Loreta’s Civil War: The poor devils

Velazquez sadly remembers how immigrants could be so easily deceived and re-directed into military service.

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 50: Velazquez sadly remembers how immigrants could be so easily deceived and re-directed into military service.

******

I posted to Washington, and having notified my confederate there when he might expect me, he met me in the Capitol grounds, and I gave him a statement of the account between us as it then stood, turning over to him the borrowed money and half of the profits of the speculations that had been carried on with it. He informed me that I was just in the nick of time, as the reports had not yet been made out, but they were about being, and he was beginning to get the least bit uneasy concerning me.

I continued to take an active part in such transactions as these for several months, traveling to and fro between Washington, Philadelphia, and New York, and often having about me immense sums of money. At length, however, I became afraid to risk it any longer, as Col. Baker had commenced his investigations in the Treasury Department and accordingly went out of the business of money-making for the time being. I did the fair thing by the Treasury people in giving them a hint with regard to Baker and then made haste to get out of the way until the storm should blow over.

As things turned out, it was not, by any means, as much of a storm as I expected it to be. Baker failed to strike the right trail, and the revelations which he made, while sufficiently scandalous were with regard to matters of very secondary importance, and he dallied so much with these that the scamps were able to get ready for him. …

It was not the woman who was working for the Confederacy, and who was under obligations to do those whom she regarded as her enemies and the enemies of her cause all the injury in her power, who fell into Baker’s hands, but certain high Federal officials who were under oath and who were entrusted with some of the most responsible duties that could possibly be entrusted to any men. …

In the matter of notes and bonds printed from the duplicate plates obtained from the treasury, an immense business was done both in this country and in England. The person to whom I gave the first plate delivered to me printed eighty-five thousand dollars’ worth of one hundred-dollar compound interest notes from it. These were, so far as appearances were concerned, just as good as the genuine ones issued from the Treasury Department. Of this batch, twenty-five thousand dollars’ worth were sent to England, and we received exchange for them. The rest were disposed of to the banks and through various channels.

The bankers and brokers both here and in England took these bogus notes and bonds without any hesitation whatever, as indeed there was every reason they should, for there was nothing to distinguish them from the genuine ones that could avail for their detection by ordinary purchasers.

It is impossible for me to give any idea of the enormous amount of this kind of counterfeiting that was done without apparently any serious effort being made on the part of the Federal government to check it. I and my associates had the handling of bogus paper representing immense sums, which we disposed of advantageously but the amounts that passed through our hands only represented a very small proportion of what was issued during the war.

The headquarters of the dealers in bogus currency and securities were chiefly in Wall and Fulton Streets, although a number of these swindlers were located on Broadway. With each succeeding month, during the continuance of the war, the spirit of speculation seemed to increase, and men became more and more eager to make money and less particular how they made it. It was not always obscure men and insignificant banking concerns that were wittingly engaged in this traffic in unlawful paper, but there were plenty who stood high in the esteem of the public and whose reputations for probity were supposed to be unimpeachable.

As for myself and other Confederates, we took all the advantage we could of the general demoralization and not only replenished our treasury, so as to be able to carry on many operations that otherwise would have been impossible, but worked in many ways to turn the criminal selfishness and unpatriotic greed of people … for the benefit of our cause.

The bounty-jumping and substitute-brokerage frauds arose out of a contest between the efforts of the Federal government to maintain the armies in the field at their maximum strength and the determination of nearly the entire body of male citizens to escape military duty by any means in their power.

Under the terms of the conscription law, persons drafted were permitted to furnish substitutes if they could get them, and consequently the purchasing of substitutes became an important branch of industry, in which many thousands of dollars capital were invested and in which immense sums of money were made. This traffic in human flesh and blood would have been bad enough had it been honestly conducted, but, from its very nature, it held out inducements for fraudulent practices which were irresistible to a majority of those engaged in it.

Anything like volunteering … had ceased long before my arrival at the North, but each locality being anxious to avoid the conscription made desperate efforts to fill its quota of men by offering bounties, greater or less in amount, to encourage enlistments. The payment of these bounties was a direct encouragement to desertion, and, as a very different class of men were tempted by them from those who had enlisted out of patriotic motives at the outbreak of the war, a vast number of those who pocketed these premiums were very willing to go through with the same operation again and as often as it was practicable to do so.

Bounty-jumping, or escaping from the recruiting officers and enlisting over again, was carried on … all over the country but the headquarters of the bounty-jumpers and substitute-brokers was in New York.

It was to New York that the agents of interior counties came for the purpose of filling their quotas, and they always found a horde of brokers ready to accommodate them with real and bogus enlistment papers, each one of which was supposed to represent an able-bodied man, fit for military duty, who had passed the mustering officers, been accepted, and was then ready for service. Whether the papers were bogus or genuine mattered very little to those who purchased, so long as they could obtain credit on them from the authorities at Washington. It would probably not be making too large an estimate to put down one half of the enlistment papers sold to country agents and others as forgeries, while not one half of the genuine ones, no, not one fourth, represented men actually ready for duty.

Of course such stupendous frauds as these could not have been carried on without the criminal connivance of the officials of various kinds who were … connected with the enlistments. There may have been some honest officers, soldiers, and civilians connected with this service in New York during the last year of the war, but I was never lucky enough to meet any. So far as I could see, the whole of them — commissioned officers, non-commissioned officers, surgeons, clerks, notaries public, and others — were intent only upon making all the money they could while the opportunity for making it lasted.

The bounty-jumping and substituting-frauds were perpetrated in such an open and barefaced manner that I could not help wondering why some efforts were not made by the authorities at Washington to check them. At length, however, the services of Col. Baker were called in, and he succeeded in creating quite a panic among the swindlers by the investigations which he instituted and the large number of the arrests he made. The war, however, came to an end before he succeeded in discovering a hundredth part of the rascalities that were going on, so that, practically, his investigations were of very little benefit to the government.

The rates which were paid for substitutes varied from five hundred to twenty-one hundred dollars. The parties with whom I was associated enlisted chiefly for the army and did very little for the navy. The bulk of our profits, so fast as they were made, went to Canada or England, and some of the parties who received the money are today living in luxury on it.

The recruits, when they were enlisted, and when they did not escape from the recruiting stations — as hundreds of them did every day — were sent to Governor’s Island. It might be supposed that once there, they would have been safe. They would have been, had the officers, commissioned and non-commissioned, been honest. The temptations for gain, however, were too great, and there was not a person in authority on the island who was not pocketing hundreds of dollars every week by conniving at the escape of recruits. I have known some of the regular professionals jump as high as sixteen bounties, walking away from Governor’s Island every time they were sent there with as much ease as if there was no such thing as army regulations and martial law in existence.

The way this was managed was by the purchase of passes. In going through the boat-house, a slip of paper with the number of passes on it would be put in a book on the table, and on returning, the passes would be found in the same book. The money for these could either be folded in the slip or an order on the broker’s office be given to the sergeant.

One application for a substitute that was made at the office with which I was connected was from a very prominent and very wealthy gentleman of New York, who was willing to pay as high as twenty-one hundred dollars for some one to take the place of his son, who had been drafted. This old gentleman was noted for his advocacy of the war and for his bitterness in denouncing the South, and yet, when it came to letting his son go and do some of the fighting, his patriotism tapered down to a very fine point, and he was willing to send any number of substitutes if necessary. … He was a very fair sample of the kind of patriots I was in the habit of meeting, and I could not help contrasting the whole-souled enthusiasm of the Southern people with the disposition shown by so many prominent adherents of the Federal cause. … As it was all in the way of business, however, I and my partners endeavored to accommodate this old gentleman.

I knew of a couple of barbers in Brooklyn, well built and hearty young colored fellows, and I accordingly went to them and finally induced one of them to enlist as a substitute for the old man’s son. He came over to our office, and on being enrolled received five hundred dollars with a promise that the rest of his bounty would be handed to him by the officer on the island. Privately, however, he was told how he might make his escape by giving the sergeant at the gate fifty dollars [and] was warned not to return to the city or he would be arrested and tried for desertion. He acted according to instructions and deserted so easily that he was tempted to try it over again several times, and I believe he managed to pocket several bounties without being caught.

