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.

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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 bitter struggle yet to come

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Loreta’s Civil War: The chill winds of winter

Velazquez is back in disguise and uniform. She is assigned to the detective corps but then receives an unexpected and unwelcome assignment.

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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 15: Velazquez is back in disguise and uniform. She is assigned to the detective corps but then receives an unexpected and unwelcome assignment.

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Like hundreds of others, I had gone to Virginia with the opening of summer, inspired by high hopes and great expectations. These hopes and expectations were far from being realized, although I had succeeded in gratifying some of the most ardent desires that had animated me in setting out, for I had gone through with a number of perilous adventures, such as would have certainly satisfied the ambition of most women. Notwithstanding, however, that the Confederates had won the first great victory, it became apparent, at an early day, that a single battle was not going to finish the war, and that if the South was to achieve its independence, it must go through a long and bloody conflict. My visit to Washington more than confirmed the opinion I had formed, that the Federals were in command of enormous resources in comparison with ours, and that they were settling down to a deadly determination to bring all their resources to bear for the purpose of fighting the thing out to the bitter end.

When I took the back track, therefore, nearly six months from the time of starting out, and when the chill winds of winter were beginning to make their severity felt by the poor soldiers, I was prepared for a long and desperate war, which would be a very different thing from the holiday affair which my Arkansas recruits, in common with many others, had expected. I was as resolute as ever in my determination to see the thing out, however, and I experienced even a certain amount of pleasure in the certainty that a prolonged struggle would afford me abundant opportunities for exciting and perilous adventures. There was not a man in the Confederacy who was more willing to fight to the last than I was, or who was willing to venture into greater peril for the sake of the cause; and, perhaps, if all the men had been as eager to find the last ditch as myself, before giving up, the war might have had a different termination.

This is something, however, about which it is scarcely worthwhile to speculate now. It is enough to say, that I left Virginia in a different mood from that in which I had entered it. Experience had opened my eyes to a good many things I did not clearly understand before, but although in some particulars I was disappointed, I was certainly not discouraged; and my head was as full of ideas, and of much better arranged, and more practical plans, than it was when I resolved to become a soldier. I now knew tolerably well what I could do, and the particular kind of work I could do best, and I was as enthusiastic as ever, although, perhaps, in a more sober fashion, to give the cause the benefit of my best exertions.

A few days of hard travel and I was back at my starting point, Memphis, having made the circuit of the entire Confederacy east of the Mississippi. I was wiser by a good deal of valuable practical knowledge than I was when I set out on my Arkansas recruiting expedition, and I had passed through scenes that made it seem years, instead of a few short months, since I had made my first important attempt at practicing essentially characteristic masculine manners. … If I returned to Memphis a disappointed woman in certain particulars, I also returned a hopeful one, for I knew better now how to go about the work 1 had in hand; and as it was evident that some of the hardest fighting of the war was to be done in this region, I confidently expected to have abundant opportunity to distinguish myself, both as a soldier and as a scout, and had scarcely a doubt of being employed in such services as I was best qualified to perform.

Behold me, then, back in Memphis, ready to commence a second campaign, inspired by a different kind of enthusiasm from that which moved me when I shocked my husband and the friend whom 1 persuaded to assist me in my enterprise, by my determination to be a soldier, but even more firmly resolved to do my full share of the fighting, and to give the Confederate cause the benefit of all my energy, wit, and courage.

The friend of whom I have spoken I still found in Memphis. He was now captain in the Confederate service, and on my meeting with him he seemed both rejoiced and surprised to see me again. … Wishing each other good luck, we parted again, and I took the first boat for Columbus, where I expected to find Gen. Leonidas Polk. On landing at Columbus, I gave my equipage and the two horses I had bought at Memphis, in charge of Bob, with directions to keep a sharp eye on them, and went to Barnes’ Hotel, to see if I could come across anybody I knew, and to make the inquiries necessary for my next movement.

