Loreta’s Civil War: Introduced to entirely new scenes

Velazquez successfully manages a parole for her brother, and as she moves into the Northern states, she gains a close-up view of the society determined to destroy her beloved Confederacy.

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

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

Read previous chapters of her incredible story here.

Part 36: Velazquez successfully manages a parole for her brother, and as she moves into the Northern states, she gains a close-up view of the society determined to destroy her beloved Confederacy.

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I had quite a lengthy conversation with Lieutenant B. about my brother and about affairs generally, and, having announced to him my intention of visiting the North and perhaps of acting as a secret service agent if I saw opportunities for doing anything for the advancement of the Confederate cause, I obtained from him quite a number of hints about the best methods of proceeding, and he gave me the names of persons in different places who were friends of the Confederacy and with whom I could communicate. He also advised me to talk with certain parties … in Memphis who could advise me and give me much valuable information.

The next day I conferred with some of the persons whom he had mentioned, and, having become thoroughly posted, I began to prepare for my departure. My friend the Federal lieutenant, whose attentions had been getting more and more ardent every day, was, or pretended to be, very much cut up when he heard that I intended to leave. I promised, however, to write to him as soon as I arrived in New York — having given him to understand that that city was my immediate destination — and intimated that I might possibly correspond regularly. He, in return for the very slight encouragement which I gave to his hopes that we might meet again when the fighting was all over, procured for me a pass and transportation from Gen. Washburn, and off I started, leaving Memphis, where I was liable at any time to be recognized and consequently get into trouble, with but little regret. As for the lieutenant, I certainly appreciated his attentions to me, but I thought that any heart pangs he might feel at parting would scarcely be so severe that he would not be able to recover from them in course of time.

My first object was to see my brother, to give him such assistance as 1 was able, and to discover whether I could not do something towards having him released. I had not seen him for a number of years, and, as the reader will remember, had only learned of his being in the Confederate army some little time before my second marriage. He was the only relative I had in the country, and I felt very anxious about him, fearing greatly that he might be sick or suffering for some of the necessities of life. I therefore pushed forward as rapidly as I could and made no stoppage of any moment until I reached Louisville, Ky., where I took a room at the Gait House and communicated with a Mr. B., a gentleman whose name had been given me as one in whom I could confide and to whom I could appeal in case I was in need of assistance. …

I had no hesitation in informing him that after having seen my brother and made an effort to procure his release, my intention was to operate as a secret service agent, as I had had considerable experience in that line of duty. I did not think it necessary or proper to entertain him with a recital of the enterprises in which I had been engaged, but told him just enough about myself to let him understand that my pretensions were genuine and that I really meant business. He, for his part, posted me very thoroughly about the best method of going to work, not only for procuring the release of my brother but for picking up information of value to the Confederate authorities, and [he] gave me the names of a number of persons in New York and Washington as well as in the West with whom it would be well for me to become acquainted as early as possible. …

Before taking his leave, he suggested that I should retire early and be ready to go by the first train in the morning, and said that he would see that I was provided with funds. The name of this gentleman I could never discover, although I had considerable curiosity on the subject. He was very much of an enthusiast on the subject of the Confederacy and was evidently an efficient secret worker for the cause but he was either excessively timid or else he believed that he could do more to advance the interest of the cause by being, as far as practicable, unknown even to those with whom he co-operated.

Early the next morning I was awakened by a knock on my door, and someone outside asked if I was going on the early train. I replied that I was and hastened to dress myself for the journey. As I was dressing, I was somewhat startled to see a large envelope on the floor, which must either have been pushed under the door or thrown in over the transom during the night. On opening the envelope I found in it five hundred dollars in greenbacks and letters to a couple of persons in Columbus, Ohio. This money was very acceptable, for I had very little cash with me, and it enabled me to resume my travels with a mind completely free from care. …

I concluded, before delivering the letters I had received in Louisville, that I would try and see what my own unaided efforts would do for my brother. I therefore, the next day, called upon the general in command — I have forgotten his name — and introducing myself, said, that if it was allowable, I would like very much to visit that rebel brother of mine. The general asked me if I had a brother in the prison, and I told him that such was unfortunately the case, but that, notwithstanding he was on the wrong side, I could not help having an affection for him and was desirous of assisting him in case he should be in need.

