Amerikan Rambler: Podcast 27: William C. Davis

From Oct. 2016: “William C. Davis is one of the most prolific and prodigious of American historians.”

Over the past forty years, he has focused on the Civil War era and southern history, writing about everything from Jefferson Davis to the Texas Revolution to — as he shows in his newest book — a New Orleans prostitute who claimed to be a Confederate soldier.

via Podcast 27: William C. Davis — Amerikan Rambler: Everybody Has a Story

Loreta’s Civil War: My heart burned hot within me

Velazquez makes her way to Canada, England, and then back to New York City in time to hear that the Army of Northern Virginia has surrendered.

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 52: Velazquez makes her way to Canada, England, and then back to New York City in time to hear that the Army of Northern Virginia has surrendered.

******

In the evening, as I was going out of the room where the family were at supper, I heard the old gentleman who sat at the head of the table say to his wife, “Where did you come across that nice, tidy piece of furniture?”

The lady replied, “Oh, she was at Mrs. B.’s, and they were too much down on the rebels to suit her.”

When I came into the room again, the old gentleman, turning towards me, inquired, “Are you a Yankee girl?”

“No, sir,” I replied, “I am a Cuban and am a true Southern sympathizer.”

“Well, if that is the case, you have got into the right place at last. I am from old Virginia, and I would not have one of those d—-d Yankee women about the house.”

In the evening the lady of the house came to my room just as I was unpacking my trunk. She seemed to be surprised at the extent and style of my wardrobe and exclaimed, “Dear me, what a lot of nice things you have there!”

“Yes,” I replied. “Where I came from we are accustomed to having nice things.”

As I thought that some curiosity with regard to me would be excited, I resolved to try and overhear the conversation between the old lady and her husband, so, when she left me, I hastily slipped off my shoes and, cautiously following her downstairs, stood at the door of the parlor and listened. She gave quite a glowing account of the elegant dresses and other matters she had seen in my trunk and said, “I wonder who she is, for she has not always been a servant, that is certain.”

“No, she don’t look like a servant,” said the old gentleman.

“Suppose she should be a spy?”

“Well, she may be, and we will have to be cautious what we say before her. Is she in her room?”

“Yes.”

“I will have a talk with her tomorrow and try and get her to say something with regard to who she is and where she comes from.”

This was all very satisfactory, so far as it went, and I crept back to my room as softly as I could and went to bed.

The next morning the old gentleman came into the room when I was arranging the breakfast table and said, without any preliminaries, “Were you ever married?”

“Yes, sir, I am a widow.”

“And you were never married again?”

“No, sir.”

“Wouldn’t you like to be?”

“Well, I wouldn’t mind if the right kind of a man offered himself. I don’t care to marry any of your Yankees, however, and the Southern boys are all in the field.”

“Look here, ain’t you from the South?”

“I have been there.”

“I thought so. Because you found yourself among strangers and got out of money is, I suppose, the reason why you have hired out.”

“Yes, sir. It is rather hard, after having had plenty, and after being waited on by servants, to do this kind of work but it is honorable.”

“Put down those plates,” said the old gentleman, with considerable emphasis, “You can’t do any work for me but my house is open to you, and you are welcome to stay as long as it suits you.

“Here, old woman,” he cried to his wife, who just then came into the room, “She is not going to be a servant in our house. She is a genuine Southerner, and we must treat her as well as we know how.”

I was forthwith installed as a privileged guest, and in the course of a few days I was introduced to a number of Southern sympathizers. Among my new acquaintance was a Confederate soldier who had escaped from one of the prison camps and who was endeavoring to make his way South. From him I learned that Cleveland was a general rendezvous for prisoners, and I accordingly resolved to go there.

I had given my entertainers to understand that I was on some secret errand but did not tell them what, while they appreciated the importance of saying no more than was necessary about such matters and asked me no impertinent questions. When I made up my mind to leave, I went to the old gentleman and told him that I desired to go South, where I had friends, and where I could get money.

He asked me how much money I would require for my journey, and I told him that I thought about six hundred dollars would see me through.

“Well,” said he, “I can get that for you,” and going out, he soon returned with the amount, remarking as he gave it to me, “We Copperheads can always raise some money for the Cause, even if we have no men.”

The old gentleman took me to the depot in his buggy and bought me a ticket for Cincinnati. He also gave me a letter to the head of the Copperhead ring there. This document I had, however, no use for, although I accepted it as I did the six hundred dollars. I had at the time the sum of ninety-three thousand dollars on my person and had in deposit in several banks over fifty thousand dollars. The six hundred dollars I accepted as a contribution to the Cause and on the principle that every little helps.

Bidding my aged friend farewell, I took my seat in the train and was soon on my way to Columbus, for I had no intention of going to Cincinnati. On reaching Columbus, I took rooms at a new hotel near the depot and made some inquiries with regard to the prisoners but before I could make any definite arrangement concerning them I received a telegraphic dispatch directing me to go to Canada immediately.

I, therefore, contributed three thousand dollars of the money which I had with me … for the relief of the prisoners and for the purchase of necessary clothing. A Mrs. R. had charge of this prisoners’ relief fund, and I had every confidence that the money in her hands would be properly bestowed.

Proceeding as rapidly as I could to Canada, I had a conference with the agent there and then hastened to New York. In that city I found a host of Confederates who were anxiously waiting to receive their instructions from me. One was to go to Nassau as supercargo. Another was to sail by the next steamer for Paris to receive opium and quinine. A third was to proceed to Missouri. A fourth to the northwestern part of Texas, and so on. Giving each his proportion of cash for expenses and telling them whom to draw on in case they were short, I bade them goodbye and wished them success.

These matters being arranged, I went to see the broker with whom I was in partnership and found him considerably exercised. We had a long talk about the situation, and he expressed himself as very uneasy about the march Sherman was making through the Carolinas and its effect upon the Confederate bonds we had on hand. I was not as easily frightened as he was but I could not help acknowledging that if Sherman succeeded in accomplishing what he aimed at, it would be bad for the cause of the Confederacy and that it would do much to kill the sale of the bonds. I therefore allowed myself to be persuaded into making a trip to London for the purpose of a personal interview with our agent there, the idea being, without letting him or others see that we were uneasy, to persuade him to sell off the paper we held at almost any price.

I accordingly proceeded to London by the next steamer, and on finding the agent, was soon plunged into business with him. Confederate bonds were not selling very well just at that time, but as ours cost us very little, we could afford to dispose of them at very moderate figures and still make a handsome profit. I put mine on the market as rapidly as I was able but before I had cleared out the lot, intelligence was received that Sherman had established communication with Grant, and many persons jumped at the conclusion that this was a virtual end of the rebellion. When this news was received, I was on a flying visit to Paris. I did not think that the end was as near as many persons supposed, but saw very clearly that there was no market in London just then for Confederate bonds. … I posted to Liverpool and arrived there just in time to catch a steamer.

As we were going into New York harbor we heard the news of Lee’s surrender — which had taken place the day before — from the pilot. He was unable to give us any particulars, and everyone on the steamer was consequently in a fever of anxiety to get ashore and learn the full extent of the disaster to the Confederate arms. No one was more anxious than myself, as no one had reason to be, and the idea that the hitherto invincible army of Virginia … should at last be compelled to yield to the enemy fairly stunned me.

Many of the passengers seemed to think that this was practically the winding up of the war. I could not bring myself to believe this, for I knew that the Confederacy had other armies in the field who were both able and willing to fight, and who were led by generals as skillful and as indomitable as Lee. My heart burned hot within me to continue the fight, and I resolved to stick by my colors to the last and to labor with even more than my accustomed zeal for the Confederacy so long as a shadow of hope remained.

When the vessel reached the wharf I went ashore and proceeded to the Lafarge House, from whence, as soon as I could get some of the sea rust from my person, I called a carriage and ordered the driver to take me as fast as he could to the office of the broker in Wall Street with whom I was in partnership.

Wall Street, especially in the vicinity of the Exchange, was fairly packed with a furious, excited mass of human beings, selling, shouting, cursing, and not a few absolutely weeping.

It was a spectacle to be remembered — nothing that I had ever beheld — and I had certainly participated in many exciting scenes, … Some of the thousands of faces were surcharged with unspeakable horror. Despair, overpowering despair, was written on others. Curses and blasphemies were heard on every side, and it might have been supposed that all the lunatics in the country had been turned loose in this narrow thoroughfare.

