Loreta’s Civil War: The approbation of noble-minded men

As the Confederacy collapses and the Civil War comes to an end, Velazquez ponders what she has accomplished for herself and for the South.

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 54: As the Confederacy collapses and the Civil War comes to an end, Velazquez ponders what she has accomplished for herself and for the South.

******

After I had been gazing out of the window some little time, watching the crowds of people passing to and fro along the street, an elderly gentleman came up, and after addressing a few courteous words, asked if I was a resident of the city.

I replied that I had arrived only a few hours before from Columbus, Ohio, but that I was a Cuban.

“Ah, indeed,” said he, and, taking a seat beside me, he commenced a conversation by asking, “What do your people think of our war?”

“Oh, they think it is very bad but it is to be hoped that it is about over now.”

“What do you think of the assassination of the president?”

“That is much to be regretted but you know we Spaniards do not take such things quite so much to heart as some people.”

“It will be a bad thing for the South, and especially for some of the Southern leaders — they will be sure to hang Jeff Davis.”

I thought that it was catching before hanging but, concluding that perhaps it would be best not to put all my thoughts into words, I merely said, “I scarcely agree with you, sir. Why should one man die for the deeds of another?”

“Oh, those Southern leaders are all corrupt, and they sent Booth here with instructions to do this deed for the purpose of enabling them to carry out some of their schemes. They are a set of fiends, thieves, and cutthroats from beginning to end, and there is not an honest man among them.”

This excited my anger greatly but, considering that, under the circumstances, discretion was the better part of valor, I stifled my feelings and concluded to cultivate this old gentleman’s acquaintance further with the idea that perhaps I might be able to make use of him in the execution of any plans I might have for the future.

Taking out my watch, I found that it was half past three o’clock, so, excusing myself, I went to my room and put on my hat to go out. On coming downstairs again, I found my new acquaintance in the hall, near the ladies’ entrance. He asked me if I was going shopping, and on my replying that I merely proposed to go as far as the Executive Mansion, for the sake of a little exercise, he suggested that I ought to have an escort and volunteered to accompany me. I thought this rather an impudent proceeding, considering our very brief acquaintance, but not knowing what advantage he might be to me, I accepted his attentions with apparently the best possible grace.

Getting into a street car, we rode as far as the Park, opposite to the War Department. Taking a seat together under the trees, we entered into a conversation which convinced me that the old gentleman was a harmless eccentric who had become suddenly smitten with my charms. He had some very odd notions about politics, finance, and the like, but from such matters as these he ere long began to discourse upon my personal attractions and finally became quite tenderly demonstrative towards me. I believe the old gentleman would have asked me to marry him had I given him the least encouragement, but I was beginning to find him a nuisance and resolved to return to the hotel.

He persisted in going with me, and when, on reaching the hotel, I hastily and somewhat impatiently excused myself, for, looking at my watch, I saw that it was ten minutes past five o’clock, he asked whether he might escort me to supper. I said that he was very kind, and to get rid of him promised that he might have the pleasure of my company to the evening meal if he desired it. I then bounded upstairs, anxious to keep my appointment.

When I reached my room door it was locked, but in a moment more the key was turned, and on going in I found my Confederate officer waiting for me. He said that someone … had tried to get in. He had put his foot against the door to prevent it from being opened whereupon the person outside had worked at the lock for a while with a key. I replied that he need not be alarmed, as it was probably one of the chambermaids with clean towels, and that being unable to obtain admission she had left them on the knob of the door.

He told me that he would be compelled to leave the city at eleven o’clock, and, as he had several things to attend to, if I wanted to send anything by him it would be necessary for me to get it ready at once. I therefore seated myself to write, but, on a moment’s reflection, came to the conclusion that the risk was too great, as he was not unlikely to be captured, and determined to give him a verbal message.

After discussing the situation with as much fullness as we were able … I went to my trunk, and, getting an envelope, sealed twenty dollars in it, and handed it to him, as I knew that he must be short of money. He made some to do about taking it, but on my insisting, he put it in his pocket with an effusion of thanks and said farewell. I turned the gas in the hall down until I saw him out of sight and then prepared myself for my interview with Col. Baker.

