Loreta’s Civil War: Nothing but his fears

Velazquez, both disgusted and cautious, moves forward with an operation within the U.S. Treasury Department.

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 48: Velazquez, both disgusted and cautious, moves forward with an operation within the U.S. Treasury Department.

******

Having made my arrangements with parties in Philadelphia and New York and having obtained the information necessary for me to make my initial movements, I went to Washington, and, first of all, had a talk with Col. Baker, giving him some information — real or fictitious, as the case may have been — which I thought would amuse him, and assist in convincing him that I was overflowing with zeal for the Federal cause. This interview with Baker was in accordance with a general plan I had laid out, for … I thought it best to call on him and give an account of myself than to have him or his men getting sight of me unexpectedly and perhaps wondering what I was up to.

Baker’s vigilance having thus been disarmed, I went to a clerk in the Treasury Department, and telling him briefly what I wanted … I asked him to assist me in gaining access to the private rooms in the building where none but the officials in charge and the employees immediately under them were ever allowed to go, except by written permits signed by the secretary. These rooms were chiefly those of the printing bureau, where the Federal bonds and currency were manufactured. …

This clerk was a Confederate sympathizer like a number of other Federal employees of various grades, and he carried his sympathies so far as that he was willing and anxious to aid the Confederacy by every means in his power, so long as he could do so with safety to himself. He was not the sort of a man I had much liking for, but in the kind of work I was engaged in prosecuting, it did not do to be too fastidious about the characters of one’s associates. Moreover, he had proved himself … to be a very efficient spy and was constantly in communication with the Confederate agents, giving them information which often was of extreme importance.

It was probably through him that my associates first learned what was going on in the printing bureau, but of this I am not certain. At any rate, they knew that he was the best person to apply to for the sake of getting such an introduction to the private rooms of the Treasury building … as he was thoroughly posted with regard to the villainies that were being practiced there.

In response to my application to this clerk for assistance, he gave me a letter of introduction to a man occupying a very high and very responsible position — so high and so responsible that I was astonished, beyond measure, on being referred to him on such an errand, who, he said, would accomplish for me what I wished. This letter was so worded that the party to whom it was addressed would understand that I wanted to talk with him about matters that it would not do for everybody to be cognizant of, and I was told that I might speak with the most perfect freedom to him with regard to the business I had in hand.

I accordingly went to this official and presented the letter of introduction, wondering not a little what he would say and do when he read it. His conduct satisfied me at once that he was implicated in unlawful schemes and that he was exactly the man for my purposes. When he read the letter he turned as pale as a sheet, and then red, while his hand trembled so much that I was afraid some of the people in the room would notice it.

He read the letter through two or three times before he was able to obtain sufficient composure to trust himself to speak. He finally, however, said a few commonplace things to me, which meant nothing and were intended for the ears of those around us rather than for mine, and then requested me to give him my address.

I did this, and then, in obedience to a hurried gesture, took my departure without attempting to have any further conversation just then, but feeling well assured that I could speedily be afforded ample opportunity for an exchange of views with him.

That evening my new acquaintance called on me at my hotel, and, although we both for a time fought shy of the main subject, I readily perceived from the general tenor of his conversation that he had, since my visit to his office, been making particular inquiries with regard to me. He remarked, among other things, that he had heard Col. Baker mention my name several times and always in highly commendatory terms. This was very satisfactory intelligence, for it convinced me that I really stood well with the secret service chief. …

At length he said he thought he understood my object in making his acquaintance, and, although he was not quite certain what I wanted, he would endeavor to aid me by any means in his power.

