Loreta’s Civil War: Ruffianly white men

Velazquez encounters a Mormon community, makes new friends, and marries again as she looks ahead to a new life.

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 66: Velazquez encounters a Mormon community, makes new friends, and marries again as she looks ahead to a new life.

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After breakfast that morning, I inquired for the superintendent and road agent, Mr. Rube Thomas, but learned that he was not in the town. I then asked for Mr. J. Stewart, another road agent, and a very affable, obliging gentleman. This gentleman was, fortunately for me, in Cheyenne, and he waited on me very promptly when he received my message and expressed himself as willing to do anything in his power to assist me.

I desired to go to Camp Davy Russell, and Mr. Stewart, in the kindest manner, said that he would procure a conveyance and drive me there himself. He did so, and during our drive he took a great deal of pains to point out the features of interest and to explain a number of useful points about the country, its people, and its prospects. On reaching the camp, I presented to Gen. Stephenson a letter of introduction from Gen. Harney and was very kindly received by him. After a conference with Gen. Stephenson, I returned to Cheyenne with Mr. Stewart but found that, in consequence of the crowded condition of the stage, I would have to remain until the next day.

Mr. Stewart, knowing how uncomfortable I was at the hotel, then offered to take me to Laporte and place me in rather better quarters. This kind offer I eagerly accepted, and soon found myself under the excellent care of Mrs. Taylor, the station-keeper’s wife, and her sister, who did all that was in their power to make me comfortable and to make the time pass agreeably. I passed several pleasant days with these hospitable ladies, employing my time in horseback riding, rambling over the mountains, gathering mossagates, and visiting the wigwams of the Indians.

The red men smiled on me in a rather disdainful sort of way and evidently regarded me as an enemy. I wished most sincerely that I understood their language, if only for the purpose of explaining my friendly feelings towards them. I had much more respect for these savages than I had for the ruffianly white men who were dispossessing them of their country. In one camp I did find an old woman who spoke English quite well and had a long conversation with her. She said that vice was almost unknown among her people before the white men came, but that they corrupted the young girls and supplied the men with whiskey until now there was getting to be fewer and fewer good Indians every day.

The coaches at each trip continued to be so crowded that it was impossible for me to get a place in one, and, as I was anxious to proceed, the agent at length arranged to put on an extra for the accommodation of myself and several other travelers who also were waiting somewhat impatiently. When I was about starting, Mr. Stewart gave me a letter of introduction to the Mormon proprietor of the Kimble House in Salt Lake City.

After a few days’ travel we came to Echo City at the entrance of Echo Canon, where we met with an accident, which might have had unpleasant consequences, but, as no lives were lost, we regarded it as rather an agreeable variation of the monotony of our journey.

A water spout in the mountains had flooded the road, and the driver, in attempting to force his way through a rather bad-looking place, managed to get the coach and the horses stuck fast in a quicksand. The passengers were obliged to swim out on the backs of the horses and escaped with no other damage than wet clothing. Fortunately, we were near the house of a Mormon, who received us very hospitably, and who, while his three wives were endeavoring to make us as comfortable as circumstances would permit, went and got two yoke of oxen and pulled the coach out.

I had heard so much against the Mormons that I was under the impression they were all thieves and cutthroats. I confess that I was most agreeably disappointed in them from this, my first acquaintance, to the time of my taking a final leave of Utah. The homes, farms, dress, and behavior all indicated that they were a hard-working, industrious people, while they appeared to be entirely free from many of the worst vices of the Gentiles.

While stopping at this house in Echo Canon, I ventured to make a few inquiries about their customs and beliefs, which were very politely answered, and I was in the midst of a very interesting conversation with one of the wives, a woman of about fifty-five, when I was interrupted by the driver calling upon me to get into the coach.

The rain having freshened the air somewhat, I asked the driver to permit me to sit with him outside as we went through the canyon in order that I might see the scenery. He consented and assisted me to a seat on the box, and as we passed through the canyon, he explained the points of interest to me. He was quite a handsome young fellow and very intelligent.

On entering the Bear River Valley, my eye met on all sides little white cottages or neat log houses, surrounded by well-cultivated and well-watered farms and orchards where not many years before was but a burning plain, covered with sage bushes, and the home of the Ute Indian, the buffalo, the elk, the antelope, the coyote, and the silver gray fox. Through the untiring industry and good management of people who had been driven from their homes in Ohio, Illinois, and Missouri, this desert had been transformed into the paradise I beheld. The Mormons fled here to escape persecution, desiring only to get as far away from their enemies as possible, and after many years of toil and hardship they achieved results of which they had a right to be proud, and which entitled them to a more kindly consideration than had been accorded them when residing in the States.

Having passed the Bear River Valley, we were soon in the great metropolis of Mormondom, and driving through wide streets and avenues, past houses that were evidently the abodes of thrifty well-to-do people, the coach at length drew up before the door of the Kimble House.

