Loreta’s Civil War: The sensations of pleasure

Velazquez asks Confederate veterans about that one woman who disguised herself as an army officer, and she relishes their responses.

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 56: Velazquez asks Confederate veterans about that one woman who disguised herself as an army officer, and she relishes their responses.

******

From Rheims, we passed on and made a flying visit to Hamburg, the famous watering-place, and from there went to Frankfort on the Main. On one side of the city are to be seen the mountains, while on the other extends a rich, fertile plain. I almost wished that I was the wife of one of those good-natured, honest, industrious German farmers we were constantly meeting so that I might live and die in a snug, home-like little farm-house, half hidden by the grain, and surrounded by flowering shrubs and vines, such as were to be seen on all sides. Nowhere have I beheld more evidences of solid comfort and downright good living than in the vicinity of Frankfort, and there are no people on the earth happier than these hard-working but contented Germans, who know how to enjoy life in right honest fashion. …

Having exhausted the sights of Frankfort, we prepared to move on, and there was considerable debate as to whether we should next go to Italy or to Russia. I was most anxious to visit Poland, and so it was finally determined that we should go there. I was sorry for having taken this trip afterwards, for there was nothing in Krakow — a city ruined and desolated by war — that could give me pleasure. Indeed, the whole land looked as if it was under a blight. I took advantage, however, of the occasion to renew my acquaintance with M. Koskalosky, a young Pole, whom I had met in Paris just before the close of the war. He was a very pleasant, cultivated gentleman and a sincere friend of the South. I hope that the time will come when the people of Poland will be able to regain their independence. They are cruelly oppressed now, and their beautiful country is a waste and desolation.

Instead of going to Italy, we now returned to Paris, having seen much to interest and delight us, but having, after all, found no country that was the equal of America, towards which my heart turned with increasing fondness the longer I was absent from it.

In Paris we met Mr. Dayton, the minister from the United States, and were quite cordially received by him. I had carefully avoided going near this gentleman on my former visit because I was aware that he knew me and thought that, perhaps, he might bear me some ill will. He was pleasant enough, however, and I sincerely regretted not having met him sooner.

At the Hotel de Louvre, where we stopped, there was quite a list of old Confederates, some of whom had been my army companions. I had the advantage of them, for they had only known me as Lt. Harry T. Buford, and they did not recognize me in female attire. Being extremely anxious to know what they thought of me, I obtained introductions to most of them and began to try and get them to commit themselves.

Col. M. was the first one I spoke to on this delicate subject. After inquiring about the condition of affairs in America, I asked him if he knew what had become of that female officer who figured so extensively during the greater part of the war.

“Oh,” said the colonel, “I knew her very well. She was in my corps for a time, but afterwards she went West, and I do not know how she finished her career.”

“What do you think of her?”

“She is a very fine woman and made a good officer. She was very popular indeed.”

“Do you think that it was proper for a woman to do as she did?”

“Well, no, not exactly but she did so much good for the Cause that she can well be excused. If the men had all been as plucky, things would have turned out very different. She always bore an excellent name, and I would fight for her in a moment if I heard any one traducing her. I would like very much to see her again and would be willing to travel all the way back to America to have that pleasure.”

The reader may imagine the sensations of pleasure which this enthusiastic opinion of myself caused me. I was aching to tell him who I was, but there were others whom I desired to question and so concluded to preserve my secret a little longer.

While I was talking with Col. M., a servant in livery appeared with a card on a silver waiter from Col. D. and Maj. C. I did not recognize the names but said I would receive them and so shook hands with Col. M., giving him a hearty request to call on me again. The two gentlemen appeared, and the colonel said, “You do not appear to remember me.”

“No, sir,” I replied. “I think I recollect your face but I cannot recall where I have met you.”

“Do you not recollect meeting me in Cuba, at So-and-so’s house?”

“Oh, certainly I do. I must ask that you will excuse my forgetfulness.”

“I was looking over the list of arrivals, and seeing your name thought that I would take the liberty of calling to inquire after your health.”

I asked whether he had met my brother’s family, and on his saying that he had not, I conducted him and his friend to their parlor. Leaving the major for my brother and his wife to entertain, I took the colonel to a remote part of the room, and after some preliminary conversation, asked him the same questions that I had Col. M.

He expressed admiration of my valor but was so bitter in denouncing me for assuming male attire that I was thoroughly disgusted with him.

A few days after this, I returned with my brother and family to London and immediately on my arrival in that city wrote two letters, one to Col. M. and the other to Col. D., telling them who I was. Col. M. replied, expressing great gratification at having met me and a wish that I had made known to him that I was the heroine of whom he had such a decided admiration. Col. D. did not reply but his friend Maj. C wrote me a letter in French, in which he endeavored to apologize for him and expressed a wish, for his own sake, that I would return to Paris, as he was anxious to be better acquainted with a lady who had performed so many valorous exploits.

We remained about fifteen days in London, stopping at the house of a friend, Mr. T., a right jolly fellow who had resided in England for many years. Shortly after our arrival we visited Hyde Park, a very beautiful pleasure-ground, but not to be compared with the Parisian parks. This event was a source of much gratification to me, as it gave me an opportunity to see her majesty Queen Victoria, who drove by in a carriage with six horses. For this lady I always had a great admiration, esteeming her a model queen and a model mother. She was dressed with great neatness and simplicity, and there was nothing showy or ostentatious about her. …

Our decision to return [to America] … was far from pleasing to my sister-in-law, who desired to reside in Spain. She blamed me for influencing my brother contrary to her wishes and was jealous of my affection for him. The result was that a coolness sprang up between us that made our intercourse with each other anything but a pleasure to either.

On our arrival in New York, my brother was persuaded by his wife to go to Mexico, where her sister resided. I was not willing to go with them, and the result was that we parted company with many regrets on my side at the prospect of a long separation from a brother whom I loved dearer than myself and with whom I had only recently been reunited, after having scarcely seen each other during many years.

It could not be helped, however, and I felt that it was best he should go with his wife and children, leaving me to make my own way in the world, as I had been doing for so long a time. When they were once off, I turned my attention to my own affairs and began to make plans for the future. Before determining, however, on any particular course, I concluded that I would make a trip through the South for the purpose of observing the condition of the country and of finding out whether there was anything I could do to advance the interest of the people among whom my lot had been cast for so many years. …

My first stopping-place was Baltimore, where I met many old friends who expressed themselves as very glad to see me again but who represented the condition of things at the South as most deplorable. What I learned from them made me more than ever resolved to continue my journey, for, although the war was over, I was still anxious to do something, so far as my power extended, for the Southern people. …

I was advised in the strongest manner not to visit Washington at this time and was assured that it would be a very perilous thing to do. Naturally a little obstinate and self-willed, the opposition of my friends only made me the more desirous of carrying out my original intention, no matter what the hazard might be. To Washington, accordingly, I proceeded, and called on some acquaintances, who received me with the utmost cordiality.

The person whom I particularly wished to see — an official in the War Department — had, however, gone South. My friend Col. Baker was also out of the city. I did not know whether to congratulate myself or not at missing a meeting with him. I was resolved, on going to Washington, not to fight shy of him and to give him an opportunity to pay off old scores if he wished. Baker was certainly the person of all others who had a right to have a grudge against me, and yet I had an ardent desire to meet him again, just to hear what he would have to say about the tricks I so successfully played upon him. As the colonel was out of the city, however, I did not have the pleasure of exchanging notes with him, and I do not know to this day whether he ever discovered that I was a Confederate secret-service agent.

Loreta’s Civil War: ‘You are she?’

Velazquez tells her fiance the truth about Lt. Harry T. Buford.

KS45

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 31: Velazquez tells her fiance the truth about Lt. Harry T. Buford.

******

I was greatly agitated, not only at the sight of his extreme happiness but because I felt that the dreaded hour was now come when I must reveal my secret to him. I loved him most fondly, and it was but yesterday that I had heard from his own lips assurances of his affection for me, the verity of which it was impossible for me to doubt, and yet I dreaded whether his feelings towards me might not change when he heard my story. I felt that they ought not, and I did not believe that they would but I had heard so many men, and good men too, speak harshly with regard to women undertaking to play the role that I had, that my very love gave encouragement to my fears lest [my beau] Capt. De Caulp — when he learned I had been in the army ever since the outbreak of the war, and from before the date of our engagement, disguised as a man — would regard my course with such disapproval that he would refuse to consider the motives which induced me to adopt the course I had taken.

The situation was, for me, painful beyond expression, and although I felt that the secret must now be told, I scarcely knew how to tell it or how to begin an even ordinary friendly conversation with him. The disclosure which I was about to make was, moreover, one that was meant for no other ears than his and was certainly not a proper one for the public ward of the hospital. My first care, therefore, was to get him to a place where we could converse without being overheard, and so I said, “Captain, I congratulate you heartily, and I hope to have the pleasure of meeting with your lady. As you expect to have a visit from her soon, and as you will doubtless want to talk over a great number of confidential matters, don’t you think that it would be better if the doctor were to move you into a private room?”

