Loreta’s Civil War: Winning the fame I coveted

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

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

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

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

******

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Loreta’s Civil War: A mild flirtation with this fair flower

Velazquez completes her disguise, doesn’t hesitate from flirting with farm girls, and rounds up men to form her Confederate battalion.

KS17

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

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

Part 8: Velazquez completes her disguise, doesn’t hesitate from flirting with farm girls, and rounds up men to form her Confederate battalion.

******

I immediately proceeded to change my garments, and ere a great many minutes had elapsed, I was transformed into a man, so far as it was possible for clothing to transform me. When I was ready, I called my friend and asked his opinion of the figure I cut. He admitted that I was not a bad-looking specimen of a man, considering I had only been about five minutes, and thought that in time I should be able to do credit to the name I bore and the clothes I wore.

The only regret I had in making up my disguise was the necessity for parting with my long and luxuriant hair. This gave me a real pang but there was no help for it, and I submitted with as good a grace as I could muster, while my friend played the part of tonsorial artist with a pair of shears. He trimmed my hair tolerably close and said that it would answer until I could visit a barber’s shop with him and be initiated into some of the mysteries of such a peculiarly masculine place of resort. … [H]e made me promenade the room, practicing a masculine gait until I had acquired it tolerably well, and gave me a great number of very minute instructions about the proper manner of conducting myself so that my sex would not be suspected. He particularly enjoined me to watch his actions closely at the barber’s, in the drinking saloons, the billiard rooms, and the other places he intended conducting me to, for the purpose of informing me with regard to some masculine habits and ways of acting, talking, and thinking. …

Strolling down the street, we soon came to the hotel and entered the barroom, where my companion met a number of friends, to whom he introduced me as a young officer on his way to the seat of war. I was received with much cordiality, and the whole party speedily engaged in an animated conversation about the coming conflict. … The men all took whiskey straight but I did not venture on anything stronger than cider. Soon my companion managed to give me a quiet hint, and I treated the party to drinks and cigars. We then adjourned to the billiard-room, and my friend, taking off his coat, went at a game in good earnest with another member of the party. I had never seen the game of billiards played before, and I soon became intensely interested … pretending to smoke my cigar, the balls rolling over the table. As the weather was warm, I very soon, after entering the billiard-room, availed myself of what seemed to be the custom of the place, to take off my heavily padded coat, which began to be unbearable, and found myself much more at my ease sitting in my shirt sleeves. …

The next day I completed my outfit by purchasing a pair of field glasses, a pair of blankets, a rubber overcoat, and a rubber blanket. On returning to my room I made out a form of attorney in my friend’s name and authorized him to attend to all my business matters for me. I also prepared a lot of recruiting papers on the model of some genuine ones I succeeded in getting hold of, and some muster rolls, and procured a manual of tactics, and before the day was over was pretty nearly ready to commence active operations.

My friend, thinking that my disguise could be somewhat improved and a more manly air given to my countenance, obtained a false mustache and a solution with which to stain my face in order to make it look tanned. I rubbed on the solution until my skin was about the right tint, and then my friend carefully fastened the mustache on my upper lip with glue. This was a very great improvement, and I scarcely knew myself when I looked in the glass, and laughed at the thought of what my husband would say when he saw me in this disguise. …

Everything was now in proper trim for me to commence operations in earnest; so, packing my trunk, rolling up my blankets in army style, as I had often seen soldiers do, preparing my papers, and getting ready a change of underwear, and other matters for immediate use in a small satchel, I was ready to start on my campaign with as stout a heart as ever beat in the breast of a soldier.

The plan of action I had fixed upon, after mature reflection, was to raise and equip a battalion at my own expense, taking care to select good material for it, and then to appear at the head of my little army before my husband, and to offer him the command. I pictured to myself again and again the look of astonishment he would put on when he recognized his wife as the leader of a gallant band who were pledged to fight to the death for the cause of Southern independence, and flattered myself with the idea that, so far from being inclined to censure me for my obstinate persistence in carrying out my idea of becoming a soldier, he would be disposed to praise without reservation, and so far from being ashamed of my action, would be proud of it. Whatever view of the matter he might take, however, he would be compelled to yield to my wishes, whether he desired to do so or not, and I would consequently be free to follow the bent of my inclinations without fear of further opposition on his part. My desire was to serve with him, if possible; but if this could not be done, I intended to play my part in the war in my own way, without his assistance. I, however, did not contemplate any further difficulty in obtaining his consent, and even his assistance, in the execution of my plans, and so started out on the war path with a light heart and with brilliant anticipations for the future.