The emigrant depot at Castle Garden, however, was the great resort of the bounty and substitute brokers, some of whom actually had agents in Europe who deceived the poor people there with all kinds of promises and then shipped them to become the prey of scamps on this side of the Atlantic so soon as they set foot on our shores.

All manner of inducements to enlist were held out to the poor Irish and Germans at Castle Garden. They were surrounded by crowds of shouting and yelling brokers until they were fairly bewildered and found themselves enlisted before they well knew what was the matter with them. To those who hesitated, the most lavish promises were made — their wives and children were to be cared for; they were to receive one hundred and sixty acres of land; money in larger sums than they had ever beheld before was flaunted in their faces. One fellow would shout, “Here you are, sir, come this way. I’m your man. I have five hundred dollars for you.” Another would say, “Here is five hundred dollars and a land warrant,” and another, “I have twenty-one hundred dollars for you if you will come with me.”

The poor devils — deafened by the clamor around them, tempted by the magnificent inducements held out to them, and believing that they really had at last reached the Eldorado of which they had been dreaming — … were marched off to act as substitutes for able-bodied American citizens who had no fancy for fighting the rebels. Every broker’s office had its runners, just the same as the hotels, who were posted at the emigrant station whenever a vessel load of human beings came into port, and among them the poor foreigners, who came over here to better their fortunes, had but little chance to become anything but food for Confederate bullets.

On one occasion I saw a squad of Germans who had just landed and who seemed to be looking for someone. As a runner approached them, their head man, who acted as interpreter, drew from his pocket a letter and asked, “Are you Capt. P.?”

“I am here in his place,” replied the runner. “What can I do for you?”

The German hesitated a moment, and before the runner could fairly commence work with him. Capt. P. made his appearance from the purser’s office, where he had, doubtless, just been receiving intelligence of the arrival of his human cargo. The runner, seeing P. and knowing that his opportunity was now gone, went off to seek for his prey elsewhere, while the captain proceeded to take the party in charge with small ceremony.

“Is your name P.?” queried the leader.

“Yes, and you are …” and without more ado, he hurried them off to a den in Greenwich Street, where they were forthwith enlisted in the Federal service.

These people, like thousands of others, had been picked up in Europe by agents under all kinds of pretexts and promises and shipped for this side of the ocean just like so many cattle. Capt. P. considered himself as their owner, and he sold them to the government exactly as he would have sold cattle, if that sort of traffic had been as profitable as dealing in white human beings. …

Loreta’s Civil War: Nothing but his fears

Velazquez, both disgusted and cautious, moves forward with an operation within the U.S. Treasury Department.

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 48: Velazquez, both disgusted and cautious, moves forward with an operation within the U.S. Treasury Department.

******

Having made my arrangements with parties in Philadelphia and New York and having obtained the information necessary for me to make my initial movements, I went to Washington, and, first of all, had a talk with Col. Baker, giving him some information — real or fictitious, as the case may have been — which I thought would amuse him, and assist in convincing him that I was overflowing with zeal for the Federal cause. This interview with Baker was in accordance with a general plan I had laid out, for … I thought it best to call on him and give an account of myself than to have him or his men getting sight of me unexpectedly and perhaps wondering what I was up to.

Baker’s vigilance having thus been disarmed, I went to a clerk in the Treasury Department, and telling him briefly what I wanted … I asked him to assist me in gaining access to the private rooms in the building where none but the officials in charge and the employees immediately under them were ever allowed to go, except by written permits signed by the secretary. These rooms were chiefly those of the printing bureau, where the Federal bonds and currency were manufactured. …

This clerk was a Confederate sympathizer like a number of other Federal employees of various grades, and he carried his sympathies so far as that he was willing and anxious to aid the Confederacy by every means in his power, so long as he could do so with safety to himself. He was not the sort of a man I had much liking for, but in the kind of work I was engaged in prosecuting, it did not do to be too fastidious about the characters of one’s associates. Moreover, he had proved himself … to be a very efficient spy and was constantly in communication with the Confederate agents, giving them information which often was of extreme importance.

It was probably through him that my associates first learned what was going on in the printing bureau, but of this I am not certain. At any rate, they knew that he was the best person to apply to for the sake of getting such an introduction to the private rooms of the Treasury building … as he was thoroughly posted with regard to the villainies that were being practiced there.

In response to my application to this clerk for assistance, he gave me a letter of introduction to a man occupying a very high and very responsible position — so high and so responsible that I was astonished, beyond measure, on being referred to him on such an errand, who, he said, would accomplish for me what I wished. This letter was so worded that the party to whom it was addressed would understand that I wanted to talk with him about matters that it would not do for everybody to be cognizant of, and I was told that I might speak with the most perfect freedom to him with regard to the business I had in hand.

I accordingly went to this official and presented the letter of introduction, wondering not a little what he would say and do when he read it. His conduct satisfied me at once that he was implicated in unlawful schemes and that he was exactly the man for my purposes. When he read the letter he turned as pale as a sheet, and then red, while his hand trembled so much that I was afraid some of the people in the room would notice it.

He read the letter through two or three times before he was able to obtain sufficient composure to trust himself to speak. He finally, however, said a few commonplace things to me, which meant nothing and were intended for the ears of those around us rather than for mine, and then requested me to give him my address.

I did this, and then, in obedience to a hurried gesture, took my departure without attempting to have any further conversation just then, but feeling well assured that I could speedily be afforded ample opportunity for an exchange of views with him.

That evening my new acquaintance called on me at my hotel, and, although we both for a time fought shy of the main subject, I readily perceived from the general tenor of his conversation that he had, since my visit to his office, been making particular inquiries with regard to me. He remarked, among other things, that he had heard Col. Baker mention my name several times and always in highly commendatory terms. This was very satisfactory intelligence, for it convinced me that I really stood well with the secret service chief. …

At length he said he thought he understood my object in making his acquaintance, and, although he was not quite certain what I wanted, he would endeavor to aid me by any means in his power.

I then told him, plump and plain, that I and my associates had full information with regard to what was being done in certain of the Treasury bureaus, and that we had it in our power to set the detectives to work in such a way that all those engaged in swindling the government would be arrested and brought to punishment. Instead of doing anything of this kind, however, we proposed to share the profits of such fraudulent transactions as were going on in the Treasury Department. As the agent and receivers of the others interested, I wanted to get possession of one or more of the electrotype impressions of the bond and note plates, such as were used for fraudulent issues, and I also desired to obtain facilities for visiting the printing bureau … for the sake of conferring with certain parties there. …

My friend saw that I “had him,” to use a slang phrase that is very appropriate in such a connection as this, for it expresses the situation exactly. He hesitated, however, as well he might, before yielding to my request, and after some immaterial talk, which expressed nothing but his fears, he said, “Well, if I oblige you in this, I will place my honor and my reputation in your hands. I have never yet stepped aside from the duties of my office since I have been sworn in, and what assurances have I that you will not betray me?”

I knew exactly how much of this to believe, and so I said to him, “I don’t care, sir, what you may or may not have done before this. I am satisfied, however, that you are the proper person to assist me in the matter under discussion, and if you do you shall have your share of the profits. You can rely upon my secrecy, for I will be implicated as well as yourself; but, independently of that, I think that my character for reliability is sufficiently well known for you to have no hesitation in trusting me.”

“Yes, I know your reputation for skill and secrecy; you seem to have played it finely with Baker. I am glad somebody has managed to get ahead of that fellow, for he has been making himself an infernal nuisance about here.”

This was said with considerable bitterness, and I could not help smiling both at the words and the manner, for there was something absolutely comical in the idea of my friend and those in league with him considering Baker’s negligence a grievance. I, however, said nothing on that point, but merely remarked that Baker appeared to be a tolerably capable officer.

