Loreta’s Civil War: Things were looking exceedingly gloomy

Her ambitions for a massive Confederate counterattack crushed, Velazquez decides to resign from her post as a Union spy and regroup her hopes, ideas, and plans.

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 45: Her ambitions for a massive Confederate counterattack crushed, Velazquez decides to resign from her post as a Union spy and regroup her hopes, ideas, and plans.

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Had it been possible for me to have destroyed the arsenal without loss of life, I would most assuredly have done it but the circumstances being what they were, it has been a great satisfaction to me ever since that I did not attempt anything of the kind, just as it has been a satisfaction to me that I did not kill Gen. Grant when I had an opportunity to do so on the night after the first day’s fight at Shiloh. I doubt, however, whether there would have been a great many men, either Confederates or Federals, who would have been so considerate in similar situations, especially if the deed could have been performed without risk to themselves. I am confident that I could have fired the Indianapolis arsenal without serious danger of being detected, but I do not suppose anyone will think the worse of me that I did not do it.

The great number of letters I received from nearly every quarter within a very brief period excited curiosity and remark. After my first few visits to the post office the clerk began to take notice of me, and he would say something nearly every time I called for my mail about the extent of my correspondence. What he said was in a joking sort of a way, and under some circumstances I should have thought nothing of it but not knowing, from day to day, what might happen, it caused me some uneasiness to attract this kind of attention, both for my own sake and for the sake of my correspondents. I very well knew that did the Federal authorities suspect me the least of being a Confederate agent, there would be no hesitation whatever about opening my letters, and if some of them had been opened, there would have been fine revelations … of the most important secret Confederate operations. …

For these, as well as other reasons, I was anxious to leave Indianapolis at as early a day as I possibly could but was unable to move for lack of orders and also for lack of cash. My funds, in fact, were running very low, so low as to give me considerable uneasiness lest I should be unable to meet my expenses, and I anxiously awaited a remittance, which, as is apt to be the case with remittances that are anxiously awaited, was a long time in coming. Finally, I received information that a money package had been forwarded to me by express but on applying at the office for it I was told that it could not be delivered unless I was identified.

This was a perplexing predicament but I had gotten myself out of worse ones and thought that I would be able to find a way to obtain possession of the precious package. Returning to the hotel, therefore, I selected an envelope from one of my letters, and writing a letter to myself, as if from my brother, stating that such and such a package had been forwarded to me, I took it to the manager of the packing department at the arsenal and requested him to go with me to the express office for the purpose of identifying me. He did this without hesitation but was considerably astonished to see me receive such a large amount of money and said, “Why, your brother must be a very rich man!”

“Oh, no, he is not rich, but he has been thinking of investing some of his spare cash in real estate for some time, and I told him of a good thing in corner lots, which I urged him to try and do something with.”

As an explanation of my money package this was a trifle thin, but it was sufficient for the purpose, especially as it was no concern of his whether I had rich relations or not.

Within a day or two I received orders by telegraph to proceed to Cairo, which I did forthwith, and found, on reaching that place, letters of instruction which directed me to go to St. Louis and to stop at the Planters’ House for the purpose of seeing if I could not find out something about projected Federal movements from the officers who were making it their headquarters.

From the tenor of my instructions I judged that I would not be able to do much by going to the table as a guest, which would also have been inconvenient, as it would have necessitated my providing myself with a large amount of different kind of clothing from that which I was then wearing. I was figuring as a widow woman in greatly reduced circumstances, and, so far as baggage was concerned, was, as the soldiers would say, in light marching order. It occurred to me, therefore, that the best plan to pursue was to try and obtain a situation at the Planters’ House as a chambermaid. On reaching St. Louis, instead of going to the hotel, I took lodgings at a private house for a few days, until I could mature my plans.

On applying for employment as a chambermaid, I was told that there was no vacancy and that there was not likely to be any, and I saw very plainly, from the manner of the individual with whom I conversed on the subject, that he had no intention whatever of giving me a situation.