Anyone familiar with this section of New York, however, could see at a glance that some momentous event had occurred which had seriously affected innumerable important financial operations, and that in a moment great fortunes had been lost and won.

At length, we reached the office I was seeking, and my partner came out to meet me and to assist me to alight from the carriage. His face wore a very sickly smile as he said, “I am glad to see you. You have made a quick trip.”

“Yes,” I replied as we hurried into the back office. “Regent Street has no charms for me in such times as these.”

“Well,” said he, as he turned the key in the lock of the door, fairly gasping for breath as he asked the question, and pale as a sheet: “Have we lost?”

“No, we have not exactly lost, but we have not made anything worth speaking of.”

“Well, so long as we have not lost, we have done pretty well.”

“What is the news?”

“Lee has surrendered, and the Confederacy has gone up — that is the whole sum and substance of it.”

“But there are other armies in the field, and they will probably be able to hold out. It does not follow that the Confederacy is gone up because Lee has surrendered.”

“People about here think differently — at any rate, the Confederate bond business is killed.”

I did not care to argue this point with him, as his only interest in the Confederacy was in what he could make out of it. So I asked, “Have you got in all the money?”

“Yes,” he replied, “but the bonds have gone up higher than a kite.”

“Well, you bring your books and make out your statement. We will have a settlement at once, for I intend to get out of the country as fast as I am able.”

The next day I met him in accordance with our agreement and presented my statement with a proposition that he should take half the bonds in my hands and we stand equal losses. This he refused point-blank to do and professed to be highly indignant that I should make such a proposition.

I then refused to settle, at which he got very angry and threatened to have me arrested, indulging in some strong language, which did not frighten me a bit, for, apart from the fact that I did not scare easily, I knew that I had the advantage of him and that he would not dare, for his own sake, to carry his threat into execution. I had about sixty thousand dollars of his money, while he had only about eighteen thousand of mine [and so] he finally consented to settle on equal terms — share and share alike, both in the profits and the losses. This matter being arranged, I bade him farewell, glad enough to get rid of him and glad to get out of such a business. Such was the end of my secret banking and brokerage transactions.

Loreta’s Civil War: Undertook to be saucy to me

Velazquez disguises herself as a maid in Ohio as she gathers information on Unionist sentiments. But, before long, she gets into a fight with her employer.


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 51: Velazquez disguises herself as a maid in Ohio as she gathers information on Unionist sentiments. But, before long, she gets into a fight with her employer.

******

The amount of money that was squandered through the system of recruiting adopted by the Federal government cannot be estimated, while evils far worse than the waste of money were encouraged. Playing the part I was, I had every reason to be satisfied with the way things were being managed, but now that the war is over, I suppose I have the same right to express an opinion with regard to this as any other matter of public policy. …

If there was any justice in the war at all, it was a rich man’s fight just as much as it was a poor man’s, and when the time came for deciding who should and who should not take a turn on the battlefield, the chances ought to have been equal between the rich men and the poor men of drawing prizes or blanks in the lottery.

Had things been managed as I have suggested, not only would impartial justice have been done but the proportions of the national debt would have been greatly curtailed while the generals in the field would have kept their ranks full and the downfall of the Confederacy would have occurred at a very much earlier day than it did.

During the whole time that I was interested in this bounty-jumping and substitute-brokerage business, it was a matter of constant surprise to me that some effort was not being made by the government to put a stop to the outrageous frauds that were being committed in the most open manner every day.

The matter finally was taken in hand by Col. Baker, who came on to New York and located himself at the Astor House for the purpose of instituting an investigation. He kept himself very quiet and endeavored to prevent those against whom he was operating from knowing that he was in the city until he was ready to deal with them. It was necessary that he should have some assistance, however, in order to begin right, and … something prompted him to send for me to see whether I would not undertake to find out certain things for him. …

When I received a “strictly private and confidential” note from Col. Baker, requesting me to call on him at seven o’clock on a certain evening at the Astor House, I scarcely knew what to make of it, and, fearful that something against me had been discovered, I was in considerable doubt as to whether to respond or not. My previous experience with Baker, however, had taught me that in dealing with him the bold way was much the best way. …

I accordingly went to the Astor House and sent up my name. The colonel met me in the parlor, and, as he seated himself beside me, he said, with a smile, “Now tell me, my good woman, what have you been doing with yourself?”

This might be a merely friendly greeting, and it might be just the opposite, but, although I almost feared that my time was come, I was determined not to give him a chance to suspect me by my words or manner. So I said, “Oh, I have been visiting my relations.”

“I received your letter,” continued the colonel, “but I have been a little surprised at not seeing you in Washington since your return from the West.”

“I didn’t go to Washington because I really didn’t care to see you. The fact is, I made such a bad failure in what I undertook to do on that trip that I was ashamed of myself.”

Baker, however, took a goodnatured view of what he was pleased to call my bad luck and went on to tell me what his errand in New York was and to ask me to aid him in certain matters that he mentioned.

I professed to know little or nothing about the bounty and substitute frauds, but, after discussing the subject pretty thoroughly with him, consented to try and find out what he wanted and to sound certain people for him in order to ascertain whether they were willing to aid him in carrying on his investigations.

The first thing I did after parting with Baker was to warn my associates so that they might close out before it was too late to do so on advantageous terms. What became of the others in the business I did not care and was rather glad than otherwise to have an opportunity of putting Baker on their track.

In a couple of days I furnished the colonel with the information he wanted, and … the whole bounty-jumping fraternity were thrown into consternation by his raid upon them.

Baker at first represented himself as the agent of an interior county, and in that capacity he bought up a large number of forged enlistment papers and became acquainted with the men who had them for sale and with the manner of preparing them. … Finally, when he understood the whole business, he laid his plans and made an immense number of arrests, but before he had more than fairly gotten under way with his work the assassination of Mr. Lincoln occurred, and he was recalled to Washington to take a part in the search that was being made for Booth and his companions. …

Among the noted characters whose acquaintance I made at this period was Jim Fisk. I had heard a great deal about him and had a strong desire to see him. Hearing that he was to dine with certain parties at Delmonico’s, I hired a handsome turnout, and, dressing myself very elegantly, went there with a couple of friends.

On entering the dining-hall, I inquired of the waiter whether Mr. Fisk was in the room. He replied that he had just come in and pointed him out to me. I went with my friends to the table next to his, for I was anxious to have a good look at him and to hear him talk.

Fisk was one of the finest-looking men I ever saw. He had a very handsome head and a large, noble eye, and he was as pleasant and affable in his manners as he was attractive in his personal appearance. I was greatly taken with him at first sight and became inspired with a very ardent desire to make his acquaintance.

He glanced over at my little party with a smile, as much as to say, “I wonder who you are?” We were ready to leave before he was, but I said to my friends, “Let us wait a little. I am expecting someone,” my object being to find an opportunity to exchange words with Fisk. At length, I saw that he was through his dinner, and so said, “I do not believe my friend is coming, perhaps we had better not wait any longer.” We then walked slowly towards the door, and I lingered as long as I could at the cashier’s desk, paying for my dinner. Fisk passed by me, and as I and my companions went out, he was standing in the doorway, conversing with someone. When stepping into the carriage, I purposely dropped my handkerchief and had the satisfaction of seeing him come forward and pick it up. He handed it to me with a smile, and made a very courteous bow in return for my rather profuse expressions of thanks.

Fisk afterwards recognized me a number of times when I met him driving in the Park, and twice, when I went to see him on business, he complied with my requests without the least hesitation. One of my interviews with him was when I was on a begging expedition for the Soldiers’ Aid Society. He gave me three hundred dollars, of which I gave twenty-five dollars to the society and the balance to the Southern Relief Fund. My second call was to ask for a pass for some poor soldiers. He granted it immediately without asking any questions and did not have any idea that the soldiers were escaped Confederate prisoners who were trying to get through to Canada.

Fisk may have been profligate in his life, and, from a certain standpoint, may have been a bad man. He had some truly noble qualities, however, and it is no wonder that he had so many warm personal friends. …

Shortly after my interview with Col. Baker at the Astor House and my consequent withdrawal from all connection with the bounty and substitute brokerage business, I was requested to make a journey to the West for the purpose of procuring some information which my associates deemed of importance.

A number of the Confederate agents were maturing another grand scheme for the release of the prisoners and, I think, had some idea of organizing them into an army for the purpose of an attack in the Federal rear.

