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Loreta’s Civil War: The evil effect of a great war

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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 29: Velazquez, disguised again as a Confederate officer, talks her way past Confederate guards as she travels to Atlanta to reunite with the man she loves.

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Having thoroughly arranged my plan of action in my mind, I walked up boldly to a picket, whom I saw sitting on a horse at some distance, and saluting him, and telling him that I was unarmed, asked to see the officer of the guard. The officer soon came riding out of the woods towards me, and asked who I was. I told him that I was an escaped prisoner … and produced my transportation papers. … The officer read the papers, which he apparently did not find particularly satisfactory, and scanned me very closely, as if he thought that there was something not quite right about me. I was much afraid lest he should suspect something, for I had no mustache, and having become somewhat bleached, was not by any means so masculine in appearance as I had been at one time. I, however, bore his scrutiny without flinching, and he apparently did not know what to do but to receive me for what I appeared to be. He accordingly told me that I should have to wait where I was until the relief came, when he would conduct me to camp.

I told him that I was terribly hungry and tired, having walked from Chattanooga since early in the previous evening without food or sleep, and that I would like to get where I could obtain some breakfast. As a means of softening his heart, I pulled out a little pocket flask of whiskey and asked him if he would not take a drink. His eye brightened at the sight of the flask, and he accepted my invitation without a moment’s hesitation. Putting it to his lips, he took a good pull, and when he handed it back there was mighty little left in it. This little I gave to the sergeant, who appeared to relish the liquor as highly as his superior did. The whiskey had the desired effect, for the officer told me he guessed I had better not wait for the relief and detailed a man to show me the way to camp.

On our arrival at camp, the man took me to the officer’s tent, where I made myself as much at home as I could until the master appeared. It was not long, however, before he followed me, and to my great satisfaction, an excellent breakfast was in a short time placed on the table.

After breakfast, the boys, having heard of the arrival of an escaped prisoner, I was speedily surrounded by a crowd of eager questioners who were anxious to hear all the news from the Federal army. I tried to satisfy their curiosity as well as I could and told them that the Yankees had received heavy reinforcements and were preparing to make a grand movement and a variety of other matters, part fact and part fiction. Having got rid of my questioners, I took a good sleep until noon, and then, borrowing a horse, rode down to Dalton, [Georgia], where I learned that [my beau] Capt. De Caulp was sick at Atlanta, and [I] resolved to make an effort to get there for the purpose of seeing him.

I was spared the necessity, however, of being obliged to make any special plans for the accomplishment of this end, for I managed to severely hurt the foot which had been wounded shortly after the battle of Fort Donelson, and became so lame that it was decided to send me to Atlanta for medical treatment.

An army is made up of all kinds of people — the rougher element of masculine human nature, of necessity, predominating — and not the least of the evil effect of a great war is that it tends to develop a spirit of ruffianism, which, when times of peace return, is of no benefit to society. A man who is instinctively a gentleman will be one always, and in spite of the demoralizing influences of warfare … will be apt to show himself a blackguard at the earliest opportunity amidst camp associations. Such men are usually cringing sycophants before their superiors, bullies to those who are under them, shirks when fighting is going on, and plunderers when opportunities for plunder are offered. It is creditable to the American people, as a class, that the great armies which contended with each other so earnestly during four long, weary years of warfare, were disbanded and dismissed to their homes with so little injury to society, for, under the very best auspices, war is not calculated to make men good citizens, while it is pretty certain to make those who are ruffians and blackguards already worse than they were before they took up arms. …

Situated as I was, it was especially important that I should not quarrel if I could help it but I was not long in finding out that, as quarreling was necessary sometimes, the bold course was the best, both for the present and the future, and that by promptly resenting anything approaching an insult, I would be likely to avoid being insulted thereafter, I, therefore, very speedily let it be known that I was ready to fight at a moment’s notice … but, at the same time, that I desired to live peaceably with everybody and was not inclined to quarrel if I was let alone. The result of this line of policy was, that, as a general rule, I got along smoothly enough, but occasionally I could not avoid an angry controversy with somebody, and when I did become involved in anything of the kind, I usually tried to give my antagonist to understand, in plain terms, that I was not an individual to be trifled with.

On my arrival at Atlanta, I unfortunately had a little unpleasantness, which caused me very serious disquietude for a time, owing to the peculiar situation in which I was placed, and which might have had some ill results, either for the person who started the quarrel or for myself, had it not been for the good judgment and consideration of one or two of my friends, who persuaded me not to resort to any extreme measures.

