Loreta’s Civil War: She is a fine-looking woman

Velazquez is wracked by sickness, and she is admitted to an Atlanta hospital. When she learns her beloved is recovering in the next ward, she visits him in disguise and prepares to tell him the truth.

KS46

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

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

Part 30: Velazquez is wracked by sickness, and she is admitted to an Atlanta hospital. When she learns her beloved is recovering in the next ward, she visits him in disguise and prepares to tell him the truth.

******

While tossing upon my sick bed in the hospital, I was compelled, for very lack of other occupation, to think of [the] strange life I had been leading now for more than two years, and yet it was the kind of a life that, from my earliest childhood, I had ardently longed to lead. I had some understanding now of what the great discoverers, adventurers, and soldiers, who were the idols of my childish imagination, had been compelled to go through with before they won the undying fame that was theirs, and I comprehended, to some degree, how hard a thing it was to win fame.

For myself, I had played my part in the great drama of war with what skill I could command, and, although I had not played it altogether unsuccessfully, the chances that fame and the applause of future ages would be mine seemed as remote as ever. Warfare, despite all that was terrible and horrible about it, was, to the majority of those who participated in it, a most commonplace, practical, and far from exciting business, in which the chances for eminent distinction seldom appeared, and in which Fortune showered her favors only on a chosen few. And yet there was an almost irresistible fascination in being an active participant in the great events upon which the destinies of a continent were hanging, and the possibility that … something might occur by which the humblest among the host of combatants would be immortalized gave a zest to the hard work and an inspiration to exertion.

Had I continued in health, the probabilities are that the idea of abandoning the cause I had chosen before the close of the war would never have been permitted to take lodgment in my brain, and I would have gone on from one adventure to another, in spite of every discouragement and disappointment, hoping always that I would be able to achieve something great. Now, however, lying upon my sick-bed, I could not but confess to myself that I was disappointed and that I was following a will-o’-the-wisp in striving to gain for myself a great name by heroic deeds. Although I had no regrets for the course I had pursued … I nevertheless almost concluded that I had had enough of this, and that it was time for me to exchange my uniform for the attire of my own sex once more, and in good earnest, with the intention of never resuming it again.

These were sick fancies, and I felt ashamed of myself at times for my weakening in the resolution I had formed to see the thing through at all hazards. … But there were other influences at work to make me doubtful of the propriety of my longer continuing the hazardous experiment of passing myself off as a man. In an adjoining ward of the hospital was my lover [Capt. De Caulp], to a speedy meeting with whom I was looking forward with many fond anticipations. How would he regard my conduct? And should he, as I hoped he would, be proud of my efforts to advance the Confederate cause by doing a soldier’s duty, would he be willing that I should longer continue to wear my uniform, especially if we should conclude to have our marriage solemnized at an early day? These were questions that pressed themselves upon me, and that, even more than the dispiriting influences of a sick-room, made me half repent that I had ever assumed male attire, and made me more than half resolve to permanently abandon it so soon as I was out of the hospital. …

I was curious, however, rather than apprehensive, with regard to the effect of the disclosures I would have to make when I met Capt. De Caulp. There was nothing that I had done that I need blush for, while he had himself been the witness … of my prowess as a warrior, and I longed to hear him repeat to me, as a woman, the praise he had so freely bestowed upon me as a man when we fought side by side at Shiloh.

What a strange courtship ours had been! The only time we had met since our engagement was on the field of battle and in the midst of scenes of carnage, and here we both were now, sick in adjoining wards of the same hospital, I, longing to be with him, but unable to go to his side, and he, all unconscious that the woman he loved was so near, sighing, doubtless, for the time to come when our futures would be united, but never dreaming that the future he sighed for was so near at hand. It was like a romance, and it was in the scenes of a romance, the memories of which floated through my mind as I thought over the situation, that I alone could find any similitude to it. …

It was a weary while waiting, though, for the hour of meeting to come, and, had my physicians permitted it, I would have left my sickbed to go to Capt. De Caulp long before I was really able to be on my feet. Dr. Hammond, however, knew better what was good for me than I knew myself, and he constrained me to remain under his care until he should be able to pronounce me able to care for myself once more. …. At the earliest moment that I could obtain permission to leave my ward I went to see him, being naturally more impatient for a meeting than he was, for, although we had exchanged greetings through our physicians, it was simply as friends and officers of the Confederate army, and not as lovers, and he had no suspicion whatever that his sick neighbor of the hospital was other than the young lieutenant whose acquaintance he had formed at Pensacola, and who had fought beside him at Shiloh.