My friend possibly did not care to argue about Baker, for he went on, without noticing the remark, to say that he would have to swear me to secrecy. I laughed at this and ridiculed the idea of my oath being worth any more than my word under the circumstances. He, therefore, abandoned all notion of attempting to bind me, except by the responsibilities I would incur in connection with himself and the others interested, and began to talk business in a straightforward manner. This suited me exactly, and it was not long before we had matters arranged to our mutual satisfaction.

He agreed to furnish any capital that might be needed to commence operations or to do any preliminary bribing that was necessary and was to have a percentage of whatever profits were made. As for getting possession of a fraudulent plate or plates, I would have to talk about that to the people to whom he would introduce me but he did not doubt, if I managed right, I could get all that were necessary for our purposes.

There were other things to be done, however, besides printing bogus notes and bonds, and he thought that a thriving business could be carried on in the genuine articles, which might be abstracted and returned, after being turned over a few times in the market, so as to yield a sufficient profit to pay for the risk and trouble. The bogus bonds, he thought, could be printed in Washington, and seemed rather anxious that they should be but I said that I doubted whether my associates would consent to that — at any rate, I could not undertake to make definite arrangements without consulting them. The idea was to float these bonds, as far as possible, on the European market, and it was thought that it could readily be done, as they could be sold at rates that would defy competition on the part of the government agents who were working with the genuine articles. …

I, of course, made all necessary promises, and he, accordingly, wrote a note, which he signed with a private mark instead of with his name, and told me to call the next day at the Treasury and give it to a certain prominent official connected with the printing bureau. He then took his leave, and I had little or nothing to do with him afterwards, his share of whatever profits was made being paid to him by someone else.

My arrangement with the parties at whose instance I went to Washington on this business was that in event of my being able to make a satisfactory bargain with the officials in the Treasury Department, I was to be the receiver and bearer of whatever they might confide to my care in the way of bonds, notes, bogus plates, and other matters, and was to travel to and fro between Washington, Philadelphia, and New York as a confidential manager, while brokers in the two last-named cities and elsewhere were to do the [financing].

The scheme was an immense one, although it did not reach its full proportions all at once, and it included not only dealing in genuine — borrowed for the purpose from the treasury — and bogus Federal securities, but Confederate bogus bonds also. These bonds were to be, as far as practicable, put upon the English market at the best rates that could be gotten for them, and our — that is, the Confederate — share of the proceeds was to go into a general fund to be used for advancing the interests of the Cause. As for the Britishers, we considered them fair game when selling them either kind of bogus securities, for we regarded their conduct as treacherous to both parties in the great contest and thought that they might as well be made to pay some of the expenses of conducting it.

From first to last the British government had deluded the people of the Confederacy with false hopes of recognition and interference, and, as at the time of which I am writing, it was becoming daily more apparent that it did not propose to interfere unless it could do so without risking anything, the feeling against it — especially among the Confederates at the North and in Canada, who were constantly in correspondence with agents in England and on the continent — was getting to be very bitter.

It was determined, therefore, to go for Johnny Bull’s pocket, and a lively trade in bogus Confederate and Federal securities was started and kept up for a considerable time, which, among other things, involved my making a trip to London. …

The day after receiving the note … I took it to the person in the printer’s bureau, to whom it was addressed. This individual did not appear to be the least surprised to see me, and it was evident that he had been apprised of the fact that I intended to make him a visit and what the visit would be for.

He proceeded to business at once … by requesting me to call the next day at his office, when, he said, the matter would be arranged to my satisfaction. He was not disposed to be talkative about the situation and, as I found out shortly afterwards, certain persons under him in the bureau were the active agents in the swindling transactions that were going on — his plan being to avoid, as far as practicable, any palpable participation in them. … This man, however, was at the head of the ring, and was responsible for all the rascalities that occurred in connection with the important bureau with which he was connected.

The abstraction of currency and bonds for speculative purpose and the permitting electrotypes of the plates used for printing bonds and currency, to be taken and disposed of to outside parties for the purpose of enabling them to print bogus issues, were not his only offenses. He and another official … had several abandoned women employed under them, at large salaries, and with whom they were in the habit of carousing in their offices at midnight. Indeed, so shameless and abandoned were both the men and the women that their doings became a public scandal and did much to bring about an exposure of their official misdeeds.

Before I knew anything of these matters, Col. Baker pointed out these women to me as the pets of these two men and told me about their introducing them into the Treasury building and taking them to the Canterbury saloon in male attire. This was some time before Baker commenced the investigations which created such a sensation by revealing to the public the vice and corruption that ruled in the Treasury Department. Baker then said he was certain that villainies of no ordinary character were going on and that he proposed some day to try and find out what they were.

The fact that Baker had his eye on these officials and others whom I knew were guilty of transactions … induced me to conclude that I had best have nothing to do with them, and, accordingly, I severed my business relations with the printing bureau after giving those interested a hint to beware of the colonel.

This hint was disregarded for the reason that the scamps knew that he could not commence an investigation into the affairs of the Treasury Department without the consent of Secretary Chase, and this consent, for reasons which to them were good and sufficient, they did not believe would ever be given.

Recommended reading / viewing / listening

This week: Saliva and our history / Research your home’s past / Purging to remake Turkey / Meet Dina Powell / Assad and U.S. presidents / LBJ and the Secret Service

This week: Saliva and our history / Research your home’s past / Purging to remake Turkey / Meet Dina Powell / Assad and U.S. presidents / LBJ and the Secret Service

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

1. What 770,000 Tubes of Saliva Reveal About America
Ancestry.com | April 2017
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2. Has Trump Gone Washington?
By Niall Stanage | The Memo :: The Hill | April 15
“The Trump diehards are queasy at the notion that a president who ran as a proud outsider might be co-opted by a Washington establishment they loathe.”

3. Inside Turkey’s Purge
By Suzy Hansen | The New York Times Magazine | April 13
“As the ruling party expands the ranks of its enemies, life in a fragile democracy becomes stranger and stranger.”

4. How to research a property’s history using Bexar County’s free records search
By John Tedesco | JohnTedesco.net | November 2009
“Here you can search foreclosure notices, marriage licenses, business records — life’s important moments, all documented and filed at the county courthouse.”

5. Who’s Dina Powell? A rising Trump national security figure
By Catherine Lucey | Associated Press | April 13
“An Egyptian-American with international experience and fluency in Arabic, she was soon moved to the National Security Council, though she retains her economic title.”

6. Turkey will never be the same after this vote
By Henri Barkey | The Washington Post | April 11
“The consequences for Turkey are simple: A ‘no’ vote could potentially unleash a period of profound uncertainty and instability. By contrast, a ‘yes’ vote would institutionalize a populist authoritarian system that risks cataclysmic collapse …”

7. The Assad Family: Nemesis of Nine U.S. Presidents
By Robin Wright | The New Yorker | April 11
“Republican and Democratic Administrations alike have coaxed and cajoled, prodded and praised, and, most recently, confronted and condemned the Assads to induce policy changes.”

8. Can a coin dropped from the Empire State Building kill you?
By Reed Tucker | The New York Post | April 1
“From tumbling air conditioners to defective sidewalk grates to deli salad-bar tuna, there’s a random death potentially waiting around every corner in New York City.”

9. The spy who couldn’t spell: how the biggest heist in the history of US espionage was foiled
By Yudhijit Bhattacharjee | The Guardian | October 2016
“Ever since childhood, Brian Regan had been made to feel stupid because of his severe dyslexia. So he thought no one would suspect him of stealing secrets”

10. L.B.J.’s Bravado and a Secret Service Under Scrutiny
By Michael Beschloss | HistorySource :: The New York Times | October 2014
“Johnson built an excellent relationship with the Secret Service. But as early as the week after the Dallas assassination, the F.B.I. director, J. Edgar Hoover, who was an old Johnson friend and Washington neighbor, tried to sow seeds of doubt in the president’s mind about the service.”

Loreta’s Civil War: Wild thoughts that filled my mind

Velazquez has a new assignment: Track down a spy and help suppress a massive Union prison raid. She intends to do the exact opposite.

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 42: Velazquez has a new assignment: Track down a spy and help suppress a massive Union prison raid. She intends to do the exact opposite.