He said, “Yes, thank you for the suggestion — that is just what I would like. I wish you would tell the doctor I want to see him.”

I accordingly conveyed his message with all possible dispatch, and the doctor very cheerfully granted his request and had him taken to a private chamber. A barber was then sent for, and he was shaved and made to look as nicely as possible, and it touched me deeply to notice what pains he took to make himself presentable in view of the expected arrival of his lady-love, whom, by the anxious manner in which he glanced at the door, he was evidently looking for every minute and almost dreading her arrival before he was ready to receive her.

So soon as we were alone together, I said gravely, “Now, captain, I have something of great importance to say to you before our sweetheart comes.” He looked at me wonderingly, evidently impressed by my manner, and apparently half-fearing that something had occurred to defeat his expectations.

I then knelt by the bedside, and taking from my pocket a picture of himself that he had sent me, and his last letter, said, “Did you ever see these before?”

He glanced at them, recognized them, and turned deadly pale. His hand trembled so that he could scarcely hold the picture and the letter, and looking at me with a scared expression, he gasped, “Yes, they are mine! Where did you get them? Has anything happened?”

“No, no, captain,” I exclaimed. “You must not be frightened — nothing has happened that will be displeasing to you.”

“But I don’t understand,” he said. “How did you get these?”

“Ah!” I said, “that is my secret just now. You know you told me last night, when you showed me the portrait of your lady, that you had not seen her for three years — are you so very sure of that?”

He still failed to comprehend what I meant, and stared at me in astonishment. I, therefore, went to his pocket, and got the picture, and, placing it in his hand, said, “Now take a good look at that, and tell me if you have not seen somebody very much like it inside of three years.”

He looked at the picture, and then at me, with a most puzzled expression, unable to say anything, until I, oppressed with his silence, and unable to endure longer a scene that was becoming most painful to both of us, said, “Well, captain, don’t you thing that the picture of your lady-love looks the least bit like your friend Harry Buford?”

A light seemed to suddenly break upon him — he gasped for breath and sank back overcome on his pillow, the great drops of perspiration standing out all over his forehead. Then, raising himself, he looked me hard in the face, and, grasping my hand tightly, exclaimed, “Can it be possible that you are she?”

“Yes,” said I, clasping his hand still tighter, “I am, indeed, your own Loreta. It was your sweetheart who fought by your side at the great battle of Shiloh, and not only on that occasion, but ever since the outbreak of the war she has been doing a soldier’s work for the cause of the Confederacy. Can you love her a little for that as well as for herself, or will you despise her because she was not willing to stay at home like other women, but undertook to appear on the battlefield in the guise of a man for the purpose of doing a man’s duty?”

“I love you ten times more than ever for this, Loreta!” he said, with a vehemence that brought tears of joy to my eyes. I then went into a long explanation of my reasons for acting as I had done and gave him an outline of my adventures, reserving the details for a future time when he would be stronger and less agitated. He suggested that I should not reveal the secret to any one else just at present, whereupon I proposed that we should continue as we were until the war was over, I to make such arrangements, however, as would enable me to be near him. He would not listen to anything of this kind, but said, “No, my noble lady, I can never permit that — I cannot consent to part from you again until I have called you by the endearing name of wife.” He then burst into tears, and, leaning his face on my shoulder, said, between his sobs, “Oh, Loreta, can it be possible that you have been so far from me and yet so near to me, all this time?”

This interview had agitated both of us greatly, and, as Capt. De Caulp was still very weak, I was somewhat fearful of the consequences to him, so I tore myself away after promising to see him again soon, and requesting him to compose himself and not let his excitement retard his recovery.

The crisis was past for me, and all was well. I had the strongest assurances that a woman could have of the undivided love of as noble a man as ever breathed, and to say that I was supremely happy but faintly expresses what I felt as I left the chamber of Capt. De Caulp. It all seemed like a dream to me, but it was a happy one, and I desired never to awaken from it. I was of too practical and decided a disposition, however, to give way to mere sentiment on such an occasion as this, and the fact that my lover was still confined to a sick-bed rendered it the more important that I should be about and making such preparations as were necessary for our approaching marriage.

I felt quite strong enough to leave the hospital and told Dr. Hay so. He was a little dubious about it but finally consented that I should go out on condition that I would take good care of myself and not attempt to enjoy out-of-door life too much of a sudden. As he was himself about going out as I was prepared to leave the hospital, I walked down the street with him, holding his arm. As we were sauntering along, I asked him, “Doctor, how do you like Capt. De Caulp?”

“Oh, very much, indeed!” said he. “He is a perfect gentleman in every respect and a man of very polished manners and superior talents. He is of foreign extraction, I think.”

“Yes,” said I, “I believe he is. I have known him for five years, and I think a great deal of him. I was with him at the Battle of Shiloh, and he behaved like a true hero.”

“Ah, indeed!” said the doctor. “I knew that you were acquainted, but I did not know that you had served together during the war.”

“Do you think he will soon be well?” I inquired. “He seems to be getting along quite nicely.”

“Oh, yes, if he takes proper care of himself. He has had a pretty hard time of it, but I don’t see any reason why he should not be in a fair way for recovery now, provided nothing occurs to set him back. He will have to look out and not expose himself too much, however, for a while yet.”

At the corner of White Hall Street I left the doctor to go to the depot. He said, as I parted from him, “You must be careful and not exercise too much, lieutenant, or you will suffer for it. You are scarcely fairly on your feet as yet.” I promised to take care of myself and went to the depot, arriving there just as the downtrain was coming in. … I then returned to the hospital, and asked for my discharge. This was granted me, and I also obtained a ticket to go to Montgomery, where I had some business to attend to. … The next day I returned to Atlanta and went immediately to the hospital to visit Capt. De Caulp. To my great joy I found him out of bed and so much improved that he was confident of being well enough to walk out.

We, therefore, went down to the Thompson House together, and I engaged a room and set about making preparations for my marriage.

I was anxious that the affair should pass off as quietly as possible and particularly desired not to give any opportunity for unseemly gossip or talk, and on discussing the matter with Capt. De Caulp, we came to the conclusion that it would be better to tell the whole story to Drs. Benton and Hammond, and to ask them to witness the ceremony under a promise to say nothing to anyone about the fact of my having worn the uniform of a Confederate officer. We, however, resolved to take no one else into our confidence, although there were several good friends of both of us in the town whom we would have been glad to have had at our wedding.

I procured a sufficiency of woman’s apparel for my wedding outfit by purchasing at a variety of places, under the pleas that I wanted the garments for some persons out of town, or for presents to the girls at the hotel — in fact, making up whatever story I thought would answer my purpose. My trousseau was, perhaps, not so complete or so elegant as it might have been under some circumstances or as I could have desired but then the particular circumstances under which the wedding was to take place were peculiar, and neither the bridegroom nor the bride was disposed to be over-ceremonious, or to make much ado about trifles. So long as the captain and myself were satisfied, it did not much matter whether any one else was pleased or not, and we both concluded that a very modest wardrobe would be all that I would need, the main thing being that I should be dressed as a woman when the ceremony took place, for fear of creating too much of a sensation, and, perhaps, of making the clergyman feel unpleasant should I appear before him, hanging on the captain’s arm, in my uniform.

My arrangements having all been made, we concluded to inform the friends whom we had agreed to invite, and accordingly we walked to the hospital together, when the captain called Dr. Benton into his private room and astonished him by telling him that he was going to be married and by asking him to attend the wedding. I broke the news as gently as I could to Dr. Hammond, who scarcely knew what to make of it at first, but who, when I made him clearly understand the situation, gave me his hearty congratulations and promised to be present when the happy event came off.

The next day Capt. De Caulp and I were married in the parlor of the hotel by the Rev. Mr. Pinkington, the post chaplain, in as quiet and unpretentious a way as either of us could desire. The clergyman and our kind friends wished us all manner of happiness, and we both looked forward to a bright future, when, after the war was over, we could settle down in our home and enjoy the blessings of peace in each other’s society. …

I was very desirous of resuming my uniform and of accompanying my husband to the field. I wanted to go through the war with him and to fight by his side, just as I had done at Shiloh. He, however, was bitterly opposed to this, and, with my ample knowledge of army life, I could not but admit the full force of his objections. He contended, that, apart from everything else, I had served my country long enough as a soldier, and that I was under some obligation now to think of him as well as of myself, and no longer to peril life, health, and reputation by exposing myself, as I had been doing. He said that he would fight twice as hard as before and that would answer for both of us, although he was not sure but that what I had done ought to count in his favor — as man and wife were one — and procure him a release from further service.

I very reluctantly yielded an assent to his wishes, although, if I could have looked a little into the future, I either would have prevented his going to the front at all, or else would have insisted upon going with him. Indeed, he ought not to have gone when he did but he knew that the services of every man were needed, and so soon as he was at all able to be on duty, he felt as if he was shirking his share of the work by remaining at the rear when so much hard fighting was going on.