I was expecting to see Capt. De Caulp and was very anxious with regard to him, as I did not know exactly what his condition was and feared that he might be seriously ill. It was my intention to go to him, to devote myself to him if he should need my services, and perhaps to reveal myself to him. Indeed, I pretty much made up my mind that our marriage should take place as soon as he was convalescent, and … I was in no humor for a mere barroom squabble with a drunken ruffian. … More than this, in addition to the lameness of my foot, I was really quite sick, and at the time of the occurrence ought to have been in bed under the doctor’s care, and was consequently less disposed than ever to engage in a brawl.

Unsuspecting any trouble, however, I went to the hotel, and registered my name, and was almost immediately surrounded by a number of officers who were eager to learn what was going on at the front. Among them was Gen. P. — I do not give his name in full for his own sake — an individual who thought more of whiskey than he did of his future existence, and who was employing his time in getting drunk at Atlanta instead of doing his duty at the front by leading his men.

He saw that I was a little fellow, and probably thought … he could bully me with impunity, so, while I was answering the thousand and one questions that were put to me, he began making offensive and insulting remarks and asking me insolent questions until I longed to give him a lesson in good manners that he would not forget in a hurry, and resolved that I would make an effort to chastise him if he did not behave himself.

This was one of the class of men for which I had a hearty contempt, and, as I neither wished to be annoyed by his drunken insolence nor to quarrel with him if I could avoid it, I left the office and went into the washroom. The general evidently considered this a retreat due to his prowess … and he followed me, apparently determined to provoke me to the utmost. I, however, took no notice of him, but, after washing my hands, came out and took a seat in the office beside my esteemed friend, Maj. Bacon — a thorough gentleman in every sense of the word.

My persecutor still following me, now came and seated himself on the other side of me and made some insolent remark which I do not care to remember. This excited my wrath, and I resolved to put a stop to the tipsy brute’s annoyances. I accordingly said to him, “See here, sir, I don’t want to have anything to do with you, so go away and let me be, or it will be worse for you.”

At this he sprang up, his eyes glaring with drunken fury, and swinging his arms around in that irresponsible way incident to inebriety, he began to swear in lively fashion, and said, “What’ll be worse for me? What do you mean? I’ll lick you out of your boots! I can lick you, or any dozen like you.”

Nice talk, this, for a general, who was supposedly a gentleman, wasn’t it? I merely said, in reply, “You are too drunk, sir, to be responsible. I intend, however, when you are sober, that you shall apologize to me for this, or else make you settle it in a way that will, perhaps, not be agreeable to you.”

He glared at me as I uttered these words but my firm manner evidently cowed him, and turning, with a coarse,tipsy laugh, he said, to an officer who was standing near watching the performance, “Come, colonel, let’s take another drink; he won’t fight,” and they accordingly walked off towards the barroom together. This last remark enraged me to such a degree that I declared I would shoot him if he came near me again. Maj. Bacon tried to pacify me and said that I had better let him alone, as he was not worth noticing. …

The general did not come near me until after supper, when I met him again at the bar. As I had not undertaken to punish him for his behavior to me, he evidently thought that I was afraid of him, and, without addressing me directly, he began to make insulting side remarks, aimed at me. I was on the point of going up and slapping his face, when Maj. Bacon … thinking that it was not worthwhile for me to get into trouble about such a fellow, induced me to go to my room.

Already quite ill, and far from able to be about, the excitement of this unpleasant occurrence made me worse, and I passed a night of great suffering from a high fever and from my sore foot, which pained me extremely. The major waited on me in the kindest manner, bathing my foot with cold water, and procuring some medicine for me from the hospital steward, and towards morning I fell into a sound sleep, which refreshed me greatly, although I was still very sick. …

As I got worse instead of better, however, it was concluded that the hospital was the best place for me, and to the Empire Hospital I accordingly was sent, by order of the chief surgeon of the post. I was first admitted into Dr. Hammond’s ward, and subsequently into that of Dr. Hay. Dr. Hay, who was a whole-souled little fellow, is dead, but Dr. Hammond is still living, and I am glad of such an opportunity as this of testifying to his noble qualities. During the entire period I was under his care in the hospital, he treated me, as he did all his patients, with the greatest kindness.