******

The next morning, just as I was sitting down to breakfast, the waiter brought me a note from Col. Baker, in which he stated that he would call to see me at the hotel about half past ten o’clock and requested me to await him at that hour. Still being uncertain whether Baker’s intentions towards me were amicable or not, it was not without some trepidation that I looked forward to this interview. … At the appointed time, Col. Baker made his appearance, and said “Good morning” with a pleasant smile, in which there was apparently not a shade of malice or unfriendliness. After asking me how I had liked the play and making a few other unimportant remarks, he said, “Well, my little woman, I have made up my mind to let you try your skill as a detective once more, if you are in the same mind you were yesterday.”

“Yes,” I replied, “I am just as anxious now as I was then, and I think I can not only find that spy for you, but that I can discover whether there really is any intention among the rebel prisoners to make a break.”

“That is just what I want you to do. I think that a woman can manage a job of this kind better than a man anyhow, and I believe that you are just the woman to manage it in first-rate style.”

“Thank you, colonel, I can at least try.”

“Yes, that’s it, try and find out all you can. I want you to pick out this man for me if he is at Johnson’s Island, as you seem to think he is, and if you succeed in finding him, telegraph to me immediately. If he is not at Johnson’s Island, you had better try and find out if any of the prisoners know anything about him — it is possible, you know, that he may be in some other prison, or, indeed, that he may have escaped. At all events, make every effort to find him.”

“You know, colonel, I am acquainted with a good many people down South, and I may come across somebody I know or somebody that knows somebody I know, and by representing myself as a disguised Confederate, I may be able to get the prisoners to talk plainer than they would to a stranger or a new visitor.”

“Well, I will leave it to you to manage the thing the best way you can think of. It would not be a bad idea, however, if you were to pass yourself off as a Confederate secret service agent, and if you were to intimate that something was likely to be done soon to procure the release of the prisoners, you might be able to induce them to say whether they have any plans of their own, or whether they are in communication with any one outside.”

“That is about my idea of working but the only difficulty will be in getting a chance to talk to any of the men privately.”

“Oh, I’ll arrange that for you by giving you a confidential letter, which, however, you must be careful not to let any one see except the commanding officer. If those fellows are up to any tricks, I want to know all about it at once. There has been a good deal of talk at different times about the prisoners attempting to stampede, but it has been pretty much all newspaper sensation with nothing in it.”

“But, you know, colonel, something of the kind might be attempted, and if a stampede or an insurrection should take place, it would create a good deal of excitement just now.”

“Yes, yes, that’s so. If there is anything on foot I want to discover it, and I want you to find out all you possibly can, and let me know immediately.”

“Well, you can rely upon me, and I think you will find me as shrewd as most of your detectives are.”

“If you will only keep your eyes and ears well open and open your mouth only when you have business to talk about, I will most likely find you a good deal shrewder.”

“Why, colonel, you don’t appear to have the best opinion in the world of some of your detectives.”

“Oh, yes, they do pretty well, some of them are really first-rate men, but they are not as smart as they ought to be for the kind of service they are in.”

“I suppose some of those rebel spies give you a good of trouble in keeping the run of them.”

“Oh, you haven’t any idea of it. Half the people of Washington and its immediate vicinity are rebel sympathizers and would be spies if they dared and knew how. And then they are at work all through the North and in Canada. Some of my people are after a spy now who has been traveling between Richmond and Canada, but they don’t seem to be able to lay their hands on her. If they don’t catch her soon, I have half a mind to let you try what you can do, if you succeed well with your present trip.”

The conversation at this point, I concluded, was getting to be rather too personal, and I thought it best to change the subject, although I could not help smiling at the idea of Baker employing me to catch myself. That, I thought, would be entirely too arduous a task for me to undertake in my then rather feeble state of health, although there might be both amusement and profit in it. Forbearing, however, to enter upon this interesting theme, I asked the colonel when he desired me to start. He said by the first train, if I could get ready, and handing me my confidential letter and two hundred dollars, he asked whether there was anything more he could do for me.

I said that I could think of nothing but would proceed to get ready for my journey immediately. He then shook hands and left, after wishing me a pleasant trip and expressing a hope that he would soon receive a good report from me.

When the colonel was gone, I went up to my room to pack my traveling satchel and, feeling perfectly satisfied from my late conversation with him that I was safe for the present so far as he was concerned, I laughed heartily at the absurdity of the situation and wondered with myself whether I would have dared to attempt anything of this kind at Richmond with old Gen. Winder. I had no difficulty in concluding that if fate had compelled me to play tricks with Winder, as I was doing with Baker, I would have been forced to proceed in a less open and free and easy style about it, and congratulated myself most heartily that I had so easy a customer to deal with under existing circumstances.

Calling a carriage, I was soon at the Baltimore depot and on board the train. Having to stop at the Relay House for the western-bound train, I made an effort to see the Confederate agent who was stationed there, as I had a number of things I wanted to say to him. He was an old Southern acquaintance of mine, and there were a variety of little matters that I could have whispered in his ear that would have been useful. … There is a good deal in knowing who one’s friends really are in transacting such delicate business as that I was then engaged in. Unfortunately, my friend was away, and as I was in too much of a hurry to wait for his return, I was forced to forego the pleasure of seeing him.

Once on board the western train, I had a long journey before me and had plenty of time to think over affairs generally. I planned and schemed until my brain fairly whirled, and I was glad to chat a little with some of my neighbors or to gaze through the car windows at the gorgeous scenery that met my eyes at every turn in the road, and to try and think for a while only of its beauties as a rest from the wild thoughts that filled my mind.

Try as I might, however, I could not avoid thinking of the situation, the prospects of the Confederacy, and the chances of success for the grand scheme, the execution of which I was endeavoring to assist. What if we failed or, if we succeeded in our first effort, would we be able to accomplish all we intended and expected? These were questions I could not answer. What I dreaded most was the possible effect of a raid by way of the Lakes on the Confederate sympathizers and the anti-war party. Would it stimulate them to make greater exertions than ever to bring the conflict to a close, or would this bringing the war to the doors of themselves and their neighbors turn them against us? I confess that I had fears of the latter result, for I had a not ill-founded distrust of these people, who are neither one thing nor the other, and I believed that had the Copperheads wielded their influence as they might have done, they could either have prevented the war in the beginning or could have forced a conclusion long ago.

What power the opponents of the war were able to exert would, however, be determined very shortly. A presidential election was coming off in a few weeks, and the greatest excitement with regard to the political battle that was being waged prevailed. Nearly everybody admitted that the defeat of Mr. Lincoln for a second term would mean that a majority of the people of the North were ready and anxious to abandon the contest and to let the seceding Southern states go in peace. The fact that the Democratic candidate was a Federal general, who had been commander-in-chief of the armies, and who professed to be willing and anxious to carry on the war did not please me very well, for it indicated to my mind, very plainly, that the anti-war people were afraid to oppose Mr. Lincoln and the war party on a square issue.

I, however, was nothing of a politician and did not profess to understand the ways of politicians, they being a class of men for whom I had no special admiration. But I could not help thinking that the Confederate government and the people of the South were basing too many hopes on what the Democrats would be able to do at this election. I knew that they in many ways were doing what they could to secure a Democratic victory, but, for my part, I relied far more on bullets than on ballots to give the South the victory, and I expected more from the great raid, for which I was now working, than I did from the election of Gen. McClellan. …

Loreta’s Civil War: Excite terror in the hearts

Velazquez confronts her fear of capture by speaking directly to the Union detective hunting her.

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 40: Velazquez confronts her fear of capture by speaking directly to the Union detective hunting her.

******

He was a short, thick-set man, with a dull, heavy expression of countenance, deep-set eyes, thick eyebrows, and a coarse and rather scrubby mustache. He did not have the appearance of being a very brilliant genius, but then, as I well knew, it did not do to place too much reliance upon mere outward appearances, especially with members of the detective force.