The proprietor came out and ushered us up stairs to the parlor, a large, airy room, plainly but comfortably furnished, and soon a little girl came and said that she would show me my room. The furniture in this was somewhat primitive in its style, but everything was neat and clean, and the accommodations, if not exactly such as the Fifth Avenue Hotel offers, were all that any reasonable person had a right to expect.

So soon as I was fairly settled in the hotel, I presented the proprietor the letter of introduction from the road agent at Cheyenne and had quite a long conversation with him. He gave me much good advice about my future movements and seemed disposed, in every way, to be as kind and obliging as he could. From him I learned that there were a number of old Confederate soldiers in the city and vicinity but as I was anxious to get to the El Dorado, where I expected to make my fortune, with as little delay as possible, I made no attempt to find any of them.

After taking a rest for a day or two in Salt Lake City, I again started on my journey westward. At Ruby Valley in Nevada I met a gentleman who was engaged in mining operations, and he advised me strongly to go to the Reese River gold regions. I was not greatly prepossessed with him, and yet he was certainly a man of intelligence and cultivation, and, as what he told me only served to confirm what I had heard from other persons, I concluded to take his advice. On arriving at Austin, a new city in the mountains near the Reese River, I accordingly left the stage and took lodgings at the Exchange Hotel, which was kept by a Slavonian by the name of Mouinely.

The sleeping apartment assigned me at Austin was not the most agreeable, being next to a room occupied by some drunken fellows who kept up a terrible noise nearly all night, and as I thought that most likely I would have to put up with this sort of thing nearly all the time I remained in the hotel, I determined for lodgings elsewhere. A gentleman to whom I spoke about the matter said that he knew of a private house where rooms were sometimes to be had and offered to go and see if I could obtain accommodation there.

While he was gone, the chambermaid brought from the room next to mine two pairs of pistols, two large knives, and a razor and informed me that their owner was a noted desperado, called Irish Tom, and that he had killed two men.

I had some curiosity to see this individual, but did not care particularly to make his acquaintance. My curiosity was soon gratified, for he came to the parlor inquiring for his weapons. Instead of being angry with the chambermaid for having taken them from his room to show them to me, he seemed to feel rather complimented that I should feel an interest in them and him. He was a tall, good-looking Irishman with a very pleasant face and had as little of the ruffian in his appearance as any man I had met on the frontier. I was informed that he never attempted to hurt well-behaved people, and that he often submitted to the grossest kind of insults from some of his intimates. Men of his acquaintance had been known to slap him in the face, and he would take no notice but walk away as if nothing had happened. With others, however, he would have no mercy but would produce a pistol or knife at the slightest provocation.

Tom was rather noted for his polite bearing towards the ladies, which I considered as an evidence that he was not as bad, by any means, as he might have been. My friend who had gone to look for lodgings for me returned and said that he had secured me a very good room. I accordingly left the hotel and had reason to congratulate myself in my change of quarters. My landlady was a Pennsylvanian and was disposed to do all in her power to make me comfortable and to assist me in carrying out the object I had in view in taking up my residence in Austin. She introduced me to a restaurant-keeper, who agreed to supply me with my meals, and also to a number of the prominent people of the place — the judge, the doctor, the Methodist minister, and others.

The aristocracy of Austin was made up of an odd lot of people, who, however, had the best possible opinion of themselves, even if they did use bad grammar, swear hard, and drink unlimited quantities of whiskey. I, however, always had a happy faculty of adapting myself to circumstances, and I was soon on excellent terms with most of my new acquaintances.

Among my friends was an individual of about sixty years of age, who, from his conversation, seemed to have been at one time accustomed to mingle in really good society. He was a widower and was extensively engaged in mining operations. I had not known him more than a couple of days before he asked me to marry him and offered to give me an interest in his mines if I would accept him. I thought that this was a rather abrupt style of courtship and felt constrained to decline. He took my refusal good-naturedly enough and was evidently not sufficiently in love with me to break his heart because he could not get me.

Subsequently I met a gentleman who paid me attention and to whom I became sincerely attached. We were married in a very quiet manner, for neither of us desired any more than we could help to be made the subjects of the gossip of a mining town.

Loreta’s Civil War: A derangement of the plans

As news of President Lincoln’s assassination spreads, Velazquez is torn between respect for the man and loyalty to the Confederacy.

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 53: As news of President Lincoln’s assassination spreads, Velazquez is torn between respect for the man and loyalty to the Confederacy.

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As I did not know and certainly did not appreciate the full extent … of the great disaster that had befallen the Confederate cause, so soon as my business in Wall Street was brought to a conclusion I sought a conference with the agents with whom I had been co-operating. They were inclined to take the gloomiest possible view of the situation. With the fall of Richmond and the surrender of Lee’s army, the people of the North seemed to have concluded that the long contest with the South was over. … It was but natural, perhaps, in view of the intense excitement which prevailed and the unanimity of public opinion that the Confederate agents should have regarded the future of the contest in a great degree from a Northern standpoint and should have been largely influenced by the opinions which they heard expressed on every side.