This rather nonplussed me, and I was unable to determine what device to adopt next. Some of the information which I was requested to obtain was very important, and I had been urged to use every effort to get it. I did not like to give the thing up without having exhausted all my resources. I accordingly tried in a number of ways to find out what I wanted to know but was entirely unsuccessful. All that I succeeded in discovering of any consequence was some knowledge of the personal habits of the officers who were lodged at the Planters’ House, and of the times when they were least likely to be in their rooms. My only chance, therefore, seemed to be to gain access to their quarters when they were out, and to the accomplishment of this I put my wits to work.

When applying for employment in the hotel, I struck up a sort of acquaintance with one of the chambermaids, of whom I made a variety of inquiries as to the nature of the duties and of my chances of getting a situation. This woman had seemed disposed to be quite friendly, and I, therefore, concluded to cultivate her acquaintance. I was not long in becoming intimate with her, and, as I made her a number of little presents, and otherwise displayed a marked liking for her, she speedily took a great fancy to me.

Having, as I thought, secured her friendship, I called upon her one evening and invited her to go out with me. She consented to do this, and we went up to her room together for her to arrange her toilet. While she was dressing I slipped her pass key in my pocket. This being secured, the next thing was to find an opportunity to use it.

When we returned I had no great difficulty in inducing her to extend an invitation for me to stop all night. We accordingly slept together. In the morning she got up, dressed herself, and then, missing her key, began an industrious search for it, I all the time pretending to be asleep. Unable to find it, she went out, and I heard her ask one of the other girls to lend her a key, saying that she had lost hers.

So soon as she was well out of the way, I got up and dressed myself, and when I thought that the officers, whose rooms I wished to visit, were likely to be away … I slipped down stairs to execute my dangerous errand.

Luckily, I met no one and contrived to get into three rooms, where I read a number of dispatches and orders, one or two of which were of some importance but did not succeed in discovering what I was chiefly in search of. I, however, mastered the contents of such papers as I could lay my hands on, for I was bound to have something to show for my labor, even if I did not get all I wanted.

On coming out of the third room, I came very near being caught by a bell boy, who turned into the corridor just as I had finished locking the door. Putting on a sort of bewildered look, as if I had lost myself, I said, in an innocent sort of a way, “Which is the servant’s staircase? I think I must have got into the wrong hall.”

The boy was not particularly bright, and, giving the required direction, I made off as fast as I could, not a little satisfied at having escaped so easily. On the stairway I met the chambermaid, who was bringing me up a cup of coffee. This I drank and then bade her good-by, glad of an opportunity to get away without attracting more attention.

On reaching my lodgings I wrote out the substance of the information I had obtained and forwarded it to the proper agent, with a statement to the effect that it seemed impossible for me to learn anything more. In reply to this note I received a dispatch by telegraph, directing me to go to Hannibal, where I would find a package awaiting me, which I was to deliver according to directions which would be enclosed.

I took the boat for Hannibal, and on reaching that place found Maj. T., of the Confederate army rather anxiously looking for me, as he had received information that orders would be sent him from New York in an enclosure directed to me. Obtaining my package from the express office, it was found to contain a dispatch from Richmond, with orders for the major to treat with the Indians and to aid in the endeavors that were being made to excite them to acts of hostility against the Federal government all along the frontier, from the British Provinces to Mexico.

The delivery of this dispatch to Maj. T. was the last transaction of the western trip which I made under the auspices of Col. Baker. Not more than a day or two afterwards I learned of the failure of the attempt to release the Johnson’s Island prisoners and consequently of the grand scheme, the success of which I had been laboring so hard to promote.