I crossed over to Hopefield, on the Arkansas side of the river, and took the five o’clock train, not knowing exactly where I proposed to bring up. For a time I busied myself with the study of my Manual of Tactics, with the intention of becoming sufficiently posted on certain points to get my recruits into something like military training immediately. Having been the wife of an army officer for a number of years, and having seen some hard service on the frontier, I was, in a measure, pretty well qualified for the work I had now undertaken, especially as I had paid a good deal of attention to the details of military organizations, and had seen soldiers drilled hundreds of times. I had not been in the train very long, before, finding the conductor at leisure, I entered into conversation with him with a view of obtaining information that might be useful in the furtherance of my designs.

Explaining to this individual, who appeared to take the liveliest interest in my affairs, that I was on a recruiting expedition, I asked him if he could not suggest a good neighborhood for me to commence operations in. He said that Hurlburt Station was as likely a place as I could find to pick up a company of strong, hearty fellows who would do some good fighting, and advised me to try my luck there. Hurlburt, he told me, was not much of a place — a saw-mill, a country store, in which the post office was located, a schoolhouse, which was also used as a church, being pretty much all there was of it. …

The train sped through the swamps, and it was not a great while before we reached Hurlburt Station, where, in accordance with the conductor’s suggestion, I alighted. With my satchel in my hand, I made for the nearest house, and inquired of a negro, who was chopping wood, whether his master was at home. The darkey stared at me a bit, evidently attracted by something in my appearance, and then, grinning until he showed all his ivories, said that the old boss was away, but that the young boss was about somewhere. I accordingly told him to call the young boss; and soon up came a well-built, good-looking young fellow, whom I fixed upon immediately as a suitable recruit. …

I told him that I had the army regulations with me and would take pleasure in explaining them to him in the morning. I then asked him to give me some water so that I could clean myself up a bit before supper, as I was pretty well covered with dust and cinders after my ride. He accordingly got me a basin of water and then left me to go off and hunt the old man, full of eagerness to tell him of the arrival of the recruiting officer, and of his own desire to go soldiering.

The sudden intrusion of a gallant young officer, in a gay uniform, plentifully decorated with buttons and lace … made an even greater impression on the female than upon the male part of the family. My arrival had clearly created an intense excitement, and I understood very well that I was the subject of the whispered conversation that I heard going on outside. From the manner in which the old woman and her son had addressed me, I knew that they had no suspicions of my being other than what I seemed, but I judged that it would be necessary to be pretty careful how I carried myself before the former, for she was clearly a sharp one and would be quick to take note of any peculiarly feminine traits of manner I might display. I therefore determined to play the man right manfully, whether I thought myself observed or not; and this I found to be a very good rule to go by throughout the entire period during which I wore my disguise. …

The eldest of the two daughters was about sixteen and was attired in a bright, flaring yellow calico; the youngest was about twelve years of age and was somewhat less unbecomingly dressed in pink. Both of the girls had put on the best they had to do honor to the occasion, and the eldest, especially, so soon as her first bashfulness wore off, seemed very much disposed to attract the particular attention of the visitor by various little feminine artifices, which I understood very well, and which amused me immensely.

On entering the room, the old woman said, awkwardly waving her hands towards her daughters, “These is my gals, sir.”

I bowed in the politest manner, and said, with what I intended to be a particularly fascinating smile, “Good evening, ladies,” laying a particular emphasis on the word “ladies,” which had the desired effect, for both of the girls blushed deeper than ever, and the eldest simpered as if she heartily enjoyed it. … I started a talk with the old woman by remarking that it had been an exceedingly pleasant day. … After a few commonplaces of this kind about the weather and other matters of no particular moment, I thought I might as well proceed to business at once, for I expected that I would have some opposition from the old woman in my effort to enlist [her son]. So I said, “Madam, I am trying to enlist your son for a soldier in my company; don’t you think you can spare him?” She burst out crying, and exclaimed, “Oh, sir, I can’t let my boy go for a soldier and get killed.” The youngest girl, seeing her mother in tears, began to blubber a little also; but the eldest not only did not cry, but she looked at me in such a peculiar way that I was convinced she wished I would take her instead of [her brother].