The general asked me a number of questions about myself and my brother, in answer to which I gave him to understand that I was from New York, was a strong Unionist, and had only recently heard that my brother was a prisoner, although I was aware that he entered the rebel army shortly after the breaking out of the war. Having satisfied himself that I was all right, the general without hesitation gave me the desired permit, and, with a profusion of thanks, I bowed myself out of his presence.

On reaching the Todd Barracks, where the prisoners were confined, I found a one-armed major in command. He was very polite indeed and entered into quite a conversation with me, during which he told me that he had lost his arm in the Mexican War. When my brother came, the major gave us his own private room so that we might talk together without fear of interruption.

My meeting with my brother was a most affectionate one. It had been a very long time since we had seen each other, and there was much that each of us had to say. I disclosed to him part of my plans and instructed him how to talk and act towards me. He was to call me his Union sister and was to speak of me as a New Yorker. I expressed considerable hope that I would be able to effect his release and stated that I would go on to Washington for the purpose, if necessary, and see the president and secretary of war.

This proceeding, however, I found to be unnecessary, for Gov. Brough of Ohio, a hearty, pleasant-spoken, and good-natured old gentleman, happened to be stopping at the same hotel with me, and I contrived to obtain an introduction to him. I cultivated the acquaintance of the governor with considerable assiduity, and he took quite a fancy to me, so much so that he promised to use his influence to obtain a parole for my brother. This promise the governor kept, and in a short time the prisoner was released and ordered to proceed east and to report first to Gen. Cadwalader at Philadelphia and then to Gen. Dix, at New York, the idea being that he was to remain with me in the last-named city.

In company with my brother, therefore, I proceeded east, and went to New York, where I left him while I went on to Washington for the purpose of seeing what could be done in the way of aiding the Confederate cause by a series of operations at the Federal capital.

I was now introduced to entirely new scenes, new associations, and a new sphere of activity. I had never before been farther north than Washington, and my visit to the Federal capital was the hasty and secret one made shortly after the Battle of Ball’s Bluff. …. It was almost like going into another world to pass from the war-worn Confederacy to the rich and prosperous states which adhered to the Federal government, and when I saw the evidences of apparently inexhaustible wealth around me, and contrasted them in my mind with what I was leaving behind in the yet unconquered Confederacy, I confess that my heart began to fail, and I despaired of the Cause more than I had ever done before.

In a great portion of the South the towns and villages were few and far between, the forests large and dense, the population thin and scattering, while the most imposing of the Southern cities were far less splendid than New York and Philadelphia, and such prosperity as they had at one time enjoyed was now all but destroyed through the rigidness of the Federal blockade. Back of the Northern cities, too, was a rich, highly cultivated, and thickly populated country, with numerous large towns, abounding in wealth, and with apparently as many men at home, attending to the ordinary duties of life, as if there was no war going on, and no huge armies in the field.

Not only was there no blockade to put an end to commerce and to cause a deprivation of many of the necessaries of life, but commerce, as well as all manner of home industries, had been greatly stimulated, so that the war — while it was starving the South and forcing the male population into the field until there were scarcely left enough to carry on absolutely needful trade and tillage — actually appeared to be making the North rich, and thousands of people were literally coining money with government contracts and by means of innumerable industries brought into being by the great conflict.

The subjugation of the South was therefore simply a question of time, if matters continued as they were, and the Federals would achieve the ends they had in view by sheer force of numbers and practically inexhaustible resources, no matter how valiantly the Confederate soldiers might fight or how skillfully they might be led. Was this subjugation of the South inevitable, however? This was the question that addressed itself to my mind and upon the determination of which the course it would be best for me to pursue in the future would have to depend.

I was not very long in coming to the conclusion that a triumph of the Confederate cause was not by any means an impossibility, provided the right means were used to bring it about. I also speedily satisfied myself that the interests of the cause could be advanced just as much by diligent and zealous workers at the North as by the men who were fighting the battles of the Confederacy in Virginia, Georgia, Tennessee, Mississippi, and Arkansas, and I was so well convinced that at last I had found the best field for the exercise of my own peculiar talents that I greatly regretted not having made my way into the midst of the enemy’s country long before.