The Johnson’s Island failure had so completely discouraged me that I had no faith in any schemes of this kind, although my profound sympathy for the poor prisoners induced me to attempt anything in my power in their behalf. I thought that, even if I could not procure their release, I at least might do something to aid them and to promote their comfort. I therefore accepted the mission confided to me without hesitation and once more turned my face westward.

My first stopping-place was Dayton, Ohio. There, in accordance with my understanding with those who had sent me, I dressed myself as a poor girl and began to look for a situation to do housework. I was rather a novice at this business but thought that I was not too old to learn. …

I was not very long in obtaining a situation in a family of Union proclivities, and … I discovered that there were a number of “Copperheads” in the city and learned the names of some of the most prominent of them. I also picked up much other useful information that might otherwise have been unattainable.

Before I had been in the house three days, the bad temper of its mistress got the better of me, and, concluding that it would be impossible for me to endure her insolence any longer without unpleasant consequences to both of us, I resolved to leave.

This woman had a vile temper, and it seemed to me that she did nothing but scold and find fault from morning till night. As her treatment of me was undoubtedly exactly what she accorded to every young woman she took into her employ, I wondered how she ever managed to keep a servant. I am sure that had I been under the necessity of earning my bread and butter by doing housework I never could have endured such a temperament, and I felt sentiments of sincerest pity for poor girls who are compelled to put up with the insolence and bad tempers of people of this kind.

Having made up my mind to leave, I commenced looking about me for another situation and very speedily found one to my liking in a Copperhead family.

My arrangements being made, the next time the madam undertook to be saucy to me, I answered her in her own fashion, and in a few moments we were engaged in a furious quarrel which I doubt not would have appeared amusing enough, and ridiculous enough, to any impartial looker-on. Finally, I said, with all the dignity I could command, “Madam, I will leave your house this instant, for you shall never have the satisfaction of saying that you discharged a Cuban from your employ.”

“Why, are you a Cuban?” she said, calming down somewhat.

I then began to speak Spanish to her, and at this unexpected development she put on the most puzzled expression imaginable.

Without paying any more attention to her I went out, and engaging a man to take my trunk, began to prepare for my departure. When my trunk, with the Cuban express card on it, came downstairs, I pointed it out to her, and she opened her eyes considerably. She now began to be a trifle more gracious in her manner … making a rather awkward apology for her behavior, saying that she did not mean anything, and that I must not mind her being a little hasty tempered, and requested me to reconsider my determination to leave.

I told her that there was no use saying anything on that point, as I had already made an engagement elsewhere. She inquired where, and I said, with so and so around the corner, mentioning the names of the persons.

“Why,” said she, opening her eyes and throwing up her hands in horror, “you are not surely going with them! Don’t you know that they are rebels?”

“Well, suppose they are — they are as good as other people if they behave themselves. We have plenty of rebels in Cuba.”

Seeing that it was impossible to restrain me from going, she offered to pay me for the time I had been in her employ but, with a rather contemptuous wave of my hand, I told her she might keep it, or, if she wished, give it to some charitable object, as I was not in need of it, and without more words with her, walked out of the house and betook myself to my new quarters.

Recommended reading / viewing / listening

This week: Rape at University of Texas / Trump goes down in defeat / Granddaughter, grandfather both remember war / Selena fans / Great television sagas

This week: Rape at University of Texas / Trump goes down in defeat / Granddaughter, grandfather both remember war / Selena fans / Great television sagas

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. This is what I thought war was supposed to look like
By Tara Copp | The Dallas Morning News | March 2017
This is the first of four excerpts from Copp’s new book The Warbird: Three Heroes. Two Wars. One Story
Also see: Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

2. Selena super-fans celebrate her in song, dance, likeness
By Julie Garcia | Corpus Christi Caller-Times | March 21
“With blunt cut bangs, long brown hair and a spectacular red shade of lipstick, Nadia Garcia is the image of a young Selena Quintanilla Perez. Garcia twirled on a stage in the center court at La Palmera mall to “Baila Esta Cumbia” dressed in a white bustier and matching white pants in front of a crowd of people who came to celebrate the late Tejano songstress.”

3. 15 percent of female undergraduates at UT have been raped, survey says
By Lauren McGaughy | The Dallas Morning News | March 24
“The study was comprehensive, surveying 28,000 students during the 2015 academic year at 13 UT academic and health campuses. A project of the School of Social Work’s Institute on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, this survey is just the first round. A second one will be repeated in two years …”

4. How The Americans Became the Best Show on Television
By Matt Brennan | Paste | March 24
“No longer limited to marriage and espionage, The Americans is now the evocative saga of a family that just happens to have two spies in it.”

5. ‘The closer’? The inside story of how Trump tried — and failed — to make a deal on health care
By Robert Costa, Ashley Parker, and Philip Rucker | The Washington Post | March 24
“Shortly after House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) unveiled the Republican health-care plan on March 6, President Trump sat in the Oval Office and queried his advisers: ‘Is this really a good bill?’ And over the next 18 days, until the bill collapsed in the House on Friday afternoon in a humiliating defeat — the sharpest rebuke yet of Trump’s young presidency and his negotiating skills — the question continued to nag at the president.”

6. The Art of Paying Attention
By Michelle Dean | New Republic | March 20
“Why we need critics to think about power and how it works.”

7. ‘Sometimes I laugh at this farce’: six writers on life behind bars in Turkey
By Kareem Shaheen and Maeve Shearlaw | The Guardian | March 23
“Six persecuted writers describe the mental and physical toll of living in the country that jails more journalists than any other”

8. How Many Books Will You Read Before You Die?
By Emily Temple | Lit Hub | March 22
“It depends, of course, on how you’re counting, but for our purposes here, it’s down to two primary factors.”

9. Life with migraines: ‘It feels like a creature is pushing itself through my skull’
By Anna Altman | The Guardian | November 2016
“When I was 26, I started suffering from dizziness, brain fog, fatigue and chronic pain. I’d had migraines since childhood, but these felt different”

10. Jackie Robinson and Nixon: Life and Death of a Political Friendship
By Michael Beschloss | HistorySource :: The New York Times | June 2014
“In 1968, furious over Nixon’s courtship of Senator Strom Thurmond of South Carolina, who had once led the segregationist ‘Dixiecrats,’ Jackie backed the Democratic nominee, Hubert Humphrey.”

Loreta’s Civil War: Introduced to entirely new scenes

Velazquez successfully manages a parole for her brother, and as she moves into the Northern states, she gains a close-up view of the society determined to destroy her beloved Confederacy.

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.

Read previous chapters of her incredible story here.

Part 36: Velazquez successfully manages a parole for her brother, and as she moves into the Northern states, she gains a close-up view of the society determined to destroy her beloved Confederacy.

******

I had quite a lengthy conversation with Lieutenant B. about my brother and about affairs generally, and, having announced to him my intention of visiting the North and perhaps of acting as a secret service agent if I saw opportunities for doing anything for the advancement of the Confederate cause, I obtained from him quite a number of hints about the best methods of proceeding, and he gave me the names of persons in different places who were friends of the Confederacy and with whom I could communicate. He also advised me to talk with certain parties … in Memphis who could advise me and give me much valuable information.

The next day I conferred with some of the persons whom he had mentioned, and, having become thoroughly posted, I began to prepare for my departure. My friend the Federal lieutenant, whose attentions had been getting more and more ardent every day, was, or pretended to be, very much cut up when he heard that I intended to leave. I promised, however, to write to him as soon as I arrived in New York — having given him to understand that that city was my immediate destination — and intimated that I might possibly correspond regularly. He, in return for the very slight encouragement which I gave to his hopes that we might meet again when the fighting was all over, procured for me a pass and transportation from Gen. Washburn, and off I started, leaving Memphis, where I was liable at any time to be recognized and consequently get into trouble, with but little regret. As for the lieutenant, I certainly appreciated his attentions to me, but I thought that any heart pangs he might feel at parting would scarcely be so severe that he would not be able to recover from them in course of time.