The idea of having a mild little flirtation with this fair flower of the Arkansas forest rather grew upon me as I noticed the impression I was making upon her susceptible imagination. I had some curiosity to know how lovemaking went from the masculine standpoint and thought that the present would be a good opportunity to gain some valuable experience in that line; for it occurred to me that if I was to figure successful in the role of a dashing young Confederate officer, it would be necessary for me to learn how to make myself immensely agreeable to the ladies. I knew how to make myself agreeable to the men, or thought I did, and I could, if I chose, be agreeable to women in a feminine sort of fashion; but I had never studied the masculine carriage towards my sex critically with a view of imitating it, and it was important, therefore, that I should begin at once to do so, in order that when compelled to associate with women, as I assuredly would be to a greater or less extent, I might not belie my outward appearances by my conduct. I flatter myself that during the time I passed for a man I was tolerably successful with the women, and I had not a few curious and most amusing adventures, which gave me an insight into some of the peculiarities of feminine human nature which had not impressed themselves on my mind before, perhaps because I was a woman.

My flirtation with Miss Sadie Giles was not a very savage one, and I hope that it did not inflict more damage on her heart than it did on mine. It was immensely amusing to me while it lasted, and I presume, if not exactly amusing, it might at least be deemed entertaining to her. At any rate, I succeeded not only in having a little sly fun at her expense, but I picked up an idea or two that I subsequently found useful. Noticing that Miss Sadie was developing a marked partiality for me, but was much too bashful to give me any encouragement, except some shy glances out of the corners of her eyes, I commenced to ogle her, and, whenever I had an opportunity, to pay her some delicate attentions, for the purpose of making her think I was just a bit fascinated with her. It soon became very evident that the heart which beat under that yellow calico dress was in a great state of excitement, and Miss Sadie, while not encouraging me by any direct advances, made it very plainly understood that my little attentions were appreciated.

Supper was now announced, and we all sat down to a tolerably plentiful repast, the principal features of which were bacon, cabbage, and fried chickens — the latter having been prepared in my honor. Miss Sadie managed to place herself by my side, by a dexterous little maneuver which escaped the attention of the family but which I understood perfectly. I, for my part, strove to play the gallant by helping her bountifully to the bacon, cabbage, and chicken, and by endeavoring to induce her to join in the conversation. She undoubtedly appreciated my attentions at their full value, but was not sufficiently self-possessed to do much talking; indeed, during the supper I could scarcely get anything out of her except a timid “yes” or “no.”

[Her father], on the contrary, was very talkative, and plied me with all kinds of questions about myself, my errand, the war, and the prospect of a speedy accomplishment of Southern independence. I told him that my name was Buford, that I was a lieutenant in the army, and that I had been sent down to Arkansas for the purpose of recruiting a company for service in Virginia. He said that I would have no difficulty in getting all the recruits I wanted, as the young fellows in those parts were every one eager to have a dash at the Yankees, and promised to aid me in every way possible. …

Before the supper was over I had a terrible fright. … While drinking a glass of buttermilk, which I greatly enjoyed, for it was the best thing on the table, and was most refreshing, my mustache got full of the fluid, and when I attempted to wipe this ornament, which my Memphis friend had so carefully glued upon my upper lip, and which added so much to the manliness of my countenance, I fancied that it was loose and was about to fall off. Here was a terrible situation, and I cannot undertake to describe what I felt. To say that I was frightened scarcely gives an idea of the cold chills that ran down my back. The ridicule of my entertainers, and especially of Miss Sadie, was the least thing that I feared, and I would rather brave any number of perils at the cannon’s mouth than to repeat the emotions of that dreadful moment. Such a situation as this is ludicrous enough, but it was not a bit funny for me at that time, and I was on pins and needles until I could get away and take means to secure the mustache firmly on again. I managed, however, to keep a straight countenance and to join in the conversation with a tolerable degree of equanimity, keeping my hand up to my mouth all the time though, and doing my best to hold the mustache on. My fright, after all, was causeless, for on examination I found that the hair was too firmly glued to my lip to be easily removed; indeed, I subsequently discovered that it was practically impossible to move it without the aid of alcohol.