I then told him, plump and plain, that I and my associates had full information with regard to what was being done in certain of the Treasury bureaus, and that we had it in our power to set the detectives to work in such a way that all those engaged in swindling the government would be arrested and brought to punishment. Instead of doing anything of this kind, however, we proposed to share the profits of such fraudulent transactions as were going on in the Treasury Department. As the agent and receivers of the others interested, I wanted to get possession of one or more of the electrotype impressions of the bond and note plates, such as were used for fraudulent issues, and I also desired to obtain facilities for visiting the printing bureau … for the sake of conferring with certain parties there. …

My friend saw that I “had him,” to use a slang phrase that is very appropriate in such a connection as this, for it expresses the situation exactly. He hesitated, however, as well he might, before yielding to my request, and after some immaterial talk, which expressed nothing but his fears, he said, “Well, if I oblige you in this, I will place my honor and my reputation in your hands. I have never yet stepped aside from the duties of my office since I have been sworn in, and what assurances have I that you will not betray me?”

I knew exactly how much of this to believe, and so I said to him, “I don’t care, sir, what you may or may not have done before this. I am satisfied, however, that you are the proper person to assist me in the matter under discussion, and if you do you shall have your share of the profits. You can rely upon my secrecy, for I will be implicated as well as yourself; but, independently of that, I think that my character for reliability is sufficiently well known for you to have no hesitation in trusting me.”

“Yes, I know your reputation for skill and secrecy; you seem to have played it finely with Baker. I am glad somebody has managed to get ahead of that fellow, for he has been making himself an infernal nuisance about here.”

This was said with considerable bitterness, and I could not help smiling both at the words and the manner, for there was something absolutely comical in the idea of my friend and those in league with him considering Baker’s negligence a grievance. I, however, said nothing on that point, but merely remarked that Baker appeared to be a tolerably capable officer.

My friend possibly did not care to argue about Baker, for he went on, without noticing the remark, to say that he would have to swear me to secrecy. I laughed at this and ridiculed the idea of my oath being worth any more than my word under the circumstances. He, therefore, abandoned all notion of attempting to bind me, except by the responsibilities I would incur in connection with himself and the others interested, and began to talk business in a straightforward manner. This suited me exactly, and it was not long before we had matters arranged to our mutual satisfaction.

He agreed to furnish any capital that might be needed to commence operations or to do any preliminary bribing that was necessary and was to have a percentage of whatever profits were made. As for getting possession of a fraudulent plate or plates, I would have to talk about that to the people to whom he would introduce me but he did not doubt, if I managed right, I could get all that were necessary for our purposes.

There were other things to be done, however, besides printing bogus notes and bonds, and he thought that a thriving business could be carried on in the genuine articles, which might be abstracted and returned, after being turned over a few times in the market, so as to yield a sufficient profit to pay for the risk and trouble. The bogus bonds, he thought, could be printed in Washington, and seemed rather anxious that they should be but I said that I doubted whether my associates would consent to that — at any rate, I could not undertake to make definite arrangements without consulting them. The idea was to float these bonds, as far as possible, on the European market, and it was thought that it could readily be done, as they could be sold at rates that would defy competition on the part of the government agents who were working with the genuine articles. …

I, of course, made all necessary promises, and he, accordingly, wrote a note, which he signed with a private mark instead of with his name, and told me to call the next day at the Treasury and give it to a certain prominent official connected with the printing bureau. He then took his leave, and I had little or nothing to do with him afterwards, his share of whatever profits was made being paid to him by someone else.

My arrangement with the parties at whose instance I went to Washington on this business was that in event of my being able to make a satisfactory bargain with the officials in the Treasury Department, I was to be the receiver and bearer of whatever they might confide to my care in the way of bonds, notes, bogus plates, and other matters, and was to travel to and fro between Washington, Philadelphia, and New York as a confidential manager, while brokers in the two last-named cities and elsewhere were to do the [financing].

The scheme was an immense one, although it did not reach its full proportions all at once, and it included not only dealing in genuine — borrowed for the purpose from the treasury — and bogus Federal securities, but Confederate bogus bonds also. These bonds were to be, as far as practicable, put upon the English market at the best rates that could be gotten for them, and our — that is, the Confederate — share of the proceeds was to go into a general fund to be used for advancing the interests of the Cause. As for the Britishers, we considered them fair game when selling them either kind of bogus securities, for we regarded their conduct as treacherous to both parties in the great contest and thought that they might as well be made to pay some of the expenses of conducting it.

