Recommended reading / viewing / listening

This week: Gayle King’s R Kelly interview / Mental illness as an evolutionary trait / The world built for men / Are you feeling love or lust? / The reign of komodo dragons

This week: Gayle King’s R Kelly interview / Mental illness as an evolutionary trait / The world built for men / Are you feeling love or lust? / The reign of komodo dragons

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

1. The AI-Art Gold Rush Is Here
By Ian Bogost | The Atlantic | March 2019
“An artificial-intelligence “artist” got a solo show at a Chelsea gallery. Will it reinvent art, or destroy it?”

2. Susceptibility to Mental Illness May Have Helped Humans Adapt over the Millennia
By Dana G. Smith | Scientific American | March 2019
“Psychiatrist Randolph Nesse, one of the founders of evolutionary medicine, explains why natural selection did not rid our species of onerous psychiatric disorders”

3. Kelly interview becomes a spotlight moment for Gayle King
By David Bauder | Associated Press | March 2019
“King proved unflappable as a crying Kelly leaped up in anger. … [S]he didn’t flinch from challenging the singer as he denied multiple allegations that he sexually abused underage girls and was controlling in his relationships. She drew praise for her performance.”

4. The deadly truth about a world built for men — from stab vests to car crashes
By Caroline Criado-Perez | The Guardian | February 2019
“Crash-test dummies based on the ‘average’ male are just one example of design that forgets about women — and puts lives at risk”

5. A Message in a Bottle Washed Up on Padre Island — 57 Years Later
By Dan Solomon | Texas Monthly | February 2019
“The missive was part of a 1962 study that attempted to track the flow of ocean currents.”

6. How Does Spotify Know You So Well
By Sophia Ciocca | Medium | October 2017
“A software engineer explains the science behind personalized music recommendations”

7. Is it lust or is it love How to tell — and how you can have both at once
By Terri Orbuch | Ideas: TED Talks | February 2018
“I’ve studied the romances and relationship patterns of thousands of people for three decades, and I’ve heard many of them talk about that wild, out-of-control feeling at the beginning of a new relationship. …”

8. Why do zebras have stripes Perhaps to dazzle away flies
By Danica Kirka | Associated Press | February 2019
“The researchers found that fewer horseflies landed on the cloaked horses than on the ones without striped coats, suggesting that zebra stripes may offer protection from blood-sucking insects that can spread disease.”

9. Former deputy chief inspector for NYPD dies at 104 years old
By Larry Celona and Ben Feuerherd | The New York Post | February 2019
“Former NYPD Deputy Chief Inspector John Downer, who joined the force in 1941 and served more than 30 years, died …”

10. Why Komodo Dragons Haven’t Conquered the World
By Veronique Greenwood | The New York Times | November 2018
“The razor-toothed predators are fierce, but scientists found that they’re real homebodies. “

Recommended reading / viewing / listening

This week: Dealing when a friend has a baby / America beyond Trump / Powerless Puerto Rico / Dancing with Madonna / Loving your library

This week: Dealing when a friend has a baby / America beyond Trump / Powerless Puerto Rico / Dancing with Madonna / Loving your library

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

1. A Friend’s Pregnancy
By Julia Wertz | The New Yorker | October 2016
“I was happy for her, but I was afraid it would have a negative impact on our relationship. It was certainly not what I wanted, but I knew such an epic life event would change our relationship irrevocably, and I was scared.”

2. War Without End
By C.J. Chivers | The New York Times Magazine | August 2018
“The Pentagon’s failed campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan left a generation of soldiers with little to fight for but one another.”

3. Planning for the Post-Trump Wreckage
By Stephen M. Walt | Foreign Policy | August 2018
“When the president eventually exits the White House, the rest of us will quickly have to make sense of the world he’s left behind.”

4. What Happened in the Dark: Puerto Rico’s Year of Fighting for Power
By Daniel Alarcon | Wired | August 2018
“More Americans rely on Puerto Rico’s grid than on any other public electric utility. How one renegade plant worker led them through the shadows.”

5. Nuance: A Love Story
By Meghan Daum | Medium | August 2018
“My affair with the intellectual dark web”

6. 2001 Is Still Teaching Us How to Pay Attention to Movies
By Colin Fleming | Slate | August 2018
“Your mind need not be going.”

7. Step one for befriending a goat: Smile
By Karin Brulliard | Animalia :: The Washington Post | August 2018
“Goat subjects … had already shown themselves to be adept at reading subtle human body language. Now, the researchers have found, goats are also able to distinguish happy people faces from sad ones — and they prefer happy.”