I, however, was not disposed to give up while a Southern soldier remained in the field, and, after a full discussion of the condition of affairs, I persuaded my companions to view matters as I did. Richmond was our capital, but it was not the whole South, and Lee’s army, important as it was, was far from being the whole Confederate force. Gen. Joe Johnston had an army of veterans very nearly if not quite as large as that of Lee’s and was capable of prolonging the contest for an indefinite period while throughout the West there were a number of detached commands of more or less strength. If these could be united and a junction effected with Johnston, or communication established with him so that they could act in concert, it would be possible to keep the Federals at bay for a good while yet. If the fight was continued resolutely, there was no knowing what might happen to our advantage, for, as we all knew, the people of the North were heartily sick of the war, while England and France were impatient to have it come to an end and would much prefer to have it end with a victory for the Confederates.

Having professed an eager desire to work for the Cause so long as there was a Cause to work for, my associates suggested that I should proceed immediately to Missouri … for the purpose of consulting with the agents in the West with regard to the best methods of proceeding in the present perplexing emergency.

I accepted the mission without hesitation, and, always ready to attend to business of this kind at a moment’s notice, with scarcely more than a change of clothing in my traveling satchel, I was soon speeding westward. … I went to Columbus, Ohio, where I found considerable confusion prevailing on account of the escape of some prisoners. I took rooms at the Neil House and had conferences with several persons concerning the affairs at the South. At an unusually early hour I retired, being very weary on account of having traveled almost without interruption for several days and having lost my sleep the night before but feeling rather happy on account of a Confederate victory of which I had heard.

I was soon asleep, but could not have been so very long before I was awakened by the continual buzzing of the telegraph wires, which were attached to the corner of the hotel. I paid but little attention to this singular noise and dozed off again. A second time I was awakened by it and began to conjecture what could be the matter. I knew that something very important must have happened and thought that the Federals must either have achieved a great victory or have met with a great defeat. I was too tired, however, to attempt any inquiry just then, and, with all sorts of fancies floating in my mind … I dropped off into a sound sleep and did not awaken until morning.

I arose quite early and going to the window saw that the whole front of the building was draped in mourning. Wondering what this demonstration could mean, and thinking that the death of some prominent general must have occurred, but never for a moment suspecting the terrible truth, I made my toilet and descended to find out what was the matter.

A great number of people, notwithstanding the early hour, were moving about the hotel, and a considerable crowd was already assembled in the hall. Still wondering what could have happened, I asked a gentleman whom I met hurrying down stairs what was the news, and he told me that President Lincoln had been assassinated by one J. Wilkes Booth the night before!

This intelligence startled me greatly, both on account of the terrible nature of the crime itself and because I felt that it could work nothing but harm to the South. I also felt for Mr. Lincoln and his family, for I liked him and believed that he was an honest and kindhearted man who tried to do his duty, as he understood it, and who was in every way well disposed towards the South.

Descending to the drawing-room, I found a large number of ladies there, many of whom were weeping, while, in the street, the crowd was increasing, and everyone seemed to be in the greatest excitement. Across the street, the State House was being draped in mourning, while a number of persons already wore mourning emblems. Before the day was over nearly everyone had on some badge of mourning, and nearly every house was draped in a greater or less degree in black. I did not attempt to imitate my neighbors in this matter. I was sincerely sorry both for personal and political reasons that this dreadful event had occurred but, nevertheless, Mr. Lincoln was the enemy of the cause I loved and for which I labored, and it would have been intensely repugnant to my feelings to have made any outward manifestations of mourning. At the same time it is possible I may have mourned in my heart with more sincerity than some of those who were making a greater show of their grief.

This sad event rendered it necessary that I should have an immediate conference with my associates in the East, and I therefore returned as fast as I could to New York, and from thence went on to Washington.

The assassination of Mr. Lincoln had caused a derangement of the plans, and no one knew exactly what had best be done next. I was requested, however, to make a trip west again for the purpose of communicating with certain parties and accordingly departed on my last errand in behalf of the Confederacy.

My business being transacted, I started to return and again found it necessary to pass through Columbus. When I arrived there the body of Mr. Lincoln was lying in state. The town was crowded with people, and it was impossible to get a room at any of the hotels. I went to the Neil House but was obliged to content myself with a bed on the drawing-room floor, my accommodations being, however, quite as sumptuous as those of hundreds of others.

I doubt if the little city ever had so many people in it before, and all day long a stream of men and women poured in at one door and out at the other of the apartment where the casket containing the remains of the president was lying in state. It was a sad sight, and it troubled me greatly — so greatly that I was scarcely able to eat or sleep, for, in addition to my natural grief, I could not prevent my mind from brooding on the possibly detrimental effects which the assassination would have on the fortunes of the South.