On reaching the drawing room, I found there the old gentleman who had been so attentive during the afternoon, and who was apparently waiting for me rather impatiently. We had scarcely started a conversation, however, before Baker came in, with a friend of his from Baltimore. I excused myself with my aged admirer with very little ceremony and retired with Baker and his friend to the private parlor, where we could talk without being disturbed.

As we seated ourselves, Baker said to his friend, “This is one of the best little detectives in the country, but, unfortunately, she does not like the business.”

“Oh, the business does well enough,” I replied, “but I don’t like having bad luck in it.”

“We can’t always have good luck, you know,” said Baker, “but I have a job on hand now which I want you to undertake for me and which I think you can manage if you will do your best. If you succeed, you shall be paid handsomely.”

“Oh, colonel, you are not going to hold out the pay as an inducement for me to serve the country, are you?” I could not say “my country.”

“Oh, d–n the country, you don’t suppose we are going to work for it for nothing, do you? I want you to find this woman who is traveling and figuring as a Confederate agent. Some of my people have been on her track for a long time, but she is a slippery customer, and they have never been able to lay hands on her.”

I knew it was myself Baker meant, especially when he took out of his pocket a picture similar to the one the detective had shown me on the cars a number of months previous.

Baker continued. “Here is her picture. You can take it, for I am having some more struck off. I am going to capture her ladyship this time, dead certain, if she is in the country, as I believe she is.”

My sensations on hearing Baker utter these words cannot be described. What could make him so eager to capture me just at this particular moment? Could he possibly suspect me of having anything to do with the assassination plot? The very idea of such a thing made me sick, for I felt that, excited as everyone then was, an accusation of this kind was all but equivalent to a condemnation. I managed, however, to maintain my composure but inwardly resolved that the best thing I could do would be to leave the country at the earliest possible moment.

After discussing the method of procedure with regard to the search I was to institute for myself, I asked Baker what he thought the result of the trial of the prisoners accused of being implicated in the assassination plot would be.

“Oh,” said he, “they will all hang.”

“Now, I think that will be too bad. Even if Mrs. Surratt is proven to be guilty, they might commute her sentence. It will be a terrible thing to hang a woman, especially as she was not actually one of the assassins. Do you really think she is guilty?”

“No, but the affair was planned in her house, and she is in a good part responsible for it. I am very much in hope that a full confession from her will be obtained by her priest.”

“But, colonel, the evidence against her is all circumstantial, and surely it is not right or lawful to sentence her to death unless it is absolutely proven that she is guilty.”

“In times like this, it would never do to acquit her or to send her to prison, for the mob would take the law into their own hands. Besides, it is necessary to make an example.”

Baker’s friend here said, “I am glad that they got Booth.”

At this remark, I scanned Baker’s countenance closely. He smiled and said, “So am I. I intended to have his body, dead or alive, or a mighty good substitute for it, for no common criminal is worth the reward.”

This was a very queer expression, and it set me to thinking and to studying certain phases of Baker’s character more closely than I had ever done before.

The colonel and his friend then left. I was to have until nine o’clock the next morning to decide whether I would undertake the business he desired me to or not.

The next morning, before Baker came, I received my mail, and in it a letter from my brother, who expected to be in New York in a few days with his wife and child. He proposed that, as we were the sole remnants of our family, we should continue with each other in the future [and] … it would, perhaps, be best for us to go to Europe for a time, until things quieted down somewhat.

This letter decided me upon what course to pursue, and I determined to accept the commission from Baker, thinking by so doing I would more effectually prevent any of his detectives discovering my identity, while so soon as my brother and his family arrived, we would proceed across the Atlantic without further delay and remain there until the time should come when no one would have any object in troubling us.

The army of Joe Johnston, like that of Lee, had been surrendered, and it was evident to me that the war was practically at an end, although I thought it not impossible that it might be prolonged in a desultory manner for some time yet in the West and Southwest. I could plainly see, however, that further fighting would do no good and that the Confederate cause being lost, my mission in connection with it was at an end and my sole duty now was to consider my own welfare and that of my family.