8. Dancing with Madonna Kept Me Alive
By Salim Gauwloos | Outlook :: BBC World Service | July 2018
“Salim Gauwloos became famous dancing with Madonna on her iconic Blond Ambition tour. Madonna used the tour to promote freedom of sexuality and sexual health. All of this made a young Salim feel extremely uncomfortable. The reason he was so anxious was that he was harbouring a secret.”

9. The Dos and Don’ts of Supporting Your Local Library
By Kristin Arnett | LitHub | August 2018
“For God’s sake, do not recatalog a book with Sharpie”

10. My son, Osama: the al-Qaida leader’s mother speaks for the first time
By Martin Chulov | The Guardian | August 2018
“Nearly 17 years since 9/11, Osama bin Laden’s family remains an influential part of Saudi society – as well as a reminder of the darkest moment in the kingdom’s history. Can they escape his legacy”

Recommended reading / viewing / listening

This week: Secrets to San Antonio / Houston’s dolphins / Tarantino’s ‘Star Trek’ / The best Texas playlist / Kirsten Gillibrand in the spotlight / Robert Caro and LBJ

This week: Secrets to San Antonio / Houston’s dolphins / Tarantino’s ‘Star Trek’ / The best Texas playlist / Kirsten Gillibrand in the spotlight

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

1. Insider’s Guide to San Antonio
By Lauren Smith Ford | Texas Monthly | December 2017
“Join the dapper Mike Casey for a bicycle tour of his favorite bars, restaurants and more in the funky, charming King William neighborhood.”

2. Galveston Bay dolphins struggle to recover from Hurricane Harvey
By Alex Stuckey | Houston Chronicle | November 2017
“Researchers observe lesions covering the marine mammals”

3. Pulp science-fiction? How Quentin Tarantino could save Star Trek
By Luke Holland | The Guardian | December 2017
“The tepid recent installment left Kirk and co needing direction, dialogue and a decent baddie. Luckily Hollywood’s grandmaster of profanity has one more film to make.”

4. Hundreds of dams in Texas could fail in worst-case flood
By Ralph K.M. Haurwitz | Austin American-Statesman | November 2017
“Texas applies its strictest safety standards only if a dam’s failure would probably cost seven or more lives.”

5. Winston Churchill Got a Lot of Things Wrong, But One Big Thing Right
By Matt Lewis | The Daily Beast | December 2017
“He contemplated using poison gas on German civilians. He wanted to keep England white. And more. But he had the quality Britain needed most at exactly the moment it was needed.”

6. Kirsten Gillibrand’s Moment Has Arrived
By David Freedlander | Politico Magazine | December 2017
“The New York senator has made sexual assault the focus of her political career. Now, the world has caught up with her.”

7. Oil and gas industry is causing Texas earthquakes, a ‘landmark’ study suggests
By Ben Guarino | The Washington Post | November 2017
“An unnatural number of earthquakes hit Texas in the past decade, and the region’s seismic activity is increasing. In 2008, two earthquakes stronger than magnitude 3 struck the state. Eight years later, 12 did.”

8. You May Want to Marry My Husband
By Amy Krouse Rosenthal | Modern Love :: The New York Times | March 2017
“He is an easy man to fall in love with. I did it in one day.”

9. Listen to the Ultimate Texas Music Playlist
By Katy Vine | Texas Monthly | November 2017
“We set out to hear what our state sounds like. We brought back the latest and best of Texas music — so listen up.”

10. Robert Caro: Rising Early, With a New Sentence in Mind
By John Leland | Sunday Routine :: The New York Times | May 2012
“I always remember Ernest Hemingway’s advice to writers: always quit for the day when you know what the next sentence is.”
Also see: Robert Caro’s Big Dig | Robert Caro’s Painstaking Process

Recommended reading / viewing / listening

This week: Who’s who in ‘The Post’ / The revolutionary world Cuba created / Paul Ryan ready to go / The inner turmoil of ‘Frankenstein’ / Key questions for falling in love

This week: Who’s who in ‘The Post’ / The revolutionary world Cuba created / Paul Ryan ready to go / The inner turmoil of ‘Frankenstein’ / Key questions for falling in love

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

1. Who’s Who in ‘The Post’: A Guide to the Players in a Pivotal Era
By Sam Roberts | The New York Times | December 2017
“The newsroom crackles with verisimilitude, its rotary phones, staccato typewriters and a veil of cigarette smoke evoking a bygone grittiness. At its heart are a wisecracking editor and matriarchal publisher.”