Columbus was one of the liveliest places I had ever visited, or at least it seemed so that evening. There was an immense amount of bustle and confusion, and everything seemed to indicate that the campaign in this region was being pushed with considerable energy. … Soon after supper I got my tent up, and the next morning I went in search of the general for the purpose of presenting my letter. Gen. Polk, who had been a bishop before the war broke out, received me cordially enough, although he seemed to be too busy to do much talking, and after reading my letter, dismissed me with the rather indefinite observation that he would see what he could do for me. …

While waiting for the general to assign me to duty I visited the different camps, made a number of acquaintances, and picked up what information I could about the military situation in the West. Everybody was expecting hard fighting, and a desperate struggle with the Federals for the possession of the Mississippi, as it seemed to be well understood that the enemy were making great preparations for some heavy work on this river. It was thought, however, that the defenses were sufficiently strong to resist any attacks, and the idea that an attempt would ere a great while be made against New Orleans by way of the Gulf of Mexico, was scarcely entertained seriously by any one. I thought differently but then I had special reasons for my own opinions, which I did not consider it necessary to communicate to all of my new-made friends, deeming it prudent to keep quiet about my visit to Washington, although ready enough to tell all I knew concerning the military situation in Virginia in exchange for what I learned from them about the condition of things in the West.

The third day after my arrival at Columbus, Gen. Polk sent for me, and told me that he had assigned me to the detective corps. I was considerably elated at this, as I supposed that he intended to employ me in running through the lines as a spy. … There was an element of positive peril in scout duty that had a wonderful fascination for me, and that I felt would give me a keen enjoyment, such as lounging around a camp, with only the disagreeable routine of campaigning, broken by an occasional battle, could never afford.

I was not particularly well pleased, therefore, when I found that I was to run on the cars as military conductor. This, however, was active duty of a specific kind, and I thought that perhaps it might lead to something better, or might even offer me opportunities for distinguishing myself that 1 did not suspect. I took it, therefore, without complaining, resolved to do my best while on duty, and to resign the position, and go elsewhere for employment, so soon as I found the service getting too uncongenial. I accordingly went, under orders from Gen. Polk, to Camp Beauregard, where I was directed to relieve Captain Jannett, on the Nashville road. …

It was while acting in the capacity of military conductor on this road that some of the most amusing incidents of my career occurred. … My duty was to run on the trains and examine passes, furloughs, and leaves of absence; and as I could place anyone under arrest who was not traveling with the right kind of papers, or who was unprovided with papers of any kind, I was a personage of considerable importance, not only to the officers and soldiers who were going back and forth, but to the ladies, who courted me with remarkable assiduity, with a view of inducing me to grant them favors. The women folk tormented me a good deal more than the men did, for the average masculine had a wholesome dread of the rigors of military discipline, and was consequently manageable, while my own sex relied on accomplishing, by means of their fascinations, what was impossible to the men. They would make all kinds of excuses, and tell all kinds of improbable stories, to induce me to pass them. …. Occasionally some of my would-be charmers, finding it impossible to make any impression on me, would abuse me roundly for refusing to grant their request. This, of course, did not have any other effect than to afford me much amusement; but it enabled me to understand why my predecessor seemed so well pleased at being relieved. …

Gen. Polk, bent upon knowing how I was making out as military conductor, and whether I was entirely trustworthy … stepped aboard the train with a ten days’ leave of absence in his pocket. He probably thought that I was as good as detected in neglecting my duty, but he found out his mistake before he got through. …

On entering the car, I sang out, as usual, “Show your passes, gentlemen.”

The general turned his head, and commenced looking out of the window rather intently, as travelers not provided with passes were very much in the habit of doing. When I reached him, in going through the car, I gently tapped his shoulder, and said, “Have you a pass?”

“No,” said he. “Won’t you let me go through without one?”

“No sir,” I replied, “I cannot pass anyone. My orders are very strict, especially with regard to officers and soldiers.”

“Well,” said he, “don’t you think you could go back on your orders for once? Did you never favor a friend in this line?”

“Sir,” I answered, rather severely, “I know no friends in connection with my duty, or general orders.”

“Well, what are you going to do in my case; for I haven’t got any pass,” said the general.

I replied, “I will send you back to headquarters, under guard.”

‘”But,” said he, “do you know, sir, that I am Gen. Polk?” putting on all the magnificent style he could command as he spoke.

I was considerably nettled, both by his conduct in endeavoring to persuade me to pass him in violation of orders and by his manner, and so said, rather sharply, “I don’t care, sir, who you are; you can’t travel on this line without a pass, even if you are Jeff Davis himself.”