All the bright dreams of four years ago had vanished into nothingness, and yet I could not regret having played the part I did. I loved the South and its people with a greater intensity than ever, while at the same time many of my prejudices against the North had been beaten down by my intercourse with its people during the past eighteen months. There were good and bad in both sections, and I believed that if the good men and women, both North and South, would now earnestly and patriotically unite in an endeavor to carry out the ideas of the founders of the government, they would, ere many years, be able to raise the nation to a pitch of greatness such as had yet been scarcely imagined.

As for my own experiences … they were sufficiently rich and varied in incident to satisfy all my ambitions. I had participated in bloody battles and sieges, and in the thickest of the danger had borne myself so valorously as to win the commendation of men who did not know what fear was, while, in addition to the campaigning I had gone through, my adventures as a spy and secret-service agent were not only of advantage to the cause I had espoused, but they had supplied me with exciting and absorbing work which had demanded the best exercise of all my faculties. I felt that I had reason to be proud of my war record and was the better satisfied with myself, as I knew that I had won the approbation of noble-minded men whose esteem was well worth winning.

When Col. Baker called, therefore, to hear my decision, I told him that I would undertake to do what he desired. He accordingly gave me my instructions, and I was astonished to find how much he knew of some of my movements. He and his men must have been on the point of capturing me many times, and they undoubtedly would have done so had I not had the wit to take the course I did in cultivating his acquaintance. With many self-congratulations at having been successful in escaping thus far … I started for New York on a search for myself ostensibly, but in reality to wait anxiously for the coming of my brother. …

Loreta’s Civil War: A derangement of the plans

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

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

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

Read previous chapters of her incredible story here.

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

******

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“This is an awful affair.”

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

“When will you return?”

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

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

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

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

Loreta’s Civil War: A brute as this man Butler

As Velazquez recovers from her wound, New Orleans falls to Federal forces, and she decides to try to spy on the occupation forces.

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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 22: As Velazquez recovers from her wound, New Orleans falls to Federal forces, and she decides to try to spy on the occupation forces.

******

My shoulder was found to be out of place, my arm cut, and my little finger lacerated — a disagreeable and exceedingly painful but not necessarily a very dangerous wound. The surgeon applied a dressing and put my arm in a sling, after which I felt a great deal more comfortable, although the pain was still intense, and he then endeavored to induce me to stop at Corinth until I was in better condition for traveling. Now, however, that my sex was discovered, I was more than ever anxious to get away from my old associates in the hope of finding some place where I could remain until I got well and able to commence operations again in a different locality, without being annoyed by the attentions of impertinently curious people. I therefore insisted upon pushing on to Grenada, and … [he], appreciating my reasons for getting away as soon as possible, very kindly went and procured transportation papers for me, and before the information that a woman, disguised as an officer, was among the wounded on the train, we were, to my infinite satisfaction, speeding out of sight, leaving behind us the camp occupied by a defeated army. The thought that our brave army should be resting under the cloud of a most humiliating defeat was a mental torture, which even my intense physical suffering could not pacify, and I was heartily glad to be able to take myself off from a locality which had so many unpleasant associations.

While on the train I suffered a great deal, although I was as well cared for as circumstances would permit, and it was an immense relief when we reached Grand Junction, for the hotel proprietor there was an old and true friend of mine, and I felt sure of receiving from him all the attention it was in his power to bestow. I found, however, that it was almost an impossibility to get any accommodation whatever, on account of the crowds of people who filled the place. The wives and other relatives of officers and soldiers had come to await the result of the battle, and as the news that the Confederate army had been defeated had preceded me, everything was in confusion, and everybody plunged in the deepest grief. Some of the waiting ones had already received their wounded friends, or the corpses of the slain, while others were nearly wild with anxiety on account of husbands, or brothers, or lovers who had not yet been heard from. …

I was asked a thousand questions about the battle, and was pressed with a thousand anxious interrogatories about particular persons and endeavored to answer as well as I could, notwithstanding the pain which my wounded arm and shoulder caused. Many of the women could not prevail upon themselves to believe that the Confederate army had been again defeated and indulged in the fiercest invective against the invaders. The intense grief of these stricken people affected me even more than the terrible scenes incident to the battle and the retreat, and, as I was not in a fit condition to endure anything more of anguish, and as it seemed to be impossible to obtain a room where I could be quiet and free from intrusion, I determined to push on to Grenada, without more delay, although I was anything but able to endure the excitement and discomfort of several hours’ ride by rail.