After passing the compliments of the day we launched into a general conversation, I attempting to speak with a touch of the Irish brogue, thinking that it would induce him to believe me to be a foreigner. I would have addressed him with a Spanish accent but was fearful that it would help to betray me … Baker as well as others having been told that I was of Spanish extraction, while I did not know as yet how much real information the secret-service chief might have with regard to me or whether this fellow was one of his officers or not. I was playing a rather desperate game but I felt tolerably sure of being able to deal with the gentleman. I confess, however, to having felt considerable anxiety, although I strove to conceal it from my companion.

“You are going to Canada, are you not?” inquired my new-made friend.

“Yes, sir.”

“Do you live there?”

“Oh, no, sir. I live in England. I am only going to Canada to visit some friends.”

“Have you been in America long?”

“Only about eight months.”

“How do you like this country? Don’t you think it is a finer country than England?”

“Oh, I like living in England much better than I do here, and expect to go back as soon as I get through with my Canada visit. There is too much fighting going on here to suit me.”

“Oh, you need not mind that, besides, the war will soon be over now.”

“Do you think so?” I queried — I am afraid just with the least touch of sarcasm — and for fear he might have noticed something unpleasant in my tone, added, “I will be glad when the fighting is over. It is terrible to hear every day of so many men being killed.”

“Oh, that is nothing, we get used to it.”

“Yes,” I mentally said, “it may be nothing to such a shirk as you, for you will take precious good care to keep your carcass out of danger.”

The detective now took out of his pocket the photograph which my associate in New York had given him and which I was anxious to see, and, handing it to me, [he] said, “Did you ever see anybody resembling this? I am after the lady and would like very much to find her.”

“She is very handsome,” I replied. “Is she your wife?” — looking him straight in the eyes as I said this.

“Wife! No,” said he, apparently disgusted at the suggestion that he was in pursuit of a faithless spouse. “She is a rebel spy, and I am trying to catch her.”

“Why, what has she been doing? She looks like a very nice lady, and I hardly could think she would do anything wrong.”

“Well, she has been doing a good deal that our government would like to pay her off for. She is one of the smartest of the whole gang.” This I thought was rather complimentary than otherwise. “I am on her track now, however, sure.” — “Yes, the back track,” I thought – “and I am bound to catch her.”

“Well, if she has been doing anything against the law, I suppose she ought to be punished but I hope you won’t treat her unkindly if you do succeed in catching her.”

“She will have to look out for that. It don’t do to show any mercy to these she-devils — they give us more trouble than all the men together.”

“But perhaps this lady is not a spy, after all. She looks too pretty and nice for anything of that kind. How do you know about her?”

“Oh, some of our force have been on the track of her for a long time. She has been working for these Copperheads and rebel agents here at the North and has been running through the lines with dispatches and goods. She came through from Richmond only a short time ago, and she is now on her way to Canada with a lot of dispatches and a big sum of money, which I would like to capture.”

“Doubtless you would,” I thought and then said aloud, “I wonder how you can find out so much when there must be a great many people coming and going all the time. Supposing that this lady is a spy, as you say, how do you know that she has not already reached Canada?”

“Maybe she has,” he replied, “but I don’t think so. I have got her down pretty fine and feel tolerably certain of taking her before she gets over the line.”

This was a highly edifying and entertaining conversation to me, and I would willingly have prolonged it indefinitely, for the purpose of trying to get some points from my companion which might prove useful. As he, however, seemed inclined to change the subject, I was afraid to seem too inquisitive, and we consequently dropped into a general conversation of no interest to the reader.

The detective seemed determined to be as polite to me as he could, and on leaving the cars he carried my satchel, containing eighty-two thousand dollars belonging to the Confederate government and a variety of other matters which he would have taken possession of with the utmost pleasure, could he have known what they were. When we passed on board the boat I took the satchel from him, and, thanking him for his attention, proceeded to get out of his sight as expeditiously as I could.

When the custom-house officer examined my luggage, I gave him a wink and whispered the password I had been instructed to use, and he merely turned up the shawl which was on my arm and went through the form of looking into my satchel.

On reaching the Canada shore I was met by Mr. L., who gave me a very hearty greeting but I cautioned him to say as little as possible just then, as we might be watched. Glancing back, I saw my friend the detective, anxiously surveying the passing crowd, and, calling Mr. L.’s attention to him, I said, “Do you see that heavy man with the black eyebrows and scrubby mustache, who looks as though he had lost something?”

“Yes. What of him?”

“He has been traveling on the train with me all day and has been exceedingly polite and attentive. He is a detective, and I am the individual he is after, but he isn’t half smart enough to catch me.”

I then, as we moved off, related my adventure with the detective to my Canadian friend. He thought it a capital good joke and said that I seemed to be tolerably well able to take care of myself.

On my arrival in Canada I was welcomed with great cordiality by the Confederates there, who were eager to know all about my trip, how things were looking at Richmond, whether I had letters for so and so and anything else that I was able to tell them. I distributed my letters and dispatches according to instructions, mailed packages for the commanders of the cruisers Shenandoah and Florida, which I had received with special injunctions to be particularly careful of, as they were very important, and then proceeded to the transaction of such other business, commercial as well as political, as I had on hand.

As this was my first visit to Canada, there was much for me to do and much to learn. I therefore became acquainted with as many people as I could, and found out all I could about the methods of transacting commercial and financial business, who the proper parties to deal with were, and everything else worth knowing that I could think of.

There were a good many matters of more importance than trade and finance, however, which demanded my immediate consideration, and many and long were the conferences held with regard to the proposed grand movement on the enemy’s rear. There were a number of points about this grand scheme that I would have liked to have been informed of but those who were making the arrangements for the raid were so fearful of their plans in some way getting to the ears of the Federal authorities that they were unwilling to tell me and other special agents, more than was absolutely necessary for the fulfillment of the duties entrusted to us. This excessive caution was, perhaps, demanded by the peculiarities of the situation but it is certain, in my opinion, that could there have been a more definite understanding between the various co-workers, the chances of success would have been very largely increased. I, for one, could have performed my part with far more efficiency — although I did all that it was arranged that I should do — had I been trusted more largely with the details of the proposed movement.

As it was, I was merely furnished with a general idea of the contemplated attack and was assigned to special duties in connection with it. These duties were to visit Johnson’s Island in Lake Erie, and, if possible, other military prisons for the purpose of informing the Confederates confined in them of what was being done towards effecting their release, and what was expected of them when they were released. I was then to telegraph to certain agents that the prisoners were warned and such other information as I might deem it important for them to be possessed of, in accordance with an arranged system of signals. This being done, I was to proceed to the execution of other tasks, the exact details of which, however, were made dependent upon circumstances, and upon directions I might receive from the agents in the States, under whose orders I was to act.

This plan for a grand raid by way of the lakes excited my enthusiasm greatly, and I had very strong hopes of its success. I knew how desperate the situation at the South was getting to be and felt that a diversion of this kind, which would excite terror in the hearts of the people of the North, and which would probably cause a considerable force to to withdrawn from the front, would help the Confederate cause at this particular juncture more, even, than a series of brilliant victories on the well-trodden battlegrounds of the South. A large number of the people of the North were, I knew, getting heartily sick of the war, and I thought that it would only need a brilliant movement for transferring some of the fighting and some of the desolation to Northern ground to cause the anti-war policy to demand that peace should be had at any price.

Whether the proposed raid would have accomplished all that was expected of it can, of course, never be determined. It is probable, however, that I, as well as others interested, underrated the difficulties of executing such a complicated scheme. Be that as it may, something could have been done, more than was done, had everybody been as enthusiastic and as determined as myself and had there been no traitors with us. The scheme failed when it should have been, at least, partly successful but it need not have failed so utterly as it did, had it been managed with wisdom, backed up by true daring.

Loreta’s Civil War: Hypocrites and traitors

As she prepares a new espionage operation in the heart of Washington D.C., Velazquez identifies her archenemy, Col. Baker, and pauses to study his character and the danger he may pose to her.

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 37: As she prepares a new espionage operation in the heart of Washington D.C., Velazquez identifies her archenemy, Col. Baker, and pauses to study his character and the danger he may pose to her.