Oh, but these were sad and weary days that I spent in the hospital! I cannot tell how I longed, once more, to be out in the open air and the sunshine and participating in the grand scenes that were being enacted not many miles away. My restless disposition made sickness especially irksome to me, and I felt sometimes as if I could scarcely help leaving my bed and going as I was to the front for the purpose of plunging into the thickest of the fight, while at other moments, when the fever was strong upon me, I almost wished that I might die, rather than to be compelled to toss about thus on a couch of pain.

There was one consolation, however, in all my sufferings, which sustained me … I was near the man I loved and hoped soon to have an opportunity to see and to converse with him. I learned soon after my admission to the hospital that Capt. De Caulp was in Dr. Benton’s ward, adjoining that under the charge of Dr. Hay, and to be under the same roof with him, and the probability that ere long I would be able to see him again, helped me to bear up under the suffering I was called upon to endure. I resolved that if Capt. De Caulp was willing, our marriage should take place so soon as we were able to leave the hospital, and I busied myself in wondering what he would say when he discovered what strange pranks I had been playing since we had been corresponding as lovers. I almost dreaded to reveal to him that the little dandified lieutenant, who had volunteered to fight in his company at Shiloh, and the woman to whom he was bound by an engagement of marriage, were the same but I felt that the time for the disclosure to be made had arrived and was determined to make it at the earliest opportunity.

Loreta’s Civil War: Squeezing out a few real tears

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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 28: Velazquez practices her skills of manipulation on a hapless Confederate officer dazzled by her charm and beauty.

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Luckily for me no one observed my movements, and I made my way to the nearest Federal picket station without interruption. I gave my name as Mrs. Williams, told as much as I thought the officer in charge ought to know about me, and asked to see [Union Maj. Gen. William S.] Rosecrans. I was accordingly ushered into the general’s presence and gave him a somewhat more detailed account of myself. I represented that I was a widow woman who was endeavoring to escape from the Confederacy and who desired to go to her friends in the North, and, judging from appearances, I quite won upon the sympathies of the Federal commander. He asked me a great number of questions, which I answered to his satisfaction, and he then dismissed me, with a pass permitting me to go North. I could not help smiling at the ease with which I deceived Gen. Rosecrans and said to myself, as I retired from his presence, “My good old fellow, I’ll teach you what we Southern women are good for before I am done with you.”

Having got my pass, I started off, with a general notion of seeing all I could see, and finding out all I could find out, watching all the time for an opportunity for the execution of a grand coup. Picking up information here and there, some of which was of no little importance, I traveled as far as Martinsburg and had a considerable notion of proceeding to Washington to see whether a second visit to that city would not be even more productive of results than my first. Circumstances occurred, however, which detained me in Martinsburg, and my trip to Washington was, therefore, deferred to another opportunity. …

It was after night when I reached Martinsburg and the only unoccupied room in the hotel where I stopped was the one belonging to a Federal quartermaster, that officer having been called away to Washington. The landlord, accordingly, put me in there, and I proceeded to make myself as much at home as possible in the quartermaster’s quarters. As luck would have it, however, the officer returned during the night, and after I had retired, and finding the door bolted, he commenced a furious knocking.

I was asleep when he began to make this noise, and it caused me to wake with a start. I had no idea who it was, but thought some drunken fellow was making a disturbance. I therefore concluded not to take any notice, thinking that when he found he could not get in he would go away. The quartermaster, however, was angry at finding his room occupied, and being unable to obtain a response, finally said, “Open the door, inside there, or I will break it open!”

I thought that it was high time for me to speak now, and so said, in a half-terrified tone of voice, “Who are you? What do you want?” Finding that his apartment had a feminine occupant, he lowered his voice somewhat, and said, “Excuse me, madam,” and walked to the office, where he gave the clerk some sharp words for permitting any one to take his room. I heard him say, “I would like thundering well to know who she is,” but the clerk was unable to give him any satisfactory information, and the upshot of the whole matter was, that he was obliged to sleep in the parlor. …

Having made my morning toilet, and having, in anticipation of striking up an acquaintance with the quartermaster, endeavored to make myself as attractive as possible in outward appearance, I left my room and went and took a seat in the parlor. It was not long before I saw my gentleman, or one whom I supposed to be he, walking past the door, and looking at me with a rather curious gaze. I, however, took no notice of him, concluding that it would be more to the purpose to let him make the first advances, something that he was evidently not indisposed to do.

