J.D.R. Hawkins

One bullet can make a man a hero… or a casualty.

Archive for the tag “First Battle of Manassas”

Women of the Confederacy (Pt. 6)

Loreta Janeta Valazquez

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Loreta Janeta Velazquez (Harry T. Buford)  

Library of Congress 

 

Loreta Janeta Velazquez – Fact or Fiction? 

A spy … 

A civilian pretending to be a soldier … 

A widow four times 

All of these phrases describe one of the most fascinating, thrill-seeking characters of the Civil War. Because she was a woman, Loreta Janeta Valezquez was able to fool her contemporaries while supporting the Confederate cause she so adamantly believed in. 

 Born to a wealthy Cuban family on June 26, 1842, her mother was French-American, and her father, a Spanish government official, owned plantations in Mexico and Cuba, but developed a strong hatred for the U.S. government when he lost an inherited ranch in the Mexican War. In 1849, Loreta was sent to stay with an aunt in New Orleans, where she was taught English and French in addition to her native Spanish at Catholic schools. Her idol was Joan of Arc, and she wished to become just like her. When she was only fourteen, Loreta met a handsome Texas army officer named William, but because her parents opposed their union, they eloped in 1856. The newlyweds traveled around to various army posts until, four years later, when Loreta was eighteen, they were in St. Louis mourning the deaths of their three children. When the Civil War broke out, she insisted that her husband join the Confederacy, and begged to join with him, but he disallowed it, so she simply waited for him to leave. She disguised herself in one of two uniforms she had tailored in Memphis, donned a wig and fake moustache, bound her breasts, and padded the sleeves of her uniform, transforming into Harry T. Buford. Self-appointing herself as a lieutenant, she fooled fellow officers and soldiers by walking with a masculine gait, perfecting the art of spitting, and smoking cigars. She immediately went to Arkansas, and in four days raised a battalion, the Arkansas Grays, consisting of 236 men. She then sent them to her husband in Pensacola, Florida, where she turned them over to his command. William’s astonishment was short-lived, however, because a few days later, he was accidentally killed while showing his troops how to use their weapons. 

The bereaved Loreta turned his battalion over to a friend, and soon after, searched for military adventure on the front, finding it at the First Battle of Manassas, where she observed her comrades. “The supreme moment of my life had arrived, and all the glorious aspirations of my romantic girlhood were on the point of realization. I was elated beyond measure, although cool-headed enough … Fear was a word I did not know the meaning of; and as I noted the ashy faces, and the trembling limbs of some of the men about me, I almost wished that I could feel a little fear, if only for the sake of sympathizing with the poor devils.” 

Soon, Loreta grew weary of camp life, so she borrowed a dress from a local farmer’s wife and made her way to Washington, D.C., where she was recruited as a Confederate spy. She claimed to have met Abraham Lincoln and Secretary of War Stanton. When she returned to the South, she was rewarded for her services by being assigned to detective duty. Apparently, espionage didn’t offer enough excitement for her either, so she put on her disguise and traveled to Tennessee, where she fought in the siege of Fort Donelson until its surrender. Wounded in the foot, she escaped detection by fleeing to New Orleans, but was arrested while in uniform for suspicion of being a Union spy and impersonating a man. Once she was released, she enlisted again to escape the city, and immediately went back up to Tennessee. There, she found the battalion she had raised in Arkansas, so she joined them in the Battle of Shiloh on April 6-7, 1862. After the battle, she was wounded by a stray shell while she was on burial duty. Unfortunately, a doctor discovered her. Fleeing back down to New Orleans, she was there when Union General Benjamin F. Butler took control of the city in May 1862. Because she thought too many people were now aware of her true identity, she put away her uniform and traveled to Richmond, Virginia. 

Upon her arrival, she was recruited as a Confederate spy, and traveled all over the country, crossing enemy lines while she wore both male and female disguises to traffic information, drugs, and counterfeit bills to the South. She married Confederate Captain Thomas DeCaulp, but he soon died at a Chattanooga hospital. Traveling back up north, she was hired by Union officials to search for “the woman … traveling and figuring as a Confederate agent,” or in other words, to search for herself. During that time, she attempted to organize a rebellion of Confederate prisoners in Ohio and Indiana, and helped to win the war of Costintin in 1864. 

