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: Concealing my true form

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

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

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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.

Recommended reading / viewing / listening

This week: A Civil War quiz / Google’s underwater Street View / The man who saved Paris from the Nazis / Slave ship discovered / Hepburn the fashion icon

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This week: A Civil War quiz / Google’s underwater Street View / The man who saved Paris from the Nazis / Slave ship discovered / Hepburn the fashion icon

Most of these great items come from my social media networks. Follow me on Twitter, Tumblr, LinkedIn, MySpace, and Facebook for more fascinating videos, photos, articles, essays, and criticism.

1. What Do You Know? A Civil War Pop Quiz.
By Megan Kate Nelson | Disunion :: The New York Times | June 4
“Where was the westernmost battle of the Civil War fought? Who issued the first Emancipation Proclamation? Who burned Atlanta?”

2. Three Steps on Perry’s Comeback Trail
By Ross Ramsey | The Texas Tribune | June 4
“The road ahead of Rick Perry is a difficult one, but it’s not that complicated. And the number of candidates running for the Republican presidential nomination helps him more than it hurts. If he can take care of three things, the former Texas governor will still be a presidential candidate at the start of 2016.”

3. Don’t Overthink It, Less Is More When It Comes to Creativity
By Jessica Schmerler | Scientific American | May 2015
“If the cerebellum plays a role in creativity, it could alter our understanding of how the brain functions.”

4. Google Street View goes underwater
Ny Nick Lavars | Gizmag | June 5
“In an effort to raise awareness ahead of World Oceans Day on June 8, Google has expanded its Street View service to let users explore a range of stunning coastal and underwater scenes.”

5. Paris Saved by a Bullitt
By Sam Roberts | Snapshot :: Foreign Affairs | June 2
“[O]n this 75th anniversary of the Fall of Paris, a close reading of [U.S. Ambassador William Bullitt’s] private papers, many of which have never been available to biographers before, and the personal accounts of several of his most intimate confidants, demonstrate conclusively that the characteristics that grated most on his critics — his cavalier cocksureness, his ambition, his relentless fraternizing with the French, and his unflagging faith in America’s global obligations — were exactly what the moment demanded.”

6. Grim History Traced in Sunken Slave Ship Found Off South Africa
By Helene Cooper | The New York Times | May 31
“The story of the São José, like the slave trade itself, spanned continents and oceans, from fishing villages in Africa to sheikhdoms where powerful chiefs plotted with European traders to traffic in human beings to work on plantations in the New World.”

7. Turkey’s Erdogan challenges opposition to find his golden toilet seat
By Humeyra Pamuk and Nick Tattersall | Oddly Enough :: Reuters | June 1
“Irritated by accusations of lavishness, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has vowed to resign if the leader of the main opposition can find a single golden toilet seat in his vast new palace.”

8. The Wife Bonus Is Imperfect, But It’s Not Prostitution
By Phoebe Maltz Bovy | New Republic | May 31
“It doesn’t suddenly become a form of prostitution if, temporarily or even permanently, the female partner in an opposite-sex relationship is the substantially lower earner, or is not working outside the home.”

9. How Katharine Hepburn Became a Fashion Icon
By Amy Henderson | Smithsonian.com | May 2015
“Hepburn was part of the post-suffrage generation of women, and her screen persona resonated with that generation’s modern spirit of independence. Despite RKO’s determination to brand her otherwise, Hepburn succeeded in inventing herself.”

10. For Incarcerated Japanese-Americans, Baseball Was ‘Wearing the American Flag’
By Michael Beschloss | HistorySource :: The New York Times | June 2014
“By 1943, when some of those in the relocation camps were allowed to volunteer for war service, some of the ballplayers joined the Army’s almost all-Japanese-American 442nd Regimental Combat Team, which suffered grievous casualties in Europe and came to be called the most decorated military unit in American history.”

Kate Stone’s Civil War: Its spring decoration

As a Texas spring blooms all around her, Stone frets about rumors of the death of a famous Confederate general.

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

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

(Photo edited by Bob Rowen)

As a Texas spring blooms all around her, Stone frets about rumors of the death of a famous Confederate general.

March 30, 1865

Tyler, Texas

The little town is looking lovely now in its spring decoration of peach and apple blossoms and the circling fields of soft green wheat and rye. It seems to be peeping through a bouquet of pink and white blooms.

A rumor that Gen. [P.G.T.] Beauregard has been killed in a great fight in Carolina. …

We have been renovating our last summer’s clothes. We have not a single new thing to make up. If Mr. Smith does not soon send that cotton which must go on to San Antonio, I do not know what we will all do for clothes. …

Niche boutique’s grand opening

We’re excited to launch our men’s collection at Niche boutique’s grand opening party this Thursday at San Antonio’s Historic Pearl. It begins at 5:30 p.m.

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My wife and I are excited to launch our men’s collection alongside already amazing women’s collections at Niche boutique’s grand opening party at San Antonio’s Historic Pearl. The party is this Thursday and begins at 5:30 p.m.

I’m so proud of her.