******

At the time of my arrival at the North the anti-war party was concentrating its strength for the approaching presidential campaign, and many men who were prominent in it were decidedly confident that the next election would place a president in the White House whose views about the proper policy to be pursued towards the South would be radically different from those of Mr. Lincoln. If an anti-war president could be elected … a speedy wind-up of the war on terms satisfactory to the Confederates would almost certainly follow his inauguration.

This being the situation, it was as much for the interest of the Richmond government that the political dissensions existing within the Federal lines should be kept alive and the success of the anti-war party promoted by every possible means as it was to win victories on the battlefield. Indeed, it was much more important, for victories cost men and treasure which the Confederacy could not well spare, and even more was to be gained by fighting the enemy on his own ground with the ballot than there was by shooting him on Confederate soil with the bullet.

It was an important part of the duty of the Confederate agents at the North to aid by every possible means the success of the anti-war party, and to this end they labored incessantly and effectively in various ways, but outside of the field of politics, there was an immense amount of highly important work being done, the like of which my brief experiences in New Orleans had barely given me a hint of. …

Many officials in the government employ were either secret service agents of the Confederacy or were in the pay of such. There was not a public building at Washington that did not contain a person or persons who was not only willing but eager to do much more than furnish information to the commanders of the Confederate armies and to the Richmond authorities, as far as it was possible to do so without placing themselves in peril. In all of the large cities were men and women, many of them in government employ, who were in constant communication with the Confederate agents, and in all of them were merchants who were rapidly growing wealthy by sending goods of all kinds, including arms and ammunition, to the South, either by having them smuggled through the lines or by shipping them to some neutral port for the purpose of having them transferred to blockade-runners.

Some of these merchants made no pretensions but sold to whoever would buy, having the avowed intention of making all the money they could by every safe means. They simply asked no questions, but took their cash and shipped according to order. Others were blockade-runners, pure and simple, and their only anxiety was to keep their operations concealed from the government detectives.

Millions of dollars’ worth of goods, however, were sold for the Southern market by men who were loud in their protestations of loyalty to the Federal government, who bitterly denounced the South in public and in private, who contributed largely to aid in carrying on the war, and who enjoyed in the fullest manner the confidence of the government, and of those of their fellow-citizens who honestly believed that the war was a just one.

I will not say that all of these men were hypocrites and traitors, for I am confident that very many of them were not. Some, however — and those not the least influential and wealthy — had different opinions about things in general, and the war, in particular, in public and in the social circles which they frequented, and in their counting-rooms, when certain people called on them for the purpose of buying goods. They were more than anxious to sell to any one who would buy, but in case the buyer was known to be, or was suspected of being, a Confederate agent, the question of the moment was to sell without being found out. Of course, some of them were detected occasionally, but there was generally a way to be found for dealing with these gentlemen with tender consciences and highly loyal reputations, by which their goods could be purchased for cash and their reputations spared at the same time.

Another element in the situation was the intense opposition to the conscription which was going on for the purpose of recruiting the armies — the supply of volunteers having long since failed. This opposition, before my arrival at the North, had culminated in bloody riots in New York and several other places which caused the greatest alarm because they indicated in a very positive manner that there was a very large disaffected class in the population, which, if excited to take up arms, might be able to start anew and formidable rebellion within the Federal lines. Many of those, too, who professed to favor the war were opposed to the conscription, that is, they were opposed to being conscripted themselves, although they were willing enough that other people should go and do their fighting for them.

The most obnoxious feature of the draft, however, had been in a measure overcome — the different states, cities, and towns offering liberal bounties for men to enlist. In this manner most of the quotas were filled, but the payment of bounties — a demoralizing proceeding under any circumstances — opened the way for the most shameless and gigantic frauds. The story of the bounty jumping during the last two years of the war is not one that any patriotic American citizen can read with complacency or satisfaction, and for pure infamy I think that it surpasses anything that the future historian of the war will be compelled to put on record.

I had a good deal to do with these bounty-jumping frauds and with a number of other matters very nearly as bad … and it may be thought that I was as culpable as those whom I now denounce. To those who are only willing to consider such a subject as this from one point of view, I have simply nothing to say. But fair-minded persons, North and South, will, however, freely admit that my actions as a secret agent of the Confederate government are not to be put in comparison with those of the dealers in human flesh and blood, the counterfeiters, and others who did what they did solely from motives of gain. At any rate, acting as I was under orders from the only government the authority of which I acknowledged, and animated only by an ardent desire to advance the interests of the cause which I had espoused, I felt that I was justified in embarrassing the enemy by any means in my power, and that the kind of warfare which I carried on in the rear of the Federal armies was just as legitimate as that which was carried on face to face with them in the field. …

It took me some little time, of course, to master the entire situation, but a very brief residence at the North enabled me to see that there was a vast amount of most important and valuable work to be done within the Federal lines, and that it was exactly the kind of work that I could do with the very best effect. I arranged my plans, therefore, for a series of operations in behalf of the Confederate cause, and, at the earliest practicable moment, placed myself in communication with the Richmond authorities and with the various secret service agents in the Northern States and in Canada, and also with Federal officials of various kinds with whom I desired to establish confidential relations. …

[In] going to Washington I had no very definite idea of what I would do, or, indeed, what I could do. I was now about to work under different auspices from any under which I had hitherto been placed, and it was necessary for me to look around a bit and study the situation. In a general sort of way I hoped to get access to the different departments so that I would be able to find out what was going on and to place myself in communication with persons who would be able to give me such information as I desired. It was also important that I should make the acquaintance of and be on friendly terms with officers of the army and others who would have the power to help me in case I wanted to run through the lines, or in event of my getting into any trouble through meddling with affairs that the government might not desire an irresponsible outsider like myself to know too much about.

The visit I had paid to the prison where my brother was confined made me think deeply about the privations and sufferings endured by the brave Southern boys captured on a hundred battlefields and now in the hands of the Federal authorities. The more I thought of them the more I was moved by an intense desire to do something to secure their release, and more than one crude suggestion of a plan for the accomplishment of so desirable an end floated through my mind. …

I hoped, on going to Washington, to find there someone with whom I was acquainted and through whom I might fall in with those who could aid me in the execution of my designs [or] meet some of my military friends of the good old days before the war, and I was not long in learning that Gen. A and Capt. B were both on duty in or near Washington. I will remark here that I designate these gentlemen by the two first letters of the alphabet because I desire to avoid giving any clue to their real names. They were both men of unimpeachable honor, and, had they suspected in the least what my designs really were, I believe that they would immediately have procured my arrest, in spite of any private friendship they might have had for me. I made use of them for the furtherance of my plans in the interest of the Confederacy, but they neither of them, on any occasion, wittingly gave me any information that they should not have given. On the contrary, they declined to be of any assistance to me in visiting the departments or in going to the front, on the plea that the stringent rules in force would not permit them to do so. … [T]he chief aid which they extended was in introducing me to people whom I could use and in maintaining intimate and friendly personal relations with me by which I was enabled to gain a standing in certain quarters without trouble.

The general, when I introduced myself to him, appeared to be very glad to see me and asked me innumerable questions about myself, my friends, and my adventures since we last had seen each other. I had a plausible story ready to tell him, in which fact and fiction were mingled with some degree of skill, and expressed myself with considerable bitterness concerning the rebels, wishing that I could do something to aid in securing a speedy termination of the war by their defeat. After a very pleasant intercourse with the general, I parted from him with a request that he would do me the honor to call on me at the hotel, which he promised to do.

The next day I met Capt. B in the street and we exchanged greetings. He, too, promised to call upon me. This promise he kept, and I had quite a long talk with him on general topics, preferring to see more of him before attempting to make him useful.

I saw both the general and the captain several times after that, and in the course of conversation with one of them, I forget which, he happened to say something about Col. Baker which excited my interest and induced me to make particular inquiry concerning him. I had never heard of this individual before, but I now speedily learned that he was the chief government detective officer and that he was uncommonly expert in hunting down rebel spies and in putting a stop to their performances. I immediately concluded that Col. Baker was a personage whom it was eminently desirable that I should become acquainted with at the earliest possible moment and that it would be much more advantageous for me to make his acquaintance through the introduction of one of my military friends than through finding him on my track just when I had some enterprise for the benefit of the Confederacy in process of consummation.