After an early breakfast the next morning, I took the eastward-bound train and returned to Washington, and on reaching that city called to see Col. Baker. We exchanged but a few words, as Baker said that he had an engagement, which he would be compelled to attend to immediately, but he would see me at half past seven o’clock at my hotel. …

In the Capitol, I met a Confederate officer whom I knew. I was astonished to see him, and going up, I said, “Oh, what could have induced you to come here at such a critical time as this?”

“To see and hear what is going on,” he replied.

“This is an awful affair.”

“Yes, and it is particularly unfortunate that it should have happened at this particular time.”

“When will you return?”

“Tonight, if somebody less amiable than you are does not recognize me and take me in charge.”

I then asked him if he would carry a letter through for me to my brother, and on his promising me that he would, I made an engagement for him to go to my room in the hotel. He would find the door unlocked and the key inside, and I would meet him at five o’clock or shortly after. I then took leave of him, bidding him be careful of himself, as the people were excited and suspicious and he might easily get himself into serious trouble.

Returning to the hotel, I noticed quite a number of ladies in the drawing-room as I passed by. I thought I would join them for the sake of listening to the different conversations that were going on, thinking that perhaps I might hear something that it would be advantageous for me to know. On reaching my room, therefore, I dressed myself in a handsome black gros-grain silk dress, and putting a gilt band in my hair, descended and took a seat at one of the drawing-room windows facing on Pennsylvania Avenue.

Those around me all appeared to be discussing the tragedy and many absurd theories and speculations were indulged in with regard to it. I was indignant … to hear President Davis and [other] Confederate leaders accused of being the instigators of the crime. I well knew that they were incapable of anything of the kind, and Mr. Davis, in particular, I had reason to believe entertained a high respect for Mr. Lincoln and most sincerely lamented his death and especially the manner of it, feeling that he and the whole people of the South would be … held censurable for something they had nothing to do with and which they were powerless to prevent.

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.

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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.

Loreta’s Civil War: Blow them out of the water

Plans form and plans fall apart, but Velazquez remains focused on her overall strategy to assist the Confederacy from her vantage point far from the war’s front lines.

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 44: Plans form and plans fall apart, but Velazquez remains focused on her overall strategy to assist the Confederacy from her vantage point far from the war’s front lines.

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As we were crossing to the town, the lieutenant again proposed that we should take a drive that afternoon. I, however, excused myself and gave him to understand that I had engagements which would prevent me from meeting him again. The young man, therefore, to my infinite relief — for his attentions were beginning to be troublesome — stated that he would return to Cincinnati by the first train, and, when I parted from him in the hotel, I sincerely hoped that he would do so for I did not wish to have him watching my movements.

I now wrote a letter to Col. Baker, in which I stated that the man I was looking for was not at Johnson’s Island and that I thought I would go on to Indianapolis and visit the prison camp there. After I had dined, not seeing the lieutenant, I inquired for him and was told that he had gone. Being, therefore, in no danger of meeting him again, I went to the telegraph office and sent dispatches to the Detroit and Buffalo agents to notify them that I had visited the prison and executed my commission there, and one to St. Louis, in accordance with the instructions under which I was acting, for the agent there to send certain parties to meet me at Indianapolis.

The next morning I was off for Indianapolis to continue the search I had begun in Sandusky, although I desired very much to remain in the last named city for the purpose of watching the progress of events, and, perhaps, of taking part in any fighting that might occur. I very well knew that by acting as a spy and as a bearer of dispatches I was performing much more valuable service than I would as a soldier, and yet, at the prospect of a battle, all my fighting blood was up, and I could scarcely restrain my desire to be an active participant in the great and exciting scenes I thought were about to take place.

I afterwards wished that I had remained, for I felt confident that had I been in Sandusky when the appointed time for striking the blow came and had been entrusted with the direction of affairs, there would have been no such miserable fizzle as actually did occur.

The general plan, as the reader has already been told, was to organize a raid along the lake shores, to release the prisoners, to gather about us all the Southern sympathizers who could be induced to join us, and to make such a diversion in the Federal rear as would compel the withdrawal of a large force from the front. We also placed great reliance on the effects of the panic which, it was hoped, would be created, and also on British intervention, which it was expected would be brought about by a border war, in which it would be impossible to prevent trespass upon British territory.

In addition to this, the Indians were to be stirred up to acts of hostility all along the frontier, from the lakes to the gulf.

The prisoners, as they effected their escape, were to act according to circumstances. Those at Sandusky and at places nearest to that point were to unite with the outsiders, and form an army to operate along the lake shores and as far into the adjacent country as they could penetrate, while others were to endeavor to effect a junction with Price and Quantrill in Missouri and to march under their orders.

The execution of this scheme was to begin at a certain time, after the prisoners had been made acquainted with such details of the general plan as were necessary to be known by them, by the capture of the Federal gunboat Michigan, and of such other steamers as the Confederates could overpower by stratagem or force. This being done, the prisoners on Johnson’s Island were to be notified by a prearranged signal and were to make a break and overpower their guards, with the assistance of the boats. The prisoners once free, the organization of both military and naval forces was to be proceeded with as rapidly as possible and all the damage done to the enemy that could be done with the means at hand.