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: I told him who I really was

In the aftermath of the Confederate defeat at Shiloh, Velazquez is wounded, and she decides the surgeon treating her should know that he is treating a woman disguised as a man.

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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 21: In the aftermath of the Confederate defeat at Shiloh, Velazquez is wounded, and she decides the surgeon treating her should know that he is treating a woman disguised as a man.

******

About five o’clock I found my boy near the hospital. He had my horse and another fine animal that he had picked up. In reply to my query, Bob said that he had found him in the woods without a rider. He was branded “U.S” and had an officer’s saddle on, and as he seemed, from outside appearances, to be superior to my own steed, I concluded to take possession of him. Mounting him, I tried him over a fence and a large log, which he cleared like an antelope, so deeming him a prize worth securing, I turned over my own horse to Bob and started him off on the road to Corinth. The boy, however, mistook the road, and went plump into the Federal camp at Purdy, thus depriving me of his valuable services.

As for me, I remained in the woods all night, the roads being perfectly blocked up with the retreating army, trying to shield myself as best I could from the furious storm of rain and hail that came on, as if to add to the miseries which the wretched soldiers of the Confederacy were compelled to endure on their weary march back to Corinth. Although I had escaped from the two days’ fighting unhurt, I was so utterly worn out and wretched that I really did not care a great deal what became of me, and was almost as willing to be taken prisoner by the Federals as to return to Corinth, with a view of again undertaking to exert myself in what was now beginning to appear the hopeless cause of Southern independence. I managed, however, after the worst of the storm was over to find a tolerably dry place, where, completely used up by the fatigues I had undergone, I fell into a sound sleep.

Rested but scarcely refreshed by a brief slumber on the damp ground, and with thoughts of the most gloomy description filling my mind, I mounted my horse at daybreak and started to ride back to Corinth. … I was so despondent over the way things seemed to be going that I had little heart to continue in the contest any longer. At the same time I was loath to give the thing up and could not help reflecting that the true spirit of heroism required me to bear adversity with fortitude and to seek to advance the interests of my cause, no matter how unpropitious the times might seem. …

On arriving at camp I found a mail awaiting me. Among my letters were some from my friends in the army of Virginia, and one from my little Memphis lady, which read as follows:

“Memphis, Tennessee, April 2. 1862.

“My Dear Harry: Yours was handed to me the next morning by our trusty and faithful old servant David, and I hastily opened it, knowing it to be from you by the handwriting. My dear, I am afraid that this will appear unintelligible, being wet with tears from beginning to end. When your letter was handed to me we were at breakfast, and grandpa was reading the “Appeal,” wherein it was stated that all officers and soldiers away from their commands should report for duty. I was afraid that you would have to go, but some hope remained until your fatal letter convinced me that my suspicions were too well founded. Alas, how vain are human expectations! In the morning we dream of happiness and before evening are really miserable. I was promising to myself that one month more would have joined our hands, and now we are to be separated — yes, perhaps for years, if not forever, for how do I know but that the next tidings may bring intelligence of your being killed in battle, and then, farewell to everything in this world, my prospects of a happy future will vanish, and although unmarried, I will ever remain the widow Buford until death.

And is it possible my dear Harry can doubt for one moment of my sincerity; or do you think that these affections can ever be placed on another, which were first fixed upon your dear self, from a convincing sense of your accomplishments and merit? No, dear Harry, my fidelity to you shall remain as unspotted as this paper was before it was blotted with ink and bedewed with tears. I know not how others love, but my engagements are for eternity. You desire me to remind you of your duty. My dear, I know not of any faults, nor am I disposed to look for any. I doubt not that the religious education you have received in your youth will enable you to resist the strongest temptations, and make that everlasting honor to the army, Lieutenant Buford, although not afraid to fight, yet afraid to sin. However terrifying it may be to meet death in the field, yet it is far more awful to appear before a just God, whom we have offended by our iniquities. There are no persons in the world accused more of irreligion than the military, while from the very nature of their employment none are more obliged to practice every Christian duty. They see thousands of their fellow-beings hurried into eternity without a moment’s warning, nor do they know but that the next day they may themselves meet the same fate. My dear Harry, never be ashamed of religion; a consciousness of your own integrity will inspire you with courage in the day of battle, and if you should at last die in defense of the right in your country’s cause, the Divine favor will be your comfort through eternity. In the meantime my prayers shall be constantly for your safety and your preservation in the day of battle, and my earnest hopes will be fixed upon your happy return. …

‘Farewell, dear Harry, and may the wisdom of God direct you, and His all-wise providence be your guard. This is the sincere prayer of one who prefers you before all the world. Grandpa and Auntie wish to be remembered to you kindly. I wrote to Brother that you would hand him a letter.

Your loving intended till death,

I give this as a favorable specimen of the love letters I was in the habit of receiving during my military career, and I have the less hesitation in doing so as it is one that no woman need be ashamed of having written. I could not help laughing a little as I read it, and yet I felt really sorry for the writer, and reproached myself for having permitted my flirtation with her to go to the length it did. The case was a particularly sad one, for the reason that the man who loved her devotedly, and who would doubtless in time have succeeded in curing her of her misplaced affections for the fictitious Lt. Buford, was among the slain at Shiloh. There was no braver soldier belonging to the Confederate army engaged in that bloody battle than Phil Hastings, and his death was doubly a source of regret to me, as by it I lost a warmhearted and sincere friend, and also an opportunity to undo the wrong I had unwittingly done him through capturing the affections of the girl he loved, by endeavoring to make matters right between him and her.

At the time of the receipt of this letter, however, I had something of more pressing importance to think of than explanations with Miss M. My boy had not put in an appearance, and suspecting that he must have lost himself, I started out to search for him; but, although I made diligent inquiry, I could not obtain any intelligence of him. This vexed me extremely, for Bob had become an invaluable servant, being very handy and entirely trustworthy, and I felt that he would be indispensable to me in the movement I now had more than half determined to make, with a view of trying to win the favors of Fortune in a somewhat new field of action.

To make matters worse, when about five miles from Corinth my horse broke from me, and stampeding out of sight, left me to get back the best way I could. I was now in a pretty fix, with scarcely any money about me, and with miles of terribly rough and muddy roads to traverse before I could regain my quarters. There was nothing, however, to do but to bear up under my misfortunes as bravely as possible, and so plunging through the mud, I tried to make my way back to Corinth with what rapidity I could. … Obtaining a horse from the quartermaster, I started back to the battlefield in company with Capt. G. Merrick Miller, who desired to bury the dead of his company.

The road was lined with stragglers, many of them suffering from severe wounds, who were slowly making their way back to their respective camps, and as we reached the scene of the late action the most ghastly sight met our eyes. The ground was thickly strewn with dead men and horses, arms and accoutrements were scattered about in every direction, wagons were stuck in the mud and abandoned, and other abundant evidences of the sanguinary nature of the conflict were perceptible to our eyes. I could face the deadliest fire without flinching, but I could not bear to look at these things, and so, after having made a number of vain inquiries for Bob, I rode back to camp, and said good-by to my Louisiana friends, leaving them under the impression that I intended to take the train.

This I probably might have done had I not fallen in with some cavalry who were about starting out on scouting duty, and been tempted to accompany them. This was the kind of work that I had a particular liking for, and as I had no definite plan for the immediate future arranged, and was desirous of finding Bob before leaving Corinth or its neighborhood, I concluded to try whether a little cavalry service would not be productive of some adventure worth participating in. An adventure of importance in its influence on my future career, sure enough, it did bring me, although it was not exactly what I anticipated or desired.

It was about dark when we set out, and we spent the night hovering about in the neighborhood of the enemy, but without anything noteworthy occurring. The next day we had a little brush with a party of Federals, and after the exchange of a few shots were compelled to retreat. After this, we came across some dead men belonging to the 10th Tennessee Regiment in the woods. Carefully removing the bodies to a field nearby, we put them in a potato bin, and with a hoe, which was the only implement we could find suited to our purpose, we covered them as well as we were able with earth.

While engaged in this melancholy duty, the enemy were occasionally firing shells in different directions, apparently feeling for us. We paid no special attention to them, as the Federals seemed to be firing at random, and, so far as we could judge, did not notice our party. Soon, however, [a shell] burst in our midst, killing a young fellow instantly, and wounding me severely in the arm and shoulder. I was thrown to the ground, and stunned with the suddenness of the thing. One of the soldiers picked me up, and stood me on my feet, saying, “Are you hurt?”

“No, not bad,” I replied, in a vague sort of way, but my whole system was terribly shocked, and I felt deathly sick. Before a great many moments, however, I perfectly recovered my consciousness, and by a resolute effort of will, endeavored to bear up bravely. I found, however, that I was unable to use my right arm, and soon the wound began to pain me terribly.