I was, by this time, rather angry, and determined to have no further controversy with him; so I called a soldier to take charge of him, while I finished going through the train.

The conductor, who had seen the whole performance, and who was afraid that I was getting myself into serious trouble, strongly advised me to release the general, and to pass him through as he desired. I told him, however, that I understood my duty perfectly, and that I intended to perform it to the letter, in this as in every other instance; and that if General Polk didn’t know better than to undertake to travel with- out his papers, he would have to bear the consequences.

When we were nearing the station. Gen. Polk beckoned to me, and said, “I have a leave of absence.”

I held out my hand, and he produced it from his pocket, laughing as he did so at what he evidently considered a good joke on the military conductor. I looked at it, and returned it, simply saying, “That is all right, sir.” The general held out his hand to me with a very cordial smile, and was evidently desirous of doing away with any ill feeling that the incident might have occasioned on my side. I was very badly vexed, however, that he should have attempted to play such a trick upon me, and to have doubted my honor; and I did not receive his greeting with any great amount of cordiality, being resolved, in my own mind, to be even with him some day. …

Loreta’s Civil War: Winning the fame I coveted

Velazquez surprises her husband with her presence, her disguise, and her soldiers. The joy created by their reunion, however, does not last long.

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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 9: Velazquez surprises her husband with her presence, her disguise, and her soldiers. The joy created by their reunion, however, does not last long.

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I determined to march my men to the river, in order to break them in; but before we got to the landing, a good many of them were decidedly of the opinion that soldiering was much harder work than they had calculated upon. None of them showed any disposition to back out, however, and the majority, despite the fatigue of the march, were quite elated at the prospect before them of being able to see something of the world. I do not think any of them appreciated the real importance of what they were doing, and looked upon the whole affair much in the light of an excursion, which would be rather jolly than otherwise. Indeed, to tell the truth, I rather regarded the thing in that light myself, notwithstanding that I had seen enough of military life for me to understand something of its serious character.

At the landing I met my Memphis friend with my baggage and equipment and a tent, and with blankets and camp utensils for the use of the men. He also handed me a letter from my husband. This I eagerly read, and much to my disappointment, learned from it that he had gone to Pensacola. I determined, however, to push on and meet him there, for I was bent on carrying out my original idea of surprising him, and of offering him the command of my battalion. I accordingly embarked my men — two hundred and thirty-six in all — upon the steamer Ohio Belle, and issued to them blankets and other articles necessary for their comfort.

My plan now was to go down to New Orleans, where I should be able to procure such stores and equipment as were immediately needed and where I could perfect my disguise; for, not only did my padded coat not fit me as it ought, but it was almost unbearably warm, and I was anxious to substitute something more comfortable for the padding at the earliest possible moment. … On arriving at New Orleans, I landed my men a short distance above the city, and then, with as little delay as possible, purchased my quartermaster and commissary stores, and perfected my private outfit. … No finer body of men ever went out of New Orleans than the Arkansas Grays, as my battalion was called. As we passed through Mobile we were heartily cheered, the men waving their hats, and the women their handkerchiefs, and everybody commenting in the most laudatory terms upon our martial appearance, I cannot pretend to tell how proud I was, when I noted how much attention we were attracting; and if the shadow of a doubt as to the propriety of the course I was pursuing remained in any mind, it assuredly vanished as the cheers of the citizens of Mobile greeted my ears. I felt that, in spite of my being a woman, I was intended for a military leader, and I resolved, more firmly than ever, to let nothing stand in the way of my winning the fame I coveted.

At Pensacola we were received by my husband, who came to meet us in response to a telegraphic dispatch I had sent him, signed by my nom de guerre. He had not the slightest idea who I was, and would not have recognized me had I not revealed myself. So soon as I was able, however, after landing my men from the train, I took him aside where I could speak to him privately and disclosed my identity. He was intensely astonished and greatly grieved to see me come marching into Pensacola at the head of a body of men in such a guise, and said, that although I had done nobly, he would not for the world have had me attempt such a thing. I told him, however, that there was no use of discussing the matter, for was determined to be a soldier, and then placed in his hands the muster-rolls of my company to show him how well I could do what I undertook. He was proud of the ability I had displayed in carrying out my plans, and seeing the uselessness of further argument, took command of the men, and commenced putting them in training … while I was ordered back to New Orleans to purchase more stores and equipment.