In pursuance of this plan, the Confederates in Canada seized the lake steamers Indian Queen and Parsons, and started for Sandusky. On arriving off that place, however, their signals were unanswered, and after waiting as long as they dared they were forced to the conclusion that something unexpected had occurred to interfere with the success of the plans and had no recourse but to make their escape as rapidly as they could, well knowing that the Michigan, if she ever got her guns to bear on them, would blow them out of the water in very short order.

The scheme fell through, not because the party from Canada did not keep their engagement or were not willing and anxious to do all that they had the power to do, but because one of the men who went to Sandusky for the purpose of seizing the Michigan turned traitor. I may, perhaps, be doing this person an injustice in applying this harsh name to him but if he was not a willful traitor, he was a fool and too weak and cowardly to have been entrusted with such responsible and weighty duties as he was.

Arrangements had been made to secure the attendance of all, or nearly all, the officers of the Michigan at an entertainment, and during their absence the vessel was to have been seized. Before this entertainment could come off, however, the man to whom I have alluded was either recognized as a Confederate, or else he made some drunken utterances that excited suspicion. At all events, he was arrested, and on a search being made, papers were found in his possession which gave the Federal government full information with regard to the plot and enabled them to take means to meet it. All this might have happened, and yet no one been seriously to blame but this man, on the papers being found on him, confessed everything, and revealed, not merely the particulars of the scheme but who his associates were.

He should have permitted himself to have been torn limb from limb before doing this, as I would have done, had I been captured, sooner than I would have revealed anything to the enemy.

The failure of this raid caused much disappointment at the South, and the Confederates in Canada, by whom it had been planned and to whom its execution was entrusted were greatly censured and were accused both of treachery and lack of courage. These censures and accusations were unjust for they did all they could do, and if they were to blame for anything, it was in confiding in a person or persons who were unworthy of confidence.

The excitement which the capture of the Sandusky party and the discovery of what it was that they and the Confederates proposed to do caused at the North showed how great would have been the panic that the successful execution of the scheme would have caused. I cannot express the disgust and indignation I felt when I heard that the plot had failed, and how it failed, and it was on this account, as much as anything else, that I left the country for a time and refused to have anything more to do with my late associates and their schemes, although I was still intent upon doing all I could to advance the interests of the Confederacy.

On my arrival at Indianapolis, I found two men from St. Louis awaiting me, they having been sent there in compliance with my telegraphic dispatch from Sandusky. I had a long talk with them about the condition of affairs and delivered the dispatches I had for them. One of them — a tall Missourian — was to go to the borders, to operate with the Indians, and the other was to report to Quantrill on some business of a secret nature. I had no idea what the dispatch which I handed to this second man was about, and, as he did not seem disposed to tell me, I did not ask him.

In compliance with my orders, I was now to wait in Indianapolis until I should receive directions to proceed elsewhere and was to occupy my time in obtaining access to the prison camp for the purpose of conversing with the prisoners, informing them of the movements that were in progress and encouraging them to make an effort to escape, as no rescue could be attempted in their case.

Exactly how to get into the prison enclosure was something of a problem, as, for a number of good and sufficient reasons, I was desirous of doing this without figuring as Col. Baker’s agent, as I had done at Sandusky. Where there is a will there is a way, nearly always, and I speedily found a very easy way to accomplish my object.

Walking out towards the prison camp, the day after my arrival, I determined to try and get in on some plea or other, and only to fall back on Baker’s letter as a last resource when all other means failed. Not very far from the enclosure I met a cake-woman, who, I surmised, was permitted to go among the prisoners for the purpose of trading with them. It occurred to me that with a little management, I could obtain admission along with her, so, going up to her, I purchased a few cakes, and said, “Why, do you go into the prison, among those dirty rebels?”

“Oh, yes,” she replied, “I go in there to sell them cakes.”

“I did not know that they let anyone in.”

“Yes, the officers all know me, and the sergeant always looks through my basket to see that I haven’t anything contraband.”

“I would like mighty well to go in there and see how the rebels look. Do you think they would let me in with you?”

“Yes, you come along with me. I’ll get you in.”

When we came to the gate, therefore, and while the sergeant was examining her basket, the old woman said, “Sergeant, this is my sister. She came with me to see how the rebels look — she never saw one.”

The sergeant laughed and passed us both in without further parley. The cake-woman went into the quarters, where she soon had a crowd of men round her, investing their cash — and precious little of it they had — in the contents of her basket. Looking around me, I spied a major belonging to Lee’s army, whom I had met in Richmond but who had never seen me in female attire, and, going up to him, I had a hurried conversation with him in a low voice.

I told him that now was the time for the prisoners to make a break, if they wanted to gain their freedom, as there were no troops at hand worth speaking of. He wanted to know whether there was not danger of being re-taken.