Whichever of the two it was that I had my original conversation with about Baker, it was the general who made me acquainted with him and who spoke of me in such a manner as to put me in the good graces of this terrible man at the start.

Col. Lafayette C. Baker occupied at Washington a somewhat similar position to that held by Gen. Winder at Richmond, although he scarcely had the large powers and extensive authority of the chief of the Confederate secret service department. In fact, Col. Baker was a detective officer more than anything else, and he had comparatively little to do with military matters. The chief employment of himself and his assistants was to hunt down offenders of all kinds, and he was much more successful in this than he was in procuring information for the use of the war department, although he prided himself considerably on his own performances as a spy and upon several not unsuccessful secret service expeditions into the Confederacy that had been made by his directions. …

I confess that I came into the presence of so formidable an individual with some degree of trepidation but I very soon learned to regard him as not half so ferocious as he looked and as very far from being as difficult and dangerous a personage to deal with as he was made out to be. …

Baker was a tolerably fair-looking man, after a certain fashion. He was a returned Californian, having resided in San Francisco for a number of years before the war, and having been a member of the famous vigilance committee which made such short work with the rogues of that city in 1856. He had the bronzed face and the wiry frame of a western pioneer, and his manners were marked by a good deal of far-western brusqueness. His hair was dark and thick, and he wore a full and rather heavy beard but his eyes were the most expressive feature of his face. These were a cold gray, and they had a peculiarly sharp and piercing expression, especially when he was talking on business. He also had a particularly sharp and abrupt manner of speaking at times, and more than once, when I have had reason to think that he might have knowledge of some of my transactions as a Confederate secret service agent, I have felt cold creeps all over me as he looked me straight in the eyes and spoke in that cutting tone of voice he was in the habit of using on occasions.

Col. Baker was, in my opinion, a first-rate detective officer and nothing more, for something more is necessary in the chief of a secret service department in time of war than to be a good hand at hunting down offenders. Give him a definite object to go for, and a very slight clue, and he would … accomplish a creditable piece of work. He had, however, very little skill in starting enterprises for himself. Gen. Winder, in his place, would have made Washington a much more uncomfortable residence for Confederate spies and agents than it was during the war, and the fact that I was able to play double with the colonel … and to carry on … a number of important operations on behalf of the Confederacy, so to speak, under his very nose, was not very creditable to him. …

Colonel Baker, however, was not without his good qualities, even if he was far from being as great a personage as he thought he was. He was stern and severe, but he was a kinder man at heart than Gen. Winder, although he lacked the intellectual attainments of the Confederate officer. With regard to the relative honesty of the two, it is perhaps as well that I should express no opinion.

Loreta’s Civil War: No occasion for any violence

Velazquez meets an intelligence agent who gives her a new mission, and, this time, a dress is her disguise.

ks45

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 33: Velazquez meets an intelligence agent who gives her a new mission, and, this time, a dress is her disguise.

******

Shortly after my arrival at Mobile, I received a rather mysterious note in a masculine hand, asking me to meet the writer that evening at the corner of the square, but giving no hint whatever of the purpose of the invitation. I hesitated for some little time about taking any notice of the request, thinking that if the writer had any real business with me, he would seek me out and communicate with me in some less mysterious way. On a little reflection, however, I concluded that it would be best for me to meet the gentleman, whoever he might be, according to the terms of his invitation, and to find out who he was and what he wanted. I felt tolerably well able to take care of myself, although I was aware that the circumstances of my army career being rather extensively known, I was especially liable to annoyances of a peculiarly unpleasant kind from impertinent people. …

The fact … that I was traveling under credentials from Gen. Winder, and was in a manner an attache of the Secret Service Department, rendered it not improbable that this was an application for me to undertake some such enterprise as I for a long time had been ardently desirous of engaging in. The more I considered the matter, the more I was disposed to take this view of it, and accordingly, at the hour named, I was promptly at the rendezvous, wondering what the result of the adventure would be.

My surmise proved to be correct. I had scarcely arrived at the corner of the square when my correspondent, who I discovered was Lt. Shorter of Arkansas, advanced towards me, and said, “Good evening. I am glad to see you. How have you been?”

“I am quite well,” I replied, and waited for him to introduce the subject concerning which he was evidently desirous of conversing with me.

After a few inconsequential remarks on either side, he said, “I see that you received my note.”

“Yes.”

“Well, you must excuse me for asking for a secret interview like this, but the matter I wanted to talk to you about is of great importance, and, as in these times we don’t know whom to trust, it was necessary that I should have an opportunity to carry on our conversation without danger of being watched or overheard. You have had considerable experience in running through the lines, and in spy and secret service duty, have you not?”

“Yes,” I replied. “I have done something in that line.”

‘”You have usually been tolerably lucky, haven’t you?”

“Yes, I have had reasonably good luck. I got caught once in New Orleans, but that was because the parties to whom I had delivered my dispatches were captured. [Union Maj. Gen. Benjamin F.]Butler tried his hand at frightening me, but he did not succeed very well, and I managed to slip away from him before he had any positive evidence against me which would have justified him in treating me as a spy.”

“Well, you’re just the kind I want, for I have a job on hand that will require both skill and nerve, and I would like you to undertake it, especially as you seem to have a talent for disguising yourself.”

I concluded that I would find out exactly what he wanted me to do before I gave him any satisfaction, so I said, “What kind of a job is it? I have risked my neck pretty often without getting very many thanks for it, and I don’t know that I care a great deal about running all kinds of risks for little glory, and no more substantial reward.”

“Oh, come now,” said he, “You must not talk that way. Now is the very time that your services will be worth something, and this bit of business that I am anxious for you to undertake is of such a nature that it would not do to give it to any but a first-rate hand.”

“Well, what is it? When I know what you want me to do I will be better able to say whether it would be worth my while to do it.”

“Wouldn’t you like to take a trip through the lines?” said the lieutenant. …

I considered a moment and then said, “Yes, I will go, if it is for anything to serve the cause.”

“That’s the way to talk,” said he. “I am in the secret service, and I want you to take a dispatch through the lines and give it to a certain party. …”

“Well,” said I, “I will make an effort, and do my best to succeed.”

“Oh, you must succeed,” said the lieutenant, “for there will be the devil to pay if the Feds discover what you are up to, and you will have to do your prettiest to prevent them from even suspecting that you are up to any unlawful tricks.”

“I’ll do my best, and I can’t do any more than that, but as I have fooled them before, so I guess I can again.”

“Well,” said he, “that’s all right. Now, what I want you to do is to meet me tomorrow evening at Meridian. I will have everything ready for you and will give you your instructions, and you be prepared for a hard journey. In the meantime, keep quiet, and don’t whisper a word to anybody.”

We then said good night and parted, I going back to the hotel to do a heap of thinking before I went to sleep. Lt. Shorter, beyond saying that I was to go through the lines — and endeavoring to impress upon me the great importance of the enterprise — had given me no hint of where I was to go, or what the exact nature of my errand would be, and I consequently had to depend upon myself in making such preparations as were necessary. Having considered the subject as well as I was able, I concluded to procure a very fine suit of women’s clothing and to make up a small bundle of such few extra articles besides those upon my back, as I thought I would require.