Breakfast was announced as ready before a great while, and with the announcement came the quartermaster’s opportunity to introduce himself to me. Advancing towards me, he bowed very politely, and said, “Are you Mrs. Williams?”

“Yes, sir,” I replied, “that is my name.”

Smiling as agreeably as he could, he said, “I owe you an apology, madam, for the disturbance I made at your door last night. I was not aware that there was a lady in possession of the room.”

“Oh, sir,” I said, “no apology is necessary, I assure you. Indeed, I rather owe you one, for I fear I must have caused you some inconvenience.”

“Oh, not at all, madam. On the contrary, when I learned that a lady had possession of the apartment, I regretted exceedingly that I had made so much noise. We officers of the army, however, are inclined to become rather rough in our ways, owing to the associations we are thrown in with, and to our absence from female society. We forget, sometimes, that we are civilized human beings, and don’t know exactly how to behave ourselves under circumstances where rudeness is inexcusable.”

“Oh, pray, sir, don’t apologize,” I answered. “I am sure that an officer of our brave army would not be intentionally rude under any circumstances.” I thought that this would do to start the idea in his mind that I was a staunch Federal.

Just then a colored woman appeared and asked us whether we would not walk into breakfast, and my new-made friend very politely said, “As you are a stranger here, will you permit me to escort you to the breakfast room?”

“Certainly, sir,” I replied, and taking his arm, we walked into the room together, my escort finding a seat for me beside himself at one of the pleasantest tables.

During the progress of the meal, my friend manifested the greatest interest in me and my movements, and by a series of questions, he elicited the information that I was from Cincinnati, that I was uncertain how long I would remain, and that I was in search of a brother [named Dick], whom I greatly feared was either killed or wounded, as he had not been heard of for an unusually long time.

The little game I was playing with the quartermaster will serve as a very fair specimen of the methods which a secret service agent is compelled to use for the purpose of gaining such information as is desired. A spy, or a detective, must have a quick eye, a sharp ear, a retentive memory, and a talent for taking advantage of small and apparently unimportant points as aids for the accomplishment of the object in view. While making the journey which had brought me as far as Martinsburg, I had, of course, kept my eyes and ears open and had consequently accumulated quite an extensive stock of knowledge which I thought might be useful some time. …

My friend asked me what company my brother belonged to, but I said that I could not tell him that. All I knew was that … the command had been engaged in some sharp fighting lately, [and] his family, as they had not heard from him, were becoming exceedingly anxious. I believe that I wiped the semblance of a tear from my eye as I told all this and looked as distressed as possible, in the hope of working on the quartermaster’s sympathies. He proved as sympathetic as I could have desired, and bidding me not to distress myself unnecessarily, but to hope for the best, he promised to undertake to find out for me where my brother was, if still alive, or, if it should turn out that he had been killed, where he was buried.

Accordingly, when we had finished breakfast, he escorted me back to the parlor, and then, saying au revoir, he went immediately to headquarters to inspect the roll of the command. Before a great while he returned, and, with a very sorrowful countenance, stated that it gave him pain to tell me that my dear brother was dead.

“Oh, that is awful!” I cried, and began to go on at quite a rate, actually, I believe, squeezing out a few real tears.

My friend tried to soothe me as well as he could, and finally, becoming calm, in response to repeated requests to do so on his part, I asked him where Dick was buried and declared that I must visit his grave. That I should desire to see and to weep over the grave of my dear departed brother seemed to the quartermaster both reasonable and natural, and he said that he would get an ambulance and take me to the burial-place.

Before many moments, therefore, the vehicle was in attendance, and my friend and I drove out to where my supposititious brother was buried. It was now my turn to question, and my escort proved to be so exceedingly communicative that before we returned to the hotel, I was informed of the exact number of troops in the neighborhood, their positions, their commanders, where the enemy were supposed to be located, who they were commanded by, the results of the recent conflicts, and a variety of other matters of more or less importance. The man was as innocent and as unsuspicious as a newborn babe, and I could scarcely keep from laughing sometimes at the eagerness he displayed in telling me all manner of things that, had he been possessed of ordinary common sense, he would never have revealed to any one, much less to a total stranger. …

Some of the information thus obtained I knew would be of vital importance to the Confederates, could it be conveyed to them immediately. I therefore made my arrangement and that night slipped through the Federal lines and told all that I had to tell. … With that extraordinary good luck which so often attends bold adventures, I succeeded in getting back without being observed or suspected, and my escort of the morning was never the wiser by the knowledge that his silly talkativeness had produced such good results for the Confederacy.