The soldier who had picked me up, seeing that I was too badly hurt to help myself, lifted me on my horse, and started back to camp with me. It was a long ride, of nearly fifteen miles, and I thought that it would never come to an end. Every moment the pain increased in intensity, and if my horse jolted or stumbled a little, I experienced the most excruciating agony. My fortitude began to give way before the terrible physical suffering I was compelled to endure; all my manliness oozed out long before I reached camp, and my woman’s nature asserted itself with irresistible force. … I longed to be where there would be no necessity for continuing my disguise and where I could obtain shelter, rest, and attention as a woman. My pride, however, and a fear of consequences, prevented me from revealing my sex, and I determined to preserve my secret as long as it was possible to do so, hoping soon to reach some place where I could be myself again with impunity.

By the time we reached camp my hand and arm were so much swollen, that my conductor found it necessary to rip the sleeve of my coat in order to get at the wound for the purpose of bathing it in cold water. The application of the water was a slight relief, but the hurt was too serious a one for such treatment to be of permanent service, so an ambulance was procured, and I was taken to the railroad and put on the train bound south, The cars stopped at Corinth for two hours, and, feeling the necessity for some medical attendance as soon as possible, I sent for a young surgeon whom I knew intimately, and telling him that I was wounded severely, asked him to try and do something to relieve my suffering.

He immediately examined my arm, and, as I perceived by the puzzled expression that passed over his face, he was beginning to suspect something, and guessing that further concealment would be useless, I told him who I really was. I never saw a more astonished man in my life. The idea of a woman engaging in such an adventure and receiving such an ugly hurt appeared to shock him extremely, and he declared that he would not take the responsibility of performing an operation, but would send for Dr. S. This frightened me, for I had witnessed some specimens of that surgeon’s method of dealing with wounded soldiers, and I insisted that he was too barbarous, and that he should not touch me. He then proposed to send for Dr. H., but I objected to this also, and finally, at my urgent solicitation, he consented to make a careful examination himself and try what he could do.

Loreta’s Civil War: The bitter struggle yet to come

Velazquez contends with her New Orleans interrogators, works her way back to the Confederate army, and takes a moment to reflect on romantic life, particularly hers.

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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 18: Velazquez contends with her New Orleans interrogators, works her way back to the Confederate army, and takes a moment to reflect on romantic life, particularly hers.

******

In spite of my bravado, however, this incident gave me a great deal of uneasiness, for I saw that I was in a dangerous predicament, and was liable at any moment to get into further trouble. I was not much surprised, therefore, although greatly disgusted, when the next evening I was again arrested, this time on suspicion of being a woman. Now what I had so long dreaded was come to pass, and there was nothing to do but to get out of the difficulties which environed me the best way I could.

Being taken before Mayor Monroe, I was interrogated by that individual in a style that I did not at all admire. It seemed to me that he was assuming a certain lordliness of manner that did not sit gracefully upon him, and that was entirely uncalled for by the exigencies of the occasion.

My replies to the queries of the mayor were not satisfactory to him, for his very imperious and pompous bearing made me angry, and rather put me on my mettle. He consequently chose to assume that I was a woman, and ordered me to change my apparel.

I, however, was resolved not to give up without a severe contest, having made up my mind, on assuming male attire, not to acknowledge my sex except in the last extremity, and for the sake of securing ends that could not otherwise be accomplished. So, turning to Mr. Monroe, I said, with a dignified severity quite equal to his own, “Sir, prove that I am a woman; it will be quite time, when you do that, for you to give me an order to change my dress.”

This rather disconcerted the mayor and his satellites, and, watching their countenances closely, I saw that they were nonplussed, and were doubtful how to proceed, being uncertain whether or not they had made a mistake. My hopes of a prompt discharge, however, were doomed to disappointment, for the mayor, after a brief consultation, decided to remand me to the calaboose, until it should be settled to his satisfaction who I was, and whether I was a man or a woman. To the calaboose I accordingly went, horrified at being subjected to such an indignity, and with anything but pleasant or friendly feelings towards the mayor, and the meddlesome, prying busybodies who had been instrumental in getting me into this trouble. …

I was visited the next morning by a local reporter, who showed a very eager desire to find out all he could about me, for the purpose of writing a sensational article for the paper with which he was connected. As may be imagined, this sort of thing did not increase my amiability, or tend to make me bear my misfortunes in a philosophical spirit. I gave Mr. Reporter very little satisfaction, shaping my conversation with him with a view of inducing him to believe that a great mistake had been committed, and that I was the victim of a very unjust persecution.

The reporter was troublesome, but I was not alarmed at him, as I was at my next visitor — Dr. Root, of the Charity Hospital. This gentleman, I knew, would be much more difficult to deal with; and before he got through with questioning me, I was convinced, from his manner, that his mind was made up with regard to me. I felt sure that the easiest and best method, indeed, the only method I could safely adopt, was to confess frankly to the mayor that I was really a woman, trusting that this fact being settled in a manner satisfying to his magisterial dignity, he would have no further pretext for keeping me in confinement, and would order my release.

I therefore wrote a note to his honor, requesting a private interview. This request he granted, and without any more equivocation I told him who I was and gave him what I hoped would be satisfactory reasons for assuming the garb I wore. My confession having been made, I next endeavored to treat with the mayor for an immediate release, promising to leave the city as soon as liberated, my idea being to return to military life forthwith, as I had had quite enough of New Orleans for the present.

Mr. Monroe, however, having gotten me in his clutches, was not disposed to let me go so easily, and he said that he would be compelled to fine me ten dollars, and to sentence me to ten days’ imprisonment — a decision that did not increase my good opinion of him. …

I thought that this was pretty rough treatment, considering all that I had done to serve the Confederacy. … I was resolved not to give the thing up. So I concluded that the best plan was to suffer in silence, and to allow the mayor to have what satisfaction he could get out of my ten dollars — I wonder if any of it went into the city treasury? — and out of keeping me incarcerated for ten days. …

I felt sure that once more with the army I would be safe, but, with so many suspicious people watching me, it would be, I knew, extremely difficult to get away as I had come, and to enter upon my old career as an independent, without questioning or hindrance. It was therefore necessary for me to smuggle myself, so to speak, among the soldiers again. … As soon as possible, therefore, after obtaining my release, I proceeded to the recruiting office at the corner of Jefferson and Chatham Streets, and enlisted in Captain B. Moses’ company, of the 21st Louisiana Regiment. The next day we started for Fort Pillow to join the balance of the regiment.

In this manner I contrived to get clear of New Orleans [and] my next thought was to resume my independent footing at the earliest moment. I therefore went privately to Gen. Villipigue, and, showing my commission, told a plausible story to account for my enlistment, and asked him to give me employment as an officer. … Gen. Villipigue was not able to do anything for me, as there were no vacancies, and I therefore applied for a transfer to the Army of East Tennessee and was very cheerfully granted it. … This was the first time I had ever been regularly mustered into the service, and the step was taken, not from choice, but for the purpose of escaping from the surveillance of Mayor Monroe. … I felt that my interests demanded a removal to another locality. Consequently, so soon as I received my papers, I said adieu to my new friends and was off with all possible speed. …

Having secured my transportation and transfer papers, I went to Memphis by the first boat, and was erelong once again at my original starting-point. … My confidence in the sacredness of the cause, in the ability of the Southern armies to sustain it, and its ultimate triumph, were, however, unbroken, notwithstanding that I believed precious time was being wasted, and that, through a mistaken policy, the Confederates were compelled to stand upon the defensive, when they ought to have assumed the aggressive and attacked the enemy on his own ground.

Now, however, things had changed. The terrible disaster at Fort Donelson had been a rude blow to my ideas of Southern invincibility in the field, and if it did not induce me to despair, it certainly opened my eyes to the magnitude of the task we had on hand, and compelled me to recognize the fact, that we were contending with a resolute and powerful enemy whose resources were enormously superior to ours and who was evidently bent upon crushing us to the earth and compelling us to submit to his dictation. All the fine dreams of the previous summer were dissipated into thin air, but there still remained the consolation, that during the bitter struggle yet to come, there would doubtless be plenty of opportunities for me to serve the cause with efficiency, and to win personal glory by my performances. …

So soon as I arrived at Memphis, I telegraphed to Grand Junction for my baggage and my servant, and then went to the tailor, and giving him an order for an officer’s uniform suit, with instructions to have it ready at the earliest possible moment, borrowed from him a coat to wear until my new clothing should be ready. I discarded my soldier’s jacket with quite as much satisfaction as had inspired me on assuming it, and prepared myself to wait, with what equanimity I could command, the moment when I might be able to figure once more in the eyes of both sexes as the dashing young independent, Lt. Harry T. Buford. … I was really not sorry for an opportunity to shut myself up for a day or two, so that I could take a thorough rest, and think, without being interrupted, what was the best plan of action for the immediate future. …