I did not know who was to blame for this failure, but I felt that if all the rest had done their duty as efficiently as I had done mine, success would have crowned our efforts. I, therefore, resolved to return East and to dissolve all connection with my late co-workers, and with more than half a mind to have nothing more to do with such schemes, or schemes of any kind that would require confederates, in the future. I was beyond measure indignant when I learned, as I did before I reached Philadelphia, that the whole thing had fallen through, owing to the blundering cowardice and treachery of one individual. I did not pretend to restrain my wrath, but the agent whom I met at Philadelphia, after I had become cooled off a little, persuaded me that there was no use in getting discouraged by this misadventure, bad as it was, and that there was still plenty of important work for the Confederacy to be done.

I, however, was so decidedly unwilling to engage in any similar enterprise, at least just then, that it was proposed that I should attempt something in the blockade-running line. By doing this, it was represented, I could not only aid the cause but could make a handsome profit for myself if I managed rightly, as my commissions alone would amount to considerable. The proposition made to me looked feasible, and, allowing myself to be persuaded, I wrote a letter to Col. Baker, resigning from the secret service under the plea that I had obtained other employment of a more remunerative and more congenial character.

I really had not the courage to face Baker again after the trick I had played upon him, having no idea what he might know, or might not know, about my connection with the projected raid which had been so effectually nipped in the bud by the arrest of the men in Sandusky who were endeavoring to seize the gunboat Michigan. From the tenor of the letter which he sent me in reply, however, I judged that he neither knew nor suspected anything against me, and I concluded that I would finally have occasion to make use of him again, as I could not tell what work I might have to do before the war was over.

I had proven myself so efficient in managing matters that required to be managed with skill, boldness, and discretion during the time I had been co-operating with the Confederate agents at the North, and especially during my late Western trip, that my associates were more than ever anxious to avail themselves of my services. They fully appreciated my feelings over the failure of the Johnson’s Island raid, after I had performed the part assigned me so successfully, but they contended that I would not be acting an heroic part to forsake the fortunes of the Confederacy just at this juncture, when, although things were looking exceedingly gloomy, there was a chance that success might yet be achieved if all the friends of the Cause would stick together and labor with even more than their old energy to achieve success in the face of every opposition.

Loreta’s Civil War: Wild thoughts that filled my mind

Velazquez has a new assignment: Track down a spy and help suppress a massive Union prison raid. She intends to do the exact opposite.

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 42: Velazquez has a new assignment: Track down a spy and help suppress a massive Union prison raid. She intends to do the exact opposite.

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The next morning, just as I was sitting down to breakfast, the waiter brought me a note from Col. Baker, in which he stated that he would call to see me at the hotel about half past ten o’clock and requested me to await him at that hour. Still being uncertain whether Baker’s intentions towards me were amicable or not, it was not without some trepidation that I looked forward to this interview. … At the appointed time, Col. Baker made his appearance, and said “Good morning” with a pleasant smile, in which there was apparently not a shade of malice or unfriendliness. After asking me how I had liked the play and making a few other unimportant remarks, he said, “Well, my little woman, I have made up my mind to let you try your skill as a detective once more, if you are in the same mind you were yesterday.”

“Yes,” I replied, “I am just as anxious now as I was then, and I think I can not only find that spy for you, but that I can discover whether there really is any intention among the rebel prisoners to make a break.”

“That is just what I want you to do. I think that a woman can manage a job of this kind better than a man anyhow, and I believe that you are just the woman to manage it in first-rate style.”

“Thank you, colonel, I can at least try.”

“Yes, that’s it, try and find out all you can. I want you to pick out this man for me if he is at Johnson’s Island, as you seem to think he is, and if you succeed in finding him, telegraph to me immediately. If he is not at Johnson’s Island, you had better try and find out if any of the prisoners know anything about him — it is possible, you know, that he may be in some other prison, or, indeed, that he may have escaped. At all events, make every effort to find him.”

“You know, colonel, I am acquainted with a good many people down South, and I may come across somebody I know or somebody that knows somebody I know, and by representing myself as a disguised Confederate, I may be able to get the prisoners to talk plainer than they would to a stranger or a new visitor.”

