more men and spending more money, when there was no more chance this year than there was last of a speedy end to the contest. In this class the Confederates found many allies.

Loreta’s Civil War: I had reason to congratulate myself

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 35: Her plot to inject paranoia into Federal military plans seems to work out better than she expected. But then she learns that Federal troops captured her brother and sent him to a Northern prison. She determines to head North to help him.

******

The provost marshal accordingly furnished me with a sheet of paper, and I sat down at his desk and scribbled off a brief note to the general, telling him enough about the source from which I had obtained the dispatch to induce him to believe in its genuineness, and [I] intimated that if he wanted to know more he could send for me. This note and the dispatch I enclosed in the same envelope and handed it to the provost marshal, with a request that it might be given to the general immediately. I fully expected that when Gen. Washburn received these enclosures he would have me brought before him for … interrogation [but I] was much surprised when he did nothing of the kind. …

To the hotel I accordingly went, under the escort of my friend the lieutenant and registered myself as Mrs. Fowler, not at all grieved at not having seen the general, and quite satisfied not to see him in the future if he did not wish to see me, for I considered the material part of my errand now practically accomplished. …

[A] servant appeared with a very nice supper. This I ate with immense relish, for I was desperately hungry, at the same time making certain inquiries of the servant for the purpose of enabling me to judge whether it would be safe or prudent to attempt to communicate that night with the spy for whom I had the dispatch. … It was now nearly dark, and I decided that no better time for meeting the spy could be found. I accordingly asked the servant to try and borrow for me some rather more presentable articles of attire than those I had on, as I desired to go out for the purpose of making a few purchases and was really ashamed to go into the streets dressed as I was. …

The servant, whose zeal on my behalf was stimulated by a five-dollar greenback, was not long in appearing with a reasonably decent-looking dress, bonnet, and shawl. I then attired myself with as much speed as I could command, and after having the dust and dirt brushed off my shoes, was ready to start. It is scarcely necessary to say that I was well acquainted with Memphis and consequently knew exactly how to go and where to go in search of my man. Fortunately for me, the place was not a very great way from the hotel, and persuading the accommodating servant to show me out the back door … I was not long in reaching it.

I knocked at the door, and the very man I was looking for came to let me in. I had never seen him before, but I knew him immediately by the description I had of him. Giving him the password I was admitted, and he eagerly inquired what I had for him. I handed him the dispatch … [and] gave him the verbal instructions which Lt. Shorter had ordered me to convey to him. …. He, however, said that he thought that a movement of the Federal troops was in contemplation and that he would like to find out exactly what it was before starting, and as I seemed to be on good terms at headquarters, he urged that I should endeavor to obtain the information for him. I consented to try what I could do, while he promised not to delay his departure longer than two days, at the farthest. …

On my way back to the hotel, the prudence of my change of dress was sufficiently demonstrated, for on turning a corner I nearly ran against my friend the lieutenant and another officer, who were walking slowly along the street. My heart leaped into my mouth when I saw who it was, but as there was no retreat, I trusted to the darkness and my change of costume and glided by them as swiftly and quietly as I could and, fortunately, was able to gain my room without discovery.

My errand was now accomplished, and in as satisfactory a manner as could be desired, and the only apprehension I had was lest the spy to whom I had given the dispatch … might not succeed in getting off in safety. If he should be arrested and the document found on him, the finger of suspicion would not unlikely point to me as the original bearer of it. I thought, however, that he was probably well able to take care of himself, and being too much of a veteran to allow myself to be worried about possibilities that might never come to pass, I went to bed feeling that the responsibility of the business was well off my shoulders, and was soon in happy obliviousness of cares of every kind.

The next morning the lieutenant made his appearance bright and early, and said that he had raised a hundred dollars for me by representing me as a Union woman who was flying from persecution in the Confederacy, and who had brought important information into the lines. This money I regarded as lawful spoils of war and therefore had no hesitation in accepting it. Expressing my gratitude to my friend for his zeal in my behalf, I said that he would place me under still further obligations if he would aid me in obtaining some better clothing than that I had on. He expressed the greatest desire to oblige me, and taking half of the money, he invested a good portion of it in a stylish bonnet, a handsome piece of dress goods, and a pair of shoes. He also presented me with a number of little articles, which I was given to understand were meant for testimonials of his individual regard.

During the day I was called upon by several officers and others, and one lady — an officer’s wife — loaned me a dress to wear until mine should be finished. Taking my piece of goods to the dressmaker’s, I stated that I was in a great hurry, and she accordingly promised to have it finished by the next evening. Thus, I was in a short time fitted out in good style. … My new friends were extremely anxious to know exactly what was going on within the rebel lines and asked me all sorts of questions. I endeavored to gratify their curiosity as well as I could without committing myself too much, and in return made an effort to find out what I was so desirous of knowing about the contemplated movement of the Federal troops.