I replied that I did not think there was if they made a bold dash and all worked together. I then told him what was being done elsewhere, and explaining as well as I could the general plan of operations that had been arranged, suggested that they should try and reach the southern part of the state, and, after crossing the river, report either to Price or Jeff Thompson. I then gave him some money and hurriedly left him to rejoin the old cake-woman, whose basket was by this time emptied and who was prepared to leave.

This duty having been satisfactorily performed, I wrote a letter to Col. Baker, informing him that the man I was looking for was not at the Indianapolis camp but that I had information which led me to think I would find him at Alton. I, therefore, proposed to go to that place, and if he was not there, I would give the whole thing up as a bad job and return East.

I had no intention of going to Alton, but being under obligation to remain for some time … in Indianapolis, I was desirous of employing myself to the best advantage. Exactly what to get at, however, was not an easy thing to determine. After considering the subject in all its aspects, I resolved to go to Gov. Morton for the purpose of asking him whether he could not give me some employment. My idea was that perhaps through the influence of the governor, I could obtain a clerkship or some position which would afford me facilities for gaining information.

I accordingly called on the governor, to whom I represented myself as a poor widow whose husband had been killed in the war and who had no means of support. Gov. Morton treated me kindly enough, although I speedily made up my mind that he was by no means as amiable and goodnatured an individual as my rather jolly friend, Gov. Brough of Ohio.

After hearing my story, he said that there was nothing he could do for me, but that it was very possible I might be able to obtain employment at the arsenal, as there were a good many women working there.

This, it struck me, was a most capital idea, and, therefore, asking the governor to give me some kind of a note or recommendation — which request he complied with by writing a few lines — I left him to see what I could do at the place where they were manufacturing munitions of war to be used against my Confederate friends.

I do not know whether it was the governor’s note that aided me or whether they were really in want of hands, but I was told that I could have work if I desired it. The ordnance officer — a German, whose name I have forgotten — said that I was to commence work on Tuesday, the day I applied to him being Saturday.

At the appointed time, I appeared at the arsenal and was sent into the packing-room, where I was instructed in the mystery of packing cartridges. There were about eighteen girls working in the same room, most of whom were rather light-headed things, interested in very nearly everything except the business they were paid for. A good part of their time was employed in writing, reading, and discussing love-letters, which they were interchanging with the soldiers in the field, and a number of them had a good many more than one correspondent.

The society of these girls was no pleasure to me whatever, especially as I had things of much more importance to think of than their love affairs. Immediately on Gov. Morton suggesting that, perhaps, I could obtain employment at the arsenal, the idea of blowing up that establishment entered my mind. After going to work, I looked about me to see how this could be done and very soon perceived that the thing was possible and without much risk to myself, provided I took proper precautions.

I found, however, that I would not be able to blow up the arsenal without destroying a number of lives, and I shrank from doing this. It was a great temptation to me, however, especially when I reflected that I was really in the Confederate service and that it was a part of my duty to do everything in my power to injure the enemy. I could not, however, get it out of my head that there was a wide difference between killing people in a fair fight and slaughtering them in this fashion, and so, to get myself out of the way of a temptation that was constantly growing stronger and stronger, I suddenly left, after having been at work about two weeks.

Loreta’s Civil War: I am willing to risk it

Velazquez angles her way into a job as a spy for the Union. It’s a crucial part of her role in an astounding Confederate covert operation to turn the tide of the war.

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 38: Velazquez angles her way into a job as a spy for the Union. It’s a crucial part of her role in an astounding Confederate covert operation to turn the tide of the war.

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On being introduced to Col. Baker by Gen. A., I asked him if he could not give me a position in his detective corps in some capacity, explaining as my reason for making a request that, having lost everything through the rebellion, I was in urgent need of obtaining some remunerative employment by which I could support myself. … I told pretty much the same story that I had to the Federal officers at Memphis: I was of Spanish extraction, and all of my friends and relatives were either in Spain or Cuba. My husband, who was a United States army officer … had died about the outbreak of the war, and I had been plundered and otherwise so badly treated by the rebels that I had been compelled to come North, where I had resided for a considerable period, but without being able to do much in the way of supporting myself. I was well acquainted throughout the South, having traveled a great deal … and I did not doubt but that I possessed much information that would be of value to the government and believed that I could obtain more. …

Baker asked me a good many questions — not particularly skillful ones it seemed to me — about myself, my family, how long I had been at the North, what induced me to take up with the idea of joining the secret service corps, what employment I had hitherto been engaged in, and a variety of other matters. To his interrogatories I replied promptly and with seeming frankness, and I left his presence tolerably confident that he believed all I had told him. … [But] was cautious — he would see about it, he would talk further with me on the subject, he did not know that he had anything he could give me to do just at present, but he might have need of me shortly, and would let me know when he wanted me — and all that sort of thing. …

This interview with Col. Baker convinced me that he was the man to begin with if I wanted to get admission behind the scenes at Washington and if I wanted to execute any really masterly coup at the North in behalf of the Confederacy. As a member of his corps, I would not only be able to do many things that would be impossible otherwise. … As for Baker himself, I made up my mind that he was an individual wise in his own esteem, but with no comprehensive ideas whom it would not be difficult to fool to the top of his bent. All that it would be necessary for me to do, in case he employed me, would be the performance of some real or apparently real services for him to secure his fullest confidence, while at the same time I could carry on my real work to the very best advantage.