Kate Stone’s Civil War: Fairy castles in the air

Stone offers a slice of life in Oak Ridge, La., as her caretakers search for a window of safety to escort her back to Texas.

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

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

(Photo edited by Bob Rowen)

Stone offers a slice of life in Oak Ridge, La., as her caretakers search for a window of safety to escort her back to Texas.

Oct. 15, 1864

Near Oak Ridge, La.

We have kept on the even tenor of our ways with no hairbreadth escapes by land or sea to ruffle the calm. There are still occasional reports of advancing Yankee raids, but all blow over and no Yankees yet, though this country is still defenseless. …

We have little company and pay few visits, but we enjoy the days, and the weeks fly by like magic — no startling events to mark them off. Capt. Wylie and Dr. Wylie are here. They amuse themselves during the day, but in the evening we all assemble, play chess or cards, and carry on long and animated discussions on all topics under the sun. All the older members of the family are very fond of argument and discussion and are thoughtful talkers and well educated, though one must know them some time before finding that last out.

We made a rule fining everyone for each lapse in grammar, which worked famously for awhile, until we found we would soon all be bankrupt in both purse and temper, and by tacit consent it was dropped and grammar is no more alluded to. Mrs. Templeton said she knew she would never be fined. She knew every rule in the book, but she was the first and most grievous offender and hated worst to be reported. … We lounge in rocking chairs building fairy castles in the air, mapping out lives of goodness and noble endeavor, until Mrs. Templeton rouses from her half-doze on the bed and sends us all to rest. …

Our pleasant days are drawing to a close as Mamma writes she will send Johnny at once for me, and we are looking for him every day. Capt. Brigham rode in from Monroe to tell us that the long expected tableau would come off the next evening and that he had come in to escort us out. Early the next morning we three girls and Sally McGraw with Jimmy, Capt. Wylie, and Capt. Brigham as outriders and the maid Henrietta bringing up the rear, made our way to Monroe under many difficulties. We had a most trying time after reaching there, owing to Capt. Brigham’s blundering. We did not enjoy the tableau as we were too worried and were thankful to be all safe at Mrs. Templeton’s next evening.

Oct. 30

The last time I shall write here. Johnny arrived with the carriage two days ago, and we start home tomorrow. This will end a most pleasant visit, or rather visitation, for I have been here more than three months. All the family have been unfailingly kind and have done all in their power to make me enjoy the time. I certainly have had a most charming visit and grieve to leave them. Then I shall have to break off two most promising flirtations. My only comfort is in thinking of the lovely trip Johnny and I are going to have a comfortable carriage well stocked with lunches, a good driver, strong mules, no hurry, and a lodging every night with friends, good roads, and fair October weather.

Kate Stone’s Civil War: Our best fancy yellow organdies

Stone offers a slice of springtime social life in East Texas as friends and neighbors come and go.

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

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

(Photo edited by Bob Rowen)

Stone offers a slice of springtime social life in East Texas as friends and neighbors come and go.

May 25, 1864

Tyler, Texas

We have bidden Julia and Mrs. Payne farewell this evening. “It may be for years and it may be forever,” as they return to Camden the entire cortege, Negroes and all. Maj. Street sent an ambulance for them and they secured a wagon here. Julia is perfectly delighted to go back, but Mrs. Payne is not so pleased. I surely would let that strong, healthy Major come for me. I would not travel 200 miles over rough jolting roads to meet him. But then I am not in love with him and she is. That makes a vast difference, I suppose. I spent the night with her, and we sat up nearly all night having our last confidential chat together.

Thursday Julia and I, dressed in our best fancy yellow organdies, went calling with Mamma. Found nearly everyone out. Julia and I deserted Mamma and perambulated around town looking for flowers, stealing them through the palings and decorating our heads with them. At Mrs. Wells’, we were regaled on huge slices of poundcake and fine music. Jimmy Stone and I rode out to see Mrs. Prentice. She likes Jimmy very much and says he reminds her so of her young son Horace, who died at about his age. The ride was delightful through the woods, sweet with the wild grape fragrance.

Jimmy Stone has gone to the prairie [Lamar County], and Johnny is lost without him. Our usual succession of visitors — boys, officers, doctors, and ladies.

Kate Stone’s Civil War: The first desideratum

The first rays of happiness in 1864 come in the form of a letter from Stone’s brother and the hope for a new carriage.

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

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

(Photo edited by Bob Rowen)

The first rays of happiness in 1864 come in the form of a letter from Stone’s brother and the hope for a new carriage.

Jan. 13, 1864

Tyler, Texas

Good news from My Dearest Brother today. He is almost well and has rejoined his regiment. We heard through a letter from Capt. Manlove December 8. Flora Manlove, Tom’s wife, sent a nice little note to me in the letter. How sweet of her to write. We have only a slight acquaintance, but she knows My Brother well and saw him, quite recently in Virginia. Capt. Manlove is so kind. He writes Mamma by every opportunity.

A letter from My Brother, written in March. Other letters for Mrs. Carson urging her to come North. Different Yankees at Monroe and Vicksburg will send her on, but she will not hear of it. It is a good thing. She is wise enough to see that such schemes for abandoning all that they have are foolish in the extreme.

