Loreta’s Civil War: This delectable creature

The bloody lawlessness of Western communities and of Western men fascinate and outrage Velazquez as she moves westward.

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 65: The bloody lawlessness of Western communities and of Western men fascinate and outrage Velazquez as she moves westward.

******

My traveling companions were a rather rough set. The men on the front seat — who proved to be what I took them for, mountaineers — had some whiskey, of which they partook rather more freely than was good for them, and they were a little inclined to be boisterous. They did not make themselves disagreeable to me, however, and were evidently inclined to be on their good behavior on account of a lady being present. In spite of their rough manners they were better gentlemen than the fellow who sat next to me and who wore more stylish clothes than they did. They used no black-guard language or profanity and showed a disposition to be attentive to me whenever they had an opportunity.

This other man, however, swore fearfully, and, in spite of my being on the seat with him, made use of language such as no true gentleman would degrade himself by using under any circumstances. At length, noticing the expression of disgust on my face, one of the mountaineers on the front seat, said, “See here, old chap, just remember there is a female aboard this stagecoach, will you?”

The other replied, “I am a captain in the United States Army, sir, and I wish you to respect my commission.”

“I don’t care a d–n who you are,” said one of them, called Bill by his companions. “You simmer down mighty quick,” and with that he took him by the throat and choked him until he was nearly black in the face.

This treatment was effectual, and he did simmer down, and I was annoyed no more by him during the balance of the trip, while Bill and his friends earned my hearty respect despite their rough ways and their over-fondness for whiskey-drinking.

I shall not attempt to describe the rough and toilsome ride over the plains. It was scarcely such a journey as one would make for a mere pleasure trip, and yet it was one worth making, if only for the reason that it afforded an opportunity to study with some minuteness a country that ere many years will probably be the seat of empire on this continent. Much of this land between Omaha and the Rocky Mountains is, undoubtedly, capable of great improvement under a proper system of cultivation, and that it ultimately will be settled and improved there can be no doubt. Just at present, however, there are more inviting regions to which settlers may be expected to flock in preference.

In course of time we arrived at one of the most remarkable products of Western civilization — the town of tents called Julesburg. I had seen a great deal of life and a great deal of rough life, but when I beheld this place, I thought that I would prefer to be excused from choosing it as a permanent residence. In fact, a very brief stay in Julesburg was eminently satisfying, and I was quite content to leave it with a hope in my heart that I would never be compelled to find myself within sight of it again.

Card-playing and whiskey-drinking, embellished with blasphemy, seemed to be the chief occupations of the Julesburg citizens, while murder was their commonest amusement. Many of these men had been brought up and educated in civilized communities and knew what decent living was, and yet, so soon as they would get out here, they would throw off all restraint and develop into worse savages than the red men. Such a collection of fiends in human shape as Julesburg was at the time I visited the place, I hope never to see again. The women were, if anything, worse than the men, and I did not meet more than two of my own sex while I was there who made the most distant claims to even common decency or self-respect.

The reckless bloodthirstiness of most of the men baffles description. Pistols and knives were produced on the slightest provocation, and often on no provocation at all, and no ties of friendship appeared to be strong enough to check the murderous propensities of some of the ruffians.

While standing in the board shanty, which was dignified by the name of a station, waiting for the stage to come up, I saw a fiend in human shape deliberately shoot down a young man of about twenty years of age. While his victim was writhing on the ground, he stepped up and fired two more shots into his prostrate body, and then, pulling out a huge knife, was about to cut his throat. Two of the murderer’s comrades who seemed to have a little humanity in them, now interfered, but only to have him turn upon them, with his eyes flashing with fury and his mouth full of oaths. I expected to see a general free fight, but the fellow, apparently satisfied with his bloody work, permitted himself finally to be persuaded to leave his victim and go away. I had witnessed many shocking scenes, but nothing so atrocious as this, and I was heartily glad when the stage shortly after drove up and I was able to say farewell to Julesburg.

It is due to these desperadoes, however, to say that they are not entirely without some good qualities. When they have any reason to think that a woman is really respectable they will protect her, and they are always free with their money and ready to help any one who may be in distress. Their vices, however, so far outnumber their virtues that their good deeds will scarcely count for much when they are called upon to settle their final accounts.

My companions of the stagecoach, as we rolled out of Julesburg, were a rougher and more unpleasant set than the first party, and one of the most disagreeable among them was, I am ashamed to say, a woman. The men were tolerably full when we started, and we were scarcely off before they produced a bottle, and, after taking some of the fearful smelling whiskey which it contained, passed it around. I begged to be excused from partaking, but the other female passenger was not so fastidious, and she took a good drink every time it was handed to her. Her whiskey-drinking capacity was great, equal to that of any of the men.

The language this woman used was frightful, and she seemed to be unable to open her lips without uttering some blasphemous or obscene expression. Finally, having taken eight or nine big drinks from the bottle, she became stupidly drunk, and then, to vary the monotony of her proceedings, she produced a filthy pipe, which she filled with the blackest plug tobacco, and commenced to smoke. The fumes from this pipe were sickening to me, but I was willing to let her smoke in peace, for it at least kept her quiet and soothed her until she fell into a deep and drunken sleep.

In this fashion we rolled along until we came to Cheyenne, which appeared to be quite a town and a decided improvement on Julesburg. A number of moderately good-looking houses were already occupied, while others were in process of erection, and everything seemed to indicate that this, in a short time, was likely to be a really thriving place. The driver pulled up his horses, shouting, “Cheyenne House!” and out the occupants of the stagecoach tumbled, the drunken woman and all, although she was so far gone that one of the men was forced to almost lift her out to prevent her from falling flat on the ground.

The Cheyenne House, in spite of its rather imposing name, was, taking it all in all, the worst apology for a hotel I had ever met with in the course of my rather extensive travels. It was a frame building of the rudest construction, while the lodging rooms — about eight by ten feet in size — were merely separated from each other by canvas partitions which rendered any real privacy an absolute impossibility. The beds, or rather the bunks, in these rooms were large enough for two persons, and it was expected that two persons would occupy each of them, the luxury of a single bed being something unheard of in that locality. The mattresses and pillows were made of flour bags — the miller’s brands still on them — stuffed with straw, and the coverlets were a pair of gray army blankets with “U.S.A.” plainly marked — undoubtedly the plunder of some rascally quartermaster who was bent on making his residence on the frontier pay him handsomely even if he had to cheat the government.