2. Cuba’s Revolutionary World
By Jonathan C. Brown | Not Even Past :: UT Austin Department of History | December 2017
“Cuba’s revolution attracted youthful visitors from all over Latin America who wished to learn how they too might become armed revolutionaries.”

3. Paul Ryan Sees His Wild Washington Journey Coming to An End
By Tim Alberta and Rachael Bade | Politico Magazine | December 2017
“He felt he was ‘made for this moment.’ But now, on the verge of achieving his long-sought legislative dream, he’s got his eyes on the exits.”

4. Out of Control
By Richard Holmers | The New York Review of Books | December 2017
Frankenstein is saturated in the heroic rhetoric of Milton’s Paradise Lost, the alienated imagery of Coleridge’s ‘Rime of the Ancient Mariner,’ and the natural magic of Wordsworth’s ‘Tintern Abbey’ (all of which are actually quoted). It also clearly contains a series of philosophical debates between scientific hope and hubris, between friendship and betrayal, between love and solitude.”

5. The 36 Questions That Lead to Love
By Daniel Jones | Modern Love :: The New York Times | January 2015
“The idea is that mutual vulnerability fosters closeness.”

6. Below Deck
By Lizzie Presser | California Sunday Magazine | February 2017
“Filipinos make up nearly a third of all cruise ship workers. It’s a good job. Until it isn’t.”

7. The 4 Things That Helped Gary Oldman Disappear Into Winston Churchill
By Kyle Buchanan | Vulture | December 2017
“Here are the four keys that finally helped Oldman to crack Churchill and deliver one of of the most acclaimed performances of his career.”

8. A Journey Through Havana’s Clandestine Book World
By Ruben Gallo and Lisa Carter | Lit Hub | December 2017
“I felt immeasurably happy to be surrounded by blacks and mulatas, old women sitting on stoops, and jineteros hustling boys, girls, cigars, pirated music, and almost everything else.”

9. A Comprehensive List of How Texans Mispronounce Places With Spanish Names
By John Nova Lomax | Texas Monthly | November 2017
“From Amarila to Wad-a-loop to the Purda-nalleez River, we’ve taken some liberties when it comes to pronunciation.”

10. Dystopia is Realism: The Future Is Here if You Look Closely
By Christopher Brown | LitHub | July 2017
“All novels are set in alternate worlds, even if most writers only invent the people that inhabit them. Dystopia just expands the scale of the alteration.”

Dec. 31, 1999: The last day of the past

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On Dec. 31, 1999, I was a junior news editor at the Corpus Christi Caller-Times, the newest member of a team of about a dozen editors and page designers. Reporters mostly worked during the day writing the stories. Editors like me worked at night editing the stories and assembling and designing the newspaper. So I was shocked and elated when my supervisor told me in late December that I wouldn’t have to work on New Year’s Eve. I was smart enough not to ask why. My then-girlfriend was coming to Corpus Christi to celebrate with me, and I was looking forward to a long, romantic night in a downtown hotel.

But on the morning of the 31st, my supervisor called and apologetically asked me to come in for a few hours that night to help edit the extra-big pile of stories for the first edition of the new year. He assured me that I could leave by 7 or 8 p.m. I agreed, trying to sound gracious and appreciative of his promise of an early release. The promise of extra overtime pay further softened the news. I informed my girlfriend of the minor change in plans, which wouldn’t drastically affect our evening.

I dutifully returned to my desk in the newsroom, and I explained to my puzzled (and relieved) colleagues why I was there. As I settled in, I gradually realized there was nowhere else I wanted to be that night (if only for a few hours).

There were great advantages to sitting in a newsroom that night, if only because of the tremendous access I had to countless news services from around the world. Every news service offers special packages every year that examine, analyze, celebrate, or condemn developments in politics, technology, science, sports, film, and music over the past twelve months, but this year was different. The millennial angle brought rich historical and cultural flavors to the coverage. That year, there were fascinating and thoughtful reflections on the evolution of democracy throughout human history, the torments and treasures technology brought to human civilization, and the great and terrible conflicts and comforts religion brought to every society.