From first to last the British government had deluded the people of the Confederacy with false hopes of recognition and interference, and, as at the time of which I am writing, it was becoming daily more apparent that it did not propose to interfere unless it could do so without risking anything, the feeling against it — especially among the Confederates at the North and in Canada, who were constantly in correspondence with agents in England and on the continent — was getting to be very bitter.

It was determined, therefore, to go for Johnny Bull’s pocket, and a lively trade in bogus Confederate and Federal securities was started and kept up for a considerable time, which, among other things, involved my making a trip to London. …

The day after receiving the note … I took it to the person in the printer’s bureau, to whom it was addressed. This individual did not appear to be the least surprised to see me, and it was evident that he had been apprised of the fact that I intended to make him a visit and what the visit would be for.

He proceeded to business at once … by requesting me to call the next day at his office, when, he said, the matter would be arranged to my satisfaction. He was not disposed to be talkative about the situation and, as I found out shortly afterwards, certain persons under him in the bureau were the active agents in the swindling transactions that were going on — his plan being to avoid, as far as practicable, any palpable participation in them. … This man, however, was at the head of the ring, and was responsible for all the rascalities that occurred in connection with the important bureau with which he was connected.

The abstraction of currency and bonds for speculative purpose and the permitting electrotypes of the plates used for printing bonds and currency, to be taken and disposed of to outside parties for the purpose of enabling them to print bogus issues, were not his only offenses. He and another official … had several abandoned women employed under them, at large salaries, and with whom they were in the habit of carousing in their offices at midnight. Indeed, so shameless and abandoned were both the men and the women that their doings became a public scandal and did much to bring about an exposure of their official misdeeds.

Before I knew anything of these matters, Col. Baker pointed out these women to me as the pets of these two men and told me about their introducing them into the Treasury building and taking them to the Canterbury saloon in male attire. This was some time before Baker commenced the investigations which created such a sensation by revealing to the public the vice and corruption that ruled in the Treasury Department. Baker then said he was certain that villainies of no ordinary character were going on and that he proposed some day to try and find out what they were.

The fact that Baker had his eye on these officials and others whom I knew were guilty of transactions … induced me to conclude that I had best have nothing to do with them, and, accordingly, I severed my business relations with the printing bureau after giving those interested a hint to beware of the colonel.

This hint was disregarded for the reason that the scamps knew that he could not commence an investigation into the affairs of the Treasury Department without the consent of Secretary Chase, and this consent, for reasons which to them were good and sufficient, they did not believe would ever be given.

Loreta’s Civil War: Excite terror in the hearts

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

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

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

Read previous chapters of her incredible story here.

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

******

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

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

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

“Yes, sir.”

“Do you live there?”

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

“Have you been in America long?”

“Only about eight months.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Yes. What of him?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Loreta’s Civil War: My denunciations of the rebels

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

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

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

Read previous chapters of her incredible story here.

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

******

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Quebec, Canada.

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

“I am, madam, yours truly, R.W.L.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Endless borderlands

Fifteen essays and books explore the borderlands field with passion and intelligence, daring their readers to leave behind their old worlds and follow them into new ones.

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Fifteen essays and books explore the borderlands field with passion and intelligence, daring their readers to leave behind their old worlds and follow them into new ones. A review essay by Fernando Ortiz Jr.

*****

Works reviewed in this essay

Adelman, Jeremy, and Stephen Aron. “From Borderlands to Borders: Empires, Nation-States, and the Peoples in Between in North American History.” American Historical Review 104, no. 3 (June 1999): 814-841.

Anzaldua, Gloria. Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza. San Francisco: Aunt Lute, 1987.

Barr, Juliana. Peace Came in the Form of a Woman: Indians and Spaniards in the Texas Borderlands. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2007.

Brown, Wendy. Walled States, Waning Sovereignty. New York: Zone Books, 2010.