My first object was to see my brother, to give him such assistance as 1 was able, and to discover whether I could not do something towards having him released. I had not seen him for a number of years, and, as the reader will remember, had only learned of his being in the Confederate army some little time before my second marriage. He was the only relative I had in the country, and I felt very anxious about him, fearing greatly that he might be sick or suffering for some of the necessities of life. I therefore pushed forward as rapidly as I could and made no stoppage of any moment until I reached Louisville, Ky., where I took a room at the Gait House and communicated with a Mr. B., a gentleman whose name had been given me as one in whom I could confide and to whom I could appeal in case I was in need of assistance. …

I had no hesitation in informing him that after having seen my brother and made an effort to procure his release, my intention was to operate as a secret service agent, as I had had considerable experience in that line of duty. I did not think it necessary or proper to entertain him with a recital of the enterprises in which I had been engaged, but told him just enough about myself to let him understand that my pretensions were genuine and that I really meant business. He, for his part, posted me very thoroughly about the best method of going to work, not only for procuring the release of my brother but for picking up information of value to the Confederate authorities, and [he] gave me the names of a number of persons in New York and Washington as well as in the West with whom it would be well for me to become acquainted as early as possible. …

Before taking his leave, he suggested that I should retire early and be ready to go by the first train in the morning, and said that he would see that I was provided with funds. The name of this gentleman I could never discover, although I had considerable curiosity on the subject. He was very much of an enthusiast on the subject of the Confederacy and was evidently an efficient secret worker for the cause but he was either excessively timid or else he believed that he could do more to advance the interest of the cause by being, as far as practicable, unknown even to those with whom he co-operated.

Early the next morning I was awakened by a knock on my door, and someone outside asked if I was going on the early train. I replied that I was and hastened to dress myself for the journey. As I was dressing, I was somewhat startled to see a large envelope on the floor, which must either have been pushed under the door or thrown in over the transom during the night. On opening the envelope I found in it five hundred dollars in greenbacks and letters to a couple of persons in Columbus, Ohio. This money was very acceptable, for I had very little cash with me, and it enabled me to resume my travels with a mind completely free from care. …

I concluded, before delivering the letters I had received in Louisville, that I would try and see what my own unaided efforts would do for my brother. I therefore, the next day, called upon the general in command — I have forgotten his name — and introducing myself, said, that if it was allowable, I would like very much to visit that rebel brother of mine. The general asked me if I had a brother in the prison, and I told him that such was unfortunately the case, but that, notwithstanding he was on the wrong side, I could not help having an affection for him and was desirous of assisting him in case he should be in need.

The general asked me a number of questions about myself and my brother, in answer to which I gave him to understand that I was from New York, was a strong Unionist, and had only recently heard that my brother was a prisoner, although I was aware that he entered the rebel army shortly after the breaking out of the war. Having satisfied himself that I was all right, the general without hesitation gave me the desired permit, and, with a profusion of thanks, I bowed myself out of his presence.

On reaching the Todd Barracks, where the prisoners were confined, I found a one-armed major in command. He was very polite indeed and entered into quite a conversation with me, during which he told me that he had lost his arm in the Mexican War. When my brother came, the major gave us his own private room so that we might talk together without fear of interruption.

My meeting with my brother was a most affectionate one. It had been a very long time since we had seen each other, and there was much that each of us had to say. I disclosed to him part of my plans and instructed him how to talk and act towards me. He was to call me his Union sister and was to speak of me as a New Yorker. I expressed considerable hope that I would be able to effect his release and stated that I would go on to Washington for the purpose, if necessary, and see the president and secretary of war.

This proceeding, however, I found to be unnecessary, for Gov. Brough of Ohio, a hearty, pleasant-spoken, and good-natured old gentleman, happened to be stopping at the same hotel with me, and I contrived to obtain an introduction to him. I cultivated the acquaintance of the governor with considerable assiduity, and he took quite a fancy to me, so much so that he promised to use his influence to obtain a parole for my brother. This promise the governor kept, and in a short time the prisoner was released and ordered to proceed east and to report first to Gen. Cadwalader at Philadelphia and then to Gen. Dix, at New York, the idea being that he was to remain with me in the last-named city.

In company with my brother, therefore, I proceeded east, and went to New York, where I left him while I went on to Washington for the purpose of seeing what could be done in the way of aiding the Confederate cause by a series of operations at the Federal capital.

I was now introduced to entirely new scenes, new associations, and a new sphere of activity. I had never before been farther north than Washington, and my visit to the Federal capital was the hasty and secret one made shortly after the Battle of Ball’s Bluff. …. It was almost like going into another world to pass from the war-worn Confederacy to the rich and prosperous states which adhered to the Federal government, and when I saw the evidences of apparently inexhaustible wealth around me, and contrasted them in my mind with what I was leaving behind in the yet unconquered Confederacy, I confess that my heart began to fail, and I despaired of the Cause more than I had ever done before.

In a great portion of the South the towns and villages were few and far between, the forests large and dense, the population thin and scattering, while the most imposing of the Southern cities were far less splendid than New York and Philadelphia, and such prosperity as they had at one time enjoyed was now all but destroyed through the rigidness of the Federal blockade. Back of the Northern cities, too, was a rich, highly cultivated, and thickly populated country, with numerous large towns, abounding in wealth, and with apparently as many men at home, attending to the ordinary duties of life, as if there was no war going on, and no huge armies in the field.

Not only was there no blockade to put an end to commerce and to cause a deprivation of many of the necessaries of life, but commerce, as well as all manner of home industries, had been greatly stimulated, so that the war — while it was starving the South and forcing the male population into the field until there were scarcely left enough to carry on absolutely needful trade and tillage — actually appeared to be making the North rich, and thousands of people were literally coining money with government contracts and by means of innumerable industries brought into being by the great conflict.

The subjugation of the South was therefore simply a question of time, if matters continued as they were, and the Federals would achieve the ends they had in view by sheer force of numbers and practically inexhaustible resources, no matter how valiantly the Confederate soldiers might fight or how skillfully they might be led. Was this subjugation of the South inevitable, however? This was the question that addressed itself to my mind and upon the determination of which the course it would be best for me to pursue in the future would have to depend.

I was not very long in coming to the conclusion that a triumph of the Confederate cause was not by any means an impossibility, provided the right means were used to bring it about. I also speedily satisfied myself that the interests of the cause could be advanced just as much by diligent and zealous workers at the North as by the men who were fighting the battles of the Confederacy in Virginia, Georgia, Tennessee, Mississippi, and Arkansas, and I was so well convinced that at last I had found the best field for the exercise of my own peculiar talents that I greatly regretted not having made my way into the midst of the enemy’s country long before.

For very nearly a year now I had done very little that was at all satisfactory to myself, or at all really helpful — that is, helpful in a large and positive way — to the Confederate cause, whereas, all this time I might have been carrying on a series of important operations at the North. It looked, indeed, like a great waste of time but, if it was wasted, I resolved to do my best to redeem it by the activity of my performances in the future, and I had great reason to hope that these performances would be productive of not unimportant results.

It required but a slight acquaintance with the condition of affairs to discover that the surface indications of wealth, prosperity, and overpowering strength at the North were delusive. The North certainly was wealthy and powerful but, unfortunately for the Federal government’s efforts to conquer the South and to put a speedy end to the war, the people were very far from being united.

At the South there were few, if any, genuine adherents of the Federal government, and public opinion was united on the subject of achieving independence. At the period of which I am writing — the winter of 1863-64 — there may have been, and doubtless were, many persons who were heartily tired of the war and who would have been glad of peace on almost any terms. The vast majority, however, were still in favor of fighting the thing out in spite of poverty and in spite of the privations of every kind which they were compelled to suffer.

At the North, on the other hand, the majority of the people had entered upon the war with reluctance — many who did go into it with considerable enthusiasm, with the idea of preserving the Union, were disgusted when it became day by day more apparent that the emancipation of the slaves was a part of the policy of the government. … [M]any who went into it for the sake of seeing some fighting were heartily tired and wanted to stop. … and many more who were eager enough to begin a fight, simply out of animosity to the Southerners, sickened of the thing when their pockets were touched by the enormous advance in prices and by the heavy taxes which the prolongation of the contest necessitated, and [they] were quite willing for peace at almost any price.

In addition to these elements of discord, there was a large, influential, powerful, and wealthy anti-war party composed of people who were and always had been opposed to the war, and who numbered among them many who were not only opposed to the war, but who were warm and earnest friends of the South. These latter believed that the government had no right to coerce states which desired to leave the Union to remain in it, and they were bitterly antagonistic to any and all attempts to subjugate the South and did everything in their power to baffle the efforts of the government to carry on the war efficiently. These people constantly aided, with their money and their influence, the Confederate agents who were working and scheming for the advancement of their cause at the North and did a great deal to embarrass the Federal government.