Having waited about Washington for a week or two without hearing anything from Col. Baker … I decided to return to New York as I thought, from a hint given me in a letter from my brother, that I might be able to commence operations there. I resolved, however, to cultivate Baker’s acquaintance at the earliest opportunity but thought that perhaps it would be best not to trouble him again until I had some definite scheme to propose.

When I reached New York and saw my brother, he was expecting every day to be exchanged, and he told me that he had been visited by several Confederate agents who wanted him to try and carry some documents through when he went South. He was afraid, however, to attempt anything of this kind, and, besides, did not think that it would be honorable under the circumstances. Without saying anything about my plans to him, therefore, I went and saw the agents in question, told them who I was, referred them to people who knew me in the West, and in a general way disclosed to them my schemes for aiding the Confederacy. I did not, however, tell them about my interview with Col. Baker or that I had the intention of becoming an employee of his. This, I thought, was a matter I had best keep to myself for the present for fear of accident.

These agents were exceedingly glad to see me and had several jobs of work cut out which they were anxious that I should attend to. They did not strike me as being very important, but I thought that they would do to begin with and that they would aid me in becoming acquainted with the Confederate working force in the North. I, therefore, promised to give them my aid so soon as my brother should leave for the South.

They then evinced a great eagerness to have me persuade my brother to carry some dispatches through but I said that it would be useless to ask him, and that the most I could expect of him was that he would take a verbal message from myself to the officials who knew me in Richmond to the effect that I was at the North, endeavoring to aid the Confederate cause by every means in my power, and filled with zeal to do whatever was to be done. It required considerable persuasion to induce my brother to do even this much, but finally, to my great satisfaction, he consented.

Shortly after this my brother went South on a cartel of exchange, and in due time I received information that my message had been delivered and that I was recognized as a Confederate secret service agent.

In the meanwhile I made a large number of acquaintances among the adherents of both the Federal and Confederate governments and did a great deal of work of one kind or another. None of my performances, however, for several months were of sufficient importance to warrant special mention in these pages, and their chief value to me was that they kept me employed and taught me what kind of work there was to do and how to do it. During this time, I visited Washington frequently and always made it a point to see Col. Baker, to whom I furnished a number of bits of information, the majority of which were of no particular value to him, although several were of real importance and aided him materially in his effort to break up certain fraudulent practices and to bring the rogues to justice.

By this means I retained his favor and succeeded in gaining his confidence to a degree that the reader will probably think rather astonishing, considering my antecedents and the kind of work that I was engaged in sub rosa. It should be borne in mind, however, that Baker did not know and could not know anything of my previous history, that I had been highly recommended to him, and that I was constantly proving useful to him. …

My grand opportunity at length did arrive, and the cunning secret service chief fell into the trap laid for him as innocently and unsuspectingly as if he had never heard of such a thing as a spy in his life. The colonel, as I have before remarked, was not a bad sort of a fellow in his way, and as I had a sincere regard for him, I am sorry he is not alive now that he might be able to read this narrative and so learn how completely he was taken in, and by a woman, too. He was a smart man but not smart enough for all occasions. …

[My] magnificent scheme was on foot during the summer and fall of 1864, for making an attack upon the enemy in the rear, which, if it had been carried out with skill and determination might have given a very different ending to the war. As it was, the very inefficient attempt that was made created an excitement that almost amounted to a panic and seemed to show how effective a really well-directed blow … would have been. … A large extent of country was to be operated upon, [and] several distinct movements of equal importance were to be carried on at the same time, the failure of any one of which would imperil everything, and a neutral soil was to be the base of operations.

That a considerable number of persons should be informed of the essential points of the proposed campaign could not be avoided, and, of course, each person admitted to the secret diminished the chances of it being kept. … Besides all this, two great difficulties in the way of success existed. There was no thoroughness of organization … and there was no recognized leader whose authority was admitted by all and who had the direction of all the movements. …

We were utterly unable to tell how much we could count on in the way of active assistance from the Southern sympathizers, or “Copperheads,” as they were called. … These people were really traitors both to the South and the North, and in the long run they did the cause of the Confederacy far more harm than they did it good. They professed to believe that the South was right, and yet they were not willing to take up arms for her. … They annoyed the government by their captious criticisms of all its actions, by opposing the prosecution of the war in every way that they could with safety to themselves, and by loud expressions of Southern sympathy. All they accomplished, however, was a prolongation of the war and the disfranchisement of nearly the entire white population of the South after the war was ended, for to them — more than to the Southerners themselves — was due the imposition of the hard terms which were the price of peace. To the “Copperheads,” therefore, as a class, the South owe little or nothing, and, according to my view, they were the kind of friends that people in difficulties had best be without.