For very nearly a year now I had done very little that was at all satisfactory to myself, or at all really helpful — that is, helpful in a large and positive way — to the Confederate cause, whereas, all this time I might have been carrying on a series of important operations at the North. It looked, indeed, like a great waste of time but, if it was wasted, I resolved to do my best to redeem it by the activity of my performances in the future, and I had great reason to hope that these performances would be productive of not unimportant results.

It required but a slight acquaintance with the condition of affairs to discover that the surface indications of wealth, prosperity, and overpowering strength at the North were delusive. The North certainly was wealthy and powerful but, unfortunately for the Federal government’s efforts to conquer the South and to put a speedy end to the war, the people were very far from being united.

At the South there were few, if any, genuine adherents of the Federal government, and public opinion was united on the subject of achieving independence. At the period of which I am writing — the winter of 1863-64 — there may have been, and doubtless were, many persons who were heartily tired of the war and who would have been glad of peace on almost any terms. The vast majority, however, were still in favor of fighting the thing out in spite of poverty and in spite of the privations of every kind which they were compelled to suffer.

At the North, on the other hand, the majority of the people had entered upon the war with reluctance — many who did go into it with considerable enthusiasm, with the idea of preserving the Union, were disgusted when it became day by day more apparent that the emancipation of the slaves was a part of the policy of the government. … [M]any who went into it for the sake of seeing some fighting were heartily tired and wanted to stop. … and many more who were eager enough to begin a fight, simply out of animosity to the Southerners, sickened of the thing when their pockets were touched by the enormous advance in prices and by the heavy taxes which the prolongation of the contest necessitated, and [they] were quite willing for peace at almost any price.

In addition to these elements of discord, there was a large, influential, powerful, and wealthy anti-war party composed of people who were and always had been opposed to the war, and who numbered among them many who were not only opposed to the war, but who were warm and earnest friends of the South. These latter believed that the government had no right to coerce states which desired to leave the Union to remain in it, and they were bitterly antagonistic to any and all attempts to subjugate the South and did everything in their power to baffle the efforts of the government to carry on the war efficiently. These people constantly aided, with their money and their influence, the Confederate agents who were working and scheming for the advancement of their cause at the North and did a great deal to embarrass the Federal government.

Besides these, there were a great number of weak-kneed or indifferent people who had no opinions of their own worth speaking of, and whose chief anxiety was to be on the winning side. These were for the war or against it, as the tide of battle turned in favor of the Federals or the Confederates. The news of a tremendous defeat inflicted on the Confederates or of the capture of an important position would excite their enthusiasm and make them talk loudly of fighting the thing out until the rebels were whipped, while a season of prolonged inactivity or a succession of Confederate victories caused them to look gloomily on the situation and to suggest that there had been about enough fighting, that it was about time prices were coming down a little, and that as the war had been going on so long, without any practical results, there was not much use in killing more men and spending more money, when there was no more chance this year than there was last of a speedy end to the contest. In this class the Confederates found many allies.

Loreta’s Civil War: His death perfectly infuriated me

Velazquez participates in the Battle of Shiloh, savoring the Confederates’ victory on the first day. But she fears an opportunity for total victory is slipping away.

KS36

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 19: Velazquez participates in the Battle of Shiloh, savoring the Confederates’ victory on the first day. But she fears an opportunity for total victory is slipping away.

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At length, all the officers in Memphis were ordered to proceed to without delay, and then everyone knew that a big battle was expected to come off shortly. As a consequence, the greatest excitement prevailed, and many of the officers found it hard work parting from their friends. In order to avoid a scene with Miss M., I wrote her a note, bidding her farewell, which was not to be delivered until after I left the city; and, jumping aboard the train, was soon on my way to Corinth.

On arriving at Corinth, I found great preparations being made and everything nearly ready for a forward movement. I met a considerable number of old friends, some of them old Virginia comrades, whom I had not seen for a very long time. We exchanged very cordial greetings, but otherwise we had not much time to give to each other, they having important duties to perform, while I was eagerly endeavoring to obtain some official position that would enable me to participate in the coming fight in a manner advantageous to myself. All the commanding officers, however, were too busy just then to attend to me, and so I resolved to follow the army to the field in my independent capacity, and take my chances there. The order to advance being given, the army moved out of Corinth in the direction of Pittsburg Landing, animated by the expectation of being able to fall upon the enemy and deliver a crushing blow at a moment when it was least expected.