After the Civil War ended, she traveled around Europe and the South. Loreta married a third time. She and her husband, known only as Major Wasson, went to Venezuela as United States immigrants. He died in Caracus, so Loreta returned to America, this time going out west. She stopped in Salt Lake City long enough to give birth to a boy, and met Brigham Young. Nearly penniless, she traveled to Omaha, and charmed General W. S. Harney into giving her blankets and a revolver. Two days after she arrived to a mining town in Nevada, a sixty-year-old man proposed to her, but she refused. Supposedly, she married a fourth time, but the name of this younger man is unknown.  

It wasn’t long before she was off again. “With my baby boy in my arms, I started on a long journey through Colorado, New Mexico, and Texas, hoping, perhaps, but scarcely expecting, to find opportunities which I had failed to find in Utah, Nevada, and California.” Her money was dwindling, so in 1876, she wrote a memoir to support her child. Most of what is known about Loreta was written in her 600-page book, The Woman in Battle: A Narrative of the Exploits, Adventures, and Travels of Madame Loreta Janeta Valazquez, Otherwise Known as Lieutenant Harry T. Buford, Confederate States Army. Upon its publication, General Jubal Early denounced it as pure fiction, but modern scholars have found some parts to be accurate. In 2007, the History Channel ran a special entitled Full Metal Corset, and verified some of the incidents described in the book, but there are still many facts in question. 

Loreta is last documented as living in Nevada. She never took any of her four husband’s names. After 1880, there is no further record of her life, including where or how she died, presumably in 1897. 

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The Insanity Keeps Spreading

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Controversy surrounding the Confederate battle flag keeps flaring, and now, of course, the topic has spread to other areas. Last weekend during a 4th of July parade in Minnesota, a firefighter was suspended for driving his own vehicle in the parade. Why, you may ask? It’s because he had a Confederate flag bumper sticker on his truck. Now the fire department is calling for this guy’s resignation. Insane. There is also a small town in Minnesota that is debating about changing its name, because it is named after a Confederate. Also insane.

At Yale University, a conversation has begun concerning the renaming of Calhoun College, which was named after John C. Calhoun in the 1930’s. Calhoun served as U.S. Senator of South Carolina and as Vice President. But aside from his political career, he was also a staunch believer in the slave plantation system. Calhoun graduated from Yale in 1804. Again insane.

Yesterday, the South Carolina Senate voted 37-3 to have the Confederate battle flag removed from the Capitol grounds. I won’t be surprised if the flag will be removed. I’m sure Governor Nikki Haley put enough pressure on the naysayers to convince them to vote for the flag’s removal. The problem is that the flag was flying over a Confederate memorial. So what’s to become of that monument? If the governor has her way, I’m sure it will be the next thing to go.

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I’m certain this country was a lot different in the 1800’s, and slavery was part of our culture. However, slavery has been illegal since 1865. Doing away with any and all reminders of our slave-including past won’t fix what’s wrong with this country today. It only dilutes historical fact. Most people associate the Confederate battle flag with slavery, but they are sorely mistaken. The Confederate battle flag, on the contrary, represents the rights of the people, rather than having a unified government. The Stars and Stripes flew over slave ships, not the Confederate battle flag. In fact, the Confederate battle flag wasn’t even used until after the First Battle of Manassas. Before people go flying off the handle about this, which they obviously already have, they need to have a history lesson.

Instead of concentrating so much effort on removing historic symbols, this country should focus on today’s issue of slavery. Thousands are crossing our borders and being swooped up by predators to become sex slaves. Why isn’t this the media’s focus? Our country has a far more serious situation to deal with than wiping the Confederate battle flag from our collective conscience. Slavery and racism won’t end with abolishing the Confederate battle flag.

“The clamor being raised against all things that were the Confederate States of America is but a glaring fulfillment of the establishment of the American MSM’s version of Orwell’s “1984” Ministry of Truth.  Just as Orwell said, ‘By controlling the present, the Party is able to manipulate the past. And in controlling the past, the Party can justify all of its actions in the present.’”

(Courtesy of Southern Heritage News and Views, 7-6-15)

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