On entering the hotel, we were ushered into a good-sized room, the floor being made of the roughest pine boards, from which the tar exuded in thick and sticky lumps. A large railroad stove, heated red hot, was in the center of the room and was surrounded by a motley crowd of men, who were sitting in every describable posture, smoking, chewing, spitting, and blaspheming in a style that indicated a total ignorance on their part of the fact that they had souls to be saved. It was impossible to get near the stove, although it was quite cold, for none of these men offered to move, and seemed to consider a poor little woman, like myself, as something entirely beneath their notice.

To my great satisfaction I did not have to remain long in this choice company, for supper was announced as ready within a few moments of our arrival. I requested to be shown the washroom, and, on reaching it, found there a few old tin washbasins, all of which were vilely dirty, a sardine box with a lump of homemade soap in it, and a vile-looking tow towel on a roller, which, in addition to being utterly filthy, did not have a dry place on it as big as half a dollar. Fortunately, I had my own soap and towels in my satchel and managed to perform my ablutions in a moderately satisfactory fashion. As for the basins and towels belonging to the place, I should not have hesitated to have used them, rough as they were, had they been moderately clean, for, on the frontier, we have no right to expect the accommodations of the Grand Central Hotel of New York or the Hotel le Louvre of Paris and must expect to rough it. Still, even on the frontier, soap and water are cheap, and people who profess to keep hotels and who take the money of the public ought to make some effort to have things reasonably neat and tidy.

The dining-room was like the rest of the building, of the roughest possible construction. The table was covered with a dark colored oil-cloth, full of grease and dirt, and the supper, although it was such as a hungry traveler could have relished had it been properly prepared, was so uninviting in appearance that I could eat but little of it.

Being much fatigued, so soon as I had swallowed a few mouthfuls I sought my room, but, on arriving there, found, to my utter astonishment, that the woman who had come with me in the stage was occupying the bed. When I remonstrated, I was told that it was impossible for me to have a room to myself and speedily found that I either had to submit or else pass the night in the parlor among the roughs congregated there. The alternative of sharing the bed with my fellow traveler was preferable, for there at least I should be safe, as the room was over the landlord’s private apartments, while the parlor being over the barroom was liable to have a bullet coming through the floor before morning.

I accordingly submitted to circumstances but did not obtain much satisfaction from my couch, for, independently of its unpleasant human occupant, it was fairly alive with vermin. My companion, however, snored away in happy unconsciousness of any such disturbances, being stupefied with whiskey and overcome by the fatigues of travel. She was evidently accustomed to this sort of thing and was not disposed to be fastidious.

The next morning, she was called to go in the stage. I, having determined to remain for a day or two, was therefore to part company with her. She got up, and I was surprised to see that she had been in bed all night without removing any of her clothing. From under her pillow she took a belt containing a formidable-looking knife and a six-shooter, which she buckled around her waist, and as she did so, seeing that I was awake, asked, in a sarcastic sort of way, “How did you sleep?”

“Not much,” I replied. “This kind of a bed don’t suit me.”

“Well, I’ve slept too d–d much,” she said. “I am tired yet. I’d as lives sleep on a board or a rock as on one of these d–d old straw beds!”

This was nice language for a woman to utter, but it was nothing in comparison to some that I had heard her use the day before. Soon, to my infinite relief, this delectable creature was gone, and I was left to myself.

Loreta’s Civil War: The sensations of pleasure

Velazquez asks Confederate veterans about that one woman who disguised herself as an army officer, and she relishes their responses.

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 56: Velazquez asks Confederate veterans about that one woman who disguised herself as an army officer, and she relishes their responses.

******

From Rheims, we passed on and made a flying visit to Hamburg, the famous watering-place, and from there went to Frankfort on the Main. On one side of the city are to be seen the mountains, while on the other extends a rich, fertile plain. I almost wished that I was the wife of one of those good-natured, honest, industrious German farmers we were constantly meeting so that I might live and die in a snug, home-like little farm-house, half hidden by the grain, and surrounded by flowering shrubs and vines, such as were to be seen on all sides. Nowhere have I beheld more evidences of solid comfort and downright good living than in the vicinity of Frankfort, and there are no people on the earth happier than these hard-working but contented Germans, who know how to enjoy life in right honest fashion. …

Having exhausted the sights of Frankfort, we prepared to move on, and there was considerable debate as to whether we should next go to Italy or to Russia. I was most anxious to visit Poland, and so it was finally determined that we should go there. I was sorry for having taken this trip afterwards, for there was nothing in Krakow — a city ruined and desolated by war — that could give me pleasure. Indeed, the whole land looked as if it was under a blight. I took advantage, however, of the occasion to renew my acquaintance with M. Koskalosky, a young Pole, whom I had met in Paris just before the close of the war. He was a very pleasant, cultivated gentleman and a sincere friend of the South. I hope that the time will come when the people of Poland will be able to regain their independence. They are cruelly oppressed now, and their beautiful country is a waste and desolation.

Instead of going to Italy, we now returned to Paris, having seen much to interest and delight us, but having, after all, found no country that was the equal of America, towards which my heart turned with increasing fondness the longer I was absent from it.

In Paris we met Mr. Dayton, the minister from the United States, and were quite cordially received by him. I had carefully avoided going near this gentleman on my former visit because I was aware that he knew me and thought that, perhaps, he might bear me some ill will. He was pleasant enough, however, and I sincerely regretted not having met him sooner.

At the Hotel de Louvre, where we stopped, there was quite a list of old Confederates, some of whom had been my army companions. I had the advantage of them, for they had only known me as Lt. Harry T. Buford, and they did not recognize me in female attire. Being extremely anxious to know what they thought of me, I obtained introductions to most of them and began to try and get them to commit themselves.

Col. M. was the first one I spoke to on this delicate subject. After inquiring about the condition of affairs in America, I asked him if he knew what had become of that female officer who figured so extensively during the greater part of the war.

“Oh,” said the colonel, “I knew her very well. She was in my corps for a time, but afterwards she went West, and I do not know how she finished her career.”