Having reached Grenada, I took a good rest by remaining there for two days. … I was visited by a great many of the ladies of the place, who presented me with bouquets, delicacies of various kinds, and bandages for my wound, and who otherwise overwhelmed me with attentions, for which I hope I was duly grateful. Not only the natural restlessness of my disposition, which my wound aggravated to such an extent that it was an impossibility for me to keep quiet, but a desire to get as far away from the Army of Tennessee as possible, before the fact that Lt. Harry T. Buford was a woman became generally known, induced me to move on with all the speed I could make, and I consequently started for New Orleans before I was really fit to travel. The result was, that when I reached Jackson, I found myself too ill to proceed farther, and was compelled, much against my will, to make another stop.

The hospitality I received at Jackson I will always remember with the warmest feelings of gratitude. I was really very sick, and my wounded shoulder and arm were terribly inflamed, and I scarcely know what I should have done had not a widow lady and her daughter taken a fancy to me and waited on me until I was able to be on the road again. These ladies treated me like a young lord, and I shall ever think of them as having placed me under a debt that I can never repay. So soon as I thought myself able to endure the fatigues of travel, I insisted upon being on the move in spite of the remonstrances of my friends, and made another start for New Orleans. …

By this time my wound was healing quite nicely, and although it pained me considerably still, the feverishness which had attended it was gone, and I began to feel myself once more, and with restored health began to busy myself in making plans for the future. …

On the train there were a great many wounded men, some of them old friends of mine whom I was glad to meet with again. The trip, therefore, was a pleasant one in some respects, notwithstanding its melancholy aspects, and we had a tolerably lively time discussing the late battle, and the chances of the Confederates being able to make headway in the future against the force which the Federals were bringing against them in every direction. We were obliged to acknowledge that the outlook was not a particularly promising one, and more than once expressed the belief that New Orleans would be the next object of attack. There was a good deal of confidence felt, however, that a Federal advance against the Gulf city, if it should be attempted, would be repulsed. …

When the news came that the Federal fleet had passed Forts Jackson and St. Philip, I at first thought of leaving as quickly as I could but a little reflection induced me to change my mind, for I saw clearly that if the Federals took possession of the city, I would, as a woman, have a grand field of operation. I therefore resolved to remain and see the thing out, and the uniform of Lt. Harry T. Buford was carefully put away for future use if need be, and the wearer thereof assumed the garments of a non-combatant feminine for the purpose of witnessing the entry of the victors into the captured city. …

Exactly when or where the blow would be struck, however, it was impossible to tell. The general impression was that the attack would be made by the army under [Union Maj. Gen. Benjamin] Butler, and how really formidable the Federal fleet was, few, if any, had any real notion. I suppose that scarcely anyone imagined the ships would make an unsupported effort to pass the fortifications below the city, or that they would succeed in doing so in case the attempt was made. I knew little or nothing about the river defenses or the preparations that were being made to receive a naval attack from my own observations, but from what I understood with regard to them, I felt tolerably assured of their efficiency, and my chief concern was about the insufficiency of the measures adopted to resist a land attack.

The Federal fleet, however, to the surprise of every one, succeeded in overcoming the obstructions in the river, and in passing the two principal forts, after a desperate battle, and then New Orleans was at the mercy of the naval gunners, specimens of whose methods of fighting had been exhibited to me at Fort Donelson and Shiloh in such a manner as to inspire me with a wholesome dislike for the kind of missiles they were in the habit of throwing. … I began to have a greater respect for the power of the Federal government than I had had before, and a greater appreciation of the weakness of the Confederacy. …

I felt particularly that the time was now … for me to make a display of my talents in another character than that of a warrior, and the arrival of the fleet in front of the city found me in the anxious and angry crowd on the levee, not inelegantly attired in the appropriate garments of my sex — garments that I had not worn for so long that they felt strangely unfamiliar, although I was not altogether displeased at having a fair opportunity to figure once more as a woman. …

Strange to say, the capture of New Orleans did not affect me near so unpleasantly as the defeats at Fort Donelson and Shiloh, and I felt nothing of the depression of spirit that overcame me after these battles. This may have been because I was getting accustomed to defeat now, and was consequently able to bear up under it more philosophically, although it is more than probable that it was because I was not one of the combatants, and consequently did not have that overpowering individual interest that a combatant must feel if he cares anything for his cause. I experienced less of that peculiarly disagreeable feeling of personal chagrin and disappointment that oppresses a soldier belonging to a beaten army.