I had scarcely arrived at my destination when I received a dispatch announcing the death of my husband and requesting my immediate return. Terribly shocked, and nearly wild with grief, I started for Pensacola again, and found, upon my arrival there, that, while drilling his men, my husband undertook to explain the use of the carbine to one of the sergeants, and the weapon exploded in his hands, killing him almost instantly.

I was now alone in the world, and more than ever disposed to take an active part in the war, if only for the purpose of revenging my husband’s death. Smothering my grief as much as possible, I turned over the command of my battalion to Lt. Thomas de Caulp, for the double reason that the men were only enlisted for three months and were to be stationed in Pensacola … and that I had resolved to go to the front in the character of an independent, with a view of leading a life of more stirring adventures than I probably should be able to do if permanently attached to a particular command.

During the brief time I had been in Pensacola I had formed the acquaintance of a number of officers who were going to the front, and, as they intended to leave for Richmond shortly, I concluded that it would be better to go in their company, especially as several of them were first-rate fellows, and one or two particular friends of my late husband. I also became acquainted with a good many ladies, one of whom, a dashing young widow, paid my masculine charms the compliment of falling desperately in love with them. This lady did not require any encouragement from me; but finding that, while polite to her, I was rather shy and reserved, and apparently insensible to her attractions, she made a dead set at me, and took pains to let me know, in terms that could not be misunderstood, the sentiments she felt for me.

I was really in no mood for nonsense of this kind, and, to tell the truth, I was not particularly pleased with the decidedly unfeminine advances that were made towards me. The necessity of playing the character I had assumed, however, in a successful manner, pressed upon me, and I felt that diversion of some kind was requisite to divert my mind from the sad and gloomy thoughts caused by my bereavement. I accordingly determined to meet my fair one half way, and paid her numerous attentions, such as taking her to the theater, and to drive upon the beach. I, however, resolutely refused to accept any of the numerous very broad hints she threw out, to the effect that a little more lovemaking would be more than agreeable, at which she seemed considerably surprised. Finding, at length, that I either could not or would not understand what she was driving at, she bluntly reproached me for not being more tender in my demonstrations towards her.

I put on the innocent air of a green schoolboy, perfectly non-plussed with the advances of a pretty woman, and assured her that I had never courted a lady in my life, and really did not know how to begin. The eagerness with which the widow undertook to instruct me was decidedly comical, and I learned more about some of the fine points of feminine human nature from her in a week than I had picked up for myself in twenty years. The courting was pretty much all on her side, and I really had not imagined before that it was possible for a lady to take such an important matter so entirely out of the gentleman’s hands. For the fun of the thing I pretended to soften to her, and by the time I was ready to start for Virginia, we were the best possible friends, and although I was careful to make no definite promises, the widow parted from me with the understanding that when the war was over we were to be something more than friends to each other. If I were a man, it would be absurd for me to tell all this, but being a woman, this and other of my love adventures have a comical interest for me, as I doubt not they will have for the reader. If they do not show some of the members of my own sex in the best possible light, it is their fault and not mine.

On the 16th of June I started for Virginia, in company with quite a jovial party of fellows. … They had a good deal of whiskey with them, and I was constantly importuned to drink, my declining to do so not having the best possible effect on some of them. The conversation became more and more profane and ribald, as the whiskey produced its natural effect; and being almost the only sober person in the party, I was not only intensely disgusted, but the warnings I had received from my husband came into my mind, and had a most depressing influence upon me. Much of the talk was mere meaningless blackguardism, and my ears were saluted for the first time with nastiness in the shape of language, such as it would have been impossible for me to have imagined the tongues of human beings to utter. It was an intense relief to me when, about four o’clock, the train arrived at Montgomery, [Alabama].

At the Exchange Hotel I met Mr. Leroy P. Walker, the secretary of war, with whom I had a very pleasant conversation about the prospects of the contest with the North, the political situation, and other matters of interest. The next day I bought a smart and mannerly negro boy, named Bob, of about eighteen years of age. I procured him a proper suit of clothes and a military cap, and then gave him charge of my baggage, with instructions to keep a sharp eye on my effects, to behave himself properly, and to come to me when he wanted spending money. Bob proved an excellent servant, taking care of my clothing in good style, and when we were in camp, attending to my two horses in a very satisfactory manner.