“What do you think of her?”

“She is a very fine woman and made a good officer. She was very popular indeed.”

“Do you think that it was proper for a woman to do as she did?”

“Well, no, not exactly but she did so much good for the Cause that she can well be excused. If the men had all been as plucky, things would have turned out very different. She always bore an excellent name, and I would fight for her in a moment if I heard any one traducing her. I would like very much to see her again and would be willing to travel all the way back to America to have that pleasure.”

The reader may imagine the sensations of pleasure which this enthusiastic opinion of myself caused me. I was aching to tell him who I was, but there were others whom I desired to question and so concluded to preserve my secret a little longer.

While I was talking with Col. M., a servant in livery appeared with a card on a silver waiter from Col. D. and Maj. C. I did not recognize the names but said I would receive them and so shook hands with Col. M., giving him a hearty request to call on me again. The two gentlemen appeared, and the colonel said, “You do not appear to remember me.”

“No, sir,” I replied. “I think I recollect your face but I cannot recall where I have met you.”

“Do you not recollect meeting me in Cuba, at So-and-so’s house?”

“Oh, certainly I do. I must ask that you will excuse my forgetfulness.”

“I was looking over the list of arrivals, and seeing your name thought that I would take the liberty of calling to inquire after your health.”

I asked whether he had met my brother’s family, and on his saying that he had not, I conducted him and his friend to their parlor. Leaving the major for my brother and his wife to entertain, I took the colonel to a remote part of the room, and after some preliminary conversation, asked him the same questions that I had Col. M.

He expressed admiration of my valor but was so bitter in denouncing me for assuming male attire that I was thoroughly disgusted with him.

A few days after this, I returned with my brother and family to London and immediately on my arrival in that city wrote two letters, one to Col. M. and the other to Col. D., telling them who I was. Col. M. replied, expressing great gratification at having met me and a wish that I had made known to him that I was the heroine of whom he had such a decided admiration. Col. D. did not reply but his friend Maj. C wrote me a letter in French, in which he endeavored to apologize for him and expressed a wish, for his own sake, that I would return to Paris, as he was anxious to be better acquainted with a lady who had performed so many valorous exploits.

We remained about fifteen days in London, stopping at the house of a friend, Mr. T., a right jolly fellow who had resided in England for many years. Shortly after our arrival we visited Hyde Park, a very beautiful pleasure-ground, but not to be compared with the Parisian parks. This event was a source of much gratification to me, as it gave me an opportunity to see her majesty Queen Victoria, who drove by in a carriage with six horses. For this lady I always had a great admiration, esteeming her a model queen and a model mother. She was dressed with great neatness and simplicity, and there was nothing showy or ostentatious about her. …

Our decision to return [to America] … was far from pleasing to my sister-in-law, who desired to reside in Spain. She blamed me for influencing my brother contrary to her wishes and was jealous of my affection for him. The result was that a coolness sprang up between us that made our intercourse with each other anything but a pleasure to either.

On our arrival in New York, my brother was persuaded by his wife to go to Mexico, where her sister resided. I was not willing to go with them, and the result was that we parted company with many regrets on my side at the prospect of a long separation from a brother whom I loved dearer than myself and with whom I had only recently been reunited, after having scarcely seen each other during many years.

It could not be helped, however, and I felt that it was best he should go with his wife and children, leaving me to make my own way in the world, as I had been doing for so long a time. When they were once off, I turned my attention to my own affairs and began to make plans for the future. Before determining, however, on any particular course, I concluded that I would make a trip through the South for the purpose of observing the condition of the country and of finding out whether there was anything I could do to advance the interest of the people among whom my lot had been cast for so many years. …

My first stopping-place was Baltimore, where I met many old friends who expressed themselves as very glad to see me again but who represented the condition of things at the South as most deplorable. What I learned from them made me more than ever resolved to continue my journey, for, although the war was over, I was still anxious to do something, so far as my power extended, for the Southern people. …

I was advised in the strongest manner not to visit Washington at this time and was assured that it would be a very perilous thing to do. Naturally a little obstinate and self-willed, the opposition of my friends only made me the more desirous of carrying out my original intention, no matter what the hazard might be. To Washington, accordingly, I proceeded, and called on some acquaintances, who received me with the utmost cordiality.

The person whom I particularly wished to see — an official in the War Department — had, however, gone South. My friend Col. Baker was also out of the city. I did not know whether to congratulate myself or not at missing a meeting with him. I was resolved, on going to Washington, not to fight shy of him and to give him an opportunity to pay off old scores if he wished. Baker was certainly the person of all others who had a right to have a grudge against me, and yet I had an ardent desire to meet him again, just to hear what he would have to say about the tricks I so successfully played upon him. As the colonel was out of the city, however, I did not have the pleasure of exchanging notes with him, and I do not know to this day whether he ever discovered that I was a Confederate secret-service agent.

Loreta’s Civil War: The elegantly attired woman

Velazquez escapes post-Civil War America and heads for what she hopes will be a relaxing tour of Europe.

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 55: Velazquez escapes post-Civil War America and heads for what she hopes will be a relaxing tour of Europe.

******

It was not many days before my brother arrived with his wife, two children, and a nurse. It was a most joyful reunion, and I tried to be as affectionate as I knew how to my sister-in-law and the pretty little babes, one of whom was a namesake of my own. It was impossible for me, however, to feel towards her as I did towards my brother, and I fancied that she was not as well disposed towards me as she might have been.

Once together, our arrangements were soon made, and we left New York on board of one of the Cunard steamers. I wondered what my friend Col. Baker would think of my disappearance and could not help laughing at the neat trick I had played upon him.

Despite the reasons I had for being glad to find myself speeding towards a foreign shore, it was not without a pang of regret that I watched those of America fading in the distance. This, after all, was my country, where dwelt my friends. Here was the scene of the great events in which I had taken a not altogether unimportant part; and it was like separating from a portion of myself to sail away from such a land, and to feel that, probably, I might never return.

Before we had been long at sea, however, I had something else to think of than sentimental regrets. Both my brother and myself were compelled to succumb to seasickness, which, although it did not affect us as violently as it did some of the other passengers, was sufficiently unpleasant to absorb all our thoughts. My sister-in-law, being a hardened traveler, escaped, but the negro girl who acted as nurse for the children was taken very badly, and between her agony and her fright she was a most ludicrous object.