Chang, Kornel. Pacific Connections: The Making of the U.S.-Canada Borderlands. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2012.

Hämäläinen, Pekka. The Comanche Empire. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2009.

—. and Samuel Truett. “On Borderlands.” The Journal of American History 98, no. 2 (2011): 338-361.

Hoffnung-Garskof, Jesse. A Tale of Two Cities: Santo Domingo and New York after 1950. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2010.

Johnson, Benjamin H., and Andre R. Graybill, eds. Bridging National Borders in North America: Transnational and Comparative Histories. Durham: Duke University Press, 2010.

Lytle-Hernandez, Kelly. Migra!: A History of the U.S. Border Patrol. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2010.

McManus, Sheila. The Line Which Separates: Race, Gender, and the Making of the Alberta-Montana Borderlands. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press, 2005.

Mora, Anthony P. Border Dilemmas: Racial and National Uncertainties in New Mexico, 1848-1912. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 2011.

Shah, Nayan. Stranger Intimacy: Contesting Race, Sexuality and the Law in the North American West. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2011.

St. John, Rachel. Line in the Sand: A History of the Western U.S.-Mexico Border. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press. 2011.

Weber, David. Bárbaros: Spaniards and their Savages in the Age of Enlightenment. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2006.

*****

I. Introductions

The borderlands mark divisions of land on maps. They mark divisions of races, communities, economies, and families. But borderlands are also more than dividers. Borderlands are where culture and history collide, dance, and coalesce. They are where nation’s futures are conceived, where risks are taken, and where ideas are born. Borderlands cradle both conflict and peace, friction and abrasion, the past and future. Borderlands are gateways through which to view national, cultural, racial, and imperial histories with fresh and sharper eyes. Fifteen essays and books explore the borderlands field with passion and intelligence, daring their readers to leave behind their old worlds and follow them into new ones.

For the uninitiated, borderlands are dark landscapes. But lighting the way are Jeremy Adelman, Stephen Anon, Benjamin Johnson, Andrew Graybill, Samuel Truett, and the wonderfully-named Pekka Hamalanien. By combining three essays from 1999, 2010, and 2011, their analyses form a grand introduction to the field.

Graybill and Johnson ask why historians take the borders for granted. They worry that that the lines on maps imply inevitability. They fret that the borders do not evoke or inspire historical curiosity into the regions they cut through. They hold up borderlands studies as the antidote to that narrow vision and lack of curiosity.

Adelman and Anon explain that the borderlands approach was meant to challenge Frederick Jackson Turner’s Frontier Thesis, which looked east to west, by turning the axis north to south. Rather than considering unilateral European conquest, the field considered how indigenous and European civilizations met and mixed, bilaterally conquering each other. It implied that nation-building did not end once the necessary territory was declared conquered. The borderlands approach, which inherently challenged historians’ traditional reliance on a nation-state perspective on the world, also embraced border zones once imperial lands became modern nation-states.

In 2011, Hamalanien and Truett critically noted that Adelman and Anon ignored other processes that affect borderlands — cultural shifts, warfare, malleable concepts of nation (like indigenous territories), and natural pressures on societies, like landscape changes and epidemics. They pointed out that borderlands inherently challenge master historical narratives anchored to centers of political and cultural power. Ascribing importance to borderlands questioned the supreme importance of those centers, and of nation-states as a whole. Borderlands historians were willing to consider that perhaps non-state actors made equally significant contributions to the overall political or social entity.

Perhaps historians, borderlands proponents argued, needed to listen with equal care to voices from both the centers and the margins. Power and national identity when viewed through that prism becomes ambiguous and historically revitalized. Borderlands become the alternative centers of nation and empire. The borderlands approach also acts as a spotlight to capture movements between political entities, societies, and cultures that were previously unknown or understudied. It spotlights the violence of that friction and abrasion that takes place between competing peoples desperate for food, water, legitimacy, or shelter. This array of introductory essays urged historians to challenge themselves to find these perspectives.