After supper, the old man and Frank went off to finish up their work before going to bed, and the women folks busied themselves in clearing the dishes. … I glanced over my shoulder, and seeing that Miss Sadie had finished her work and was apparently anxious to be better acquainted with me, I politely arose and offered her my raw-hide chair. This she blushingly declined but took a wooden stool, upon which she seated herself quite close to me. I could think of nothing so likely to loosen her tongue and make her properly sociable as a reference to religious matters; so I asked her if there were any churches in the neighborhood. She said that there was no regular church, but that on Sundays a preacher held forth in the schoolhouse. … The old man, I presume, was rather tired, and so, taking advantage of this change of subject in our conversation, he went to bed, and soon was snoring lustily. Finally, Miss Sadie got back to what was the subject uppermost in her thoughts and began questioning me about my own affairs, by asking if I had any brothers.

“Yes,” I replied, “One, older than myself, who is more fortunate, for he is married,” giving a look at her out of the corner of my eye, which I intended her to understand as an intimation that, although not married, I had no objections to being so if I could find a girl to suit me.

“You ought to be married, too,” said Miss Sadie, with a simper, and apparently appreciating this kind of conversation much better than the war talk the old man and I had been indulging in.

“How can I get married when none of the girls will have me?” I retorted. … The old woman thinking, I suppose, to flatter me, said, “A handsome young fellow like you, with, I dare say, a pretty fair education, needn’t be afraid of the gals not having you.”

At this point of the conversation the old man awoke, and sang out, “Don’t you women talk that man to death. Why don’t you git out and let him go to bed?” and then, pointing to a bed in the corner, he told me to turn in there when I felt like it. …

Here I was at the end of my first day’s experience in playing the part of a soldier, with every reason to believe that I had thus far played it most successfully, and that I had really made quite a brilliant start. … the susceptible heart of Miss Sadie was apparently touched in a way that it could never have been had the faintest suspicion of my not being a man crossed her mind. The old woman, too, who, in a matter of this kind, would be quite certain to be a more critical observer than the rest of the family, had no hesitation in believing me to be a gallant young soldier; so that, taking all things into consideration, I had reason to congratulate myself upon a brilliant opening to my campaign. …

[The next day, when] breakfast was over … I crossed over to the schoolhouse, where I found half a dozen rather rough fellows waiting to see me, all of whom expressed themselves as extremely anxious to enlist. One very hard-looking specimen, who could not even write his name, wanted very badly to be captain; indeed, they all were quite ambitious to be officers, and I had some difficulty in explaining to them, that in the army, in time of war, where actual fighting was being done, it was a very different thing holding the position of an officer, from what it was in the militia. I, however, encouraged them to believe that they all might be lieutenants, captains, and even generals, some day, if they fought bravely, and succeeded in creating such an enthusiasm among them over the prospect of a brush with the Yankees, to be followed by rapid promotion, that the whole party were soon ready to enlist on any terms I chose to suggest.

After talking the matter over with these men for some time, and explaining the situation in the best style I was able, I wrote out some bills calling for volunteers, one of which I posted on the school-house door. … During the day I read the army regulations at least a dozen times, and tried to make the men understand what they meant. This was not a very easy matter, but I succeeded in enrolling thirty-six, whom I ordered to report for roll call the next morning. This they did not much fancy; but on my stating that they were under oath and bound to obey, they yielded without making any trouble about it, but apparently with no great admiration for military discipline.

My quota was easily filled in four days, and I then proceeded to get my battalion organization complete and to make preparations for departure. Two of the most intelligent of the men I appointed subordinate officers, one sergeant and the other corporal, and gave them instructions about drilling the battalion and maintaining discipline in my absence. Everything now being in proper trim, I sent a messenger ahead to the friend in Memphis who had so efficiently aided my plans with instructions for him to engage transportation, and then getting my troops into marching order, off we started. …

Loreta’s Civil War: Victims of masculine viciousness

Velazquez manages to slip into a Confederate encampment, and the soldiers’ language and behavior offend and outrage her. She is particularly disgusted with how supposed gentlemen speak about women.

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

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

Part 7: Velazquez manages to slip into a Confederate encampment, and the soldiers’ language and behavior offend and outrage her. She is particularly disgusted with how supposed gentlemen speak about women.