In a couple of days, I was well enough to enjoy myself, and my brother, who had made the acquaintance of the doctor, introduced him to me. This gentleman was a fair-haired Anglo Saxon, and he appeared to think it incumbent upon him to pay me particular attention. I was quite willing to cultivate his acquaintance, and he was so much encouraged by my amiable demeanor towards him that he very speedily began to be even unpleasantly polite, and I was anxious to devise some means of getting rid of him. I did at length succeed in finding a rival to him in a somewhat odd fashion.

Among the passengers were two quite handsome young Spaniards, who kept pretty much to themselves, apparently for the reason that no one was able to talk to them. I noticed that one of them followed me a good deal with his eyes, and resolved, if a favorable opportunity offered, to strike up an acquaintance with him.

One morning, after breakfast, I and my friends came up on deck, and the doctor, who had been acting as my escort, excused himself to go and make his sick calls. The two young Spaniards stood leaning on the guards, and from the way they looked at me I judged that I was the subject of their conversation.

Leaving my brother and his wife, I went and seated myself near them but gave no indication that I was noticing them particularly. They had heard me speak English to my brother and sister and the others with whom I had engaged in conversation, and had no reason to think that I understood any other language.

I had scarcely taken my seat when they commenced to talk about me in Spanish, commenting upon my elegant dress and the sparkling diamonds which adorned my person, and expressing a desire to know who I was. At length one of them said, “Oh, how I would like to speak the American language. She is a handsome senorita and evidently very rich. If I could converse with her I would soon have an introduction.”

“Yes,” said the other, “I should like to know who she is.”

“Oh, there is something the matter with me,” said the first, putting his hand to his breast.

“You are in love. You had better get somebody to act as interpreter for you.”

Just then the doctor came up and interfered with my amusement. He said, as he seated himself beside me, “If it is not impertinent, may I ask how long you have been a widow?”

“About two years,” I replied.

One of the young Spaniards who could understand a little English said to his companion, “She is a young widow.”

“That makes no difference,” said the other.

I said to the doctor, “I wonder if we can see any fish?” and walked to the side and looked overboard.

I stood quite close to Pablo, the young man whom I supposed to be falling in love with me, and as we turned away, after looking into the water for a few moments, I dropped my handkerchief on purpose.

The Spaniard picked it up, and, touching my arm, handed it to me, raising his sombrero politely as he did so.

I smiled and thanked him in his native tongue. It was most amusing to see the expression of horror that overspread his countenance as he heard me, and thus discovered that I must have understood the conversation he had been holding with his friend.

So soon as the doctor left me, he advanced, and, taking off his hat, asked me if I was a Spaniard. I replied that I was of Spanish descent, whereupon he began the most profuse apologies and hoped that my ladyship was not offended at the remarks that had passed between himself and friend. I said that so far from being offended, I felt highly complimented by the flattering opinions that had been expressed with regard to me, and thereupon the young gentleman and I started a flirtation that lasted for the balance of the voyage, and that, in addition to being agreeable enough in itself, had the effect of keeping the doctor somewhat at a distance. He was most solicitous for us to visit Spain and was not satisfied until he extorted from my brother a promise to do so.

This young gentleman continued his attentions to myself after we got to London, and on account of some sightseeing, in which he had planned to have my company, he and his friend missed the steamer in which they expected to have sailed for Spain and were obliged to remain for a number of days beyond their appointed time. I do not think that either of them regretted this very much. I am sure one of them did not. My brother did not like my friend Pablo, thinking him proud and haughty but this was merely a Castilian reserve of manner, and I thought it rather an attractive characteristic than otherwise.

At length, our young Spaniards left us, and we began to plan our future movements. My brother was very anxious to go to the Continent immediately. He did not like the English climate or the English people, saying that they had always been our enemies, and that during the late war they had acted treacherously to both parties. The French, he contended, were the true friends of America, while their beautiful country was far better worth visiting than this damp, foggy England.

I had no great preference, being willing to go almost anywhere, and consequently, although there was much in England that I desired to see, acceded to my brother’s wishes without hesitation and consented to try France first and to keep England in reserve, to be explored after we had visited the Continent.

Crossing the Channel, we entered France at Cherbourg, the great naval depot. At this place were several vessels which had been negotiated for by the Confederates, and which, if they could have been obtained, would greatly have strengthened our little navy. Without stopping, however, to examine these or other objects of interest, we sped on to Paris, where we took rooms at the Grand Hotel.

We were more fortunate than Mark Twain represents himself to have been and were not bothered with guides. My brother had been educated in Paris, while I had seen a little of it, and we both could speak French. My brother was well acquainted with the city, and he was anxious to show his wife and myself all that was worth seeing in it. We accordingly hired a handsome private livery and prepared to enjoy ourselves in the best style.

The magnificence with which I was surrounded was in great contrast to what I had been accustomed to in America, and it was difficult for me to appreciate the fact that I, the elegantly attired woman, who was enjoying or endeavoring to enjoy the manifold pleasures of Parisian life, had but a short time before been wearing a uniform of gray and living the roughest kind of a life in camp and on the battlefield. I could not honestly say to myself, however, that I preferred the luxury and splendors of the great French capital to the woods and fields of my dear South, and I have had as blissful sleep, wrapped in my soldier’s blanket out under the stars as I could get in the most expensive apartments of the Grand Hotel.

Our days and nights in Paris were spent in sight-seeing, theater-going, and in endeavoring to find all the enjoyment that money could buy. We did enjoy ourselves, for there is no city in the world that is better worth seeing or that presents greater attractions to the visitor than Paris.

The Louvre, the Tuileries, the Arc de I’Etoile, the ancient Cathedral of Notre Dame, with its grand architecture and its many associations, with a visit to the Jardin de Mabille in the evening, employed our first day. It was all very interesting, but I could have had greater satisfaction in investigating into matters that represented more particularly the industries and resources of the country. As for the famous Mabille, it is nothing more than a beer-garden, while the doings that are permitted there and at the Cloiserie de Lilas are such that they are not fit places for decent people to visit. I was heartily disgusted with both of these gardens — disgusted with what I saw and more disgusted with people who looked like ladies and gentlemen, gazing with approval and applause at performances that had no attractions except their indecency.