II. Imperial borderlands

Borderlands are born when two or more powers encounter each other. The Spanish New World burned with borderland dynamics. David J. Weber’s Barbaros explores the Indian-Spanish contact zones, details how Spain attempted to administer them, and concludes that even when the Bourbons reformed Spanish America, the region was never completely conquered. Reforms to the military and church networks were not fully implemented, control and structure never consolidated. Consequently, the borderlands region remained violent, dynamic, and, most importantly, influential to the entire bureaucracy. Indian action dictated imperial reaction.

Beyond the warmth of steady and strong Spanish control, colonists lived difficult lives. Dominant Indian powers manipulated colonial communities, turning them into supply depots or shelters, or forced them to pay tribute, while others simply ravaged poorly protected colonies. Reformers wanted the frontier turned into a borderlands region, where commerce, Christianity, and peace reigned, all on Bourbon Spanish terms, which were never achieved except on paper.

But Bourbons focused on building relationships with Indians, reforming them from barbarians into Christian men, thereby building cultural and economic bridges into stronger indigenous networks. As the Spanish elements grew stronger, enlightened attitudes reverted to racism, rejecting the gradual incorporation of Indians.

Pekka Hamalainen’s The Comanche Empire argues that the Comanches were “an indigenous empire.” They were an association of tribes, he claims, that gradually built themselves into a force that dominated what today is the Southwestern United States and northern Mexico, a force so powerful that it effectively obstructed the expansion of French, Spanish, Mexican, and U.S. power for almost two centuries.

The Comanche Empire, he explains, did not simply exist in an Adelman/Anon borderland of negated imperial power and enhanced indigenous influence — they created a new space where the indigenous Comanches dominated, embraced, and transformed the isolated colonialists.

Key to their steady growth and dominance was the willingness to open their culture to new ideas, languages, and religions, which provided them with new domestic strategies, intelligence on distant neighbors, and conduits into useful economic networks.

Acknowledging Comanche power and its crippling influence on Spanish and Mexican control, he asserts, explains how the young U.S. consumed half of Mexico in the late 1840s. The tragic irony is that the U.S. quickly turned its guns on the Comanches to consume their land and cleanse the landscape of non-whites and non-Christians. Comanche greatness required extreme measures to defeat it.

Juliana Barr examines in Peace Came in the Form of a Woman the gender and kinship expectations Europeans and indigenous faced when interacting with each other in colonial Texas dominated by Indian standards.

Women played central roles in virtually every equation. Spaniards scratching out communities in Indian-controlled territory initially refused to marry Indian women, losing out on the economic advantages Indians placed on kinship connections. Without kinship connections, Indians viewed Spaniards as outsiders. Only by marrying women from competitor French families did they finally tap into those economic networks. Spaniards captured Apache women when Apaches attacked them. When Apaches and Spaniards allied against common enemies, Apache women became the connections between both groups. Women from all indigenous groups symbolized peace offerings, peace emblems, and peace envoys.

Spaniards and Indians also communicated with displays of gender. Martial displays signaled masculinity. They shared masculine codes of honor. A military assembly signaled trouble, but when masculinity was paired with femininity, the assembly signaled peace.

III. Northern perspective

The Line Which Separates and Pacific Connections, respectively authored by Sheila McManus and Kornel Chang, highlight how the Canadian and U.S. power centers struggled to control their borderlands and underestimated the effect the borderlands had on those power centers. Both warn that in the historical search for the source of national character, the borderlands and the methods used to control those borderlands cannot be ignored.

Many excellent books in the historical borderlands field typically focus with a racial lens on the U.S. borders with Latin America. McManus and Chang make invaluable contributions to the U.S. borderlands field simply by focusing instead on the U.S-Canada border and the unique contests for its future. They construct their histories from opposite directions — McManus looking west from U.S. and Canadian capitals and Chang looking east from the Pacific region.