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The style of conversation that was common in camp, and the kind of stories told around our fires at night, I will leave to the reader’s imagination, hoping, however, that he or she has not imagination enough to compass anything so utterly vile. My favorite amusement was a game of cards, and I preferred this way of entertaining myself, and of beguiling the weary hours, to listening to anecdotes which could only debase my mind. Anything relating to military affairs, to social science, to the deeds of great men or women, or whatever else I could improve myself by listening to, I took great delight in. From my earliest recollection, however, I have had a thorough distaste for vulgarity of language and profanity. … The manner in which too many men are in the habit of referring to the other sex in conversation among themselves is, in my opinion, thoroughly despicable; and I really think that it would be morally and intellectually beneficial to many of my sex, especially those who are the victims of masculine viciousness, if they could only listen to some such conversations as I have been compelled to listen to, and learn how little respect or real regard of any kind men have for them.

I would that God would put it into my power to utter such a warning as would be heeded, to the weak and erring of my sex, and which would enable them to fortify themselves against the temptations constantly assailing them. But I suppose no warning would prevent those who are disposed to sin from doing so, although I well know that women, and men too, can resist temptation, and can avoid vileness in living and in language if they will only choose to do so. I do not pretend to say that I am possessed of firmer nerves, or am less under the influence of the natural emotions of my sex, than many others; but my strong constitution, and the perfect health I enjoyed, enabled me to endure more fatigue and hardship than most women, while my firm-mindedness, and resolute determination to carry my point, enabled me to avoid anything like laxity of conduct. I was compelled to sink my sex entirely, for the least inadvertence would have thwarted my plans, and prevented the realization of all I aimed at.

Many and many a time has the subject of women serving in the army as soldiers been discussed at the mess-tables and around the campfires; and officers, who have been in my company for days, and weeks, and months, have boasted, with very masculine positiveness, that no woman could deceive them, little suspecting that one was even then listening to them. I have sometimes been asked my opinion on the subject; but have generally answered evasively, without expressing, in very decided terms, my ideas one way or the other. Some of the men with whom I have been associated have spoken in respectful and even commendatory terms concerning women serving as soldiers; but too many have had nothing but vileness to utter on the subject. I can never forget, although I may forgive, the disgraceful language which some of these individuals have used with regard to this matter; and my experiences in the army will not have been in vain, even if they have taught me nothing more than the utter contemptibleness of some individuals, whom it would be a stretch of courtesy to call gentlemen.

Within three days I managed to provide myself with a very complete military outfit, quite sufficient to enable me to commence operations without delay, which was the main thing I was after, for I was exceedingly anxious to carry out a magnificent idea I had in my mind, and to present myself before my husband, under such auspices that he could no longer find an excuse for refusing his consent to my joining the Southern army as a soldier. My uniform suit having been arranged for, it was an easy matter for me to procure the rest of my outfit without unduly attracting attention, and I soon had in my room a trunk well packed with the wearing apparel of an army officer, and neatly marked upon the outside with the name I had concluded to adopt. …

Loreta’s Civil War: Hard-drinking and blaspheming patriots

Velazquez follows her husband into a bar to learn what men are like when civilizing women are absent. He hopes to dissuade her from life among Confederate soldiers. But the experience makes her more determined than ever to join him the army and share his dangers and triumphs.

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

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

Part 5: Velazquez follows her husband into a bar to learn what men are like when civilizing women are absent. He hopes to dissuade her from life among Confederate soldiers. But the experience makes her more determined than ever to join him the army and share his dangers and triumphs.

******

Braiding my hair very close, I put on a man’s wig and a false mustache, and by tucking my pantaloons in my boots, as I had seen men do frequently, and otherwise arranging the garments, which were somewhat large for me, I managed to transform myself into a very presentable man. As I surveyed myself in the mirror I was immensely pleased with the figure I cut, and fancied that I made quite as good looking a man as my husband. My toilet once completed, it was not long before we were in the street, I doing my best to walk with a masculine gait, and to behave as if I had been accustomed to wear pantaloons all my life. I confess, that when it actually came to the point of appearing in public in this sort of attire, my heart began to fail me a little; but I was bent on going through with the thing, and so, plucking up courage, I strode along by the side of my husband with as unconcerned an air as it was possible for me to put on.

Presently we crossed over to a bar-room, which we found nearly filled with men smoking and drinking, and doing some pretty tall talking about the war, and the style in which the Yankees were going to be wiped out. … I was too frightened and bewildered by the novelty of my situation to pay very close attention to all I saw and heard, but it flashed upon me that some of these loud-talking, hard-drinking, and blaspheming patriots were not so valiant, after all, as they professed to be. My after experiences fully confirmed my first impressions, that the biggest talkers are not always the best fighters, and that a good many men will say things over a glass of whiskey in a bar-room, who won’t do a tenth part of what they say if they are once placed within smelling distance of gunpowder.