The fact … that when the Federals obtained possession of the city I would probably be able to do some detective duty in a style that would not only be satisfying to my own ambition, but damaging to the enemy, and of essential service to the Confederacy, really enabled me to behold the approach of the fleet with a considerable degree of what almost might be called satisfaction. As a woman, and especially as a woman who had facilities for appearing as a representative of either sex, I knew that I would be able to observe the enemy’s movements and ferret out their plans in a signally advantageous manner. … I was really anxious to see the enemy occupy the city in order that I might try conclusions with them, having ample confidence that I would prove myself a match for the smartest Yankee of them all. …

Mayor Monroe behaved nobly when he was asked to surrender the city. He said that the city was without defense and at the mercy of the conquerors, but that it was not within his province as a municipal officer to surrender. He declined to raise the United States flag over the public buildings or to do anything that would seem a recognition of the right of the Federals in any way to regulate affairs in New Orleans by anything else than the law of force. When I read his reply to [Union Adm. David D.] Farragut’s demand for surrender, I readily forgave my private grievance against him. The mayor having positively refused to have anything to do with displaying the United States flag, or with lowering the flag of Louisiana, the raising of the Stars and Stripes on the public buildings was done by the sailors from the Federal fleet. …

When Butler took command … on May 1st, he issued orders stopping the circulation of Confederate currency, directing the people to resume their usual avocations, and giving everybody to understand that he intended to have his own way. …

I soon perceived that with such a brute as this man Butler to deal with, it would be necessary for me to be extremely circumspect, and to bring my best strategic talents to bear, if I expected to accomplish anything. I was well acquainted with the city and environs, and knew exactly how to go about slipping in and out through, the lines; but to carry on such operations as I proposed with a reasonable degree of safety and assurance of success, it was necessary … for me to keep all my wits about me, and to take care to be on good terms with those in authority.

I therefore set to work with due diligence and persistence to gain the confidence of the Federal officers. Some of them I found to be very pleasant, gentlemanly fellows, who were disposed to make themselves as agreeable as possible to everybody, and who were much gratified to hear any one — especially any woman — express Union sentiments. Many of them did not at all approve of the offensive manner in which Butler conducted himself, and some of his orders were carried out with a great deal of reluctance by those entrusted with their execution. With some of these officers I soon managed to get on very friendly terms, and they were always so polite and considerate in their treatment of myself and others that I greatly regretted the necessity of deceiving them. …

Kate Stone’s Civil War: Only sadness and tears

The Confederacy has collapsed, and Stone watches in horror as postwar chaos sweeps over East Texas.

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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)

The Confederacy has collapsed, and Stone watches in horror as postwar chaos sweeps over East Texas.

May 27, 1865

Tyler, Texas

Anarchy and confusion reign over all. Jayhawking is the order of the day. The soldiers are disbanding throughout the Department and seizing Government property wherever they can find it. The Government offices here have been sacked. All work is over and all who can are going home. At Shreveport the demoralization is worse even than here. The officers are scattering to the four winds, and Jayhawkers and private soldiers are stopping and robbing them whenever found. Col. Bradforte was the first here to desert his post. We hear that the mules were taken from his ambulance and wagon. Maj. Rhett, Gen. Hayes, and indeed everyone we hear of has suffered the same fate while fleeing to the interior of the state or to Mexico. Gen. Kirby Smith has also been robbed. We do not know but suppose this Department has surrendered as the soldiers have disbanded and are making their way home. We are still in ignorance of what disposal is to be made of us by our conquerors. The excitement in the town is so great we can think and live only in the present. Everything is in a turmoil. … We are all glad to see the soldiers divide what Government property they can find, if they will only stop there and not let the desperadoes rob the citizens as they may do. Some of the people deserve robbing, for they joined with the soldiers in sacking the Departments.