A drive on the Bois de Boulogne, which was on our program for the next day, I really enjoyed greatly, as I did also a visit to the Lyrique Theatre, where I saw finished acting and elegant stage setting such as I had never been accustomed to in America. In the course of our stay in Paris we visited nearly all the principal theaters, and although I never was much of a play-goer, everything was done in such finished style that it was a real gratification to attend these performances.

The College de France, where my brother had been educated, and the Medical School in which he had studied interested him greatly, but I was satisfied with looking at them from the outside. I was not curious, either, to visit the Catacombs. My brother persuaded me to go to this city of the dead but when about to descend into the dark caverns, filled with the moldering remains of poor humanity, I shrunk back and refused to enter. I had too much reverence for the sleepers to make their last resting-place a resort for the curious. I feared not the dead but to have gone among these skeletons would have revived memories of the past that were anything but pleasant ones. It made me shudder to think how many poor souls I had seen launched into eternity without a moment’s warning, some of them, perhaps, by my hand. The idea of such a thing was horrible, although in the excitement of a great battle the slaughter that is going on is as little thought of as are the dangers to one’s self.

At the Invalides we saw the magnificent Tomb of Napoleon I., the most imposing monument that has, perhaps, ever been erected to any monarch. As we were leaving, we were gratified with a sight of the emperor and empress, who were visiting the building. The empress was a very handsome woman and looked as if she was a very amiable one. She was dressed in a silk robe, of a light lavender color, which was very elaborately trimmed with lace. Her bonnet was of the same lavender tint and was trimmed with white. A pair of white kid gloves and a point-lace scarf fastened with a brooch of emeralds and diamonds completed the toilet. The emperor was in uniform. He was a rather diminutive man, with a keen eye, and he reminded me not a little of Gen. Beauregard. Anyone who could have seen the two would have said, unhesitatingly, that they were relatives.

Sight-seeing in Paris was an agreeable enough employment, but I very soon had enough of it and was not sorry to leave for Rheims, the great wine mart. This city is distant between three and four hours from Paris by the railroad and is a very interesting place, as well because of its historical associations as because it is a great industrial center.

The great cathedral is a magnificent building, which I took particular pleasure in visiting, for the reason that in it all the old kings of France were crowned. It was here that Joan of Arc, clad in full armor, and with her consecrated banner in hand, witnessed the coronation of the king for whom she fought so well, and whose dominion she was mainly instrumental in securing. I almost imagined, as I stood in the cathedral, that I could behold the splendid scene that was presented on that occasion.

At the time of my visit to Rheims, however, I was of a more practical turn of mind than I had been a few years before. The romance had been pretty well knocked out of me by the rough experience of real life, and although I was better able to appreciate the performances of Joan of Arc at their true value, somehow they did not interest me to the extent they once did. I took more pleasure in watching the processes of manufacturing the famous champagne wines and in speculating as to whether such a profitable industry could not be introduced into the United States.

I have every reason to believe that wines, as fine in flavor as any of the European brands, can be, and in time will be, made in America. They will not be the same and will have a peculiar flavor of their own, for the flavors of wines depend upon the soil where the grapes are grown to such an extent that very different kinds are manufactured from grapes growing but a short distance from each other. Our American wines, even if of a somewhat different flavor, ought, however, to be just as good, in their way, as are the European. The fact is, that some of our wines will already compare very favorably with those brought from abroad. We cannot as yet, however, produce anything equal to the very finest brands, but we will do that in time, when we learn some of the delicate points about cultivation and manufacture which the Europeans have been for centuries acquiring. Viticulture is a business that is particularly well suited for many portions of our Southern States, and it is to be hoped that the people may be induced to take it up much more largely than they have ever yet done.

In this part of France, it is possible to travel for miles through a highly-cultivated country and not see the sign of a building of any kind. The people congregate in small villages, which is certainly more social than living in isolated farm-houses. The houses in these villages are mostly small, are built of stone, and reminded me not a little of some huts in the Kaw Indian reservation. They are made very attractive, however, by being surrounded by neat little gardens, filled with flowers, which are tended with great care.

There was one thing I saw in Rheims which pleased me very much. It was a troop of round, rosy-faced girls, who came running, laughing, and singing out of a factory, at evening, as full of sport as if they had been playing all day instead of earning their bread and butter. They were so fresh and wholesome-looking and apparently enjoyed life so much that I could not but admire them. Such people as these are the real wealth of a country, and it is no wonder France is rich and prosperous when she has such citizens.

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

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

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

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

Read previous chapters of her incredible story here.

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

******

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Suppose she should be a spy?”

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

“Yes.”

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

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

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

“Yes, sir, I am a widow.”

“And you were never married again?”

“No, sir.”

“Wouldn’t you like to be?”

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

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

“I have been there.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What is the news?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Recommended reading / viewing / listening

This week: Reviews of ‘True Detective’ and ‘OITNB’ / Tracking the Islamic State in the U.S. / Happy birthday to George H.W. Bush / Women try to understand ‘Goodfellas’ / New b/w photos of Paris

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This week: Reviews of ‘True Detective’ and ‘OITNB’ / Tracking the Islamic State in the U.S. / Happy birthday to George H.W. Bush / Women try to understand ‘Goodfellas’ / New b/w photos of Paris

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

1. ‘True Detective’ Season 2: TV Review
By Tim Goodman | The Hollywood Reporter | June 11
“Let’s just say it’s no season 1.”

2. ‘Orange Is the New Black’ Is Somehow Funnier and Sadder Than It’s Ever Been
By Richard Lawsom | Vanity Fair | June 11
“This season, bawdy pubic-hair gags bump up against jokes about economics and spiritualism, the grime of prison life allowing for visceral, intimate revulsion, but also serving as a kind of blank canvas for larger metaphor.”

3. ‘George H.W. Bush’
American Experience :: PBS | 2008
“The life and career of our 41st president, from his service in World War II and his early career in Texas to his days in the Oval Office, first as vice president to Ronald Reagan, then as the leader who presided over the first Gulf War. Drawing upon Bush’s personal diaries and interviews with his closest advisors and most prominent critics, the film also explores Bush’s role as the patriarch of a political family whose influence is unequaled in modern American life.”