My arrangements having been all made, I started for Meridian the next day, and on my arrival at that place found Lt. Shorter waiting for me at the depot. … Having obtained a [hotel] room where we could converse privately, the lieutenant proceeded to explain what he wanted me to do and to give me directions for proceeding. He said that he had captured a spy belonging to the Federal Gen. Hurlbut’s command and had taken from him a paper containing quite accurate accounts of the forces of [Confederate Gens.] Chalmers, Forrest, Richardson, and Ferguson, [along with] their movements. This he had changed so that it would throw the enemy on the wrong scent, and I was to take it to Memphis and deliver it to the Federal Gen. Washburn, telling him such a story as would induce him to believe that I had obtained it from the spy. He also had a dispatch for Forrest, which he wanted me to carry to the Confederate secret agent in Memphis [and] giving me the password which would enable me to communicate with him without difficulty. …

After some further conversation about the best plan of proceeding … Lt. Shorter suggested some changes in my dress, his idea being, that I should impersonate a poor countrywoman who had lost her husband at the outbreak of the war and who was flying into the Federal lines for protection. He also gave me letters to the different Confederate commanders whom I would meet on my road, directing them to assist me, and put in my hand the sum of one hundred and thirty-six dollars in greenbacks. … This, he thought, would see me through, but in case it should not prove sufficient, he said … any commanding officer I met would supply me with funds and that after I reached Memphis I would find plenty of friends of the Confederacy upon whom I could call for assistance.

Everything being in readiness for my journey, the next morning I took the train for Okolona, where, procuring a pass from Capt. Mariotta, the provost marshal, I hired a conveyance and drove to the headquarters of Gen. Ferguson. On showing my order for assistance to the general, he received me with the greatest politeness and invited me into his quarters, where he gave me some information and additional instructions, and reiterated Lt Shorter’s cautions to be vigilant and careful, as I was on a mission of great importance.

The general then handed me ninety dollars, and presented me with a pistol, which he said was one of a pair he had carried through the war. The money he was sure I would need, and the pistol might be a handy thing to have in case I should be compelled to defend myself, for my journey would take me through a rough country, and I might chance to meet with stragglers who would give me trouble. He advised me, however, not to use the weapon except in case of absolute necessity, and especially not to carry it with me into the Federal lines, for if it was discovered that I had it about me, it might excite suspicions that I was a spy, when such a thing would not otherwise be thought of.

A fine horse having been provided for me, I said adieu to Gen. Ferguson, who wished me good luck, and started off with an escort who was to conduct me to a point somewhere to the northeast of Holly Springs, from whence I would have to make my way alone, getting into the Federal lines as best I could.

In spite of the fact that I was quite sick and sometimes felt that I could scarcely sit upon my horse, I rode all that night and nearly all the next day through lonesome woods, past desolate clearings — occupied, if at all, by poor negroes or even poorer whites, all of whom had a half-terrified look, as if they were expecting every moment to have a rapacious soldiery come tramping through their little patches of ground and appropriating whatever was eatable or worth taking. … At length we reached a negro’s cabin, which, although it was but a poor shelter, was better than nothing at all, and feeling too ill to proceed any farther without rest and refreshments, I resolved to stop there all night.

The inhabitants of the cabin were not very much inclined to be over-communicative and apparently did not want me for a lodger, and their abode was not one that I would have cared to make a prolonged sojourn in. I was too much of a veteran campaigner, however, to be over-fastidious about my accommodations for a single night and was too sick not to find any shelter welcome. From what I could learn from these people, I was not very many miles from the Federal lines, and I secured their good will, to a reasonable degree, by promising to pay well for my night’s lodging. ….

I wished my escort now to return to Gen. Ferguson’s headquarters, but, as he suggested that the negroes might prove treacherous, we both concluded that it would be best for him to remain until I was fairly started in the morning on my way to the Federal lines. A supper which, under some circumstances I would scarcely have found eatable, was prepared for us, and I partook of it with a certain degree of relish, despite the coarse quality of the food, being too tired and hungry to be critical or squeamish. Then, completely used up by my long and toilsome ride, I retired to the miserable bed that was assigned me, and ere long was in happy obliviousness of the cares and trials of this world.

About three o’clock in the morning I was up and ready to start, after having made a hasty toilet, and after a breakfast which served to satisfy my hunger but which certainly did not tempt my palate. My escort now bade me goodbye and was soon out of sight, on his way back to camp, while I, mounted on a little pony and with the old negro to lead the way, faced in the opposite direction. …

Not having the most implicit confidence in my guide, I took care to keep him in front of me all the time and had my hand constantly upon the pistol which Gen. Ferguson had given me, and which I was resolved to use upon my colored companion in case he should be inclined to act treacherously. Fortunately there was no occasion for any violence, and our journey continued without interruption, except such as was caused by the rough nature of the ground, until, at length, I spied through the trees a little church. It was now broad daylight, although the sun was not yet up, and the surroundings of this building … were dismal enough. I surmised … that the Federal pickets must be somewhere near, and I concluded that it was time for me to get rid of the darkey. …

Watching the old negro until he was out of sight, I rode up to the church, and dismounting, entered the building. My first care now was to get rid of my pistol, as I thought it would most probably be taken from me if the Federals found that I had it, and the discovery of it, secreted upon my person, would be not unlikely to cause me to be suspected of being a spy, which, of course, was the very thing I was most anxious to avoid. Raising a plank in the flooring, I put the pistol under it and covered it well with dirt. My intention was to return this way, and I expected to get the weapon, and give it back to Gen. Ferguson.

Circumstances, however, induced me to change my plans, and as I have never visited the spot since, if the church is still standing, the pistol is probably where I placed it, for I buried it tolerably deep and smoothed the dirt well over it so that it would not be likely to be discovered except by accident.

Recommended reading / viewing / listening

This week: Enduring sexism / LBJ and the Secret Service / Exercise and depression / The Roman Empire / The political Eva Longoria

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This week: Enduring sexism / LBJ and the Secret Service / Exercise and depression / The Roman Empire / The political Eva Longoria

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. Jessica’s Feminized Atmosphere
By Jessica Williams | The Daily Show | Oct. 2
“Also, that’s redundant.”

2. L.B.J.’s Bravado and a Secret Service Under Scrutiny
By Michael Beschloss | The Upshot :: The New York Times | Oct. 2
“Not long after President Kennedy’s assassination, President Johnson chafed under his Secret Service protection.”

3. What made Japan’s deadly volcanic eruption so unpredictable?
By Judy Woodruff and Miles O’Brien | PBS NewsHour | Sept. 30
“More than 250 people were out hiking and enjoying a nice fall day, when a surprise eruption littered the mountain with falling boulders, thick smoke and piles of ash. At least 36 people were killed.”

4. This Is How Eva Longoria Is Trying to Win the Midterms
By Asawin Suebsaeng | The Daily Beast | Oct. 1
“From working behind the scenes in the midterms to making a new farm labor documentary, the former Desperate Housewife has emerged as a force to be reckoned with in liberal politics.”

5. How Exercise May Protect Against Depression
By Gretchen Reynolds | Well :: The New York Times | Oct. 1
“Exercise may help to safeguard the mind against depression through previously unknown effects on working muscles.”

6. The Elements of Style
By Sasha Weiss | The Sunday Book Review :: The New York Times | Oct. 3
“Watching other women, seeing how they’re dressed and how they pull it off, is the way most of us learn to become ourselves.”

7. Former Haiti president Duvalier dies
By Mike Wooldridge | BBC News | Oct. 4
“Duvalier was just 19 when in 1971 he inherited the title of “president-for-life” from his father, the notorious Francois ‘Papa Doc’ Duvalier. He was accused of corruption, human rights abuses and repression in his rule, which ended in a 1986 uprising.”

8. Catastrophic Coltrane
By Geoff Dyer | NYR Gallery :: New York Review of Books | Oct. 4
“The interest of recordings from this final phase — in which Coltrane’s playing became increasingly frenzied and the accompaniment more abstracted — lies partly in what they preserve and partly in any hints they contain as to where Trane might have headed next.”

9. The Aral Sea’s Disappearing Act
By Anna Nemtsova | The Daily Beast | Oct. 4
“Satellite photos show how the depredations of dictators have turned the world’s fourth largest inland sea into a poisonous desert.”

10. 40 maps that explain the Roman Empire
By Timothy B. Lee | Vox | Aug. 19
“Two thousand years ago, on August 19, 14 AD, Caesar Augustus died. … Under Augustus and his successors, the empire experienced 200 years of relative peace and prosperity. Here are 40 maps that explain the Roman Empire — its rise and fall, its culture and economy, and how it laid the foundations of the modern world.”