McManus argues that Canada and the U.S. post-structurally reimagined their respective western societies as proving grounds where potential national values were conceived, tested, and sharpened against unwelcome cultures and races, and held up for all citizens to adopt. Their border along the 49th parallel was key to those “nation-making efforts” because it politically delineated where one nation-state ended and the other began. It symbolized their capacity to control who crossed that border, who lived in those critical regions, and what values governed their lives.

Chang argues that the regions along the 49th parallel should not be seen as border zones but as transnational and transpacific crossroads. Chang expands the north south/east-axis of the McManus book to include multiple continents, empires, and commodity chains. Instead of Ottawa and Washington, D.C., or Alberta and Montana, Chang examines Seattle and Vancouver, recasting the Pacific Northwest and the Pacific coast as buzzing economic and imperial hubs. The nation-states’ challenge was to control that chaos to their advantage by employing institutions governing immigration, monitoring borders, and manipulating migration.

One of many rivers of migrants into Canada and the U.S. streamed from South Asia. An examination of cultural influences they brought with them would be fascinating enough. But Nayan Shah takes several steps beyond that in Stranger Intimacy to examine erotic, social, and economic relationships between the immigrants and a variety of other groups throughout Western communities of workers.

His South Asians brought with them into western U.S. and Canadian regions borderlands sensitivities as colonized members of the British Empire, as English speakers amid Mexican and Chinese workers, and as men who moved across racial boundaries put in place by the societies their labor was meant to expand. Using legal and police records produced by the clash of immigrant actions and their societies’ reactions — arrests for sexual activities, questions over immigration status, concerns over white public safety — Shah produces a network of racial and legal borderlands the immigrants overcame or failed to overcome.

Domestic racial attitudes against South Asians’ supposed demoralizing effects on white families tolerated white violence. That violence, coupled with legal surveillance and oppression drove immigrants’ contacts with each other into secret places, turning their stranger interactions into stranger intimacies with glances, movements, and other secret signals. The homosocial regions the legal system identified became border zones of state surveillance, racial oppression, and assumption of criminal activity between legitimate and illegitimate societies. The intensity of sexual oppression bolstered normative white identities and further emphasized the deviancy of foreign entities.

IV. Special cases

Euro-American control over the sections of former Mexico is a vital topic in borderlands studies. In Border Dilemmas, Anthony Mora focused on how Euro-Americans used literature and letters to steadily undermine their cultural, political, and economic control of New Mexico.

They portrayed New Mexican women as sensual beasts, businesswomen as prostitutes, and men as savages who could not control their society. Euro-American colonists, Mora explains, saw themselves as the ones to bring civilized order to this chaos. By sensualizing and dehumanizing the men and women, Euro-Americans justified their invasions of Mexican territory, their racist attitudes toward the Mexican inhabitants, and their attempts to dominate and transform the societies upon which they would build a virtuous American Eden.

By labeling Mexican businesswomen as prostitutes and ignoring the economic agency they enjoyed in Mexican society, Euro-Americans could strip from them any semblance of economic legitimacy or social value, permanently damage their community standing, and generally enhance the threatened patriarchy. By characterizing Mexican men as weak or corrupt, Euro-Americans could portray themselves as saviors of Mexican womanhood, now recast as victims of male Mexican vices. Charitable and heroic white men would save these women with marriage, absorb their Mexican blood (descended from quality European blood, surely) into their white bloodlines and families, thereby improving the overall New Mexican community while conveniently ignoring the insecurities in the white U.S. South over racial mixing with black slaves. Mora captures with subtle humor the ridiculous ironies and hypocrisies at work.

Euro-American attempts to enforce “gendered divisions of space,” Mora explains, were key to their control. Women belonged in the privacy and purity of the home. Mexican women also belonged in the home, but in the homes of white women, where they would learn under white tutelage how to become proper American housewives.

They would share the gendered space and occupy appropriate racial roles within domestic walls. Mora connects this racism to U.S. devotion to domestic power and, by extension, to civilizing power. As white women domesticated the home, they also domesticated (tamed) the white men taming the borderlands. They symbolized the white race reaching into the frontiers of their new empire, bringing domestic stability and the values of a proper white home to savages.