“Well, I will leave it to you to manage the thing the best way you can think of. It would not be a bad idea, however, if you were to pass yourself off as a Confederate secret service agent, and if you were to intimate that something was likely to be done soon to procure the release of the prisoners, you might be able to induce them to say whether they have any plans of their own, or whether they are in communication with any one outside.”

“That is about my idea of working but the only difficulty will be in getting a chance to talk to any of the men privately.”

“Oh, I’ll arrange that for you by giving you a confidential letter, which, however, you must be careful not to let any one see except the commanding officer. If those fellows are up to any tricks, I want to know all about it at once. There has been a good deal of talk at different times about the prisoners attempting to stampede, but it has been pretty much all newspaper sensation with nothing in it.”

“But, you know, colonel, something of the kind might be attempted, and if a stampede or an insurrection should take place, it would create a good deal of excitement just now.”

“Yes, yes, that’s so. If there is anything on foot I want to discover it, and I want you to find out all you possibly can, and let me know immediately.”

“Well, you can rely upon me, and I think you will find me as shrewd as most of your detectives are.”

“If you will only keep your eyes and ears well open and open your mouth only when you have business to talk about, I will most likely find you a good deal shrewder.”

“Why, colonel, you don’t appear to have the best opinion in the world of some of your detectives.”

“Oh, yes, they do pretty well, some of them are really first-rate men, but they are not as smart as they ought to be for the kind of service they are in.”

“I suppose some of those rebel spies give you a good of trouble in keeping the run of them.”

“Oh, you haven’t any idea of it. Half the people of Washington and its immediate vicinity are rebel sympathizers and would be spies if they dared and knew how. And then they are at work all through the North and in Canada. Some of my people are after a spy now who has been traveling between Richmond and Canada, but they don’t seem to be able to lay their hands on her. If they don’t catch her soon, I have half a mind to let you try what you can do, if you succeed well with your present trip.”

The conversation at this point, I concluded, was getting to be rather too personal, and I thought it best to change the subject, although I could not help smiling at the idea of Baker employing me to catch myself. That, I thought, would be entirely too arduous a task for me to undertake in my then rather feeble state of health, although there might be both amusement and profit in it. Forbearing, however, to enter upon this interesting theme, I asked the colonel when he desired me to start. He said by the first train, if I could get ready, and handing me my confidential letter and two hundred dollars, he asked whether there was anything more he could do for me.

I said that I could think of nothing but would proceed to get ready for my journey immediately. He then shook hands and left, after wishing me a pleasant trip and expressing a hope that he would soon receive a good report from me.

When the colonel was gone, I went up to my room to pack my traveling satchel and, feeling perfectly satisfied from my late conversation with him that I was safe for the present so far as he was concerned, I laughed heartily at the absurdity of the situation and wondered with myself whether I would have dared to attempt anything of this kind at Richmond with old Gen. Winder. I had no difficulty in concluding that if fate had compelled me to play tricks with Winder, as I was doing with Baker, I would have been forced to proceed in a less open and free and easy style about it, and congratulated myself most heartily that I had so easy a customer to deal with under existing circumstances.

Calling a carriage, I was soon at the Baltimore depot and on board the train. Having to stop at the Relay House for the western-bound train, I made an effort to see the Confederate agent who was stationed there, as I had a number of things I wanted to say to him. He was an old Southern acquaintance of mine, and there were a variety of little matters that I could have whispered in his ear that would have been useful. … There is a good deal in knowing who one’s friends really are in transacting such delicate business as that I was then engaged in. Unfortunately, my friend was away, and as I was in too much of a hurry to wait for his return, I was forced to forego the pleasure of seeing him.

Once on board the western train, I had a long journey before me and had plenty of time to think over affairs generally. I planned and schemed until my brain fairly whirled, and I was glad to chat a little with some of my neighbors or to gaze through the car windows at the gorgeous scenery that met my eyes at every turn in the road, and to try and think for a while only of its beauties as a rest from the wild thoughts that filled my mind.