I had scarcely time to take a good look at the room and its occupants, when my husband caught sight of a couple of men who had belonged to his regiment, and who were very particular friends of mine. I was dreadfully afraid they would recognize me, but there was no escaping from them, as they came up so soon as they saw us, and I was introduced as a young fellow who was on a visit to Memphis to see the sights and to pick up war news.

My husband treated, he and his two comrades taking something strong, while I, in accordance with the instructions given me before starting out, called for a glass of cider, only a part of which I imbibed. After a little conversation, my husband whispered to me to call for the next treat. I was getting to be somewhat disgusted with the whole business, but was bound not to break down; so, stepping up to the bar, I invited the party, with as masculine a manner as I could put on, to drink with me. This time I took a glass of sarsaparilla, and when all had their drinks poured out, raising my tumbler, I cried out, “Gentlemen, here’s to the success of our young Confederacy.”

As I said this, my heart was almost ready to jump out of my throat. The men, however, gave a rousing cheer, and one of them yelled out, “We drink that toast every time, young fellow.” He then put his hand into his pocket, as if about to get his money to pay for the drinks, but I prevented him, saying, “Excuse me, sir, this is my treat,” and laid a twenty dollar gold piece on the counter. Each of us then took a cigar, I watching to see how they managed theirs before daring to put mine in my mouth. After I had gotten a light, I was not able to take more than three or four whiffs, for my head began to swim, and I knew if I kept on I should soon be deathly sick. As it was, I did not feel at all comfortable, but thought I could bear up, and said nothing for fear of being laughed at.

I was very glad to get out of the bar-room, and into the fresh air again; so, bidding our friends good night, we started off, I throwing my cigar away at the first opportunity I had of doing so without being observed. Eager to hear my husband’s opinion, I asked him if he did not think I played my part pretty well. He replied, “Oh, yes,” but I could see that he was very much dissatisfied with the whole performance. Before returning to the hotel we made a general tour of the city, visiting all the principal gambling-houses and saloons, my husband evidently hoping I should be so shocked with what I saw and heard that I should be ready to give up my wild scheme without farther talk about it.

When we were once more in our room he locked the door, and, throwing himself on the lounge, said, “Well, don’t you feel pretty much disgusted?”

To please him I said, “Yes,” adding, however, “but then I can stand anything to be with you, and to serve the sunny South.”

“Now, Loreta,” said he, “I have done this tonight for the purpose of showing you what men are like, and how they behave themselves when they are out of the sight and hearing of decent women, whom they are forced to respect. What you have seen and heard, however, is nothing to what you will be compelled to see and hear in camp, where men are entirely deprived of female society, and are under the most demoralizing influences. The language that will constantly greet your ears, and the sights that will meet your eye in camp, where thousands of men are congregated, are simply indescribable; and it is out of all reason that you should even think of associating in the manner you propose with soldiers engaged in warfare. …”

I pretended to be satisfied with his arguments, but was, nevertheless, resolved more firmly than ever, so soon as he took his departure, to put my plans into execution. …

Kate Stone’s Civil War: A piece of amusement

Stone’s mother wishes Stone would stop seeing Lt. Holmes. Stone, surprised, offers her view on how to handle soldiers who may be romantic partners.

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From 2012 to 2015, Stillness of Heart will share interesting excerpts from the extraordinary diary of Kate Stone, who chronicled her Louisiana family’s turbulent experiences throughout the Civil War era.

Learn more about Stone’s amazing life in 1861, 1862, 1863, 1864, 1865 and beyond. Click on each year to read more about her experiences. You can read the entire journal online here.

(Photo edited by Bob Rowen)

Stone’s mother wishes Stone would stop seeing Lt. Holmes. Stone, surprised, offers her view on how to handle soldiers who may be romantic partners.

May 21, 1865

Tyler, Texas

Coming in yesterday evening from the gallery after Lt. Holmes left, Mamma told me that she wished I would send Lt. Holmes off, that she much preferred my marrying Joe to Lt. Holmes, though neither was a suitable match, as Joe is too young and Lt. Holmes too dissipated.

I was surprised. I did not know she was taking it seriously, and I could honestly assure her I had not an idea of marrying either of them. I could have told her the same of Dr. McGregor, Lt. Valentine, and the conceited Capt. Birchett, should he ever make up his mind to propose. She seemed much relieved.