After the capture of that position, the Federals had swept in triumph through Tennessee, the Confederates having been compelled to abandon their lines in that state and in Kentucky, and to seek a new base of operations farther south. The Federals were now concentrating a great force at Pittsburg Landing, on the Tennessee River, their immediate object of attack evidently being Corinth, and Gen. Albert Sidney Johnston, who was in command of the entire Confederate army, resolved upon striking a vigorous blow at once, with a view of turning the tide of victory in our favor before the enemy were assembled. …

The reports which we received from our scouts, and from the country people, indicated either that the Federals were unaware of the strength of the Confederates in their immediate neighborhood, or else that, flushed with victory, they were over-confident, and were taking comparatively few precautions against a surprise. These things were the common talk of the Confederates for days before the battle took place; and while not a little astonishment was expressed at the temerity of the enemy, considerable jubilation was felt at the idea of our being able to gain a comparatively easy victory, which would put an end to the invasion, or at least so stagger the Federals that subsequent operations against them would be unattended [without] any great difficulties. …

Obtaining a pass from the provost marshal, I put my tent in an army wagon, and then Bob and I mounted our horses and started for the field, on Saturday, April 5, 1862. The roads were in a horrible condition from the heavy spring rains, and we made rather slow progress … and I was very tired when, at nightfall, I reached a village of half a dozen scattered houses called Monterey, about half way between Corinth and Shiloh Church, a little Methodist meeting-house, just outside the Federal picket lines. It was necessary for me to halt here until morning, so, obtaining sufficient forage for my horse from a Mississippi regiment, I prepared to camp for the night, and hoped to get a sound sleep, to fit me for the hot work of the next day.

My animals having been fed, I took off the saddles, and raking up a quantity of leaves, arranged my bed by spreading a saddle blanket to lie upon, and placing a saddle for a pillow. Then throwing myself on this extemporized couch, I wrapped myself in an army blanket, and was soon lost in slumber as profound as would have visited me had my accommodations been of the most luxurious description.

I was not destined, however, to have a quiet, uninterrupted slumber, such as I needed, for ere long I was awakened by the rain, which began to fall in torrents, and which compelled me to seek some more sheltered spot in which to finish the night. My first care was for my horse, and covering him well with the blanket, I went as fast as I could to one of the deserted houses of the village and stopped there until the rain was over.

It was quite three o’clock before the shower ceased, and it was high time for me to be moving if I expected to take part in the opening of the battle, as I was exceedingly anxious to do. I therefore ordered the horses to be saddled, and was in a few moments ready to start. A soldier very generously offered me a cup of army coffee, which … was swallowed with great relish, and with many benedictions on the giver, whose courtesy I rewarded by a good-sized drink of brandy from a flask I carried for the benefit of my friends. His eyes fairly sparkled with delight as he gulped it down, and he smacked his lips as if he had not had such a treat for many a day. Then mounting my horse, I set off at a smart pace for Gen. Hardee’s headquarters.

I found the general stationed near Shiloh Church, and rode up and saluted him just as he was mounting his horse. Showing him my pass, I said that I wanted to have a hand in this affair. Hardee looked at the pass, “and replied, “All right; fall in, and well see what can be done for you.”

The fighting had already commenced between the skirmish lines of the two armies while I was conversing with the general, and the troops were hurrying forward to attack the Federals before they could gain time to prepare them- selves for an effective resistance.