He was extremely glad to see me, however, much more so than I expected he would be, but the fact was, it had been so long since he had had a chance to chat with any of his old friends that it was a genuine pleasure to him to have any one call on him for the sake of a lively talk over old times. I found him sadly reduced … by the severe illness through which he had just passed but, although he was weak, he was evidently improving and in a fair way for a rapid recovery.

When I came in and stood by his bedside, he smiled and held out his hand and said, “I am mighty glad to see you again, lieutenant. It is like meeting a brother.”

I said that I was rejoiced to meet him again and would have called on him much sooner had the doctors permitted it. I then asked him how he was coming on, about the nature of his sickness, and matters of that kind, and gradually drifted into a conversation about things in general — the progress of the war, the people we knew, matters at home — and so led him up to the subject about which I particularly desired to speak with him. After some little preliminary talk, which would enable me to bring the question in naturally … I said, “Captain, are you married yet? You know you told me some time ago you were engaged and were expecting very shortly to ask the lady to name the day.”

“No,” said he, “the wedding has not come off yet, but I hope it will very short. I should have gone home for the purpose of getting married if I had kept my health but this smell of sickness has knocked all my plans in the head.”

“Does the lady know that you are sick?” I asked. “Have you heard from her recently?”

“I doubt whether she does,” he replied. “I have been expecting to hear from her for some time and have been greatly disappointed that I have not. The last letter I had stated that she would meet me here but for several months I have been unable to communicate with her and am unable to even guess where she is or why she has not come to me.”

He then raised up and took the letter he referred to out of a package, evidently made up of my epistles, and read it to me. He also showed me a picture of myself, which he produced from some hiding place in his pocket and handed it to me, saying, “That is the woman I love; what do you think of her?” This was almost too much for me, and all trembling with emotion I handed it back to him, saying, “She is a fine-looking woman,” and wondering he did not observe the resemblance between the portrait and the original before him. “Yes,” said he, “and she is just as good as she is good-looking. I think the world of her, and want to see her again – oh, so bad!”

“Have you known her long, captain?” I asked with a trembling voice, and scarcely daring to trust myself to speak, for these words, and the tender tone in which they were spoken, made my heart leap with joy and brought tears to my eyes. I was afraid that he would notice my agitation and in some way surmise the cause of it, and I did not want him to do this, for I was not yet ready to reveal myself, but desired further to hear what he would say about me before I told him my secret. So I turned away and pretended to be attracted by some object in another part of the room while I wiped the tears from my eyes, and attempted to recover my composure before I confronted him again.

“Yes,” he went on, “I have known her for a long time. She is a widow, and her husband was an excellent friend of mine.” Then, apparently suddenly recollecting the circumtances under which he first made my acquaintance in the character of a Confederate officer, he said, glancing quickly and eagerly at me, ‘”Why, you ought to know her — her husband was the first captain of our company; you recollect him, surely.”

“Oh,” said I, as if rather surprised at this revelation, ‘”she is his widow, is she?”

“Yes,” said Capt. De Caulp. “You have met her, have you not?”

I could scarcely help smiling at the turn this conversation was taking and still wondering whether my lover would be shrewd enough to detect the likeness between the picture he was holding in his hand, and fondly gazing at, and the original of it who was sitting by his bedside, I said, “Yes, I have had a slight acquaintance with her, but you, probably, have known her longer than I have. When did you see her last?”

“I have not seen her for three years,” he replied. …

“What would you give,” — and my voice was so choked with emotion that I could scarcely utter these words -– “What would you give if you could see your lady now?”

“Oh,” said he — and his eye sparkled, and the color flushed into his cheeks as he spoke -– “I would almost give my existence in heaven.”

I could not bear to hear any more but dreading lest he should notice my agitation and inquire the cause of it, I made a hasty excuse for concluding the interview and … left the room so abruptly that he must have seen there was something the matter with me.