That year’s year-end gaze focused as far on the future as it did on the past, predicting peace for most of the world, except for the inevitable tensions between a resurgent China and the post-Cold War United States. Analysts predicted that an economically healthy world would strengthen even the weakest societies in Africa and the Middle East. Terrorism was mentioned, but only in passing as one of a series of minor dangers the U.S. of the future might have to confront and snuff out. Foreign affairs experts predicted the imminent liberation of (and possible civil war in) Cuba once the Castro brothers died. Some political analysts wondered what an Al Gore presidency would look like.

That night I watched live news coverage of the (symbolic) new millennium dawning on the other side of the world. I cheerily chatted with my new co-workers. I munched on the growing buffet of sandwiches, fruits, and vegetables the newspaper ordered for the staff. I noticed a strange new sensation growing in my body, a warm happiness enveloping my heart and mind. Later I realized that warmth I felt was a deepening love for my new job, specifically for the particular intellectual role I played in the newsroom. There was an energy in the air that night, something I never felt before, and something I would feel for the next ten years, every time the newsroom mobilized to absorb and understand a big news event. I was part of something noble, challenging, and fulfilling. I was part of something that mattered.

There was another important reason why I wanted to be in the newsroom on that night, another important explanation for that tense excitement in the air. For months, the news wires were filled with stories about Y2K, the looming technological disaster everyone feared might take place at midnight. Technology experts, military officials, and others fretted about what might happen when the calendars in software programs and defense systems turned from 12-31-99 to 01-01-00, or some other variation of a date dominated by so many zeroes. Would there be power failures? Would computers everywhere melt down? Would planes fall out of the sky, hospital life-support machines shut down, or satellites spin out of control? Would defense systems accidentally launch missiles at Russia or at the U.S.? Would the symbolic end of the millennium inaugurate an actual Armageddon?

Despite these concerns, no one in the general populace seemed to be seriously concerned about Y2K. Government officials, scientists, and engineers were well aware of the potential problems, and the general consensus was that most of the spots in software, where there might be glitches over those zeros, were fixed. Russian and American military officials teamed up to monitor defense systems in an admirable display of transparency and professionalism. No one really knew what might happen. One of my favorite podcasts, “Witness” from the BBC World Service, recently examined the worries over the “Millennium Bug.”

Nevertheless, Times Square in New York City filled up with its usual crowds of bundled-up revelers with their strange eyeglasses, hats, and signs. Peter Jennings anchored ABC News coverage from New York, smiling to himself as he tried to speak to increasingly inebriated correspondents from Asian and European capitals, where the skies exploded with fireworks, church bells pealed, and the streets filled with millions of people, all dancing, kissing, and cheering. I imagined myself in Paris with my girlfriend, holding hands on the riverbank, sharing a deep kiss, the Eiffel Tower’s searchlight sweeping across the cloudy sky above us, the twinkle of distant fireworks sparkling in her dark eyes. Someday, I told myself, I’ll take her there.

Eventually, the newsroom’s clock struck 8 p.m., and my supervisor thanked me for helping edit the extra-big pile of stories for tomorrow’s edition. I smiled, shook his hand, and wished him and and my envious co-workers a happy New Year. I strolled out of the newsroom, glancing one last time at the TV. Peter Jennings smiled as he reviewed the growing crowd in Times Square. It was a smile I never forgot. I spent the rest of the night as I hoped I would. My girlfriend and I had a romantic and relaxing evening — the perfect end to the year, the century, and the millennium.

In the morning, we learned the world did not end. Instead, the first day of the new millennium was bright, breezy, and warm. We had breakfast and then drove to Padre Island. Amazingly, the beach was empty. She and I walked together through the frothy waves hissing across the yellow sand. I stared out across the water, shielding my tired eyes from the sunshine. A new year, I thought to myself. I felt a greater sense of hope, determination, and ambition at that moment than ever before. I felt fortunate, safe, and content. I asked myself, would I ever feel like this again?

I glanced at my girlfriend, radiant in the morning light, slowly dancing her way down the beach, watching the water flow around her legs, her gleaming black hair streaming down her shoulders, her arms outstretched to catch the breeze. She smiled at me. I took her hand in mine. It was time to move on. The future awaited.

Loreta’s Civil War: ‘You are she?’

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

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

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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: The evil effect of a great war

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

KS49

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

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

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

******

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Loreta’s Civil War: Cry with rage and vexation

Loreta remembers her betrothal to a boy she did not love and her pursuit of the man with whom she wanted to spend the rest of her life.

KS16

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 2: Loreta remembers her betrothal to a boy she did not love and her pursuit of the man with whom she wanted to spend the rest of her life.