Jimmy came home Thursday no longer a soldier but a poor discouraged boy. All his regiment went home but twenty and the colonel disbanded them. Jimmy and the three Carson boys were of the twenty who stood to their guns. Will Carson came back with him. Jimmy and Joe Carson went out to the river to see the prospect there. We are so glad to have Jimmy safe at home, but oh, what a different homecoming from what we anticipated when he enlisted. No feasting. No rejoicing. Only sadness and tears.

Johnny starts for Brokenburn tomorrow to get Uncle Bob to plant some corn if possible so that there will be something when we move back in the fall. Of course we cannot go now and leave the crop on the prairie. It is our only hope for a cent of money. Johnny will also go on to Vicksburg and try to get news of My Brother and Uncle Bo. The long suspense is very trying and Mamma longs so for My Brother io get back to help her. She feels so at sea in these new conditions of life. … Jimmy goes to the prairie in a few days to see what money can be raised there. I took him yesterday to see half of the girls in town. Determined to lose no time, he and Johnny are escorting two of them to church this morning. Jimmy got back nearly out of clothes of course, and Johnny, after his last trip, is nearly as badly off, having swapped off about every respectable article he had. We had to go to work at once. Fortunately Mamma has secured some blue linen from the department stores and had plenty of homespun. Shirts are the most difficult to get.

Mamma keeps us in terror threatening to move to the farm until fall. It is about like being in jail with the privilege of looking through the window, but she can decide nothing until she sees or hears from My Brother.

Lt. Holmes’ mess is broken up, and he is staying with us until he and Lt. Dupre can get off together. Traveling is so unsafe just now for officers. But Lt. Dupre is so anxious to get back to his wife, they will leave in a day or so. Their part of the spoils in lieu of pay is an ambulance and pair of mules with which they will journey to Monroe together. The officials have burned all their papers. …

Kate Stone’s Civil War: Torrents of blood

Stone learns of Abraham Lincoln’s assassination, and she is happy he is dead. Her grim satisfaction is little comfort as all around her are convinced that Lee has surrendered.

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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 learns of Abraham Lincoln’s assassination, and she is happy he is dead. Her grim satisfaction is little comfort as all around her are convinced that Lee has surrendered.

Note that she heard that John Surratt, one of Booth’s co-conspirators, attacked Secretary of State William Seward. Lewis Powell, another member of the Booth group, actually carried out the attack. He failed to kill Seward but badly injured him.

 

April 28, 1865

Tyler, Texas

We hear that Lincoln is dead. There can be no doubt, I suppose, that he has been killed by J. W. Booth. “Sic semper tyrannis” as his brave destroyer shouted as he sprang on his horse. All honor to J. Wilkes Booth, who has rid the world of a tyrant and made himself famous for generations. Surratt has also won the love and applause of all Southerners by his daring attack on Seward, whose life is trembling in the balance. How earnestly we hope our two avengers may escape to the South where they will meet with a warm welcome. It is a terrible tragedy, but what is war but one long tragedy? What torrents of blood Lincoln has caused to flow, and how Seward has aided him in his bloody work. I cannot be sorry for their fate. They deserve it. They have reaped their just reward.

There is great gloom over the town. All think that Lee and his army have surrendered. No one will take the Confederate money today, and as there is no gold in circulation there is no medium of exchange. Rumors, rumors, but nothing definite. Lee is certainly captured. Our strong arm of victory, the chief hope of our Country, is a prisoner with an army variously estimated at from 6,000 to 43,000 men captured on their retreat from Richmond. Dr. Kunckers told us as a secret that [Joseph E.] Johnston with his entire army has surrendered, but that news is suppressed through motives of policy. Our papers say Johnston’s army has been reinforced by the flower of Lee’s army, that he has a band of tried veterans and will make a determined stand. We know not what to believe. All are fearfully depressed. Lee’s defeat is a crushing blow hard to recover from. Maybe after a few days we can rally for another stand. Now, most seem to think it useless to struggle longer, now that we are subjugated. I say, “Never, never, though we perish in the track of their endeavor!” Words, idle words. What can poor weak women do?

I cannot bear to hear them talk of defeat. It seems a reproach to our gallant dead. If nothing else can force us to battle on for freedom, the thousands of grass-grown mounds heaped on mountainside and in every valley of our country should teach us to emulate the heroes who lie beneath and make us clasp closer to our hearts the determination to be free or die. “When the South is trampled from the earth / Her women can die and be free.”