It would be foolish in me, in attempting to tell this story of the culmination of my strange courtship, to make a secret of the emotions that filled my breast at the results of this interview with Capt. De Caulp. I felt that I loved him more than ever and that he was more than worthy of me. I wept the first genuine womanly tears I had shed for many a day, but they were tears of joy — of joy at the thought that I had such a lover as this and that the day of our union was certainly not far distant.

The next morning I wrote him a note in my proper person, stating that I had arrived and was coming to see him. On the receipt of this he was nearly wild with excitement, and it was as much as Dr. Benton could do to keep him in his bed. Burning with anxiety to see what the effect upon him of the letter would be, I followed hard after the bearer, and waiting until he would have a fair opportunity to master its contents, I passed by the door in such a manner that he could not fail to see me. So soon as he caught sight of me, he called out, in an exultant tone, “Lieutenant, come in. I want to talk to you,” and holding out the note, which I had written but a few moments before, towards me, he said, with the happiest smile I ever saw on a human face, “She has come, she has come, and will be here soon — congratulate me, my friend.”

Loreta’s Civil War: The evil effect of a great war

Velazquez, disguised again as a Confederate officer, talks her way past Confederate guards as she travels to Atlanta to reunite with the man she loves.

KS49

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

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

Part 29: Velazquez, disguised again as a Confederate officer, talks her way past Confederate guards as she travels to Atlanta to reunite with the man she loves.

******

Having thoroughly arranged my plan of action in my mind, I walked up boldly to a picket, whom I saw sitting on a horse at some distance, and saluting him, and telling him that I was unarmed, asked to see the officer of the guard. The officer soon came riding out of the woods towards me, and asked who I was. I told him that I was an escaped prisoner … and produced my transportation papers. … The officer read the papers, which he apparently did not find particularly satisfactory, and scanned me very closely, as if he thought that there was something not quite right about me. I was much afraid lest he should suspect something, for I had no mustache, and having become somewhat bleached, was not by any means so masculine in appearance as I had been at one time. I, however, bore his scrutiny without flinching, and he apparently did not know what to do but to receive me for what I appeared to be. He accordingly told me that I should have to wait where I was until the relief came, when he would conduct me to camp.

I told him that I was terribly hungry and tired, having walked from Chattanooga since early in the previous evening without food or sleep, and that I would like to get where I could obtain some breakfast. As a means of softening his heart, I pulled out a little pocket flask of whiskey and asked him if he would not take a drink. His eye brightened at the sight of the flask, and he accepted my invitation without a moment’s hesitation. Putting it to his lips, he took a good pull, and when he handed it back there was mighty little left in it. This little I gave to the sergeant, who appeared to relish the liquor as highly as his superior did. The whiskey had the desired effect, for the officer told me he guessed I had better not wait for the relief and detailed a man to show me the way to camp.

On our arrival at camp, the man took me to the officer’s tent, where I made myself as much at home as I could until the master appeared. It was not long, however, before he followed me, and to my great satisfaction, an excellent breakfast was in a short time placed on the table.

After breakfast, the boys, having heard of the arrival of an escaped prisoner, I was speedily surrounded by a crowd of eager questioners who were anxious to hear all the news from the Federal army. I tried to satisfy their curiosity as well as I could and told them that the Yankees had received heavy reinforcements and were preparing to make a grand movement and a variety of other matters, part fact and part fiction. Having got rid of my questioners, I took a good sleep until noon, and then, borrowing a horse, rode down to Dalton, [Georgia], where I learned that [my beau] Capt. De Caulp was sick at Atlanta, and [I] resolved to make an effort to get there for the purpose of seeing him.

I was spared the necessity, however, of being obliged to make any special plans for the accomplishment of this end, for I managed to severely hurt the foot which had been wounded shortly after the battle of Fort Donelson, and became so lame that it was decided to send me to Atlanta for medical treatment.