I did not have a great deal of trouble in learning very nearly everything that was to be learned about the number and disposition of the [Federal] troops along the line of the Memphis and Charleston Railroad. … This information I promptly communicated to my [Confederate] confidant. … The concentration of the Federal force at Colliersville, I had every reason to believe, was induced by the dispatch I delivered to Gen. Washburn. At any rate, it had the effect of leaving a gap in the Federal line beyond Grand Junction for [Confederate Lt. Gen. Nathan Bedford] Forrest to step through; and, when in a day or two, intelligence was received that he was on a grand raid through western Tennessee, I knew that the plot in which I had been engaged had succeeded in the best manner.

I made a great to-do when the news of Forrest’s raid was received and pretended to be frightened lest an attack should be made on Memphis and the rebels should capture me. The fact is that Forrest, before he got through, did come very near the city, and some of my new acquaintances were just as much frightened in reality as I pretended to be. He, however, did not make any demonstration in the city, but after a brilliant campaign of several weeks slipped by the Federals again, carrying back with him into Mississippi sufficient cattle and other booty to amply repay him for his trouble.

I thought that I had reason to congratulate myself upon the success of the enterprise in which I had been engaged. Taking it altogether, it was as well planned and as well executed a performance as any I ever attempted during the whole of my career in the Confederate service.

My friend the lieutenant, whose regard for me really increased with each succeeding interview, was obliged to return to his camp after having assisted me in obtaining a new outfit. In a day or two, however, he returned, having obtained a ten days’ leave of absence, and he began to increase the zealousness of his attentions. On his return to Memphis he brought with him a fine horse, which he claimed to have captured, and said that it should be reserved for my use, if I would accept of it, so long as I remained in the city. I was not at all averse to having a good time, although I was beginning to wonder how I was ever to get back to my starting-place again, and I rode out [several] times with the lieutenant and accepted his escort on all occasions that he offered it.

It was while attending church on the Sunday following the arrival on leave of this rather overattentive young gentleman that something occurred which caused a very material alteration in my plans, which induced me to abandon my design to return to Mobile, and which resulted in my entering upon an entirely new field of operations. I, of course, at the time, had no idea whatever how things were going to turn out, but if all had been arranged beforehand they could not have turned out more in accordance with my desires.

During the service I noticed in the congregation a Confederate officer in citizen’s clothes, whom I knew by sight, and who belonged to my brother’s command. He did not know me, especially as a woman, although he had seen me a number of times attired in the uniform of a Confederate officer. I was most desirous of communicating with him for the purpose of inquiring about my brother, of whom I had received no intelligence whatever for a number of months. So, after the service was over, I watched him as he left the church, and seeing him turn the corner, said to the lieutenant, “Let us take a walk down this street.” Keeping him in sight, I saw him turn down towards the Hardwick House and consequently suggested to the lieutenant that it would perhaps be as well to return to the hotel instead of indulging in a promenade. My escort thought that I was disposed to be whimsical but I did not bother myself very greatly about his opinion of me one way or the other, being now only intent upon devising some means of obtaining an interview with the disguised Confederate.

On reaching the hotel I found that the man I was after had disappeared, and I was considerably perplexed to know what course to pursue. I was afraid to send him my card for fear of compromising him in some way, as I thought it highly probable that he was stopping at the hotel under an assumed name. I was bent on securing an opportunity to converse with him, however, and hoped to be able to meet him and to attract his attention before evening, but failing in this, I was resolved to find out what I could about him from some of the servants and to send him a note requesting a private interview, giving him a sufficient hint as to who I was to induce him to think that he would be in no danger. Fortunately, however, I was not compelled to resort to any such expedient as this, for, on going into dinner at five o’clock with the lieutenant, I saw him at one of the tables, having apparently just sat down.

The lieutenant was conducting me to the seat which we usually occupied, but I said, as if seized with a sudden freak for a change of locality, “Suppose we go over to this table today. I think we will find it pleasanter,” and, before my Federal friend had time to object, I had walked him across the room and seated myself beside the Confederate, indicating for the lieutenant to take the seat on the other side of me. When the waiter came up to get our orders for dinner, I asked him to bring me a couple of cards.

All this time I took not the slightest notice of the Confederate but chatted with the lieutenant in the liveliest and most animated manner possible, my object being to so engage his attention that he would not think of observing what I was doing for the purpose of letting the gentleman on the other side of me know that I was interested in him.

On one of the cards I wrote some nonsense, which I sent by the waiter, after having shown it to the lieutenant, to another officer whom I saw on the opposite side of the room. On the other one I wrote, “Meet me at my room at half past ten o’clock this evening, unobserved. Important.” This I made a pretense of slipping in my pocket, but dropped it on the floor instead, touching the Confederate officer as I did so, and half-turning towards him in such a manner that he could readily understand that I was endeavoring to attract his attention. While this was going on, the lieutenant was watching to see what would be the effect of the jesting remark I had written on the first card on the gentleman across the room to whom I had sent it. He laughed and nodded, and the lieutenant and I did the same — all of us, apparently, being satisfied that there was a capital joke in progress, which indeed there was, but not exactly the kind of one they imagined.

The Confederate officer, when he looked down and saw the card on the floor, quickly dropped his napkin on it, and stooped to pick it up. He found an opportunity to read my message before he left the table but I took no further notice of him whatever, until just as he was about to retire, when I turned slightly and, looking him full in the face, gave him a meaning glance so that he could understand that there was no mistake about the matter.