Besides these, there were a great number of weak-kneed or indifferent people who had no opinions of their own worth speaking of, and whose chief anxiety was to be on the winning side. These were for the war or against it, as the tide of battle turned in favor of the Federals or the Confederates. The news of a tremendous defeat inflicted on the Confederates or of the capture of an important position would excite their enthusiasm and make them talk loudly of fighting the thing out until the rebels were whipped, while a season of prolonged inactivity or a succession of Confederate victories caused them to look gloomily on the situation and to suggest that there had been about enough fighting, that it was about time prices were coming down a little, and that as the war had been going on so long, without any practical results, there was not much use in killing more men and spending more money, when there was no more chance this year than there was last of a speedy end to the contest. In this class the Confederates found many allies.

Loreta’s Civil War: I had reason to congratulate myself

Her plot to inject paranoia into Federal military plans seems to work out better than she expected. But then she learns that Federal troops captured her brother and sent him to a Northern prison. She determines to head North to help him.

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.

Read previous chapters of her incredible story here.

Part 35: Her plot to inject paranoia into Federal military plans seems to work out better than she expected. But then she learns that Federal troops captured her brother and sent him to a Northern prison. She determines to head North to help him.

******

The provost marshal accordingly furnished me with a sheet of paper, and I sat down at his desk and scribbled off a brief note to the general, telling him enough about the source from which I had obtained the dispatch to induce him to believe in its genuineness, and [I] intimated that if he wanted to know more he could send for me. This note and the dispatch I enclosed in the same envelope and handed it to the provost marshal, with a request that it might be given to the general immediately. I fully expected that when Gen. Washburn received these enclosures he would have me brought before him for … interrogation [but I] was much surprised when he did nothing of the kind. …

To the hotel I accordingly went, under the escort of my friend the lieutenant and registered myself as Mrs. Fowler, not at all grieved at not having seen the general, and quite satisfied not to see him in the future if he did not wish to see me, for I considered the material part of my errand now practically accomplished. …

[A] servant appeared with a very nice supper. This I ate with immense relish, for I was desperately hungry, at the same time making certain inquiries of the servant for the purpose of enabling me to judge whether it would be safe or prudent to attempt to communicate that night with the spy for whom I had the dispatch. … It was now nearly dark, and I decided that no better time for meeting the spy could be found. I accordingly asked the servant to try and borrow for me some rather more presentable articles of attire than those I had on, as I desired to go out for the purpose of making a few purchases and was really ashamed to go into the streets dressed as I was. …

The servant, whose zeal on my behalf was stimulated by a five-dollar greenback, was not long in appearing with a reasonably decent-looking dress, bonnet, and shawl. I then attired myself with as much speed as I could command, and after having the dust and dirt brushed off my shoes, was ready to start. It is scarcely necessary to say that I was well acquainted with Memphis and consequently knew exactly how to go and where to go in search of my man. Fortunately for me, the place was not a very great way from the hotel, and persuading the accommodating servant to show me out the back door … I was not long in reaching it.

I knocked at the door, and the very man I was looking for came to let me in. I had never seen him before, but I knew him immediately by the description I had of him. Giving him the password I was admitted, and he eagerly inquired what I had for him. I handed him the dispatch … [and] gave him the verbal instructions which Lt. Shorter had ordered me to convey to him. …. He, however, said that he thought that a movement of the Federal troops was in contemplation and that he would like to find out exactly what it was before starting, and as I seemed to be on good terms at headquarters, he urged that I should endeavor to obtain the information for him. I consented to try what I could do, while he promised not to delay his departure longer than two days, at the farthest. …

On my way back to the hotel, the prudence of my change of dress was sufficiently demonstrated, for on turning a corner I nearly ran against my friend the lieutenant and another officer, who were walking slowly along the street. My heart leaped into my mouth when I saw who it was, but as there was no retreat, I trusted to the darkness and my change of costume and glided by them as swiftly and quietly as I could and, fortunately, was able to gain my room without discovery.

My errand was now accomplished, and in as satisfactory a manner as could be desired, and the only apprehension I had was lest the spy to whom I had given the dispatch … might not succeed in getting off in safety. If he should be arrested and the document found on him, the finger of suspicion would not unlikely point to me as the original bearer of it. I thought, however, that he was probably well able to take care of himself, and being too much of a veteran to allow myself to be worried about possibilities that might never come to pass, I went to bed feeling that the responsibility of the business was well off my shoulders, and was soon in happy obliviousness of cares of every kind.

The next morning the lieutenant made his appearance bright and early, and said that he had raised a hundred dollars for me by representing me as a Union woman who was flying from persecution in the Confederacy, and who had brought important information into the lines. This money I regarded as lawful spoils of war and therefore had no hesitation in accepting it. Expressing my gratitude to my friend for his zeal in my behalf, I said that he would place me under still further obligations if he would aid me in obtaining some better clothing than that I had on. He expressed the greatest desire to oblige me, and taking half of the money, he invested a good portion of it in a stylish bonnet, a handsome piece of dress goods, and a pair of shoes. He also presented me with a number of little articles, which I was given to understand were meant for testimonials of his individual regard.

During the day I was called upon by several officers and others, and one lady — an officer’s wife — loaned me a dress to wear until mine should be finished. Taking my piece of goods to the dressmaker’s, I stated that I was in a great hurry, and she accordingly promised to have it finished by the next evening. Thus, I was in a short time fitted out in good style. … My new friends were extremely anxious to know exactly what was going on within the rebel lines and asked me all sorts of questions. I endeavored to gratify their curiosity as well as I could without committing myself too much, and in return made an effort to find out what I was so desirous of knowing about the contemplated movement of the Federal troops.

I did not have a great deal of trouble in learning very nearly everything that was to be learned about the number and disposition of the [Federal] troops along the line of the Memphis and Charleston Railroad. … This information I promptly communicated to my [Confederate] confidant. … The concentration of the Federal force at Colliersville, I had every reason to believe, was induced by the dispatch I delivered to Gen. Washburn. At any rate, it had the effect of leaving a gap in the Federal line beyond Grand Junction for [Confederate Lt. Gen. Nathan Bedford] Forrest to step through; and, when in a day or two, intelligence was received that he was on a grand raid through western Tennessee, I knew that the plot in which I had been engaged had succeeded in the best manner.

I made a great to-do when the news of Forrest’s raid was received and pretended to be frightened lest an attack should be made on Memphis and the rebels should capture me. The fact is that Forrest, before he got through, did come very near the city, and some of my new acquaintances were just as much frightened in reality as I pretended to be. He, however, did not make any demonstration in the city, but after a brilliant campaign of several weeks slipped by the Federals again, carrying back with him into Mississippi sufficient cattle and other booty to amply repay him for his trouble.

I thought that I had reason to congratulate myself upon the success of the enterprise in which I had been engaged. Taking it altogether, it was as well planned and as well executed a performance as any I ever attempted during the whole of my career in the Confederate service.

My friend the lieutenant, whose regard for me really increased with each succeeding interview, was obliged to return to his camp after having assisted me in obtaining a new outfit. In a day or two, however, he returned, having obtained a ten days’ leave of absence, and he began to increase the zealousness of his attentions. On his return to Memphis he brought with him a fine horse, which he claimed to have captured, and said that it should be reserved for my use, if I would accept of it, so long as I remained in the city. I was not at all averse to having a good time, although I was beginning to wonder how I was ever to get back to my starting-place again, and I rode out [several] times with the lieutenant and accepted his escort on all occasions that he offered it.

It was while attending church on the Sunday following the arrival on leave of this rather overattentive young gentleman that something occurred which caused a very material alteration in my plans, which induced me to abandon my design to return to Mobile, and which resulted in my entering upon an entirely new field of operations. I, of course, at the time, had no idea whatever how things were going to turn out, but if all had been arranged beforehand they could not have turned out more in accordance with my desires.

During the service I noticed in the congregation a Confederate officer in citizen’s clothes, whom I knew by sight, and who belonged to my brother’s command. He did not know me, especially as a woman, although he had seen me a number of times attired in the uniform of a Confederate officer. I was most desirous of communicating with him for the purpose of inquiring about my brother, of whom I had received no intelligence whatever for a number of months. So, after the service was over, I watched him as he left the church, and seeing him turn the corner, said to the lieutenant, “Let us take a walk down this street.” Keeping him in sight, I saw him turn down towards the Hardwick House and consequently suggested to the lieutenant that it would perhaps be as well to return to the hotel instead of indulging in a promenade. My escort thought that I was disposed to be whimsical but I did not bother myself very greatly about his opinion of me one way or the other, being now only intent upon devising some means of obtaining an interview with the disguised Confederate.