The next day I received two letters, one of which was from my future husband. for, gentle reader, all these months that, in a guise of a man, I had been breaking young ladies’ hearts by my fascinating figure and manner, my own woman’s heart had an object upon which its affections were bestowed, and I was engaged to be married to a truly noble officer of the Confederate army, who knew me, both as a man and as a woman, but who little suspected that Lt. Harry T. Buford, and his intended wife, were one and the same person. By this letter, I learned that my lover was then at Corinth, where I expected to meet him in a few days, and my heart jumped for joy at the idea of being able to fight by his side in the battle that was coming off. This I was determined to do, if the thing could be managed. …

In the relations of the sexes, there are many points which society insists upon for the sake of the proprieties, which are absolutely absurd when tested by any common-sense standard, While permitting a laxity of manners in others that is far from being conducive to good morals or to the general happiness. Many a woman has lost a good husband through a false modesty, which would not permit her to even give him a hint with regard to her real feelings, for some of the best and most whole-souled men are frequently as timid and bashful as the most timid and bashful women, and require some encouragement before they can be induced to speak, while others are strangely obtuse, and do not even think of being anything more than commonly polite to particular ladies, unless something is done to stimulate them. Such backward and thick- witted men are often the most ardent lovers and the fondest and best of husbands when they are once aroused. Many a woman, too, is fond of one man while she is being persistently courted by another; and if, as is apt to be the case, the object of her regards refuses to notice her in the manner she wishes — perhaps simply because he does not like to interfere with another man’s love affair — she has no resource, if she hopes for a happy future, but to declare herself. …

Loreta’s Civil War: All the dignity I could command

New Orleans authorities arrest Velazquez as a spy, and she has to find a way to talk herself out of a jail cell or a worse fate.

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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 17: New Orleans authorities arrest Velazquez as a spy, and she has to find a way to talk herself out of a jail cell or a worse fate.

******

From Fort Donelson I went … to Nashville, and took rooms at the St. Cloud Hotel. I was utterly used up from fatigue, exposure, anxiety, and bitter disappointment; and both I and my negro boy Bob — who had been taken quite sick during the battle — needed an opportunity to thoroughly rest ourselves. It was an immense relief to reach a good hotel, where I could have a shelter over my head, a comfortable bed, and wholesome food; but such was the restlessness of my disposition, and the agitation of my mind, on account of the terrible scenes through which I had just passed, that I could not keep quiet; and scarcely had I recovered a little from my fatigue, than I was eager to be in motion again.

Nashville was in an intense state of excitement over the unexpected result of the attack upon Fort Donelson. … Sending my negro boy to Grand Junction in charge of a friend, I went to the headquarters of Gen. Albert Sydney Johnston, and upon asking for employment, was put in the detective corps. There was plenty of work for everybody to do, for the fall of Fort Donelson had rendered it necessary that the whole Southern army should fall back for the purpose of taking up a new line, and I had no reason to complain of a lack of activity. …

While participating in a skirmish with the enemy, who were harassing us whenever an opportunity offered, I was wounded in the foot. This lamed me, and compelled me to have the hurt dressed by the surgeon, at which I was not a little alarmed, for I knew that I was now in imminent danger of having my sex discovered. … I resolved that the only course for me to pursue was to abandon the army before I got into trouble.

I therefore availed myself of the earliest possible opportunity to take French leave, and quietly slipped away to Grand Junction, where I remained for three days, and then, in company with my boy Bob, repaired to Jackson, Mississippi. At Jackson I hired Bob out, as I wanted to get rid of him for a while, having in my mind certain plans, in the execution of which it would have been an encumbrance for him to have been with me. Bob being disposed of in a satisfactory manner, I hastened … to New Orleans, and took up my quarters at the Brooks House.

By abandoning the army, however, and going to New Orleans at this particular juncture, I was, to use a homely phrase, jumping out of the frying pan into the fire. Rigid as was army discipline, and strict as were the precautions taken to prevent treachery and the surveillance of spies, I had managed to sustain myself in the army as an independent without difficulty, and was on the best possible terms with everybody. In New Orleans, on the other hand, I found the spirit of suspicion rampant. Confidence in the ability of the city to defend itself against the impending Federal attack was expressed on all sides, but the fact that an attempt was undoubtedly to be made, before a great while, for its reduction, and the uncertainty with regard to the exact nature of the blow, or the exact direction from which it would fall, caused an uneasiness that could not be disguised. The Federals were known to be mustering an enormous fleet at the mouth of the river, and a large army on the Sound, and my surmises of months before, based upon what I had heard in Washington, were, apparently, about to be realized. …

I did not at all appreciate the situation when I went to New Orleans. When I entered Washington it was as a spy, and I consequently had all my wits about me; but in New Orleans I thought I was among my friends, and very imprudently neglected ordinary precautions for avoiding difficulties.

During the eight or nine months I had been wearing male attire, I had, as the reader is aware, seen a great deal of very hard service. My clothing was well worn, and my apparatus for disguising my form was badly out of order; and the result was that I scarcely presented as creditable a man’s appearance as I did upon the occasion of my last visit to New Orleans. I had, too, by this time become so much accustomed to male attire that I ceased to bear in my mind, constantly, the absolute necessity for preserving certain appearances, and had grown careless about a number of little matters that, when attended to properly, aided materially in maintaining my incognito. In addition to all this, I was in very low spirits, if not absolutely sick, when I reached New Orleans, and was not in a mood to play my part in the best manner.

I had not been in the city very long before it was noted by prying people that there was some mystery about me, and for anyone to have a mystery just then, was equivalent to falling under the ban of both military and civic authorities. I, of course, imagining no evil, was not prepared for a demonstration against me, and was accordingly thunderstruck when I was arrested on the charge of being a spy, and taken before the provost marshal.

Terror, dismay, and indignation struggled for mastery with me when this outrage, as 1 considered it, was perpetrated. … Reviewing the matter very rapidly in my own mind, I determined that the best, if not the only plan, was to present a bold front, and to challenge my accusers to prove anything against me, reserving a revelation of my identity as a last alternative.

I entered a vigorous protest against the whole proceeding to the officer who made the arrest, and I could see, from his hesitating and indecisive manner, that he was in possession of no definite charge against me, and was inclined to be dubious about the propriety or legality of his action. This encouraged me, and induced me to believe that I might be able to brave the thing through; but I resolved, if I did get clear, to cut my visit to New Orleans as short as possible. My protest, however, was of no avail, so far as procuring an instantaneous release was concerned, for the officer insisted upon my accompanying him to the office of the provost marshal.

While on my way to the provost marshal’s, my conductor questioned me closely, but I gave him such answers as evidently increased his uneasy feelings, and I soon saw that he was beginning to seriously doubt whether he was doing exactly the correct thing in making the arrest. Finally, he proposed to release me; but to this I objected in very decided terms, and insisted on knowing exactly what accusations there were against me.

To the office of the provost marshal we accordingly went, and, after a very few questions, that official decided, with gratifying promptness, that there was no justification for holding me, and ordered my discharge from custody.

This appeared to astonish the individual who had made the arrest very much, and it was evident that he was repenting of his rashness, and was anxious to get out of an unpleasant predicament the best way he could. I enjoyed his discomfiture immensely, and, turning to him with all the dignity I could command, I demanded his name. This, with very evident reluctance, he at length gave me, and making him a stiff bow, I said, in a quiet but threatening manner, “I will see you again about this matter, sir,” as I walked out of the office.

Loreta’s Civil War: Making myself liable to suspicion

Velazquez tours the enemy capital city and collects intelligence she deems valuable to the Confederate war effort.

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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 14: Velazquez tours the enemy capital city and collects intelligence she deems valuable to the Confederate war effort.

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The information of most vital moment, however, that I succeeded in obtaining from him was that active preparations were being made to secure possession of the upper Mississippi, and that a very large fleet was being fitted out for the purpose of blockading the mouth of the river. I instantly surmised from this that an attack on New Orleans was in contemplation, and resolved to bend my energies, during my stay in Washington, to the task of finding out all I could with regard to the actual intentions of the Federal government. I did succeed in obtaining ample confirmation of all my friend told me, and to a limited extent of my guesses. Those, however, who really knew, were very close-mouthed about what particular work was being cut out for the fleet to perform, and the desire seemed to be to leave the impression that it was to undertake blockade duty simply, and to close the mouths of the river to the ingress and egress of vessels. There were some things which I heard, however, that did not exactly conform to this theory, and by the time I left Washington, I was tolerably well convinced that a grand blow was shortly to be struck, either at Mobile or New Orleans, but most likely at the latter city. I pumped, in a quiet way, everybody I met, who was at all likely to know anything; but I was really afraid to push my inquiries too far, or to seem too inquisitive, as I did not care to be suspected as a spy and put under surveillance, especially as I learned that the government was greatly annoyed by the presence of numbers of Confederate spies in Washington, and was disposed to deal vigorously with them if they were caught.

This, it must be remembered, was simply a reconnoitering expedition, undertaken entirely on my own account, without authority from anybody; and while I, of course, wanted to find out all I could, my real object was more to make an experiment than anything else, and I did not wish to spoil my chances for future operations — for I fully expected to visit Washington again on similar service to this — by getting into trouble just then, and consequently making myself liable to suspicion in the future.