The great scheme to which I have alluded was no less than an attack upon the country bordering upon the Great Lakes; the release of the Confederate prisoners confined at Johnson’s Island in Lake Erie, near Sandusky, Ohio, and at other localities; their organization into an army, which was to engage in the work of devastating the country, burning the cities and towns, seizing upon forts, arsenals, depots, and manufactories of munitions of war, for the purpose of holding them … or of destroying them; and … of creating such a diversion in [the Union] rear as would necessitate the withdrawal of a large [Federal] force from the front.

It was expected … that the Federal forces would be placed between two fires and that the commanders of the Confederate armies in the South and in the North would be able between them to crush the enemy and dictate terms of peace, or at least give a new phase to the war by transferring it from the impoverished and desolated South to the rich, prosperous, and fertile North. …

While the plans for the proposed grand attack in the rear was maturing, I was asked to attempt a trip to Richmond and consented without hesitation. I was to consult with and receive final instructions from the Richmond authorities with regard to the proposed raid on the lakeshores and was also to attend to a variety of commercial and other matters, and especially to obtain letters and dispatches for Canada.

Now was my time to make use of Col. Baker, and I accordingly resolved to see what I could do with him without more delay. Having received my papers and instructions, therefore, I went to Washington and called on the colonel, who received me … and asked what he could do for me, for he saw … that I had some definite project on hand and began to believe that I really meant serious business.

In order to understand the situation from Col. Baker’s point of view, it may be necessary to state that more than once rumors that attempts to liberate the Confederate prisoners were to be made had been in circulation and that Baker, as I knew, was exceedingly anxious to effect the arrest of some of the more active of the Confederate agents engaged in this and similar schemes.

I told him, therefore, that I had obtained information to the effect that a noted Confederate spy had been captured and was now in one of the prisons, from whence he could doubtless find means to communicate with Confederates outside. My proposition was that I should go to Richmond, where, by passing myself off as a Confederate among people with whom I was acquainted, I would not only … succeed in finding out exactly who this man was and where he was, but what he and his confederates were trying to do. I suggested, also, that I could most likely pick up other information of sufficient value to pay for whatever the trip would cost the government.

When I had explained what I proposed to do, Baker said, “I am afraid if you attempt to run through the lines the Rebs will capture you. [If] they do, they will use you rough.”

I replied, “I am not afraid to take the risk if you will only give me the means of making the trip and attend to getting me through the Federal lines.”

“It will be a troublesome thing to get you through our lines,” said Baker, “for it don’t do to let everybody know what is going on when a bit of business like this is on hand, and after you pass our lines you will have to get through those of the rebels, and that you will find no easy job, I can tell you, for they are getting more and more suspicious and particular every day.”

“Oh, as for that,” said I, “I can … go to Havana, where my relatives are living, and try and run through from there. I believe, however, that I can get through from here if I make the right kind of an effort — at any rate, I would like to make the attempt, if only to show you what I am capable of.”

The colonel laughed at my enthusiasm and said, “Well, you are a plucky little woman, and as you seem to be so anxious to spy out what the Rebs are doing, I have half a notion to give you a chance. You must not blame me, however, if you get caught, and they take a notion to hang you, for, you know, that is a way they have of dealing with people who engage in this sort of business, and your sex won’t save you.”

“Oh,” said I, “I don’t think that my neck was ever made to be fitted in a noose, and I am willing to risk it.”

[H]e gave me a variety of instructions about how to proceed and about the particular kind of information I was to endeavor to obtain. I saw very plainly that he did not entirely trust me, or, rather, that he was afraid to trust me too much, but I attributed his lack of confidence in me to the fact that I was as yet untried and consequently might be led by my enthusiasm into underrating the difficulties of the task I was undertaking rather than to any doubt in his mind with regard to my fidelity. I resolved, therefore, to give him such proofs of my abilities as well as of my fidelity as would insure me his entire confidence in the future.

It having been determined that I should make the trip, Baker told me to get ready for my journey immediately, and, in the mean time, he could procure me the necessary passes to enable me to get through the Federal lines, and money to meet my expenses.

When we next met, he gave me five thousand dollars in bogus Confederate bills and one hundred and fifty dollars in greenbacks, which he said ought to be enough to see me through all right. I suggested that if the Confederates caught me passing bogus currency, they would be apt to deal harder with me than they would simply as a spy. Baker laughed at this and said that that was one of the risks I must run but that he did not think there was any danger, as these bogus notes passed more readily in the Confederacy than the genuine ones did, which he could only account for on the supposition that the Confederacy was a bogus government. He seemed to think that this was rather a good joke, although I was not able to see exactly where the laugh came in, and am afraid that I must have struggled hard with the faint smile that I attempted.

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.