On reaching the hotel I found that the man I was after had disappeared, and I was considerably perplexed to know what course to pursue. I was afraid to send him my card for fear of compromising him in some way, as I thought it highly probable that he was stopping at the hotel under an assumed name. I was bent on securing an opportunity to converse with him, however, and hoped to be able to meet him and to attract his attention before evening, but failing in this, I was resolved to find out what I could about him from some of the servants and to send him a note requesting a private interview, giving him a sufficient hint as to who I was to induce him to think that he would be in no danger. Fortunately, however, I was not compelled to resort to any such expedient as this, for, on going into dinner at five o’clock with the lieutenant, I saw him at one of the tables, having apparently just sat down.

The lieutenant was conducting me to the seat which we usually occupied, but I said, as if seized with a sudden freak for a change of locality, “Suppose we go over to this table today. I think we will find it pleasanter,” and, before my Federal friend had time to object, I had walked him across the room and seated myself beside the Confederate, indicating for the lieutenant to take the seat on the other side of me. When the waiter came up to get our orders for dinner, I asked him to bring me a couple of cards.

All this time I took not the slightest notice of the Confederate but chatted with the lieutenant in the liveliest and most animated manner possible, my object being to so engage his attention that he would not think of observing what I was doing for the purpose of letting the gentleman on the other side of me know that I was interested in him.

On one of the cards I wrote some nonsense, which I sent by the waiter, after having shown it to the lieutenant, to another officer whom I saw on the opposite side of the room. On the other one I wrote, “Meet me at my room at half past ten o’clock this evening, unobserved. Important.” This I made a pretense of slipping in my pocket, but dropped it on the floor instead, touching the Confederate officer as I did so, and half-turning towards him in such a manner that he could readily understand that I was endeavoring to attract his attention. While this was going on, the lieutenant was watching to see what would be the effect of the jesting remark I had written on the first card on the gentleman across the room to whom I had sent it. He laughed and nodded, and the lieutenant and I did the same — all of us, apparently, being satisfied that there was a capital joke in progress, which indeed there was, but not exactly the kind of one they imagined.

The Confederate officer, when he looked down and saw the card on the floor, quickly dropped his napkin on it, and stooped to pick it up. He found an opportunity to read my message before he left the table but I took no further notice of him whatever, until just as he was about to retire, when I turned slightly and, looking him full in the face, gave him a meaning glance so that he could understand that there was no mistake about the matter.

At the hour named on the card the Confederate officer came to my room, evidently very much perplexed, and uncertain what the end of the adventure would be. I hastened to apologize for the liberty I had taken and to place him at his ease by explaining matters.

I said, “You will pardon me, sir, but this is Lieutenant B. of Arkansas, is it not?”

“Yes, madam, that is my name,” he replied.

“You need be under no apprehension, sir. I know you, although you do not know me. I am the sister of Captain […], and I am exceedingly anxious to learn where he is and how he is, for I have not been able to hear from him for a very long time.”

The announcement that I was the sister of Captain […] was evidently an immense relief to Lieutenant B., whose face brightened up immediately. He stated that he was very much pleased to meet me, but that he was sorry to have to tell me that my brother had been captured by the Federals about four months before, and was now a prisoner at Camp Chase.

This was unpleasant news, and it determined me to give up the idea of returning to Mobile but to go North and visit my brother for the purpose of assisting him in any way possible. From what I had learned during my late stay in Memphis, too, I was very well convinced that, as a secret service agent, I would be able to operate with far more effect at the North than I would if I remained in this region of country, which was an additional inducement for me to travel northward, rather than to essay the hazardous experiment of regaining the Confederate lines without having some definite object in view.

Loreta’s Civil War: An awkward, lubberly manner

Velazquez manipulates a young lieutenant to bring her closer to her goal: a meeting with a Union general.

ks39

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.

Read previous chapters of her incredible story here.

Part 34: Velazquez manipulates a young lieutenant to bring her closer to her goal: a meeting with a Union general.

******

As I stated before, my disguise, as I had arranged it with Lt. Shorter, was that of a poor countrywoman, and the story I was to tell was that I was a widow and was flying for protection to the Federal lines. Having disposed of the pistol, I sat down for a few minutes to think over the situation and to decide upon the best method of procedure with the first Federal soldier I met. Experience had taught me, however, that no settled plan … amounts to much, so far as the details are concerned, and that it is necessary to be governed by circumstances. I resolved, therefore, to regulate my conduct and conversation according to the character and behavior of those I chanced to meet. And so, having first ascertained that my papers were all right, I mounted my pony again and started in the direction where I supposed I would find the Federal camp.

Letting my pony take his own gait — and he was not inclined to make his pace any more rapid than there was necessity for — I traveled for a couple of miles before I saw any one. At length a picket, who had evidently been watching me for some time, stepped out of the woods into the road, and when I came up to him, he halted me and asked where I was from and where I was going.

“Good morning, sir,” I said, in an innocent, unsophisticated sort of way. “Are you commanding this outpost?”

“No,” he replied. “What do you want?”

“Well, sir, I wish you would tell the captain I want to see him. …”

The soldier then called to his officer, and in a few moments up stepped a good-looking young lieutenant, whose blouse was badly out at the elbows, and whose clothing generally bore marks of very hard service. Although his attire was not of the most elegant description, he was a gentleman, and, as he approached me, he tipped his hat, and said, with a pleasant smile, “Good morning, madam. What is it you wish?”

“Well, captain,” said I, “I want to go to Memphis, to see Gen. Washburn. I have some papers here for him.”

This made him start a little, and he began to suspect that he had a matter of serious business on hand, and, evidently with a different interest in me from what he had felt before, he inquired, with a rather severe and serious air, “Where are you from, madam?”

“I am from Holly Springs. A man there gave me these papers and told me that if I would get them through he would pay me a hundred dollars.”

“What kind of looking man was he, and where did he go after he left you?”

“I mustn’t tell you that, sir. The man said not to tell anything about him, except to the one these papers are for, and he would understand all about it.”

“Well, madam, you will have to go with me to headquarters. When we get there I will see what can be done for you.”

His relief came … and off we started for headquarters. As I had informed my new-made friend that I was hungry, having ridden for a considerable distance since very early in the morning, he stopped with me at a white house near the road, … went in with me, and asked the woman … to give me some breakfast. Quite a comfortable meal was soon in readiness, and while I was eating, the lieutenant busied himself in trying to ascertain something about the number and position of the Confederate troops. I told him that there seemed to be a large force of them near Holly Springs, but beyond that statement — which was, I believe, far from being the truth — I am afraid he did not find me a very satisfactory witness. I am sure that such information as I did give him was not likely to be of very great use.

After I had finished my breakfast, the lieutenant took me to Moscow, on the Memphis and Charleston Railroad, and here, for the first time, I was subjected to very serious annoyance and first began to appreciate the fact that I was engaged in a particularly risky undertaking. The soldiers, seeing me coming into the town mounted on a ragged little pony, and under the escort of an officer, jumped at the conclusion that I was a spy and commenced to gather round me in crowds. …

Finally we reached the building occupied by the colonel in command, and I was ushered by that official into a private room, in the rear of the one used as an office. The lieutenant accompanied me and related the manner of my coming to the picket station, and the story which I had told him.

The colonel then proceeded to cross-question me, being apparently desirous of finding out whether I was possessed of any information worth his knowing, as well as whether I was exactly what I professed to be. I flattered myself that I played my part tolerably well. I knew very little about the movements of the Confederates, or their number, but, under the process of rigid cross-questioning to which I was subjected, I said just enough to stimulate curiosity, pretending that what I was telling was what I had picked up merely incidentally, and that, as I took no interest in the fighting that was going on, except to desire to get as far away from it as possible, I really knew scarcely anything, except from rumor.