Try as I might, however, I could not avoid thinking of the situation, the prospects of the Confederacy, and the chances of success for the grand scheme, the execution of which I was endeavoring to assist. What if we failed or, if we succeeded in our first effort, would we be able to accomplish all we intended and expected? These were questions I could not answer. What I dreaded most was the possible effect of a raid by way of the Lakes on the Confederate sympathizers and the anti-war party. Would it stimulate them to make greater exertions than ever to bring the conflict to a close, or would this bringing the war to the doors of themselves and their neighbors turn them against us? I confess that I had fears of the latter result, for I had a not ill-founded distrust of these people, who are neither one thing nor the other, and I believed that had the Copperheads wielded their influence as they might have done, they could either have prevented the war in the beginning or could have forced a conclusion long ago.

What power the opponents of the war were able to exert would, however, be determined very shortly. A presidential election was coming off in a few weeks, and the greatest excitement with regard to the political battle that was being waged prevailed. Nearly everybody admitted that the defeat of Mr. Lincoln for a second term would mean that a majority of the people of the North were ready and anxious to abandon the contest and to let the seceding Southern states go in peace. The fact that the Democratic candidate was a Federal general, who had been commander-in-chief of the armies, and who professed to be willing and anxious to carry on the war did not please me very well, for it indicated to my mind, very plainly, that the anti-war people were afraid to oppose Mr. Lincoln and the war party on a square issue.

I, however, was nothing of a politician and did not profess to understand the ways of politicians, they being a class of men for whom I had no special admiration. But I could not help thinking that the Confederate government and the people of the South were basing too many hopes on what the Democrats would be able to do at this election. I knew that they in many ways were doing what they could to secure a Democratic victory, but, for my part, I relied far more on bullets than on ballots to give the South the victory, and I expected more from the great raid, for which I was now working, than I did from the election of Gen. McClellan. …

Loreta’s Civil War: The proper costume of my sex

Velazquez barely escapes a hotel fire, reunites with her missing slave, and returns to Richmond to resume her espionage activities.

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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 25: Velazquez barely escapes a hotel fire, reunites with her missing slave, and returns to Richmond to resume her espionage activities.

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In leaving New Orleans I had no very definite plans for the immediate future … but did not doubt of my ability to find a field for the display of my talents ere a great while. I was now more intent than ever upon being employed on detective and scouting duty, for which my recent residence in New Orleans had been an excellent schooling; so excellent, indeed, that I considered myself as well out of my apprenticeship, and as quite competent to assume all the responsibilities of the most difficult or dangerous jobs that might be thrust upon me. …

I judged that matters ought soon to be approaching a crisis somewhere, although exactly what definite aims the belligerents were driving at, if, indeed, they had any just then, I could not comprehend. I resolved, if a grand movement of any kind was coming off, that I must have a hand in it in some shape but that if something of importance was not attempted before a great while I would return to Virginia and see what Fortune had in store for me there. I judged, however, that I would not have much difficulty in finding work to do in the West if I went about looking for it in the right way, and I knew of no better locality in which to seek the information I needed before commencing operations in the field again than Jackson.

To Jackson, therefore, I went … and arrived just in time to witness an occurrence for which I was sincerely sorry. This was the burning of the Bowman House by [Confederate Gen. John C.] Breckenridge’s men, who were infuriated at being told that the proprietor had permitted the Federals to occupy the hotel, and that he had entertained them. … The unfortunate man was in reality not to blame in the matter, for the Federals had occupied his house without his consent. … This incident will serve to show the desperately unpleasant position of the non-combatants throughout this whole region at this and later periods of the war. They were literally between two fires, and no matter how peaceably disposed they might be, they could satisfy neither party and were made to suffer by both. The proprietor of the Bowman House was forced to witness a fine property destroyed before his eyes through the reckless and unthinking anger of men who never stopped to inquire whether he was guilty or not of any offense against them or their cause before taking vengeance upon him. He was reduced to poverty by the burning of his hotel, and I could not help feeling the keenest regret for the occurrence, although I recognized it as one of the inevitable calamities of warfare.