4. Climate Hope City: how Minecraft can tell the story of climate change
By Keith Stuart | The Guardian | June 12
“As part of our Keep it in the Ground campaign, the Guardian has commissioned a Minecraft map exhibiting a city filled with real-world climate initiative”

5. Two Women Try Their Hardest To Understand ‘Goodfellas’
By Lauren Duca and Eric Whitney | The Huffington Post | June 11
“I immediately threw my Godfather Blu-ray box set in the trash of overflowing tissues; I clearly just watched those to fuel the anti-violence protest rallies I go to after Wednesday book club. What do we do? Do you want to bring over a couple pints and consult Carrie Bradshaw for advice? My whole world is changing.”

6. Serge Ramelli captures Paris in black and white
Architectural Digest | June 2015
“Serge Ramelli’s striking black-and-white photography of Paris is the subject of a forthcoming book from teNeues. Through Ramelli’s lens, the City of Light and its notable landmarks are rendered dark and moody.”

7. Visiting Presidential Libraries
By Nina Kendall | On the Road with the Histocrats | February 2015
“Are you looking to connect more with history? Are you planning a trip with friends or family who isn’t as excited about history as you? Consider adding a Presidential Library visit to your calendar.”

8. Busted
By Grace Na | Slate | June 11
“Why the women on Orange Is the New Black are serving time, one by one.”

9. Map: Is Islamic State in a neighborhood near you?
By Adam Goldman | WorldViews :: The Washington Post | June 11
“U.S. authorities have charged more than three dozen men and women around the country in connection with the Islamic State. Men outnumber women in those cases by a margin of nearly 5 to 1. The average age of the individuals — some have merely been charged, others have been convicted — is 26. One is a minor.”

10. D-Day Wasn’t the First Time Eisenhower Felt as if He Had Lost a Son
By Michael Beschloss | HistorySource :: The New York Times | Jun 2014
“Almost a half-century later, Eisenhower called this ‘the greatest disappointment and disaster in my life, the one I have never been able to forget completely.’ “

Recommended reading / viewing / listening

This week: A Civil War quiz / Google’s underwater Street View / The man who saved Paris from the Nazis / Slave ship discovered / Hepburn the fashion icon

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This week: A Civil War quiz / Google’s underwater Street View / The man who saved Paris from the Nazis / Slave ship discovered / Hepburn the fashion icon

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

1. What Do You Know? A Civil War Pop Quiz.
By Megan Kate Nelson | Disunion :: The New York Times | June 4
“Where was the westernmost battle of the Civil War fought? Who issued the first Emancipation Proclamation? Who burned Atlanta?”

2. Three Steps on Perry’s Comeback Trail
By Ross Ramsey | The Texas Tribune | June 4
“The road ahead of Rick Perry is a difficult one, but it’s not that complicated. And the number of candidates running for the Republican presidential nomination helps him more than it hurts. If he can take care of three things, the former Texas governor will still be a presidential candidate at the start of 2016.”

3. Don’t Overthink It, Less Is More When It Comes to Creativity
By Jessica Schmerler | Scientific American | May 2015
“If the cerebellum plays a role in creativity, it could alter our understanding of how the brain functions.”

4. Google Street View goes underwater
Ny Nick Lavars | Gizmag | June 5
“In an effort to raise awareness ahead of World Oceans Day on June 8, Google has expanded its Street View service to let users explore a range of stunning coastal and underwater scenes.”

5. Paris Saved by a Bullitt
By Sam Roberts | Snapshot :: Foreign Affairs | June 2
“[O]n this 75th anniversary of the Fall of Paris, a close reading of [U.S. Ambassador William Bullitt’s] private papers, many of which have never been available to biographers before, and the personal accounts of several of his most intimate confidants, demonstrate conclusively that the characteristics that grated most on his critics — his cavalier cocksureness, his ambition, his relentless fraternizing with the French, and his unflagging faith in America’s global obligations — were exactly what the moment demanded.”

6. Grim History Traced in Sunken Slave Ship Found Off South Africa
By Helene Cooper | The New York Times | May 31
“The story of the São José, like the slave trade itself, spanned continents and oceans, from fishing villages in Africa to sheikhdoms where powerful chiefs plotted with European traders to traffic in human beings to work on plantations in the New World.”

7. Turkey’s Erdogan challenges opposition to find his golden toilet seat
By Humeyra Pamuk and Nick Tattersall | Oddly Enough :: Reuters | June 1
“Irritated by accusations of lavishness, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has vowed to resign if the leader of the main opposition can find a single golden toilet seat in his vast new palace.”

8. The Wife Bonus Is Imperfect, But It’s Not Prostitution
By Phoebe Maltz Bovy | New Republic | May 31
“It doesn’t suddenly become a form of prostitution if, temporarily or even permanently, the female partner in an opposite-sex relationship is the substantially lower earner, or is not working outside the home.”

9. How Katharine Hepburn Became a Fashion Icon
By Amy Henderson | Smithsonian.com | May 2015
“Hepburn was part of the post-suffrage generation of women, and her screen persona resonated with that generation’s modern spirit of independence. Despite RKO’s determination to brand her otherwise, Hepburn succeeded in inventing herself.”

10. For Incarcerated Japanese-Americans, Baseball Was ‘Wearing the American Flag’
By Michael Beschloss | HistorySource :: The New York Times | June 2014
“By 1943, when some of those in the relocation camps were allowed to volunteer for war service, some of the ballplayers joined the Army’s almost all-Japanese-American 442nd Regimental Combat Team, which suffered grievous casualties in Europe and came to be called the most decorated military unit in American history.”

From a flame into a firestorm

Why the French Revolution devoured its own people.

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Why the French Revolution devoured its own people
An essay by Fernando Ortiz Jr.