Dr. Wylie is spending the evening and night. What a sordid soul that man has. Did he ever perform a generous action in his life of forty years? …

Mamma sent a letter to Mr. Smith yesterday, and if he can get what she writes for we shall feel quite independent. The first desideratum is a carriage.

Kate Stone’s Civil War: My pen is powerless

Stone had little respect for anyone who lacked her sense of style and bearing. She hardly sympathized with the people of East Texas.

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

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

(Photo edited by Bob Rowen)

Stone had little respect for anyone who lacked her sense of style and bearing. She hardly sympathized with the people of East Texas.

Aug. 16, 1863

“Elysian Fields,” Lamar County, Texas

We went to church this morning at a tumbledown schoolhouse called Liberty expecting to hear the funeral sermon of Mrs. Alexander, who was a near neighbor. The poor woman has been dead four months, and her husband married again six weeks after her death. But he says he is determined to pay proper respect to dear Mary and so will have her funeral preached, with the new wife sitting decorously near to hear it.

It was the oddest-looking crowd one could imagine, and the very funniest dressing we ever saw. My pen is powerless to describe it: one girl airy in pink tarleton and another sweltering in red woolen; high horn combs with long ribbon streamers waving from the top; immense hoops; and strand after strand of beads, all colors, wound around their necks.

Many of the men were barefooted, and nearly all of their slouched wool hats were decorated with ribbons or an artificial flower. There were few coats but many vests and a display of homemade knit galluses. It was a most unusual-looking crowd, all sitting on puncheons laid on supports, some of them constantly slipping down. …

Kate Stone’s Civil War: The dirtiest people

Stone hated and pitied the people of Texas. She gagged at the sight of unshaven men sitting at her dinner table. The seeming normality of violence horrified her. But the natural beauty of Texas gradually entranced her.

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

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

(Photo edited by Bob Rowen)

Stone hated and pitied the people of Texas. Barefooted women, evidently ignorant of the latest Southern fashions, still wore outdated “hoops.” The roads all the looked the same. She gagged at the sight of unshaven men sitting at her dinner table. She lost her appetite when she witnessed dusty slaves washing dishes “in the duck pond” before dinner. The Texas heat was punishing. The seeming normality of violence horrified her.

But the natural beauty of Texas gradually entranced her.

July 12, 1863

Lamar County, Texas

We made our first visit in Texas yesterday. We went to a protracted meeting being carried on nine miles from here at an old schoolhouse called — it must be in mockery — “Paradise.” After the meeting we went by invitation to spend the evening and night with some real nice people, settlers from Virginia, the McGleasons. They are a pleasant family and exceedingly hospitable. We came back this morning after a ride of nearly eighteen miles, having missed our road three times. The prairie roads are so much alike it is impossible for strangers to distinguish the right from the wrong.

The congregation was much more presentable than the Gray Rock crowd. We saw several nice-looking families, but all were in the fashions of three years ago. If they would only leave off their tremendous hoops, but hoops seem in the very zenith of their popularity. Mamma and I were the only women folks without the awkward, ungraceful cages. No doubt the people thought us hopelessly out of date. We have not worn them for a long time. Nothing looks funnier than a woman walking around with an immense hoop barefooted.

Mamma and I went several days ago to Tarrant in Hopkins County. The road ran part of the way over a lovely rolling prairie, dotted with clumps of trees and covered with the brilliant, yellow coreopsis in full bloom and gemmed with countless little mounds of bright green, like emeralds set in gold. Tarrant is the hottest looking, new little town right out in the prairie not a tree.

We tried to eat dinner at the roughest house and with the dirtiest people we have met yet. The table was set on a low, sunny gallery and half a dozen dirty, unshaven men took their seats in their shirt sleeves at the dirtiest tablecloth and coarsest ware. We saw the Negro girl wash the dishes at the duck pond right out in the yard. That was too much for me, but Mamma and Mr. Smith managed to swallow down something. …

The prairie we are living on is called a thicket prairie. There are clumps of dwarf dogwood, spice trees, and plums, tangled together with wild grape and other vines and alive with snakes. The plums are just in season, a sour, red variety just like the swamp wild plums, and are nice for jelly. The prairie is a mass of flowers, one variety covering it at a time. Before you realize it, that color has faded away and another has taken its place, and this succession of flowers and colors goes on until frost comes and spreads a brown sheet over all. There are many familiar garden flowers: blue salvia, coreopsis, verbenas, larkspur, standing cypress, and now as far as the eye can reach the prairie is a mass of waving purple plumes, “French pinks,” the natives call them. …

We hear no news now but accounts of murders done and suffered by the natives. Nothing seems more common or less condemned than assassination. There have been four or five men shot or hanged within a few miles of us within a week. No one that we have seen seems surprised or shocked, but take it as a matter of course that an obnoxious person should be put to death by some offended neighbor. A few evenings ago a captain in the army had just reached home on a furlough three hours before when he was shot at through his window. He was killed and his wife dangerously wounded. The authorities are trying to find the men who did it. It is supposed to be one of his company who had vowed vengeance against him. The other miscreants go unwhipped of justice.