I remained about a week in Martinsburg, and enjoyed myself immensely. Not only my friend, the quartermaster, but a number of other officers paid me very marked attentions, and I was soon quite a rival to the belles of the place. I did not have another opportunity to communicate with the Confederate forces but this week was not an idle one, nevertheless, and by the time it was ended, I was in possession of a large number of facts that were well worth knowing. While still undecided whether to push on farther or not, I received some intelligence which induced me to think it better to return. …

[W]hen I got back to Chattanooga, I had some trouble in making any farther progress but by representing myself as a soldier’s wife and expressing an extreme anxiety to see my husband, I was permitted to remain within the Federal lines, but was not afforded any particular facilities for finding out anything worth knowing. My anxiety now was to regain the Confederate lines at the earliest possible moment. As I knew the country pretty well, I felt certain of being able to find the farmhouse where I had left my uniform, if I could only get a chance to go to it. Fortune favors the brave in a majority of cases, and ere long I was enabled to reach the house, but only to find that it had been burned, and, with the exception of the smoke-house and kitchen, was a mass of charred ruins.

I confess that my heart sank within me when I saw that the house had been destroyed, for I would have been in a nice predicament, and without my masculine garments would have been even more unwelcome among the Confederates than I was among the Federals. To my great joy, however, I discovered the ash-barrel just where I had placed it and unharmed, and in a few moments I had discarded my feminine raiment and was once more in the guise of a Confederate officer. The costume I wore, however, was not one in which I could appear with impunity in that neighborhood, and it was necessary, therefore, that I should make haste to get where it would be regarded with friendly feelings. …

Book gems of 2016, Part 6

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Summer is upon us, and the season of leisure is the perfect time for new stories, characters, ideas, and adventures. Stillness of Heart concludes its occasional series of critical recommendations, from Civil War battle histories to memoirs, and from intellectual histories to photobooks almost as beautiful as the natural world they celebrate.

Read Part 1 of this 2016 series here and subsequent essays in this series here.

Finally … a brief look at some of the best works on World War I and World War II, science, culture, and literature.

David M. Lubin’s Grand Illusions: American Art and the First World War (Oxford University Press, 304 pp., $31.96) challenges us to appreciate how the trauma of war on individuals and on society as a whole has a powerful effect on how that society and its most creative minds express themselves through artwork. Political statement, illustration of shattered psyches, celebrations of victory and glory, reflections of societies that will never be the same again — the wartime and postwar motivations for beautiful and horrifying works analyzed in Lubin’s book were as varied and complex as the artists themselves. This valuable book reviews the work of famous artists and introduces us to previously unknown artists we must know about to fully understand the full spectrum of artwork from the Great War era.

Benjamin E. Jones’s Eisenhower’s Guerillas: The Jedburghs, theMaquis, and the Liberation of France (Oxford University Press, 336 pp., $23.96) reminds us that as the D-Day invaders floated off-shore and the paratroopers floated down from the sky, an Allied insurgency distracted, disrupted, or destroyed German operations in the hours and days before the invasion. This stunning book collects the stories of the daring teams that accepted incredible risks and executed impossible missions in the struggle to free France from Nazi domination.

Theresa Kaminski’s Angels of the Underground: The American Women who Resisted the Japanese in the Philippines in World War II (Oxford University Press, 512 pp., $27.95) offers a story of patriotism and bravery in the midst of brutal conquest. Four women contributed in different and priceless ways to the resistance efforts, the return of the American forces, and the final defeat of the Japanese invaders. Kaminski places their efforts in the larger historical context of the military operations, Japanese treatment of American prisoners, and the place of the Philippines in the overall calculus of Pacific strategy.

J. Samuel Walker’s Prompt and Utter Destruction: Truman and the Use of Atomic Bombs against Japan (University of North Carolina Press, 168 pp., $25), reissued this fall in a third edition, analyzes the contemporary debates over the use of the weapon, evaluates the intelligence available to the Truman administration officials at the time the decision had to be made, and includes fresh information from recently opened Japanese archives. The work masterfully illustrates the incredibly complicated considerations made by the Americans and the Japanese as the world — and warfare itself — stepped into a new era.