Hope inspires nations to improve their societies, challenge their citizens’ capabilities, and face down seemingly invincible enemies. In revolutionary France, citizens and their leaders tasted the sweet fresh air of liberty, equality, and nationalist unity. They sensed their hopes for a brighter national and social future might be realized, and they determined that nothing would interfere with that grand realization. But how did those hopes lead France into the horrific era of the Terror? The tragic evolution from revolution to republic to Terror was not a linear nor an inevitable process. Challenges to the Revolution mounted, as did the Revolution’s responses to them. The key elements of the Revolution – the people who embraced that revolution, their political leadership, and the counterrevolutionary threats that haunted all of them – ground against each other, setting off sparks that ignited the rise of a new form of government and an era of bloodshed that still stains the shadowed passages of tormented human memory.

The French Revolution reordered the political mindsets of many eighteenth-century French people. The preceding era of the Enlightenment and the Republic of Letters nurtured not only an intellectual renaissance but also demanded and inspired challenges to the way the French regarded the Catholic Church, their places in a monarchy, and their social, economic, and creative potential as liberated people.1 That intimate revolution in self-image was furthered in 1763 and 1764 when the Parlement of Paris argued that “the king held his throne and legitimacy” from “fundamental” French laws, deflating the inherently supreme majesty of monarchy and subordinating it to the French polity’s larger legal authority.2

As economic crisis paralyzed France, the Old Regime’s political leadership failed to live up to the people’s “almost-millenarian hope” that those leaders could improve commoners’ impoverished lives, convincing many of those commoners that they had to take control of their own existence.3 The privileges the upper classes enjoyed angered the middle classes, already irritated with “paternalism of government” and dismissive of the Church as a “corporation which had ceased to perform its functions efficiently.”4 A new era was about to dawn over France.

The Revolution retained the king but stripped privileges from the Church and demanded from the clergy oaths of loyalty to the new Civil Constitution. The new national representatives asked the people to share their concerns and ideas. It was intimately revolutionary. The people were asked to review their lives and look at elements of their government and society that they themselves deemed could “be changed or improved or abolished.”5 The new Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizens promised a better future for an “imagined community” of equal citizens. The new October constitution formalized ideals of liberty and equality under a representative government, spiritually freed from Catholic doctrine, and under the paternalistic gaze of a weak and devoted monarch. While the reforms seemed to favor oppressed and voiceless lower classes, the Revolution did not have “a natural constituency.”6 Each citizen had their own self-interested reason for support or opposing the new era of liberty and equality.

By the early 1790s, the empowered and self-confident French people, no longer “docile followers” of the Old Regime’s well-trod paths through life, stood on the threshold of an undiscovered country, determined to face down the empires and kingdoms that besieged them, the political and economic differences that divided them, and, most importantly, the internal forces that conspired to undermine their Revolution’s promise of a new and better world.7

Revolutionary changes did not unfold without resistance, particularly from French sectors directly diminished by progressive policies, and the manner with which some changes were enacted inspired counterrevolutionary sentiments, conspiracies, and actions. Other counterrevolutionary actors feared further social disorder, insolvency, and unemployment, disagreed over food distribution policies, or simply suffered from bruised egos.8 Economic equality for the lower classes meant nothing if standards of living steadily fell.9

The nobles saw their privileges, including light tax burdens or exemptions from an incomprehensible financial system, stripped away “by violence and chicanery,” inspiring even elites who disliked each other to temporarily unite, thereby “creating one of the strands of the counterrevolution.”10 Some elites found a promising alliance with the other major French sector the Revolution diminished: the Catholic Church. Revolution policies expropriated church property, determined that embrace of a “Supreme Being” instead of God “eliminated the Church’s monopoly of public worship as well as its claim to special status,” issued a Civil Constitution of the Clergy in July 1790, and required the clergy to swear their allegiance to that constitution or resign their posts.11 The oath was meant to assert the people’s sovereignty over the church just as the Revolution asserted popular sovereignty over the government, class hierarchies, and the monarchy. The revolutionary government expected the Church to “proselytize for it and to keep order for it” among the masses.12

But that oath also became a rallying point for the Revolution’s leading enemies, who used it to break off sections of popular sentiment bristling over the Revolution’s treatment of their sacred religious institutions or feeling discontent over a multitude of other consequences of revolutionary policies. Counterrevolutionary elites focused disruptive energies on Catholic-rich regions of France and manipulated Catholic-Protestant divisions. The oath provided the counterrevolution a group from which to draw support that might have otherwise embraced the new era. Resistance to the Civil Constitution “took on the characteristics of a mass movement.”13

The oath also stressed the fragile loyalties of clerical deputies participating in revolutionary government. The faith they shared with most other deputies in the unifying symbol of the King Louis XVI bolstered the Revolution’s fragile coalition. His attempt to escape the Revolution sent devastating shockwaves through the delicate political networks and contributed to the people’s eventual capacity to wage the Terror against the threats he represented.14

The king publicly swore loyalty and support for the new constitution. But he secretly despised everything it represented. The Civil Constitution of Clergy disgusted him. In letters he raged against his loss of traditional monarchical authority.15 His escape in June 1791, his capture, and his discovered letters – including one he left behind explaining his reasons for his flight — exposed to his subjects what he truly felt about their aspirations and ambitions.

Louis warped the monarchy’s moral authority and stained any politician subsequently willing to deal with it or defend it. Opinion and justification over his actions split the political accord in the Assembly.16 The flight shattered for provincial citizens and officials any belief in the revolutionary government’s credibility, effectiveness, and stability. Who would help them? A government that accomplished nothing? A divided church only half-heartedly embracing a new era of social justice? A king that lied to their faces? The king’s flight and his sentiments convinced “the urban masses and the national guards” that they had to deal with incidents of counterrevolutionary unrest with degrees of force that they themselves deemed appropriate — with “their own solutions” — and Paris could do little to stop them.17 Perhaps, a few thought, France did not need a king. It was a key moment “in the emergence of French nationalism.” Some letter-writers even referred to the deputies as the new fathers of a new country.18

The king’s actions sharpened in the politicians and citizens’ minds their suspicions and fears of looming counterrevolutionary forces conspiring to destroy the Revolution. Priests refused to take their oaths of loyalty. Provincials fought amongst themselves. Émigré armies massed in the borderlands. And the king confessed his disgust for his own subjects’ hopes and attempted to leave them to the mercy of what might have been a foreign invasion — that might still take place.19 Even the most paranoid revolutionaries eventually appeared prescient to commoners who had no idea what the next day might bring. That fear justified the new forms of justice, suspension of personal liberties, lethal brutality, and outright murder throughout France.