After a somewhat prolonged and very pleasant conversation with my friend, he took his departure, promising, however, to call the next day, and as I was a stranger in Washington — having never visited the city before — to take me to the different places of interest. This was exactly what I wanted, for I was desirous of being informed, as soon as possible, exactly where the public offices were situated, and the best means of obtaining access to them, and I counted greatly upon this obliging and very gallant gentleman unsuspectingly starting me on the right road for the accomplishment of the ends I had in view.

He made his appearance promptly at the appointed hour the next morning, and took me to see the Patent Office, the Treasury Department, and the War Department. … I led him up to making a proposal that he should introduce me to the secretary of war. In a demure sort of way, I expressed myself as delighted at the honor of being able to meet so great a man, and so, in a few moments more, I was bowing, in my politest manner, to Secretary [Simon] Cameron. …

I cannot say that the secretary of war impressed me very favorably. He was abundantly courteous in his manners, but there was a crafty look in his eyes, and a peculiar expression about his mouth, that I thought indicated a treacherous disposition, and that I did not like. I concluded that Mr. Cameron would be a hard man to deal with, unless dealing were made well worth his while; but in spite of his evident knowingness, and his evident confidence in his own abilities, I left him, feeling tolerably sure that I could prove myself a fair match for him in case our wits were ever brought into conflict. …

From the War Department we went to the White House, where my friend said he would introduce me to the president. I really had some dread of this interview, although I experienced a great curiosity to see Mr. Lincoln … I considered him more than any one person responsible for the war. Mr. Lincoln, however, was an agreeable disappointment to me, as I have no doubt he was to many others. He was certainly a very homely man, but he was not what I should call an ugly man, for he had a pleasant, kindly face, and a pleasantly familiar manner, that put one at ease with him immediately. I did not have an opportunity to exchange a great many words with Mr. Lincoln, but my interview, brief as it was, induced me to believe, not only that he was not a bad man, but that he was an honest and well-meaning one, who thought that he was only doing his duty in attempting to conquer the South. … I left the White House, if not with a genuine liking for him, at least with many of my prejudices dispelled and different feelings towards him than I had when I entered.

My tour around Washington, and especially my visit to the War and Post Office Departments, convinced me, not only that Washington would be a first-rate place for me to operate in, if I could obtain a definite attachment to the detective corps, but that I had the abilities to become a good detective, and would, in a very short time, be able to put the Confederate authorities in possession of information of the first value with regard to the present and prospective movements of the enemy.

Having fulfilled my errand, and accomplished all that I had expected when starting out on this trip, I left Washington as suddenly as I had entered it, giving my friend to understand that I was going to New York. I had as little trouble in getting back to Leesburg as I had in getting away from it, and put in an appearance at the house of the old colored woman, who had my uniform hid away for me, within thirteen days from the time I left it.

Attiring myself once more in the garb of a Confederate officer, I returned the old woman her calico dress, shawl, sun-bonnet, and shoes. … My other suit of female clothing I took up to the hotel with me, and told my boy Bob, who seemed to be very curious about them, that I had bought them for my girl. Bob seemed to be delighted to see me again, as he had been apprehensive, from my long absence, that something had happened, and that I might never return. He was most anxious to know where I had been; but I put a short stop to his questionings on that topic, by giving him orders to have everything ready for an early start on a long journey in the morning. The next day we were en route for Columbus, Tennessee, where I expected to find Gen. Leonidas Polk, under whom I was now desirous of serving.

Loreta’s Civil War: A mild flirtation with this fair flower

Velazquez completes her disguise, doesn’t hesitate from flirting with farm girls, and rounds up men to form her Confederate battalion.

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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 8: Velazquez completes her disguise, doesn’t hesitate from flirting with farm girls, and rounds up men to form her Confederate battalion.

******

I immediately proceeded to change my garments, and ere a great many minutes had elapsed, I was transformed into a man, so far as it was possible for clothing to transform me. When I was ready, I called my friend and asked his opinion of the figure I cut. He admitted that I was not a bad-looking specimen of a man, considering I had only been about five minutes, and thought that in time I should be able to do credit to the name I bore and the clothes I wore.

The only regret I had in making up my disguise was the necessity for parting with my long and luxuriant hair. This gave me a real pang but there was no help for it, and I submitted with as good a grace as I could muster, while my friend played the part of tonsorial artist with a pair of shears. He trimmed my hair tolerably close and said that it would answer until I could visit a barber’s shop with him and be initiated into some of the mysteries of such a peculiarly masculine place of resort. … [H]e made me promenade the room, practicing a masculine gait until I had acquired it tolerably well, and gave me a great number of very minute instructions about the proper manner of conducting myself so that my sex would not be suspected. He particularly enjoined me to watch his actions closely at the barber’s, in the drinking saloons, the billiard rooms, and the other places he intended conducting me to, for the purpose of informing me with regard to some masculine habits and ways of acting, talking, and thinking. …

Strolling down the street, we soon came to the hotel and entered the barroom, where my companion met a number of friends, to whom he introduced me as a young officer on his way to the seat of war. I was received with much cordiality, and the whole party speedily engaged in an animated conversation about the coming conflict. … The men all took whiskey straight but I did not venture on anything stronger than cider. Soon my companion managed to give me a quiet hint, and I treated the party to drinks and cigars. We then adjourned to the billiard-room, and my friend, taking off his coat, went at a game in good earnest with another member of the party. I had never seen the game of billiards played before, and I soon became intensely interested … pretending to smoke my cigar, the balls rolling over the table. As the weather was warm, I very soon, after entering the billiard-room, availed myself of what seemed to be the custom of the place, to take off my heavily padded coat, which began to be unbearable, and found myself much more at my ease sitting in my shirt sleeves. …

The next day I completed my outfit by purchasing a pair of field glasses, a pair of blankets, a rubber overcoat, and a rubber blanket. On returning to my room I made out a form of attorney in my friend’s name and authorized him to attend to all my business matters for me. I also prepared a lot of recruiting papers on the model of some genuine ones I succeeded in getting hold of, and some muster rolls, and procured a manual of tactics, and before the day was over was pretty nearly ready to commence active operations.

My friend, thinking that my disguise could be somewhat improved and a more manly air given to my countenance, obtained a false mustache and a solution with which to stain my face in order to make it look tanned. I rubbed on the solution until my skin was about the right tint, and then my friend carefully fastened the mustache on my upper lip with glue. This was a very great improvement, and I scarcely knew myself when I looked in the glass, and laughed at the thought of what my husband would say when he saw me in this disguise. …

Everything was now in proper trim for me to commence operations in earnest; so, packing my trunk, rolling up my blankets in army style, as I had often seen soldiers do, preparing my papers, and getting ready a change of underwear, and other matters for immediate use in a small satchel, I was ready to start on my campaign with as stout a heart as ever beat in the breast of a soldier.

The plan of action I had fixed upon, after mature reflection, was to raise and equip a battalion at my own expense, taking care to select good material for it, and then to appear at the head of my little army before my husband, and to offer him the command. I pictured to myself again and again the look of astonishment he would put on when he recognized his wife as the leader of a gallant band who were pledged to fight to the death for the cause of Southern independence, and flattered myself with the idea that, so far from being inclined to censure me for my obstinate persistence in carrying out my idea of becoming a soldier, he would be disposed to praise without reservation, and so far from being ashamed of my action, would be proud of it. Whatever view of the matter he might take, however, he would be compelled to yield to my wishes, whether he desired to do so or not, and I would consequently be free to follow the bent of my inclinations without fear of further opposition on his part. My desire was to serve with him, if possible; but if this could not be done, I intended to play my part in the war in my own way, without his assistance. I, however, did not contemplate any further difficulty in obtaining his consent, and even his assistance, in the execution of my plans, and so started out on the war path with a light heart and with brilliant anticipations for the future.

I crossed over to Hopefield, on the Arkansas side of the river, and took the five o’clock train, not knowing exactly where I proposed to bring up. For a time I busied myself with the study of my Manual of Tactics, with the intention of becoming sufficiently posted on certain points to get my recruits into something like military training immediately. Having been the wife of an army officer for a number of years, and having seen some hard service on the frontier, I was, in a measure, pretty well qualified for the work I had now undertaken, especially as I had paid a good deal of attention to the details of military organizations, and had seen soldiers drilled hundreds of times. I had not been in the train very long, before, finding the conductor at leisure, I entered into conversation with him with a view of obtaining information that might be useful in the furtherance of my designs.