******

How well I did play my part, happily, does not depend upon my own testimony alone, for some of the most distinguished officers of the Confederate Army, and many equally distinguished civilians, can and will testify to the truthfulness of the story I am about to relate, and to the unblemished character I bore while in the Confederate service. I not only assumed the garment of my sex once more with the credit of having done the state some important services, and of having labored with efficiency, courage, and energy to secure the independence of the Confederacy, but, with my womanly reputation unblemished by even a suspicion of impropriety. …

Both in Spain and in the Spanish dominions on this side of the Atlantic, is the name of Velazquez well known and highly honored. Don Diego Velazquez, the conqueror and the first governor of Cuba, under whose superintendence the expedition which discovered Mexico was sent out, was one of my ancestors, and Don Diego Rodriguez Velazquez, the greatest artist that Spain ever produced, was a member of my family. It will thus be seen that I came of excellent, although somewhat fiery and headstrong stock, and, if in assuming the garments of a man, and endeavoring to do a man’s work on the battlefield, I transgressed against the conventionalities of modern society … despite the fact of my being a woman, I might be able to enjoy the excitements of the battlefield, and win for myself a warrior’s fame. …

In 1840, my father was appointed to an official position in Cuba, and two years later I, his sixth and last child, came into the world in a house on the Calle Velaggas, near the walls in the city of Havana, on the 26th of June, 1842. I was christened Loreta Janeta. …

From my earliest recollections my mind has been filled with aspirations of the most ardent possible kind, to fill some great sphere. I expended all my pocket money … in the purchase of books which related the events of the lives of kings, princes, and soldiers. … I wished that I was a man, such a man as Columbus or Captain Cook, and could discover new worlds, or explore unknown regions of the earth. … While residing with my aunt, it was frequently my habit, after all in the house had retired to bed at night, to dress myself in my cousin’s clothes, and to promenade by the hour before the mirror, practicing the gait of a man, and admiring the figure I made in masculine raiment.

I was betrothed to a young Spaniard, Raphael R., in accordance with plans which my relatives had formed with regard to me, and without any action on my part. Indeed, my consent was not asked, my parents, thinking that they were much better qualified to arrange a suitable alliance than I was, and that, provided other things were satisfactory, love was something of minor importance, that could very well be left to take care of itself. They were mistaken, however … I had no difficulty in coming to the conclusion that the choice of a husband was something I ought to have a voice in. …

A marriage by parental arrangement was the last thing in the world to suit a scatter-brained, romantic girl like myself, whose head was filled with all sorts of wild notions, and it is not to be wondered at, therefore, that I rebelled. When I was betrothed to Raphael, however, I had not the slightest notion of objecting; and although I did not feel a particle of affection for him, I accepted him for my future husband, as a matter of course, and received his visits with a proper degree of complacency. … I consequently took no steps to get rid of Raphael until I chanced to make the acquaintance of a young American army officer who was paying particular attention to one of my schoolmates, Nellie V.

Nellie was a beautiful girl, of about sixteen years of age, and a very warm regard subsisted between us up to the time of her discovery that I was endeavoring to capture her lover. Her affection for me did not last long after that, and she said a great many disagreeable things about me, for which I have long since forgiven her, as I doubt not she has [forgiven] me for running away with her handsome young officer.

He was indeed a handsome young officer, and his manly and graceful appearance, especially when attired in his brilliant uniform, made such an impression on my heart, that I soon could think of nothing else. I found now that love was a reality, and my thoughts by day and my dreams by night had no other object than the gentleman who, while paying his assiduous attentions to Nellie, never imagined what ravages he was making in the heart of her schoolmate. I learned to hate Raphael, and his attempts to make himself agreeable to me only served to increase my dislike. Of Nellie I soon became savagely jealous, and was ready to cry with rage and vexation whenever I saw her lover paying her any delicate attentions. We, however, to all appearances, continued fast friends, and it was not for several months that she discovered I was her rival. The object of my devotion was also profoundly ignorant of my feelings towards him, and I had not the courage to tell him. At length I became desperate … to acquaint the young officer with the affection I entertained for him. …

One evening Nellie and I agreed to exchange partners, for the purpose of finding out how much they loved us. Raphael did not fancy this maneuver a bit, but submitted to it with as good a grace as possible. The officer and myself managed to get out of earshot of the other couple, but, now that the opportunity I had sighed for was mine, I was afraid to open my mouth on the subject nearest my heart. I trembled all over, but was determined before we separated to let him know the state of my heart. Finding that I had not courage to speak, I wrote a few words in his pocket diary, which told him everything.