To deal with perceived threats, in August 1792, the Paris government authorized the disarming of any suspected counterrevolutionaries and searches of any suspected counterrevolutionary homes. Betraying the Revolution was something bad but taking oppositional action against it was even worse. Arresting people for throwing stones or shouting at guards, shutting down political clubs and newspapers, listening to private conversations, or simply looking for anything or anyone that seemed suspicious – these were the actions of a terrified government willing to fight imagined terrorism with repression of almost any degree.20 In September, rumors of prisoners planning to revolt when foreign armies invaded France inspired revolutionaries to massacre them, leaving up to 1,400 dead. On Sept. 21 “the [national] Convention abolished the monarchy and proclaimed the Republic.”21

Recent battlefield victories against foreign counterrevolutionary forces and the war’s expanded scope inspired the republic to call up 300,000 men, which sparked “an unprecedented wave of riots.” More importantly, the riots – and fresh battlefield defeats — sparked an official response: the centralization of national authority, new judicial tribunals to persecute suspected treason, and state-directed repression of domestic unrest and disloyalty with a “supreme police”22 The Revolution was threatened, and the government took the repressive torches from the people and transformed them into fireballs with which to incinerate the elites, the price-gougers, and traitors of any section of the endangered French Republic. Terror was not a new horror — what was new was that the Terror was systemic, “a deliberate policy of government,” so it was wide-reaching, simultaneous, and steady in its murderous hunger for victims.23

The war machine was a ravenous hurricane at the Terror’s core, hungry for materiel from churches, loyalty from the populace, and legions of soldiers to be thrown against foreign armies. Churches became “barracks, arsenals, or stables,” and anything of value was put to military use. But the mobilization campaign quickly became a dechristianization campaign, in which signs of any kind containing Christian references were torn down. The new man of the Republic would be spared the old superstitions of the failed Church. Church defenders were killed. Nothing better symbolized the Terror for many citizens than the dechristianization efforts.24

The campaign drew deep divisions between commoners who believed they commanded the government and the political leadership, some in power without popular mandates, which was prepared to brutally suppress any resistance or wavering acquiescence to their absolute wartime authority. These two elements, increasingly at odds with each other, intensified the Terror’s murderous chaos.25 Real and imagined fears inspired both the French people and their provisional government — particularly members of the Committee of Public Safety like Robespierre — to use fear to repress it. Fighting fire with fire simply intensified the fire.26

Robespierre’s campaign to purify the Revolution, first by invalidating any sense of guilt or culpability for the atrocities he felt were necessary, was aimed at the building the new society the Revolution’s earliest aspirations aspired to achieve. The Terror’s own monstrous judicial liberties were realized on local levels as committees expressed the persecutorial zealotry required to achieve the sanctioned purifications.27 The Terror was sustained by “a strange compound of reason, desperation, and fear,” and it redefined what was revolutionary – not ideology, not a new vision, not a new government. The Terror’s revolution was one of efficient execution of “effective measures” — slicing through opposition and bringing centralized order to counterrevolutionary chaos in order to ensure the Revolution’s permanence.28

The Revolution’s supporters at first marched proudly into a new era, their self-image evolving from royal subjects to free citizens and optimistic that they would find a balance between better lives and the embrace of a king’s paternalistic gaze. But the Revolution’s real and imagined enemies inspired powerful figures who cared less about revolutionary aspirations than the measures necessary to defeat those enemies. French leaders became the bloodstained dictatorial oppressors from which they desperately fought to save their countrymen. Step by step, revolutionaries and their leaders became the firestorm they tried to extinguish.


1. Dena Goodman, The Republic of Letters: A Cultural History of the French Enlightenment (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1994); D.M.G. Sutherland, France 1789-1815: Revolution and Counterrevolution (New York: Oxford University Press, 1986), 37.
2. Sutherland, France 1789-1815, 22.
3. Sutherland, France 1789-1815, 59.
4. R.R. Palmer, Twelve Who Ruled: The Year of Terror in the French Revolution (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1989), 18-19.
5. Timothy Tackett, When the King Took Flight (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2013), 10.
6. Sutherland, France 1789-1815, 80, 114.
7. Sutherland, France 1789-1815, 49; Tackett, When the King Took Flight, 87.
8. Sutherland, France 1789-1815, 112.
9. Sutherland, France 1789-1815, 159-160.
10. Sutherland, France 1789-1815, 19-22.
11. Sutherland, France 1789-1815, 21, 80-81, 95, 97.
12. Sutherland, France 1789-1815, 99.
13. Sutherland, France 1789-1815, 97, 116; Tackett, When the King Took Flight, 13.
14. Sutherland, France 1789-1815, 122; Tackett, When the King Took Flight, 184.
15. Sutherland, France 1789-1815, 124; Tackett, When the King Took Flight, 183, 189.
16. Sutherland, France 1789-1815, 124.
17. Sutherland, France 1789-1815, 124-125; Tackett, When the King Took Flight, 168.
18. Tackett, When the King Took Flight, 157-158, 189-190.
19. Sutherland, France 1789-1815, 127; Tackett, When the King Took Flight, 166, 167.
20. Tackett, When the King Took Flight, 203.
21. Sutherland, France 1789-1815, 154-155.
22. Sutherland, France 1789-1815, 167, 170.
23. Palmer, Twelve Who Ruled, 56.
24. Sutherland, France 1789-1815, 208-210, 212, 217.
25. Sutherland, France 1789-1815, 192, 202, 208.
26. Palmer, Twelve Who Ruled, 39. 74-77.
27. Sutherland, France 1789-1815, 224, 226, 228.
28. Palmer, Twelve Who Ruled, 28, 39. 58.


BOOKS CONSULTED FOR THIS ESSAY

Goodman, Dena. The Republic of Letters: A Cultural History of the French Enlightenment. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1994.

Palmer, R.R. Twelve Who Ruled: The Year of the Terror in the French Revolution. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1989.

Sutherland, D.M.G. France 1789-1815: Revolution and Counterrevolution. New York: Oxford University Press, 1986.

Tackett, Timothy. When the King Took Flight. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2003.

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