I thought she understood the point of view of most of the girls. One must not distress a soldier by saying “No” when he is on furlough. They have enough to bear. They may be going back to sudden death. Then they will most probably forget you for a sweetheart at the next camp, or their love will grow cool by the time you meet again. So it is just a piece of amusement on both sides.

If Mrs. Carson and Mrs. Savage only knew that I am as determined not to marry Joe as they are determined to prevent it, how much trouble and maneuvering it would save them. But I cannot well explain it to them. Joe can when he gets home, and their minds will be at rest.

Lt. Holmes has stopped drinking for some weeks now, since I asked him to do so one day during rehearsals when I saw ho was going too far. He was very nice about it. His face flushed and he thanked me but did not get angry as I feared.

Recommended reading / viewing / listening

Overpopulation myths … Obama’s reality … Sexy health benefits … Float the park … Canine PTSD

Most of these great items come from my Twitter feed or Facebook news feed. Follow me on Twitter and on Facebook for more fascinating videos, articles, essays and criticism. Read past recommendations from this series here.

1. The origins of Peru’s mysterious Nasca Lines
By Suemedha Sood | Travelwise :: BBC Travel | Dec. 2
“Preserved by the hot sun and a dry climate, the Nasca Lines have been embedded with mystery ever since the Nasca civilization collapsed, around 600 AD.”

2. After Duty, Dogs Suffer Like Soldiers
By James Dao | The New York Times | Dec. 1
“If anyone needed evidence of the frontline role played by dogs in war these days, here is the latest: the four-legged, wet-nosed troops used to sniff out mines, track down enemy fighters and clear buildings are struggling with the mental strains of combat nearly as much as their human counterparts.”

3. The city that floats
By Will Doig | Salon | Nov. 29
“Want more waterfront? Need room for garages or playgrounds? In the future, they’ll float — and the future is now.”

4. Sexual Healing
By Christie Aschwanden | Medical Examiner :: Slate | Dec. 1
“Does making love make you well?”

5. When ‘getting it done’ becomes impossible
By Danny Schechter | Al Jazeera | Nov. 30
“Obama started out with the idealistic ‘Yes We Can’, but now focuses on re-election and being the lesser of two evils.”

6. Q&A: Finding Other Ways to Record TV Shows
By J.D. Biersdorfer | Gadgetwise :: The New York Times | June 22
“Q: Can I digitally record TV shows without having to pay extra for the DVR equipment and service from the cable company?”

7. Obama 101
By Victor Davis Hanson | National Review | Nov. 30
“Few presidents have dashed so many illusions as Obama.”

8. 5 Things Afghan History Can Teach Us
By Suleiman Wali | The Hiuffington Post | Nov. 29
“[F]ive key points emerge that could help the country lay a better foundation for itself once American and NATO forces reduce their presence or leave altogether.”

9. Five myths about the world’s population
By Nicholas Eberstadt | Five Myths :: The Washington Post | Nov. 4
“The world’s population hit 7 billion people this past week, according to United Nations estimates, launching another round of debates about ‘overpopulation,’ the environment and whether more people means more poverty. …”

10. Civil War women: Annie Haggerty Shaw
Civil War Women Blog | Sept. 28
“Annie Shaw died without ever seeing the Shaw Memorial on Boston Common. What many consider to be the greatest public sculpture in the United States, the high-relief bronze monument honors Colonel Robert Gould Shaw and the African American soldiers of the 54th Massachusetts Regiment. It took sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens almost 14 years to complete.”

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TUNES

Tonight I’m spending some time with the blues, specifically with the Texas Blues Café. Check out the line-up and then listen here.

1. Big Head Todd & The Monsters — House Burn Down
2. Big Head Todd & The Monsters — Sweet Home Alabama
3. Little Big Town — Boondocks
4. Hill Country Review — Let Me Love You
5. The Geoff Everett Band — On the Road Again
6. Robert Earl Keen — 10,000 Chinese Walk Into a Bar
7. Garry Moore — King of the Blues
8. The Mark Knoll Band — Lay It On the Line
9. Chris Rea — Truck Stop
10. Kenny Wayne Shepard — Was
11. Wes Jeans — Stratus
12. Clay McClinton — One of those Guys
13. Cactus — The Groover
14. The Pride and Joy Band — Evil Thoughts