I was, myself, in the hotel when it was fired and barely succeeded in escaping from the building with my life. Not expecting any such occurrence, I had taken rooms and was proceeding to make myself comfortable when, all of a sudden, I found that it was in flames, and that it would be as much as I could do to get out unscathed. The men who fired the building did not give the proprietor an opportunity to make explanations, or if they did, they refused to believe him. …

Several times already had the Federals made attacks of greater or less importance on Vicksburg, which city was now the most important position held by the Confederacy, and commanding the Mississippi River as it did, its possession was considered a matter of the most vital importance. The fall of Vicksburg, everybody knew, would practically give the Federals possession of the river throughout its entire length, and as such a calamity would … be an even greater blow to the Confederate cause than the fall of New Orleans had been. … That sooner or later the Federals would make a more determined effort than they had done previously to take this post appeared to be certain but the natural advantages of the position were such and the fortifications in course of construction were so strong … that the utmost confidence in the ability of the garrison to hold it was felt by every one. …

On my arrival at Jackson I heard of my negro boy Bob for the first time since I had lost him, just after the battle of Shiloh. I therefore proceeded to Grenada, where I found the darkey, who appeared to be heartily glad to see me again after such a long separation. Bob, it seems, had gone plump into a Federal camp, having missed his road, after I had started him off for Corinth but, not liking the company he found there, had slipped away at the earliest opportunity and had wandered about in a rather aimless manner for some time, seeking for me. Not being able to hear anything of me, he had made up his mind that I was dead, and was quite surprised to see me turn up again alive and well. …

From Grenada, I returned once more to Jackson and found the place in considerable excitement over the prospective army movements but as there did not seem to be much for me to do in the particular line of business I desired to take up, I now determined to put my old intention of returning to Virginia into execution, and … I was soon speeding eastward again on my way to Richmond.

I should have mentioned that after leaving New Orleans I resumed male attire at the earliest possible moment and figured once more as Lt. Harry T. Buford. Perhaps if I had gone to [Confederate Gen. Joseph E.] Johnston or some other commanding officer of high rank and frankly stated that I was a woman, giving at the same time a narrative of my exploits, and furnishing references as guarantees of the truthfulness of my story, I would have obtained the kind of employment I was looking for, with permission to use the garments of either sex, as I might deem expedient for the particular errand I had in hand. …

Once past the Confederate pickets, I believed that I could easily reach Washington, and I felt certain that a skillful spy, such as I esteemed myself now to be, could, without great difficulty, find out plenty of things which the Richmond authorities would be glad to know, and for the furnishing of which they would be glad to extend me such recognition as I desired. The military situation in Virginia, too, was more satisfactory than it was in the West, and I had a hankering to be where the Confederates were occasionally winning some victories. Since I had been in the West, I had witnessed little else than disaster, and I greatly desired to take a hand in a fight when the victory would rest with the Confederates, if only for the sake of variety. …

The war had now been in progress nearly two years, and, although the South had not been conquered, affairs were beginning to look decidedly blue for us. All our fine expectations of an easy achievement of our independence had long since vanished, and the situation every day was getting more and more desperate. The country was becoming exhausted, and had not its natural resources been enormous, our people must, ere this, have given up the contest. As it was, with a large portion of the male population in the field, and with heavy drafts being constantly made upon it to fill the ranks of the armies, the cultivation of the ground was neglected, and the necessities of life every day became scarcer and dearer. We were shut out, too, owing to the stringency of the Federal blockade, from anything like regular intercourse with Europe, and all kinds of manufactured articles, and the food we had been accustomed to import, were held at such enormous figures, that they were utterly beyond the reach of any but the most wealthy. The suffering among the poorer classes in all parts of the South was very great, and in those portions which had been devastated by the tramp of the different armies, many of the people were very nearly on the verge of starvation.