In obedience to Hardee’s command, I fell in with his men, and we advanced briskly upon the enemy’s camp. It was a complete surprise in every respect. Many of the enemy were only half-dressed and were obliged to snatch up the first weapons that came to hand as the Confederates rushed out of the woods upon them. The contest was brief and decisive, and in a few moments such of the enemy, as [they] escaped the deadly volleys which we poured into them, were scampering away as fast as their legs could carry them. We took possession of their camp … almost without resistance, and I thought that this was an excellent … beginning of the day’s work, especially as I had the pleasure of eating a capital hot breakfast, which had been prepared for some Federal officer. …

1 had scarcely finished eating when I came across Gen. Hardee again. He was in a high good humor at the course events had taken thus far, and said to me in a jocular sort of way, “Well, lieutenant, what can I do for you?” I replied that I was anxious to do my share of the fighting, and wanted to be stationed where there was plenty of work to be done. The general laughed a little at my enthusiasm, but just then his attention was called away for a moment, and I, glancing down the line, spied the Arkansas boys whom I had enlisted at Hurlburt Station nearly a year before. I was immediately seized with a desire to go into the fight with them, so I said, “Ah, there is my old company, general; with your permission, I will see the captain. Perhaps he can give me a chance.”

Hardee nodded an assent, and, giving him a salute, I started off at full speed to the rear, where I got my commission out of my pocket, and then darted along the line, closely followed by Bob, my idea being to avoid being stopped by giving the impression that I was bearing an order from the general. Dismounting from my horse, I forced my way through the ranks until I reached Captain De Caulp, who shook me heartily by the hand and was evidently delighted to see me, as we had not met since I parted from him in Pensacola the previous June, when starting for Richmond. …

Notwithstanding the number of strange faces that met my eyes as I glanced along the ranks, I saw enough old acquaintances to make myself very much at home, and I was delighted beyond measure in an opportunity to take part in a great battle … and to show that, even if I was a little dandy, I was as good a soldier as the best of them when any hard fighting was to be done. In- deed, all the circumstances were such as to inspire me to distinguish myself by some unusually gallant action, and I resolved that, if it were possible to do so, the occasion should be made a memorable one for us all.

[T]he reader will please know that Captain De Caulp and I were under an engagement of marriage, having been in correspondence with each other since my departure from Pensacola. I had his letters in my breast pocket, and his photograph in the lining of my coat, while, I doubt not [that] I was the especial object of his thoughts when … we dashed at the enemy. He little suspected, however, that the woman to whom his heart and hand were pledged was by his side as he led his men into that bloody fray, for, as I have before explained, he had an acquaintance with me both as a woman and as a man, but did not know that the two were the same. …

It may be thought that, even if I felt no fear for myself, as a woman I should have had some tremors when beholding my lover advancing into the thick of a desperate fight, at the head of his men. The idea of fear, either on his or on my own account, however, never occurred to me at the time. … As for him, I desired for his sake … that the occasion should be a glorious one, and I had a strange delight in following him into the thickest of the melee, and in watching with what undaunted spirit he bore himself throughout the long and sternly-fought battle. …

Our assaults upon the enemy were made with irresistible fury, and we rushed through their lines, literally mowing them down like grain before the mowing machine. … The bullets whistled through the air thick and fast, cutting the trees, and making the branches snap and fly, splintering the fence rails, striking the wagons, or sending some poor soldier suddenly to the earth. A corporal who was by my side was shot through the heart by a Minie ball. He fell heavily against me, and all my clothing was reddened by his blood. His only words were, “Damn the Yankees! They have killed me.” He was a very handsome young man, only about twenty-two years of age, and his death perfectly infuriated me, as it did his other comrades. …

Shortly before three o’clock in the afternoon, our commander-in-chief, Gen. Johnston, was numbered among the slain. His death, however, was carefully concealed from the army, and was known to but few until the battle was over. He was a great soldier, and his loss was an irreparable one, for had he lived to superintend the conduct of the battle to the end, it is scarcely possible that he would have failed to push his advantages to the utmost, or that he would have committed the mistakes which turned a brilliant and decisive victory into an overwhelming and most maddening defeat.

When the sun set that day the Confederates were successful at every point, and although they had suffered terribly, they had forced the enemy’s lines back almost to the Landing so that there was nothing now left them to do but to make a final successful stand, or else be crowded over the bluffs into the river, just as I had seen them crowded, six months before, at Ball’s Bluff. … There was absolutely no escape for the Federals, and their only hope was to hold their last rallying ground, and to gain time until the arrival of reinforcements. … Why the Confederate advantages were not pushed that night, before [Union] Gen. [Don Carlos] Buell could arrive with his fresh troops, and that Federal army either captured or annihilated … was a mystery to me then, and is now.