Explaining to this individual, who appeared to take the liveliest interest in my affairs, that I was on a recruiting expedition, I asked him if he could not suggest a good neighborhood for me to commence operations in. He said that Hurlburt Station was as likely a place as I could find to pick up a company of strong, hearty fellows who would do some good fighting, and advised me to try my luck there. Hurlburt, he told me, was not much of a place — a saw-mill, a country store, in which the post office was located, a schoolhouse, which was also used as a church, being pretty much all there was of it. …

The train sped through the swamps, and it was not a great while before we reached Hurlburt Station, where, in accordance with the conductor’s suggestion, I alighted. With my satchel in my hand, I made for the nearest house, and inquired of a negro, who was chopping wood, whether his master was at home. The darkey stared at me a bit, evidently attracted by something in my appearance, and then, grinning until he showed all his ivories, said that the old boss was away, but that the young boss was about somewhere. I accordingly told him to call the young boss; and soon up came a well-built, good-looking young fellow, whom I fixed upon immediately as a suitable recruit. …

I told him that I had the army regulations with me and would take pleasure in explaining them to him in the morning. I then asked him to give me some water so that I could clean myself up a bit before supper, as I was pretty well covered with dust and cinders after my ride. He accordingly got me a basin of water and then left me to go off and hunt the old man, full of eagerness to tell him of the arrival of the recruiting officer, and of his own desire to go soldiering.

The sudden intrusion of a gallant young officer, in a gay uniform, plentifully decorated with buttons and lace … made an even greater impression on the female than upon the male part of the family. My arrival had clearly created an intense excitement, and I understood very well that I was the subject of the whispered conversation that I heard going on outside. From the manner in which the old woman and her son had addressed me, I knew that they had no suspicions of my being other than what I seemed, but I judged that it would be necessary to be pretty careful how I carried myself before the former, for she was clearly a sharp one and would be quick to take note of any peculiarly feminine traits of manner I might display. I therefore determined to play the man right manfully, whether I thought myself observed or not; and this I found to be a very good rule to go by throughout the entire period during which I wore my disguise. …

The eldest of the two daughters was about sixteen and was attired in a bright, flaring yellow calico; the youngest was about twelve years of age and was somewhat less unbecomingly dressed in pink. Both of the girls had put on the best they had to do honor to the occasion, and the eldest, especially, so soon as her first bashfulness wore off, seemed very much disposed to attract the particular attention of the visitor by various little feminine artifices, which I understood very well, and which amused me immensely.

On entering the room, the old woman said, awkwardly waving her hands towards her daughters, “These is my gals, sir.”

I bowed in the politest manner, and said, with what I intended to be a particularly fascinating smile, “Good evening, ladies,” laying a particular emphasis on the word “ladies,” which had the desired effect, for both of the girls blushed deeper than ever, and the eldest simpered as if she heartily enjoyed it. … I started a talk with the old woman by remarking that it had been an exceedingly pleasant day. … After a few commonplaces of this kind about the weather and other matters of no particular moment, I thought I might as well proceed to business at once, for I expected that I would have some opposition from the old woman in my effort to enlist [her son]. So I said, “Madam, I am trying to enlist your son for a soldier in my company; don’t you think you can spare him?” She burst out crying, and exclaimed, “Oh, sir, I can’t let my boy go for a soldier and get killed.” The youngest girl, seeing her mother in tears, began to blubber a little also; but the eldest not only did not cry, but she looked at me in such a peculiar way that I was convinced she wished I would take her instead of [her brother].

The idea of having a mild little flirtation with this fair flower of the Arkansas forest rather grew upon me as I noticed the impression I was making upon her susceptible imagination. I had some curiosity to know how lovemaking went from the masculine standpoint and thought that the present would be a good opportunity to gain some valuable experience in that line; for it occurred to me that if I was to figure successful in the role of a dashing young Confederate officer, it would be necessary for me to learn how to make myself immensely agreeable to the ladies. I knew how to make myself agreeable to the men, or thought I did, and I could, if I chose, be agreeable to women in a feminine sort of fashion; but I had never studied the masculine carriage towards my sex critically with a view of imitating it, and it was important, therefore, that I should begin at once to do so, in order that when compelled to associate with women, as I assuredly would be to a greater or less extent, I might not belie my outward appearances by my conduct. I flatter myself that during the time I passed for a man I was tolerably successful with the women, and I had not a few curious and most amusing adventures, which gave me an insight into some of the peculiarities of feminine human nature which had not impressed themselves on my mind before, perhaps because I was a woman.

My flirtation with Miss Sadie Giles was not a very savage one, and I hope that it did not inflict more damage on her heart than it did on mine. It was immensely amusing to me while it lasted, and I presume, if not exactly amusing, it might at least be deemed entertaining to her. At any rate, I succeeded not only in having a little sly fun at her expense, but I picked up an idea or two that I subsequently found useful. Noticing that Miss Sadie was developing a marked partiality for me, but was much too bashful to give me any encouragement, except some shy glances out of the corners of her eyes, I commenced to ogle her, and, whenever I had an opportunity, to pay her some delicate attentions, for the purpose of making her think I was just a bit fascinated with her. It soon became very evident that the heart which beat under that yellow calico dress was in a great state of excitement, and Miss Sadie, while not encouraging me by any direct advances, made it very plainly understood that my little attentions were appreciated.

Supper was now announced, and we all sat down to a tolerably plentiful repast, the principal features of which were bacon, cabbage, and fried chickens — the latter having been prepared in my honor. Miss Sadie managed to place herself by my side, by a dexterous little maneuver which escaped the attention of the family but which I understood perfectly. I, for my part, strove to play the gallant by helping her bountifully to the bacon, cabbage, and chicken, and by endeavoring to induce her to join in the conversation. She undoubtedly appreciated my attentions at their full value, but was not sufficiently self-possessed to do much talking; indeed, during the supper I could scarcely get anything out of her except a timid “yes” or “no.”

[Her father], on the contrary, was very talkative, and plied me with all kinds of questions about myself, my errand, the war, and the prospect of a speedy accomplishment of Southern independence. I told him that my name was Buford, that I was a lieutenant in the army, and that I had been sent down to Arkansas for the purpose of recruiting a company for service in Virginia. He said that I would have no difficulty in getting all the recruits I wanted, as the young fellows in those parts were every one eager to have a dash at the Yankees, and promised to aid me in every way possible. …

Before the supper was over I had a terrible fright. … While drinking a glass of buttermilk, which I greatly enjoyed, for it was the best thing on the table, and was most refreshing, my mustache got full of the fluid, and when I attempted to wipe this ornament, which my Memphis friend had so carefully glued upon my upper lip, and which added so much to the manliness of my countenance, I fancied that it was loose and was about to fall off. Here was a terrible situation, and I cannot undertake to describe what I felt. To say that I was frightened scarcely gives an idea of the cold chills that ran down my back. The ridicule of my entertainers, and especially of Miss Sadie, was the least thing that I feared, and I would rather brave any number of perils at the cannon’s mouth than to repeat the emotions of that dreadful moment. Such a situation as this is ludicrous enough, but it was not a bit funny for me at that time, and I was on pins and needles until I could get away and take means to secure the mustache firmly on again. I managed, however, to keep a straight countenance and to join in the conversation with a tolerable degree of equanimity, keeping my hand up to my mouth all the time though, and doing my best to hold the mustache on. My fright, after all, was causeless, for on examination I found that the hair was too firmly glued to my lip to be easily removed; indeed, I subsequently discovered that it was practically impossible to move it without the aid of alcohol.

After supper, the old man and Frank went off to finish up their work before going to bed, and the women folks busied themselves in clearing the dishes. … I glanced over my shoulder, and seeing that Miss Sadie had finished her work and was apparently anxious to be better acquainted with me, I politely arose and offered her my raw-hide chair. This she blushingly declined but took a wooden stool, upon which she seated herself quite close to me. I could think of nothing so likely to loosen her tongue and make her properly sociable as a reference to religious matters; so I asked her if there were any churches in the neighborhood. She said that there was no regular church, but that on Sundays a preacher held forth in the schoolhouse. … The old man, I presume, was rather tired, and so, taking advantage of this change of subject in our conversation, he went to bed, and soon was snoring lustily. Finally, Miss Sadie got back to what was the subject uppermost in her thoughts and began questioning me about my own affairs, by asking if I had any brothers.

“Yes,” I replied, “One, older than myself, who is more fortunate, for he is married,” giving a look at her out of the corner of my eye, which I intended her to understand as an intimation that, although not married, I had no objections to being so if I could find a girl to suit me.

“You ought to be married, too,” said Miss Sadie, with a simper, and apparently appreciating this kind of conversation much better than the war talk the old man and I had been indulging in.

“How can I get married when none of the girls will have me?” I retorted. … The old woman thinking, I suppose, to flatter me, said, “A handsome young fellow like you, with, I dare say, a pretty fair education, needn’t be afraid of the gals not having you.”