Miri Shefer-Mossensohn’s Science among the Ottomans: The Cultural Creation and Exchange of Knowledge (University of Texas Press, 262 pp., $55) pushes back against classic Western assumptions that the Ottoman Empire lost its cultural ambitions and interest in technological advancements — two key aspects of an intellectually vibrant entity — throughout the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century, thereby dooming itself to (and justifying) European domination after World War I. Far from it, she argues, for the Ottomans retained their intellectual passion for new solutions to old problems, particularly in the field of communications, when, as early as the 1870s, they were one of the world’s leaders in telegraph technology. For centuries, the Ottoman Empire deliberately and nobly strove to create and maintain a rich creative and artistic culture, championing new inventions, embracing and improving innovations from other regions, and building on the mountainous achievements inherited from Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Safavids, and other great civilizations. This work refocuses academic attention on those accomplishments and challenges Western scholars and students to grant Ottoman civilization the credit and respect it richly deserves.

Apollo Pilot: The Memoir of Astronaut Donn Eisele, edited by Francis French (University of Nebraska Press, 192 pp., $24.95), promises to be an incredible story from an incredible individual. Eisele was selected for the Apollo 1 mission, the first in a series of manned missions to the moon. A training injury suddenly grounded him, and then news came that a fire killed the Apollo 1 crew, including his replacement. The disaster paralyzed NASA’s lunar program, and it was up to the next Apollo crew, including Eisele, to face down dual challenges: restart the Apollo mission program and also recover Americans’ faith in the grand endeavor. Apollo 7 did both. Eisele’s memoir of scientific triumph and personal tragedy brings a new dimension to the literature of space flight and of the heroes that won the space race.

Allan Metcalf’s From Skedaddle to Selfie: Words of the Generations (Oxford University Press, 232 pp., $19.95) promises to be a smart and light-hearted stroll through the history of American vernacular and the societies, cultural fads, fashions, and events that inspired or were defined by them. Metcalf’s work is a vital reminder that the stories behind common and colorful language, ranging from the Revolutionary era to today, are complicated but crucial elements of our nation’s history and cannot be underestimated.

Reading Debra Hamel’s Reading Herodotus: A Guided Tour through the Wild Boars, Dancing Suitors, and Crazy Tyrants of The History (Johns Hopkins University Press, 360 pp., $29.95) is like sitting on a beach near Bodrum, formerly Halicarnassus, with Hamel next to you, the classic book open on your lap, as she illuminates every incredible and sexy story — just the way Herodotus hoped we would enjoy his work.

James A. Michener’s Legacy (Penguin Random House, 144 pp., $16) re-appears on the literary stage with a new paperback edition. The 1987 novel centers on Norman Starr, loosely modeled on Iran-Contra figure Oliver North, as he prepares to answer for his actions before a congressional committee. He looks for moral strength in his ancestry, and the novel unspools an incredible cast of characters ranging across American history, each having played a part in forming the democratic republic Starr’s actions may have threatened.

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Book gems of 2016
An occasional series
Jan. 3: Antiquity, Civil War, World War II, and space
June 22: Presidents and the political world
June 29: Texas and Texas history
July 6: Latin America
July 13: Slavery and the Civil War era
July 20: World War I and II, science, culture, and literature

Loreta’s Civil War: Seized with an intense desire

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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 27: Velazquez hears that her beloved is nearby, and she can’t wait to be reunited with him, but she wonders if she should tell him the truth about her disguise.

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From Lynchburg I went to Charlotte, North Carolina. … I did see quite a number of officers and soldiers who had collected at this point, under orders to return to their commands without delay, and who were waiting for transportation. Many of these were old friends and acquaintances of mine, and I proceeded to make myself at home among them, and also among the good people of Charlotte, taking particular pains, according to my usual custom, to be as agreeable as I could to the ladies. … I still was inspired by some ambition to achieve a reputation as a ladies’ man. I succeeded as well as I usually did when attempting to play this role and managed to enjoy myself immensely, although I am not aware that I inflicted any irreparable damage upon the hearts of the fair ones of Charlotte.