I say with my whole soul:

Shame to the traitor-heart that springs
To the faint, soft arms of Peace,
Though the Roman eagle shook his wings
At the very gates of Greece.

Monday it was distressing to see the gloom on every face. We had an impromptu dining that day, and all seemed in the depths of despair, could think and talk of nothing but defeat and disaster. … The war was discussed in all its bearings. Seldom has there been a gloomier feast. Yesterday took dinner with Mrs. Prentice and returned in time to receive Mollie Sandford, Lt. Holmes, Lt. Martin, and Dr. Winn, a nice Texan and a friend of Dr. Buckner’s, whom he saw about six weeks ago. …

If My Brother and Uncle Bo are among the prisoners, it is probable they will soon be paroled and at home. But we know not what has been their fate.

When Johnny first heard the ill news, he was wild with excitement and insisted on joining the army at once. We were wretched about him, but today he has quieted down and is willing to await further developments.

We expected to move to our new house on Monday, and Mamma is worried about paying the rent. If the Negroes are freed, we will have no income whatever, and what will we do? As things have turned out, we wish we could stay here until we know what is to be our fate.

 

Kate Stone’s Civil War: God spare us

The rumors finally reach Tyler: Lee may have surrendered to Grant. The Stone family refuses to believe it.

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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)

The rumors finally reach Tyler: Lee may have surrendered to Grant. The Stone family refuses to believe it.

Stone is especially detailed in this entry, perhaps burying herself in mundane moments to drive back the looming and crushing reality of Confederate defeat.

April 23, 1865

Tyler, Texas

Such terrible news if true, but we cannot believe it. We know that we have met with fearful reverses this year. All our coast cities are conquered: gallant old Charleston has fallen, Wilmington and Mobile have passed out of our hands, and Richmond … has been taken. But all that is nothing compared to the awful report from the Yankee papers that Gen. Lee, our strong arm of defense, has capitulated with 40,000 men without firing a gun, that most of our best generals were taken at the same time, and that what remains of that noble army is only a disorganized mob of despairing men. All this is too dreadful to believe. God spare us from this crushing blow and save our dying country!

All refuse to believe such disaster, and the home life flows on as usual. Two dramatic performances by the natives, the amiable Capt. Johnson saying he did not wish the refugees even to attend. Mrs. Gary is vice-president, and I am secretary of the society. The gentlemen come in the evening and the ladies call in the day, but over every pleasure sweeps the shadow of the evil news. It may be true. It may be true. Mollie Moore, Lt, Holmes, and I rode out to the armory to see the soldiers drill. Met Col. and Mrs. Hill, all sympathizing with Capt. Polys, who fell down while pulling the bell rope and broke his leg in two places.

Just finished three embroidered cravats for Johnny. Friday Mamma and I finished a beautiful fawn-colored barege trimmed with black lace. It looks real stylish. My old white dress has been dyed by Lucy. She has become quite an adept at dyeing things.

The rain came down in torrents Thursday but in the afternoon ceased and I rode up to school for Sister. Came through boggy roads and rushing streams at sundown. Found Lt. Holmes waiting to go with me to Mrs. Carson’s to tea, to stay there until 8:30, and then to drive over to Dr. Moore’s, Mollie’s father’s, to attend a private rehearsal. We had a pleasant time there until twelve, then the drive home, adieux to Lt. Holmes, and then the blessed oblivion of sleep. Went up to return Eliza Roberts’ call late in the afternoon.

Lt. Holmes caught up with me and came home and spent the evening. Busy sewing Tuesday until Lt. Holmes was announced, then had to spend the balance of the day amusing him. After he bowed himself away, I went over to see Mollie Moore and chatter nonsense. …

Had delicious white cake at Mrs. Lawrence’s. All the members of the troupe wanted Mamma for president of the society, but she would not hear of it. Mrs. Swain, a perfect incapable, was called to the chair. Capt. Buck has brought me a book nicely commenced for my official records, and Lt. Holmes is to see they are kept according to rule. Must send it around for members to sign.

Mamma has been much disturbed on the subject of details for Mr. Smith, but Lt. Dupre arranged the detail as he passed through Marshall. She hopes to have no further trouble on that score. …