It was fast becoming a serious question how long the contest could be prolonged, unless some signal advantage could speedily be achieved in the field by the Confederate forces. It is impossible to express in words how eagerly all classes looked for the achievement of some such advantage, and how bitter was the disappointment, as month after month wore away, and in spite of occasional victories, the people saw, day by day, the Federals drawing their lines closer and closer, and slowly but surely closing in upon them.

We were now entering upon the desperate stage of the war, when the contest was conducted almost against hope, and had the South been inhabited by a less determined race, or one less animated by a fixed resolve to fight to the very last, and until it was impossible to fight any longer, the Federal forces would have succeeded long ere they did in compelling a surrender of the Confederate armies. The men who commanded the armies, however, were not the sort to give up until they were absolutely defeated, and it was starvation, rather than the Federal arms, that at length forced the contest to the conclusion it reached, by the surrender of the armies under the command of [Robert E.] Lee and [Joseph E.] Johnston. …

Richmond … was a very different place from what it was on my last visit to it, as I soon found to my cost. Martial law was in force in its most rigorous aspect. … Beleaguered as Richmond was, every person was more or less an object of suspicion, and strangers, especially, were watched with a vigilance that left them few opportunities to do mischief, or were put under arrest, and placed in close confinement. …

It is not surprising, therefore, that almost immediately upon my arrival in Richmond I fell under the surveillance … as a suspicious character, and was called upon to give an account of myself. My story was not accepted in the same spirit of credibility that some rather tough yarns I had manufactured in the course of my career, for the purpose of satisfying the curiosity of inquisitive people, had been. … There was, evidently, something suspicious and mysterious about me, and, suspicion having once been excited, some lynx-eyed detective was not long in noting certain feminine ways I had, and which even my long practice in figuring as a man had not enabled me to get rid of, and the result was, that I was arrested on the charge of being a woman in disguise, and supposedly a Federal spy, and was conducted to Castle Thunder to reflect upon the mutabilities of fortune until I could give a satisfactory account of myself.

I thought that this was rather hard lines, but as good luck often comes to us in the guise of present tribulation, as matters turned out it was the very best thing that could have happened to me, for it compelled me to reveal myself and my plans to persons who were willing and able to aid me, and to tell my story to friendly and sympathetic ears.

The commander of Castle Thunder was Major G. W. Alexander, a gentleman who, ever since I made his acquaintance through being committed to his custody as a prisoner, I have always been proud to number among my best and most highly-esteemed friends. Major Alexander and his lovely wife both showed the greatest interest in me, and they treated me with such kindness and consideration that I was induced to tell them exactly who I was, what my purposes were in assuming the male garb, what adventures I had passed through, and what my aspirations were for the future. They not only believed my story, but thinking that my services to the Confederacy merited better treatment than I was then receiving at the hands of the authorities, interested themselves greatly in my behalf.

Both the major and his wife … seemed to be shocked, however, at the idea of a woman dressing herself in the garb of the other sex and attempting to play the part of a soldier, and they eagerly urged me to resume the proper costume of my sex again, assuring me that there would be plenty of work for me to do if I were disposed still to devote myself to the service of the Confederacy. The major, however … was urgent that I should abandon my disguise and represented, in forcible terms, the dangers I ran in persisting in wearing it.

To these remonstrances I turned a deaf ear. I had passed through too many real trials to be frightened by imaginary ones, and I did not like to change my costume under compulsion. I accordingly refused positively to put on the garments of a woman, except as a means of gaining my liberty, and with the full intention of resuming male attire at the earliest opportunity. Major Alexander, therefore, finding me fixed in my determination to have my own way, undertook to have matters arranged to my satisfaction without putting me to the necessity of discarding my disguise. …