At this point of the conversation the old man awoke, and sang out, “Don’t you women talk that man to death. Why don’t you git out and let him go to bed?” and then, pointing to a bed in the corner, he told me to turn in there when I felt like it. …

Here I was at the end of my first day’s experience in playing the part of a soldier, with every reason to believe that I had thus far played it most successfully, and that I had really made quite a brilliant start. … the susceptible heart of Miss Sadie was apparently touched in a way that it could never have been had the faintest suspicion of my not being a man crossed her mind. The old woman, too, who, in a matter of this kind, would be quite certain to be a more critical observer than the rest of the family, had no hesitation in believing me to be a gallant young soldier; so that, taking all things into consideration, I had reason to congratulate myself upon a brilliant opening to my campaign. …

[The next day, when] breakfast was over … I crossed over to the schoolhouse, where I found half a dozen rather rough fellows waiting to see me, all of whom expressed themselves as extremely anxious to enlist. One very hard-looking specimen, who could not even write his name, wanted very badly to be captain; indeed, they all were quite ambitious to be officers, and I had some difficulty in explaining to them, that in the army, in time of war, where actual fighting was being done, it was a very different thing holding the position of an officer, from what it was in the militia. I, however, encouraged them to believe that they all might be lieutenants, captains, and even generals, some day, if they fought bravely, and succeeded in creating such an enthusiasm among them over the prospect of a brush with the Yankees, to be followed by rapid promotion, that the whole party were soon ready to enlist on any terms I chose to suggest.

After talking the matter over with these men for some time, and explaining the situation in the best style I was able, I wrote out some bills calling for volunteers, one of which I posted on the school-house door. … During the day I read the army regulations at least a dozen times, and tried to make the men understand what they meant. This was not a very easy matter, but I succeeded in enrolling thirty-six, whom I ordered to report for roll call the next morning. This they did not much fancy; but on my stating that they were under oath and bound to obey, they yielded without making any trouble about it, but apparently with no great admiration for military discipline.

My quota was easily filled in four days, and I then proceeded to get my battalion organization complete and to make preparations for departure. Two of the most intelligent of the men I appointed subordinate officers, one sergeant and the other corporal, and gave them instructions about drilling the battalion and maintaining discipline in my absence. Everything now being in proper trim, I sent a messenger ahead to the friend in Memphis who had so efficiently aided my plans with instructions for him to engage transportation, and then getting my troops into marching order, off we started. …

Loreta’s Civil War: Concealing my true form

Velazquez offers a detailed explanation of how she transformed her appearance from a Southern lady into a Confederate officer.

KS14

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 6: Velazquez offers a detailed explanation of how she transformed her appearance from a Southern lady into a Confederate officer.

******

On the 8th of April my husband started for Richmond, apparently under the impression that, as I had said nothing for several days about accompanying him, I had abandoned all notion of doing so. He ought to have known me better, and to have been assured that a woman of my obstinate temper was not to be prevented by mere argument from carrying out a pet scheme which promised such glorious results as the one we had been discussing.

My husband’s farewell kisses were scarcely dry upon my lips, when I made haste to attire myself in one of his suits, and to otherwise disguise myself as a man. … The first thing to be done before I made any attempt to play a masculine role at all prominently in public was, of course, to get some properly fitting clothing. … I had, however, some time before taken notice of a small tailor’s shop on a retired street not very far from the hotel, the presiding genius of which was a not very brilliant-looking German, and I thought perhaps I might run the gantlet of his scrutiny without much fear of detection. … I accordingly went to this German tailor, and ordered two uniform suits, for which I agreed to pay him eighty-five dollars each. As he took my measure he eyed me pretty close, and seemed to imagine that something was not quite right. I was dreadfully afraid he would discover me to be a woman, but resolved, if he did, that I would endeavor to silence him with a handsome bribe for a few days, until he got my suits done and I could leave the city. …

“Ah,” said the tailor, looking at me rather sharply, “what you want to go to war for? You is too young for the fightin,’ isn’t you? What your mammy say to that, eh?”

I replied, with as careless an air as I could possibly assume, that I was twenty-two years of age, and was a graduate of West Point, following up this information with other fictitious statements which it somewhat staggered me to utter, and which, if he had been a trifle sharper, he would have had some difficulty in crediting. …

My coats were heavily padded in the back and under the arms to the hips, until I reached New Orleans. This served to disguise my shape; but the padding was very uncomfortable, and I soon made up my mind that it would never do for a permanent arrangement. So soon as I got to New Orleans, I went to an old French army tailor in Barrack Street, who I knew was very skillful, and who understood how to mind his own business by not bothering himself too much about other people’s affairs, and had him make for me half a dozen fine wire net shields. These I wore next to my skin, and they proved very satisfactory in concealing my true form, and in giving me something of the shape of a man, while they were by no means uncomfortable. Over the shields I wore an undershirt of silk or lisle thread, which fitted close, and which was held in place by straps across the chest and shoulders, similar to the shoulder-braces sometimes worn by men. A great many officers in the Confederate army have seen the impressions of these straps through my shirt when I have had my coat off, and have supposed them to be shoulder-braces. These undershirts could be rolled up into the small compass of a collar-box.

Around the waist of each of the undershirts was a band, with eyelet-holes arranged for the purpose of making the waistbands of my pantaloons stand out to the proper number of inches. A woman’s waist, as a general thing, is tapering, and her hips very large in comparison with those of a man, so that if I had undertaken to wear pantaloons without some such contrivance, they would have drawn in at the waist and revealed my true form. With such underwear as I used, any woman who can disguise her features can readily pass for a man and deceive the closest observers. So many men have weak and feminine voices that, provided the clothing is properly constructed and put on right, and the disguise in other respects is well arranged, a woman with even a very high-pitched voice need have very little to fear on that score. …

There were several points about my disguise which were strictly my own invention, and which, for certain good and sufficient reasons, I do not care to give to the public. These added greatly to its efficiency. Indeed, after I had once become accustomed to male attire, and to appearing before anybody and everybody in it, I lost all fear of being found out, and learned to act, talk, and almost to think as a man. Many a time, when in camp, I have gone to sleep when from fifty to sixty officers have been lying close together, wrapped in their blankets, and have had no more fear of detection than I had of drinking a glass of water.

Loreta’s Civil War: The dream of my life

The war begins, and Velazquez is ready to disguise herself as a man and join the fight. Her husband objects, and he decides to give her a preview of ‘masculine life.’

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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 4: The war begins, and Velazquez is ready to disguise herself as a man and join the fight. Her husband objects, and he decides to give her a preview of ‘masculine life.’

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In the spring of 1860 I returned to St. Louis, while my husband went to Fort Arbuckle. During his separation from me, our third babe was born and died. In October of the same year he returned, having received a summons from his father — a resident of Texas — to the effect that there was reason to believe a war was about to break out between the North and the South, and desiring him to resign.

About this time my two remaining children died of fever, and my grief at their loss probably had a great influence in reviving my old notions about military glory, and of exciting anew my desires to win fame on the battlefield. I was dreadfully afraid that there would be no war, and my spirits rose and sank as the prospects of a conflict brightened or faded. When my husband’s State determined to secede, I brought all my influence to bear to induce him to resign his commission in the United States army, and my persuasions, added to those of his father, finally induced him, very reluctantly, to yield. It was a great grief for him to forsake the uniform he had worn so long with honor, and to sever the bonds which existed between him and his comrades. He much doubted, too, the wisdom of the Southern States in taking the action they did, and wished most sincerely that the political difficulties which caused their secession could be settled in some other manner than by an armed conflict.

As for me, I was perfectly wild on the subject of war; and although I did not tell my husband so, I was resolved to forsake him if he raised his sword against the South. I felt that now the great opportunity of my life had arrived, and my mind was busy night and day in planning schemes for making my name famous above that of any of the great heroines of history, not even excepting my favorite, Joan of Arc. having decided to enter the Confederate service as a soldier, I desired, if possible, to obtain my husband’s consent, but he would not listen to anything I had to say on the subject; and all I could do was to wait his departure for the seat of war, in order to put my plans into execution without his knowledge, as I felt that it would be useless to argue with him, although I was obstinately bent upon realizing the dream of my life, whether he approved of my course or not. …

While preparing for his departure, on the anniversary of our wedding, we talked over the whole situation; and I cannot tell how proud and delighted I felt when he attired himself in his elegant new gray uniform. He never looked handsomer in his life, and I not only gave full vent to my admiration, but insisted upon broaching my favorite scheme again. … He used every possible argument to dissuade me from my purpose, representing the difficulties and dangers in the darkest colors, and contending that it would be impossible for him to permit his wife to follow an undisciplined army of volunteers. The situation, he told me, was entirely different from anything I had ever been accustomed to, and that the hordes of rude, coarse men collected together in a camp in an emergency like this, would have but little resemblance to the regular troops in garrison with whom I had been familiar; and that a delicately nurtured and refined woman would find camp life, during such a war as that just commencing, simply intolerable. He was not to be persuaded, while I turned a deaf ear to all his remonstrances, and persisted in arguing the point with him to the last.

Finally, my husband, finding that his words made no impression, thought he would be able to cure me of my erratic fancies by giving me an insight into some of the least pleasing features of masculine life. The night before his departure, therefore, he permitted me to dress myself in one of his suits, and said he would take me to the bar-rooms and other places of male resort, and show me something of what I would be compelled to go through with if I persisted in unsexing myself. …