The values of white patriarchy only intensified the existing Mexican patriarchy. Mexican elites saw self-serving opportunities to play the Euro-American game over the New Mexican chessboard. New Mexican women were marginalized socially, sexually, and economically, with little or no role in society except as emblems and tools of the patriarchal nation-building enterprise their men purported to lead. Even the oppressed did their own heinous oppressing.

Gloria Anzaldua’s Borderlands/La Frontera sees the borderlands marking divisions in the hearts and minds of the people who populate them. The men and women who exist on the fringes of nation, religion, and race live with divisions within themselves. Anzaldua urges these borderland citizens to be proud: The Chicano borderlands are where national and racial futures are born. They are special places for homosexual men and women, Indians, the socially and intellectually liberated. It’s a place of many tongues, religions, and talents. Any minority will find a home there because they are borderlands themselves — they exist in multiple worlds simultaneously, always adjusting their gradients to blend in with the larger, more dominant colors. They are the future race of a better nation and society, without constructs, limitations, discriminations, or oppression.

Anzaldua holds herself as the example. She is a gay mestiza who speaks not just English and Spanish but variations of both. She refuses to adhere to expectations of how a mestiza should behave, think, or live. She erases the borderlands within her by embracing what they are expected to keep separate.

Perhaps securing political legitimacy for the borderlands citizens begins there. Borderlands citizens must connect themselves somehow with the political cores of their societies, through moderate allies, social upheavals, or war. Only then can they change their nation from within. Society eventually changes to accept gay men and women, and to view men and women and all races equally. Those who refuse to change are the ones marginalized, dismissed, and rejected. An equitable and just society – perhaps that is the ultimate goal for all borderlands citizens. Buried in the ashes of their anguish are the elements of eventual social greatness.

Jesse Hoffnung-Garskof’s A Tale of Two Cities follows Dominican people as they moved from the countryside to capital city Santo Domingo to the New York neighborhood of Washington Heights and back to Santo Domingo. Within these transnational currents he finds Dominicans navigating the fault-lines of culture, race, and economics in both the United States and the Dominican Republic. Dominicans in both cities were elements of the same transnational entity, confronting different manifestations of the same imperialist power, racially differentiating themselves from other minorities, and struggling to live up to their ideals of progress and culture.

Working-class Dominicans struggled to find and then improve their place in the Dominican Republic or the U.S. The book’s bottom-up approach is structured along two ideals: progress (certain actions would improve one’s life, social standing, and national well-being) and culture (perceived values and the standard that decided who belonged and who did not).

The author gives tremendous agency to Dominicans but also points out the irony in their outlooks. When modernization projects stripped economic opportunities from sugar plantations and ranches, rural people flooded Dominican cities to find new economic opportunities. They embraced the progreso/cultura ideals and demanded paved roads and sanitation in their barrios. Men condemned gangs and women condemned prostitution, but gangs were also seen as a potential defensive force against U.S. incursions and women asked prostitutes for sex advice.

In the U.S., Dominicans combined progreso/cultura virtues — improving their economic lives while also protecting their Dominican national values — by extending their sense of home northward to encompass New York. Dominicans saw little need to assimilate because in their minds they had never left the Dominican Republic. Dark-skinned Dominicans faced racial/ethnic discrimination from Puerto Ricans, African Americans, and Anglos as they made their own distinctions between themselves and Haitians. Dominicans embraced the U.S. consumerism as they blamed the U.S. for the materialism and delinquency they saw in Dominican society.

V. The meaning of borders

Borderlands don’t exist without borders. Rachel St. John’s Line in the Sand offers a multifaceted biography of the western U.S.-Mexico border, from El Paso to the Pacific Ocean. The line is a consequence of military conquest, local warfare, political and economic ambitions, and state-sanctioned policing, much more than the natural divider of the Rio Grande.