From Montgomery I went to Columbia, South Carolina, where I remained over for several days. During my stay in this place I formed the acquaintance of a very pleasant family, one of the young ladies of which. Miss Lou, seemed to be quite taken with me. I was invited to the house, and passed a number of agreeable hours there, and on parting, Miss Lou gave me her address, requesting me to write to her, and pinned a small C.S. flag on my coat.

On the train bound north, there was another quite jovial party, but, very much to my gratification, not so much addicted to whiskey-drinking, blasphemy, and obscenity, as that with which I had started out. A good deal of the conversation was about wives and sweethearts, and pictures of the loved ones at home were freely handed about. I was rallied rather severely because I could not show a photograph of my sweetheart, and some of the men intimated that I must be a poor kind of a man not to be able to find a girl to exchange photographs with me. I took the sharp things they thought fit to say of me in good part, and replied that I did not doubt of my ability to get a sweetheart soon enough when I wanted one.

Before the journey was ended, I had an opportunity to prove myself as good a lady’s man as the best of them, for at Lynchburg, where we were compelled to remain over all night, on taking the train for Richmond, an elderly gentleman stepped up, and after inquiring my destination, asked if 1 could take charge of some ladies. I replied that I would do so with pleasure; but was rather taken aback when I found myself placed in the position of escort to five women and two children. I could not imagine what induced the old gentleman to pick out a little fellow like me, when so many much larger, older, and more experienced officers were present, some of whom were greatly my superiors in rank. I was dreadfully embarrassed, but resolved to play the gallant to the best of my ability, although my heart was in my throat, and I could scarcely find voice to announce myself as Lieutenant Buford, when he inquired my name for the purpose of introducing me.

I was about to inquire whether the ladies had their tickets and checks, when the old gentleman presented them, very much to my satisfaction. Excusing myself for a few moments, I went to attend to checking my own baggage. …

We were soon under way, and had a pleasant enough ride, or at least it would have been pleasant enough had I not been tormented with the fear that they would penetrate my disguise, and discover that I was not what I pretended to be. No suspicions were excited, however, and we finally arrived at Richmond without anything having happened to mar the enjoyment of the journey. On alighting from the cars, I procured carriages to convey the several members of the party to their destination ; two of the ladies, however, accompanied me to the Ballard House, where I obtained rooms for them. The youngest of my newly-found female friends — a very pretty girl, who seemed to have taken quite a fancy to me — had the room adjoining mine, and I had scarcely established myself in my new quarters, when a waiter knocked at the door and handed me a card from her, asking me to escort her to supper. I laughed to myself at this, and fancying that I had succeeded in making another conquest, determined to get myself up in the best style I could, and to do credit to the uniform I wore by showing her that her appreciation was not misapplied. I dressed myself in my best apparel, and, after a visit to the barber’s, I was ready to play the gallant in the best possible manner.

It was all well enough while I was pacing the corridors of the hotel with mademoiselle on my arm, but I confess that my heart failed me when we entered the dining-room, and I fancied that everybody was looking at us. When the big steward, advancing towards us with his politest bow, said, “Lieutenant, step this way with your lady,” and then turning to one of the waiters, told him to attend to this gentleman and lady, it seemed to me as if every eye in the room was fixed on me. I was a rather conspicuous object, it is true, for my uniform, made of the best cloth, and trimmed with buttons and gold lace, was well calculated to attract attention, while the lady on my arm being rather taller than myself, made me even more an object for the curious to gaze at than if I had been alone. …

The young lady was nothing daunted by my silence and chattered away at a great rate on all imaginable subjects and finally succeeded in putting me somewhat at my ease. … My lady at length finished her supper, much to my relief, and I hurried her out of the room as fast as I could, and repaired to the drawing room, where I excused myself on the plea that I had urgent business to attend to, as I intended leaving the city on the first train. She seemed extremely reluctant to part company with me and would not let me go until I promised to see her again before I left the city. In bidding her good night, she extended her hand; and when I took it, she gave mine a squeeze, that indicated as plain as words that a trifle more forwardness on my part would not be disagreeable. I was a little bit disgusted with her very evident desire to capture me, and was very glad to get her off my hands, my determination on parting being not to see her again if I could avoid doing so.