At the hour named on the card the Confederate officer came to my room, evidently very much perplexed, and uncertain what the end of the adventure would be. I hastened to apologize for the liberty I had taken and to place him at his ease by explaining matters.

I said, “You will pardon me, sir, but this is Lieutenant B. of Arkansas, is it not?”

“Yes, madam, that is my name,” he replied.

“You need be under no apprehension, sir. I know you, although you do not know me. I am the sister of Captain […], and I am exceedingly anxious to learn where he is and how he is, for I have not been able to hear from him for a very long time.”

The announcement that I was the sister of Captain […] was evidently an immense relief to Lieutenant B., whose face brightened up immediately. He stated that he was very much pleased to meet me, but that he was sorry to have to tell me that my brother had been captured by the Federals about four months before, and was now a prisoner at Camp Chase.

This was unpleasant news, and it determined me to give up the idea of returning to Mobile but to go North and visit my brother for the purpose of assisting him in any way possible. From what I had learned during my late stay in Memphis, too, I was very well convinced that, as a secret service agent, I would be able to operate with far more effect at the North than I would if I remained in this region of country, which was an additional inducement for me to travel northward, rather than to essay the hazardous experiment of regaining the Confederate lines without having some definite object in view.

TED Ideas: How to speak up for yourself

Yes, it’s possible to ask for what you want without coming across as a jerk, says social psychologist Adam Galinsky. Speaking up is hard to do. I understood the true meaning of this phrase last year, when my wife and I became new parents. After we took our child home from the hospital, we were…

via How to speak up for yourself — ideas.ted.com

Recommended reading / viewing / listening

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This week: The Democrats’ future / James Webb Telescope / The Internet Archive / Lincoln’s legacy in Mexico / 10 Arab philosophers we need

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. Liberal activists, new DNC chief face a Trump-era reckoning
By Bill Barrow | Associated Press | Feb. 26
“Perez has embraced the idea of a more aggressive, populist identity for the party, even if he hasn’t convinced activists he can deliver on it. He said throughout the three-day DNC meeting ahead of the vote that he would work to align party resources with the energy of groups from Black Lives Matter and Swing Left to Indivisible, Resist Trump Tuesdays, Knock Every Door, Rise Stronger and Sister District.”

2. How the baby boomers destroyed everything
By Bruce Cannon Gibney | The Boston Globe | Feb. 26
“In 1971, Alan Shepard was playing golf on the moon. Today, America can’t put a man into orbit (or, allegedly, the Oval Office) without Russian assistance. Something changed, and that something was the boomers and the sociopathic agenda they emplaced.”

3. What will the James Webb Space Telescope reveal about the newly discovered exoplanets?
By Nick Lavars | New Atlas | Feb. 23
“Poised to take the reins from Hubble as NASA’s premier orbiting telescope in 2018, it will boast seven times the light-collecting capacity of its predecessor and will be sensitive enough to spot a single firefly one million kilometers away.”

4. Where to find what’s disappeared online, and a whole lot more: the Internet Archive
By Mary Kay Magistad | Who’s Century Is It? :: PRI | Feb. 23
” Since the Internet Archive started in 1996, its staff — now, about 140 people — have digitized almost 3 million books, and are aiming for 10 million.”

5. When A Woman Deletes A Man’s Comment Online
By Ijeoma Oluo | The Establishment | Feb. 22
“I’m not debating those who show up wedded to bigotry”

6. Could Pluto Regain Its Planethood?
By Mike Wall | Space.com :: Scientific American | Feb. 23
“A proposed new definition for what constitutes a ‘planet’ could reinstate the demoted icy world”

7. Why Abraham Lincoln Was Revered in Mexico
By Jamie Katz | Smithsonian Magazine | Feb. 23
“As a young Congressman and later as the nation’s leader, the first Republican president proved to be a true friend to America’s neighbor to the south”

8. 10 Arabic Philosophers, and Why You Should Know Them
By Scotty Hendricks | Big Think | November 2016
“Of the stars that have proper names in common usage, most of them have the names given to them by Arabic astronomers. We use the numeral system they devised, including the zero. They set the standard for the scientific method for hundreds of years. It is impossible to fully understand western thought without understanding the ideas of these thinkers.”

9. What a Kansas professor learned after interviewing a ‘lost generation’ of journalists
By Deron Lee | Columbia Journalism Review | September 2016
“When Scott Reinardy began studying the state of morale in newspaper newsrooms more than 10 years ago … [he] didn’t know the industry was about to enter a traumatic period of upheaval that would deplete the ranks of journalists around the country and force newspapers to reassess their mission.”

10. The Gang That Always Liked Ike
By Michael Beschloss | HistorySource :: The New York Times | November 2014
“The Gang played bridge, golfed and shot skeet together, ate steaks barbecued by the president, offered advice on politics and the economy and chuckled at his private aphorisms. (He maintained, for example, that the ‘two professions in which amateurs excel’ are ‘prostitution and the military.’)”

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