The line changed in significance over time. For criminals it was the doorway to freedom. For lovers of vice, it was the gateway to illegality. For U.S. politicians, it was a triumph of a superior society over its inferior neighbor. Indian raids necessitated borderland security forces. Borderland commerce and railroads created twin cities. Nation-state efforts to define and enforce it symbolized the inherent weakness of centered-power perspectives ignoring the significance of borderland entities.

As for the force deployed to regulate who moves across that line and who doesn’t, in Migra! Kelly Lytle Hernandez considers the U.S. Border Patrol as part of state-sanctioned violence against Mexican communities naturally flowing through the artificially imposed borderlands between the U.S. and Mexico. Bi-national economic and political demands coupled with the individual demands of its personnel guided the evolution of the Border Patrol as a predatory borderlands entity. Examining this aspect of borderlands existence further illuminates how borderlands and their inhabitants are perceived and rejected or accepted by their nation-states, and the role of violence in attempting to assert the nation-state’s sovereignty over its territory and society. It also highlights Mexico’s postwar partnership with a foreign security force in an effort to control their northward flow of its own people.

The Border Patrol historically worked with borderlands businesses to ensure a steady supply of cheap Mexican labor while enforcing white standards of behavior among races and genders. Officers shaped official U.S. immigration policies to suit local situations and their own interests, interweaving border control objectives with community and economic life. The focus on Mexican rather than Canadian criminality has more to do with the communities dark-skinned people entered than with the actual act of undocumented crossing.

Wendy Brown examines physical borders and the borderlands they mean to enforce in Walled States, Waning Sovereignty. Wall-building projects throughout the globalized, Internet-dominated world, she argues, is a symptom of a larger insecurity over the loss of nation-state control over territory, people, resources, and security. The concept of sovereignty — of control — and its separation from what it means to be a nation-state is what drives pathetic construction work on the U.S.-Mexico border, and throughout the U.S.

What is to be contained is held up as pure, and then the potential foreign threats are identified, and then the wall is promoted as the solution. Even within the beacon of Western democracy, the rich seal themselves off from the poor, businesses wrap themselves in porous digital security blankets, and religious sects build compounds — retreats — in which to properly indoctrinate their flocks. The psychological comfort of walls, borders, lines, and zones infers a stable order is in place. Control is recovered.

Hamalanien and Truett encourage borderlands historians to embrace the inherent chaos in borderlands. That instability had unintended consequences and created unexpected opportunities. Indigenous groups play roles in creating empires or use their own to control their regions. Marginal groups influence the core. Ignored voices participate in the national discussion. New historical roots are discovered. These fifteen works demonstrate the value borderlands studies bring to the historical field. What may appear to be chaos to outdated historical views is beautiful intellectual symphonies to the cutting-edge borderlands lovers.

‘He was nearly pulled apart’

Part 6 of this series focuses on Mary Ann and Septimus Palairet, a British couple who honeymooned in the United States and Canada in the 1840s.

This special Stillness of Heart series explores the Morgan Library & Museum’s fascinating exhibit, “The Diary: Three Centuries of Private Lives.”

Part 6 focuses on Mary Ann and Septimus Palairet, a British couple who honeymooned in the United States and Canada in the 1840s. They wrote and illustrated a travel diary, recording — and often haughtily (and hilariously) criticizing — daily life in American society.

“On the boat’s arrival at her destination, the passengers were assailed by a mob of cabmen, porters &c who though not allowed to come on board the steamer quarreled about their passengers, and if any one ventured ashore and presumed to scorn their offer he was nearly pulled to pieces for his temerity.”

Examine images of their wonderful diary and listen to the museum’s audio guide here.

Entries in this series:
Part 1: Introduction to the exhibit and Charlotte Brontë
Part 2: Frances Eliza Grenfell
Part 3: Sophia and Nathaniel Hawthorne
Part 4: Paul Horgan
Part 5: John Newton
Part 6: Mary Ann and Septimus Palairet
Part 7: Walter Scott
Part 8: Bartholomew Sharpe
Part 9: Tennessee Williams
Part 10: John Ruskin