As for myself, I stuck close to one simple story. I was a poor widow woman whose husband had died about the time of the breaking out of the war. I was for the Union and had been badly treated by the rebels, who had robbed me of nearly everything, and I had been anxious to get away for some time with a little money I had collected and had finally got tired of waiting for the Federal troops to come down my way and had resolved to try and get through the lines … that a man had promised I should be paid a hundred dollars if I would carry a dispatch to Gen. Washburn …

The colonel tried to make me vary this story and he several times pretended that I had contradicted myself. He was tolerably smart at a cross-examination, but not by any means smart enough for the subject he had to deal with on this occasion. I had the most innocent air in the world about me and pretended half the time that I was so stupid that I could not understand what his interrogatories meant, and, instead of answering them, would go off into a long story about my troubles, and the hardships I had suffered, and the bad treatment I had received. The colonel then tried to induce me to give him the dispatch, saying that he would pay me the hundred dollars and would forward it to Gen. Washburn. This I refused to do, as I had promised not to let anybody but the general have it, if I could help it. Neither would I tell who it was that had entrusted me with the dispatch. …

When we reached the depot, the colonel procured me a ticket and gave me five dollars, and I overheard him say in an undertone to the lieutenant, “You get in the rear car and keep an eye on her movements. I think that she is all right, but it would be just as well to watch her.”

The lieutenant said, “There’s no doubt in my mind but she is all right.”

This little conversation made me smile to myself and served to convince me that I would have no trouble in getting along nicely with my friend the lieutenant.

The colonel moved off, and the lieutenant and I stepped aboard the train. … The lieutenant was overwhelmingly polite, and after having got me fixed comfortably in my seat, he said, in a low tone, “I may go up with you as far as my camp, if I can get anyone to hold my horse.”

I thought that this would be a good chance to improve my acquaintance with him and perhaps do something for the furtherance of my plans, so I said, “I would be so glad if you would. I would so much like to have company.” And I smiled on him as sweetly as I was able to impress him with the idea that I profoundly appreciated his courtesy. The young fellow was evidently more than half convinced that he had made a conquest, while I was quite sure that I had. If he had known what my real feelings were and with what entire willingness I would have made a prisoner of him, could I have got him into the Confederate lines, perhaps he would not have been quite so eager for my society. …

As matters turned out, the lieutenant not only did accompany me, but he let out many things that he ought to have kept quiet about, knowing, as he did, the manner in which I had come into the lines and having no assurance whatever beyond my bare word that I was not a spy. To be sure, the information I obtained from him with regard to the main object of my errand was not very momentous, for I was afraid to say too much on points relating to my errand. But I … learned enough to enable me to know exactly how to go to work to find out a great deal more. Besides this, he was really of much assistance to me in other ways and saved me considerable trouble at headquarters — for all of which I hope I was duly thankful.

It may be thought that an officer of the experience of this one — he had been through the war from the beginning — would have understood his business sufficiently by this time to have known how to hold his tongue concerning matters that it was desirable the enemy should not become informed of, when in the society of a person whom he well knew might be a spy. If all the officers and men in an army, however, were endowed with … plain common sense, the business of the secret service agents would be a very much more difficult and hazardous one than it really is. The young fellow was only a lieutenant, with no great responsibilities, while some of my most brilliant successes in the way of obtaining information have been with generals, and even with their superiors, as the reader will discover, if [the reader] feels sufficient interest in my story to follow it to the end.

The fact is that human nature is greatly given to confidence, so much so that the most unconfiding and suspicious people are usually the easiest to extract any desired information from, provided you go the right way about it. This may seem to be a paradox but it is not. It is merely a statement of a peculiar trait of human nature. Women have the reputation of being bad secret-keepers. Well, that depends on circumstances. I have always succeeded in keeping mine when I have had any worth keeping, and I have always found it more difficult to beguile women than men into telling me what I have wanted to know when they had the slightest reason to suspect that I was not a suitable recipient of their confidence. The truth seems to be that while women find it often troublesome, and well nigh impossible, to keep little and inconsequential secrets, they are first-rate hands at keeping great ones.

For certain kinds of secret service work women are, out of all comparison, superior to men. This, I believe, is acknowledged by all detectives and others who have been compelled to employ secret agents. One reason for this is that women, when they undertake a secret service job, are really quicker-witted and more wide awake than men. They more easily deceive other people and are less easily imposed upon. Of course there is a great deal of secret service work for which women are not well-fitted, and much that it is scarcely possible for them to perform at all, but, as a rule, for an enterprise that requires real finesse, a woman will be likely to accomplish far more than a man.

I was just thinking that my lieutenant had deserted me or that he was in another car for the purpose of keeping an eye on me unobserved when he appeared beside me, having jumped on the rear end of the car as it was starting.

He said, “You have no objections to my occupying the same seat with you, have you, madam?”

“Oh, no, sir!” I replied. “I shall be exceedingly glad to have the pleasure of your society, so far as you are going.”

“Well, I only intend going up to my camp now, but I have half a mind to run on as far as Memphis — that is, if my company will not be disagreeable to you.”

“I will be very greatly pleased if you will go through with me. It has been a long time since I have met any agreeable gentlemen, and I particularly admire officers.”

As I said this I gave him a killing glance and then dropped my eyes as if half-ashamed of having made such a bold advance to him. The bait took, however, as I expected it would, and the lieutenant, giving his mustache a twist, and running his hand through his hair, settled himself down in the seat with a most self-satisfied air, evidently supposing that the conquest of my heart was more than half completed, and began to make himself as agreeable as he knew how. Finesse was certainly not this youth’s most marked characteristic, and he went about making himself agreeable and endeavoring to discover who I was, where I came from, and all about me in such an awkward, lubberly manner that it was mere play for me to impose upon him. …

At length the whistle blew, and the train stopped at his camp. He jumped up and rushed out without even saying good-bye, and while I was wondering where he had left his politeness, I saw him running as fast as he could go and presently dodge into a tent. In a moment or two more out he came in his shirt sleeves and ran for the train, with his coat in his hand, and jumped on board just as we were starting. I turned around and watched him as he got into the car behind me and saw him put on a rather better-looking uniform coat than the out-at-the-elbows blouse he had been wearing, and a paper collar and black necktie. These last I considered as particularly delicate attentions to myself.

When he had completed his toilet, he came forward, and, seating himself beside me, said, “I will allow myself the pleasure of going through to Memphis with you.”

I assured him that I was pleased beyond measure and came to the conclusion that it would be my fault if long before we reached Memphis I did not stand so well in his good graces that I would be able to make a most useful ally of him in carrying out my plans for the benefit of the Confederacy. …

[Our] conversation amused me and gave me a good number of points worth knowing in the particular business in which I was engaged until at length the train reached Memphis, and my escort assisting me to alight, requested me to wait on the platform for him while he engaged a carriage.

In a few moments he returned with a close-bodied carriage, and when I was seated in it [the] driver was accordingly directed to take us to headquarters, and before many more minutes I was ushered into the presence of the provost marshal, to whom I stated my errand. The fact of the lieutenant being with me undoubtedly prevented a great many questions being asked, some of which it might not have been agreeable, or even possible, for me to answer, and I accordingly was more than ever impressed with the value of having him for an acquaintance, especially as he put in a word now and then which had the effect of establishing me on a satisfactory footing with the provost marshal. That official, when he had heard my story, said, “Madam, I am sorry, but the general is very much indisposed, and cannot see you. I will be glad to receive anything you may have for him, and to give him any message from you. …”

Loreta’s Civil War: The entire special series

Loreta Janeta Velazquez chronicled her fascinating adventures throughout the Civil War — either as herself, as a Confederate spy, or in disguise as Confederate Lt. Harry T. Buford. Catch up with this special series, and get ready for more.

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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.