An army is made up of all kinds of people — the rougher element of masculine human nature, of necessity, predominating — and not the least of the evil effect of a great war is that it tends to develop a spirit of ruffianism, which, when times of peace return, is of no benefit to society. A man who is instinctively a gentleman will be one always, and in spite of the demoralizing influences of warfare … will be apt to show himself a blackguard at the earliest opportunity amidst camp associations. Such men are usually cringing sycophants before their superiors, bullies to those who are under them, shirks when fighting is going on, and plunderers when opportunities for plunder are offered. It is creditable to the American people, as a class, that the great armies which contended with each other so earnestly during four long, weary years of warfare, were disbanded and dismissed to their homes with so little injury to society, for, under the very best auspices, war is not calculated to make men good citizens, while it is pretty certain to make those who are ruffians and blackguards already worse than they were before they took up arms. …

Situated as I was, it was especially important that I should not quarrel if I could help it but I was not long in finding out that, as quarreling was necessary sometimes, the bold course was the best, both for the present and the future, and that by promptly resenting anything approaching an insult, I would be likely to avoid being insulted thereafter, I, therefore, very speedily let it be known that I was ready to fight at a moment’s notice … but, at the same time, that I desired to live peaceably with everybody and was not inclined to quarrel if I was let alone. The result of this line of policy was, that, as a general rule, I got along smoothly enough, but occasionally I could not avoid an angry controversy with somebody, and when I did become involved in anything of the kind, I usually tried to give my antagonist to understand, in plain terms, that I was not an individual to be trifled with.

On my arrival at Atlanta, I unfortunately had a little unpleasantness, which caused me very serious disquietude for a time, owing to the peculiar situation in which I was placed, and which might have had some ill results, either for the person who started the quarrel or for myself, had it not been for the good judgment and consideration of one or two of my friends, who persuaded me not to resort to any extreme measures.

I was expecting to see Capt. De Caulp and was very anxious with regard to him, as I did not know exactly what his condition was and feared that he might be seriously ill. It was my intention to go to him, to devote myself to him if he should need my services, and perhaps to reveal myself to him. Indeed, I pretty much made up my mind that our marriage should take place as soon as he was convalescent, and … I was in no humor for a mere barroom squabble with a drunken ruffian. … More than this, in addition to the lameness of my foot, I was really quite sick, and at the time of the occurrence ought to have been in bed under the doctor’s care, and was consequently less disposed than ever to engage in a brawl.

Unsuspecting any trouble, however, I went to the hotel, and registered my name, and was almost immediately surrounded by a number of officers who were eager to learn what was going on at the front. Among them was Gen. P. — I do not give his name in full for his own sake — an individual who thought more of whiskey than he did of his future existence, and who was employing his time in getting drunk at Atlanta instead of doing his duty at the front by leading his men.

He saw that I was a little fellow, and probably thought … he could bully me with impunity, so, while I was answering the thousand and one questions that were put to me, he began making offensive and insulting remarks and asking me insolent questions until I longed to give him a lesson in good manners that he would not forget in a hurry, and resolved that I would make an effort to chastise him if he did not behave himself.

This was one of the class of men for which I had a hearty contempt, and, as I neither wished to be annoyed by his drunken insolence nor to quarrel with him if I could avoid it, I left the office and went into the washroom. The general evidently considered this a retreat due to his prowess … and he followed me, apparently determined to provoke me to the utmost. I, however, took no notice of him, but, after washing my hands, came out and took a seat in the office beside my esteemed friend, Maj. Bacon — a thorough gentleman in every sense of the word.

My persecutor still following me, now came and seated himself on the other side of me and made some insolent remark which I do not care to remember. This excited my wrath, and I resolved to put a stop to the tipsy brute’s annoyances. I accordingly said to him, “See here, sir, I don’t want to have anything to do with you, so go away and let me be, or it will be worse for you.”

At this he sprang up, his eyes glaring with drunken fury, and swinging his arms around in that irresponsible way incident to inebriety, he began to swear in lively fashion, and said, “What’ll be worse for me? What do you mean? I’ll lick you out of your boots! I can lick you, or any dozen like you.”

Nice talk, this, for a general, who was supposedly a gentleman, wasn’t it? I merely said, in reply, “You are too drunk, sir, to be responsible. I intend, however, when you are sober, that you shall apologize to me for this, or else make you settle it in a way that will, perhaps, not be agreeable to you.”