He was intensely surprised but he declared, with much warmth, that he had long wished to speak with me on this very matter, and would have done so, were it not that he thought I was betrothed, and that under any circumstances there would be no chance for an American to win my affections. My new lover behaved in the most honorable manner, for, as soon as he obtained my consent for him to pay his addresses, he went to my aunt, and asked permission to visit at her house. She granted his request, with the condition that he was to understand that I was betrothed, and would demean himself towards me accordingly. This condition he listened to, but with a determination to pay little heed to it, his main object being accomplished in securing the right to see me without fear of being interfered with.

Kate Stone’s Civil War: A man-flirt is detestable

Stone, riding her horse with a pistol in her belt, decides that the antebellum age of young love, innocent flirting, and romantic dreams is over.

1864

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, riding her horse with a pistol in her belt, decides that the antebellum age of young love, innocent flirting, and romantic dreams is over.

July 18, 1865

Tyler, Texas

Only the quiet routine of home duties. Nothing from the outside world. Oh, for letters from [those] who have bidden us adieu to know what is going on and how they arc faring in their new life.

Mrs. St. Clair and Neta Irvine came in and I tried to be unusually polite and non-committal to Mrs. St-Olair. She is such a dangerous woman that, I am afraid of her. She will start any report, and now she is most intimate with the Yankees. … Mr. Moore dined with us. Mr. Moore is the most belligerent minister I ever saw and the hottest Southerner. He cannot reconcile himself to defeat. There are two Yankee cotton-buyers in town. They are very conciliating in manner, we hear, and dumb as to the war.

Mollie Moore and I took a lovely ride this afternoon entirely alone but with pistols gleaming at our side. I fancy the good people of Tyler, the conservative, will be horrified if they saw them, but we will hope for the best and trust they did not spy our weapons. We took them more for a frolic than anything else, but the roads are said not to be entirely safe with so many hard cases roving around. Mollie and I were longing for a ride and good long gossip together, and all our cavaliers have left us. Mollie told me all about “Adonis” and confesses to a partial engagement, but she evidently does not expect to keep it. We decided that the girls would all have to change their war customs, stop flirting, and only engage themselves when they really meant something. The days of lightly-won and lightly-held hearts should be over.

Mr. Moore’s accounts of the frolics of Willy and Jimmy Carson on their bachelor ranch worry me considerably. I am afraid they will get into serious trouble carrying on so with those country girls and will carry their flirtations too far, and they are but boys turned loose with no one out there to restrain them. Hope they will soon come in, and I will talk to them. Might do some good. A man-flirt is detestable, and I do not want those boys to degenerate into that.

We are living now on the fat of the land, plenty of milk, cream, butter, and gumbo, vegetables of all kinds, melons, and chickens. I am only sorry Mamma and the boys cannot be with us to enjoy it. The outer world is still a sealed book to us. Few mails.

Kate Stone’s Civil War: The grand crash

Stone writes indirectly of her heartbreak over losing Lt. Holmes, her pleasure over his new-found sobriety, and the special tokens of affection they exchanged.

KS53

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 writes indirectly of her heartbreak over losing Lt. Holmes, her pleasure over his new-found sobriety, and the special tokens of affection they exchanged.

May 31, 1865

Tyler, Texas

How quiet and deserted the house is since they all left. Johnny and Jimmy started Monday for Louisiana to be absent five or six weeks. Yesterday Lt. Dupre and Lt. Holmes — plain “Mr.” after this — said good-bye to us. How much we miss them. I wonder will it be the same when we meet Lt. Holmes again after the five months of separation? He wishes to correspond but it is better not. The only tokens exchanged were geranium leaves. Which will be treasured longest? He has been perfectly sober for two months and has made many good resolutions which we trust he will keep, even though we never meet again. We have seen him every day but three for three months, and we miss him dreadfully now he has gone forever. …

Lt. Holmes and I went around to bid Sally Grissman and several of the girls good-bye. I know they all could have dispensed with my calls on the occasion, but I went just the same. We have no one “on guard” now for the first time in a year. …

Our friends in the Ordinance Department gave us so many little things during the grand crash that we feel quite rich and are delighted with our extra furnishings. All the ordinance stores were distributed or rather left open to all, and we have a quantity of ammunition. It remains to be seen whether the Yankees will allow us to keep it. It is reported that President Davis has not been captured and that the Federal authorities are most monstrously kind to the soldiers. …