THE EXCERPTS
Part 1: The woman in battle
Part 2: Cry with rage and vexation
Part 3: Lavish affection bestowed upon me
Part 4: The dream of my life
Part 5: Hard-drinking and blaspheming patriots
Part 6: Concealing my true form
Part 7: Victims of masculine viciousness
Part 8: A mild flirtation with this fair flower
Part 9: Winning the fame I coveted
Part 10: The plucky little devil

Part 11: Swaggered about in fine style
Part 12: The sensations of a soldier
Part 13: The insatiate desire
Part 14: The chill winds of winter
Part 15: Making myself liable to suspicion
Part 16: Strike terror to my soul
Part 17: All the dignity I could command
Part 18: The bitter struggle yet to come
Part 19: His death perfectly infuriated me
Part 20: Had Grant fallen before my pistol

Part 21: I told him who I really was
Part 22: A brute as this man Butler
Part 23: Deeply, darkly, beautifully blue
Part 24: Not the handsomest man I ever saw
Part 25: The proper costume of my sex
Part 26: I turned my head and spit
Part 27: Seized with an intense desire
Part 28: Squeezing out a few real tears
Part 29: The evil effect of a great war
Part 30: She is a fine-looking woman

Part 31: ‘You are she?’
Part 32: Neither starved nor beaten
Part 33: No occasion for any violence
Part 34: An awkward, lubberly manner
Part 35: I had reason to congratulate myself
Part 36: Introduced to entirely new scenes
Part 37: Hypocrites and traitors
Part 38: I am willing to risk it
Part 39: My denunciations of the rebels
Part 40: Excite terror in the hearts

Part 41: Playing a desperate game
Part 42: Wild thoughts that filled my mind
Part 43: Say that I am a Yankee
Part 44: Blow them out of the water
Part 45: Things were looking exceedingly gloomy
Part 46: Villains of the blackest dye
Part 47: One of the most disgraceful
Part 48: Nothing but his fears
Part 49: Punctuality is the road to wealth
Part 50: The poor devils

Part 51: Undertook to be saucy to me
Part 52: My heart burned hot within me
Part 53: A derangement of the plans
Part 54: The approbation of noble-minded men
Part 55: The elegantly attired woman
Part 56: The sensations of pleasure
Part 57: The desolation of the great city
Part 58: More bombast than true enterprise
Part 59: No earthly paradise
Part 60: Warning them and all others

Part 61: Very beautiful to the eye
Part 62: Sadness and strangeness
Part 63: Quite a brilliant audience
Part 64: That queer gait of his
Part 65: This delectable creature
Part 66: Ruffianly white men
Part 67: The gold fever
Part 68: Some varieties of life
Part 69: This kind of life
Part 70: No apologies to offer

Kate Stone’s Civil War
This isn’t the first time Stillness of Heart explored the life of a fascinating Southern woman from the Civil War era. From 2012 to 2015, Stillness of Heart offered excerpts from Kate Stone’s amazing diary, Brokenburn, which chronicled her Louisiana family’s experience with Union forces and their wartime exile in East Texas. Read more about Kate Stone and about her incredible diary here.

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.

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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 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.

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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.

Book gems of 2016, Part 5

This week … a brief look at some of the best works on slavery and the U.S. Civil War era

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Summer is upon us, and the season of leisure is the perfect time for new stories, characters, ideas, and adventures. Throughout the next few weeks, Stillness of Heart continues its occasional series of critical recommendations, from Civil War battle histories to memoirs, and from intellectual histories to photobooks almost as beautiful as the natural world they celebrate.

Read Part 1 of this 2016 series here and subsequent essays in this series here.

This week … a brief look at some of the best works on slavery and the U.S. Civil War era

Emily West’s Enslaved Women in America: From Colonial Times to Emancipation (Rowman & Littlefield, 168 pp., $35) offers a stunning symphony of long-lost voices struggling to survive, caring for and protecting their children, and fighting to keep their communities intact. Few if any other scholars have studied slave women as deeply and broadly as West, and hopefully her work will become required reading in history and women’s studies courses throughout a nation and society that still owes them so much.

Patrick H. Breen’s The Land Shall Be Deluged in Blood: A New History of the Nat Turner Revolt (Oxford University Press, 304 pp., $23.96) recounts the fascinating story of the 1831 slave rebellion in Southhampton County, Virginia. He then analyzes whites’ reaction to the rebellion, which in some ways is even more complicated and unexpected. As mobs exacted brutal vengeance on the slave populations — guilty or not — slaveowners found themselves protecting their slaves from their own white neighbors. Breen examines the manufactured narratives the slaveholders provided to the lynch mobs and deepens our understanding of the precarious stability of the antebellum slaveholding societies.

Mark K. Christ’s Civil War Arkansas, 1863: The Battle for a State (University of Oklahoma Press, 336 pp., $19.95) offers a fascinating analysis of the campaigns for control of the strategically valuable Arkansas River Valley, which were (and still are) overshadowed by U.S. Grant’s brilliant Vicksburg operations unfolding at the same time. His work challenges scholars, students, and enthusiasts to look beyond traditional war histories and theaters and envision a far more complicated war and wartime era.

For a personal account of how the Civil War ripped apart Arkansas communities, spend some time with Torn by War: The Civil War Journal of Mary Adelia Byers, edited by Samuel R. Phillips (University of Oklahoma Press, 248 pp., $19.95). Union military forces occupied her hometown of Batesville. She witnessed unprecedented suffering. The war overturned her understanding of her place in her state and in her nation. Byers takes her place alongside Southern diarists like Mary Chesnut and Kate Stone as an important witness to the wrenching changes the war brought to the South.

Another fascinating primary source is Vicki Adams Tongate’s Another Year Finds Me in Texas: The Civil War Diary of Lucy Pier Stevens (University of Texas Press, 367 pp., $29.95). Stevens, from Ohio, found herself trapped in Texas when the war broke out. Fortunately, she channeled her concerns, observations, sense of humor, and wide-ranging interests into a diary, which is an incredible encapsulation of wartime Texas from an outsider’s perspective. It’s a Unionist memoir with an extra twist, touching on gender identities, social changes, and even political loyalties, specifically when, like Stone, Stevens grew fond of Texans.

Lone Star Unionism, Dissent, and Resistance: Other Sides of Civil War Tejas, edited by Jesus F. de la Teja (University of Oklahoma Press, 296 pp., $29.95), brings the necessary complexity to the story of Texas in the Civil War, shattering the assumption that the Confederate state was filled with Confederate loyalists. The essay anthology explores how Unionist Texans, slaves, German immigrants, Tejanos, women, and political leaders waged their own wars of independence or resistance throughout its societies and communities during and after the war.

John W. Robinson’s Los Angeles in Civil War Days, 1860-1865 (University of Oklahoma Press, 204 pp., $19.95) paints a portrait of a place starkly different from what we know today. The small California town stood in the long shadow of San Francisco, and war brought economic and social strife to the area. Robinson explores how it became a microcosm of the struggle between pro-Union and pro-secessionist forces, a battleground between different races and cultures fighting for dominance, and the site of sickness, drought, and riots.

Stephen D. Engle’s Gathering to Save a Nation: Lincoln and the Union’s War Governors (University of North Carolina Press, 624 pp., $49.95) highlights a rarely-explored perspective of the Civil War. Governors of the loyal states gathered troops for the Union armies, marshaled public support for the war effort, and calculated political support for the Lincoln administration. Engle’s work is part biography anthology, part political analysis, and part homefront history. Engle enriches all three aspects of Civil War literature and highlights relationships that were far more crucial to Union victory than historians previously understood.

Louise L. Stevenson’s Lincoln in the Atlantic World (Cambridge University Press, 283 pp., $79.99) is a valuable addition to the growing scholarship on the Civil War in a global context. Personally, it is one of the literature’s most exciting, challenging, and fascinating conversations. Stevenson considers the African and European influences on Lincoln’s growth into a “global republican,” a champion of democratic republics in a predatory world of empires and kingdoms, and the supreme warrior in that global struggle who faced the challenge of civil war and saved the future of democracy.

Laura F. Edwards’s A Legal History of the Civil War and Reconstruction: A Nation of Rights (Cambridge University Press, 226 pp., $64) reminds us that the Civil War’s greatest effect was on American law and on the redefinition of citizenship, with all the rights that came with it. But Edwards is also careful to remind us that initial improvements did not lead to ultimate success or justice. The incredible accomplishments of the war and the Reconstruction Era required sustained commitment from subsequent generations for the benefits of those triumphs to take hold. Her history is a cautionary tale for modern citizens who not only take for granted today’s freedoms but also forget how brittle those rights can be when not actively sustained and protected.

Life and Limb: Perspectives on the American Civil War, edited by David Seed, Stephen C. Kenny, and Chris Williams (Oxford University Press, 240 pp., $29.95), offers vital insight into medicine in the Civil War, one of the era’s saddest subjects. For the men and women who participated as doctors, nurses, and caretakers, the war’s truest victories were found in their patients’ and loved ones’ survival and recovery. The essays explore the evolution of medical knowledge, the way writers coped with their experiences, the way the war shaped fiction, and accounts from the patients themselves. Nothing should be more important than to highlight the primal and complete suffering any war of any era unleashes on the human experience.

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Book gems of 2016
An occasional series
Jan. 3: Antiquity, Civil War, World War II, and space
June 22: Presidents and the political world
June 29: Texas and Texas history
July 6: Latin America
July 13: Slavery and the Civil War era
July 20: World War I and II, science, culture, and literature