He glared at me as I uttered these words but my firm manner evidently cowed him, and turning, with a coarse,tipsy laugh, he said, to an officer who was standing near watching the performance, “Come, colonel, let’s take another drink; he won’t fight,” and they accordingly walked off towards the barroom together. This last remark enraged me to such a degree that I declared I would shoot him if he came near me again. Maj. Bacon tried to pacify me and said that I had better let him alone, as he was not worth noticing. …

The general did not come near me until after supper, when I met him again at the bar. As I had not undertaken to punish him for his behavior to me, he evidently thought that I was afraid of him, and, without addressing me directly, he began to make insulting side remarks, aimed at me. I was on the point of going up and slapping his face, when Maj. Bacon … thinking that it was not worthwhile for me to get into trouble about such a fellow, induced me to go to my room.

Already quite ill, and far from able to be about, the excitement of this unpleasant occurrence made me worse, and I passed a night of great suffering from a high fever and from my sore foot, which pained me extremely. The major waited on me in the kindest manner, bathing my foot with cold water, and procuring some medicine for me from the hospital steward, and towards morning I fell into a sound sleep, which refreshed me greatly, although I was still very sick. …

As I got worse instead of better, however, it was concluded that the hospital was the best place for me, and to the Empire Hospital I accordingly was sent, by order of the chief surgeon of the post. I was first admitted into Dr. Hammond’s ward, and subsequently into that of Dr. Hay. Dr. Hay, who was a whole-souled little fellow, is dead, but Dr. Hammond is still living, and I am glad of such an opportunity as this of testifying to his noble qualities. During the entire period I was under his care in the hospital, he treated me, as he did all his patients, with the greatest kindness.

Oh, but these were sad and weary days that I spent in the hospital! I cannot tell how I longed, once more, to be out in the open air and the sunshine and participating in the grand scenes that were being enacted not many miles away. My restless disposition made sickness especially irksome to me, and I felt sometimes as if I could scarcely help leaving my bed and going as I was to the front for the purpose of plunging into the thickest of the fight, while at other moments, when the fever was strong upon me, I almost wished that I might die, rather than to be compelled to toss about thus on a couch of pain.

There was one consolation, however, in all my sufferings, which sustained me … I was near the man I loved and hoped soon to have an opportunity to see and to converse with him. I learned soon after my admission to the hospital that Capt. De Caulp was in Dr. Benton’s ward, adjoining that under the charge of Dr. Hay, and to be under the same roof with him, and the probability that ere long I would be able to see him again, helped me to bear up under the suffering I was called upon to endure. I resolved that if Capt. De Caulp was willing, our marriage should take place so soon as we were able to leave the hospital, and I busied myself in wondering what he would say when he discovered what strange pranks I had been playing since we had been corresponding as lovers. I almost dreaded to reveal to him that the little dandified lieutenant, who had volunteered to fight in his company at Shiloh, and the woman to whom he was bound by an engagement of marriage, were the same but I felt that the time for the disclosure to be made had arrived and was determined to make it at the earliest opportunity.

Kate Stone’s Civil War: The flower-wreathed scepter

Stone records the fall of Atlanta along with pitiful rumors of its victorious Confederate recapture. By now the ripples of great battles hardly disturb her social shores.

1862

From 2012 to 2015, Stillness of Heart will share interesting excerpts from the extraordinary diary of Kate Stone, who chronicled her Louisiana family’s turbulent experiences throughout the Civil War era.

Learn more about Stone’s amazing life in 1861, 1862, 1863, 1864, 1865 and beyond. Click on each year to read more about her experiences. You can read the entire journal online here.

(Photo edited by Bob Rowen)

Stone records the fall of Atlanta along with pitiful rumors of its victorious Confederate recapture. By now the ripples of great battles hardly disturb her social shores.

Sept. 27, 1864

Near Oak Ridge, La.

We hear of the lamentable fall of Atlanta and rumors of its recapture, which we trust may be true. There is no further fear of a Yankee raid as there are very few troops left at Goodrich’s Landing, and everyone seems to look for peace in the spring. …

An amusing letter from Missie Morris in which she utterly repudiates the idea of our giving up as “Old Maids” for two years yet, when she will be willing to lay down the flower-wreathed scepter of girlhood and don the badge of spinsterhood.

Capt. Gillispie came in two days ago and has kept the house in an uproar ever since. He is overflowing with fun and frolic but is rather too familiar and something rude. He does not improve on acquaintance. I fear he is fast, a perfect opposite to tiny Mr. Kurrie, who came with him. We thought him at first about twelve years old, so quiet and solemn. He really is twenty. …

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