This was in the summer of 1863. Gen. [Robert E.] Lee had invaded Pennsylvania, had been defeated at Gettysburg, and had returned to Virginia to resume again the defense of Richmond. His army was shattered but defiant still, and, as events proved, was quite competent to do as hard fighting as it ever did, and to ward off the always impending Federal attack on the Confederate capital for a good while to come. But with the battle of Gettysburg, the important work of the summer in that quarter had culminated, and the attention of the entire Confederacy was now anxiously directed to Eastern Tennessee, where the Federal [Maj. Gen. William S.] Rosecrans was pushing forward with the evident intention of striking a damaging blow somewhere, and perhaps of forcing his way into Georgia. It was in resisting the forces of Rosecrans, therefore, that distinction was to be won, and not by remaining in the neighborhood of Richmond. … I concluded that I ought to set my face southward if I hoped to win any laurels.

Hearing that [Confederate Lt. Gen. James] Longstreet’s corps had been detached from Lee’s army before Richmond and ordered to reinforce [Confederate Gen. Braxton] Bragg, I concluded to wait in Charlotte until it made its appearance on its way southward, and, if possible, travel with it to its destination. A good many of the officers waiting in Charlotte were anxious to take advantage of this opportunity to obtain transportation back to their commands, but it was reported that no one would be permitted to go on the train except Longstreet’s own men. It would have been a very serious disappointment and some trouble to many who did not know when they would have such another chance to reach the scene of action, and there was a good deal of growling at the prospect that a prolonged stay in Charlotte might be necessary. …

I, however, had made up my mind to make a determined effort to go … and I proposed to some of the officers, who were impatient to get off, that we should have an interview with Gen. Longstreet and endeavor to impress upon his mind the imperative necessity we were under of rejoining our regiments immediately. There was a difference of opinion, however, about the expediency and propriety of this course, and no one was willing to take the responsibility of doing the necessary talking. As no one else would undertake the task of interviewing Longstreet on the subject, I resolved to represent the situation to him myself.

After the arrival of his corps in Charlotte I watched for a good opportunity, and at length espied him engaged in conversation with Gen. Jenkins. I therefore went up, and, making a salute, stated to Gen. Longstreet that a number of officers who were ordered to join their regiments immediately were unable to proceed for lack of transportation, and asked if we might not go on with him. … The general hesitated somewhat, but after asking me several questions about who we were, how many there were of us, where we were going … he acceded to my request. I made known the success of my mission to the rest, and so, jumping on board the train, we managed to get through. …

Shortly after my arrival in Atlanta, however, I heard some- thing that delighted me. … Capt. De Caulp was near Spring Hill with [Confederate Gen. Earl] Van Dorn. … I had not seen the captain since the Battle of Shiloh, where I fought by his side, or at least under his eye, during nearly the whole of the conflict, succeeding in winning his commendation for my courage without exciting any suspicion in his mind that I was the woman upon whom his affections were bestowed. So soon as I heard that he was in my vicinity, I was seized with an intense desire to meet him again, for I was greatly in love with him, and it afforded me the keenest delight to hear praises of myself from his lips, and he all the while thinking that he was addressing them to a third party.

I don’t suppose, since the commencement of the world, so strange a courtship as ours was ever carried on. It is certain that not many women have had the same opportunities as myself to find out, from their own lips, exactly how fond of them their expected husbands really are. The situation, I confess, had a wonderful fascination for me, for there were intensely romantic elements in it that addressed themselves in the strongest manner to my imagination. To have been able to fight by the side of my lover in one of the greatest battles of the war, and to be praised by him for my valor, were of themselves matters for intense satisfaction, and I often imagined how it would be after the war was over, and we would be able to compare notes and relate our adventures to each other. …

At the time of which I write … a desire to see Capt. De Caulp again was the uppermost thought in my mind, and I was almost more than half resolved to give him a surprise by revealing myself to him. Whether to do this or not was a question that I debated with myself most seriously while on my way to join him. The fact that I was a woman had now been so often discovered that it was probable he might at any moment learn that his expected wife and Lt. Harry T. Buford were one and the same, and, not knowing what he might think of the course I had pursued in assuming male attire, I dreaded having anyone but myself discover my secret to him. In addition to this, I loved him most fondly, and, although inspired by a sense of the duties I owed to the cause for which I had taken up arms, I endeavored to control my feelings and to regard my marriage with Capt. De Caulp as not to be thought of until the time came for both to forsake the battlefield and to think no more of warfare but as something we were done with forever.

I would have been less than human, however, if sometimes I did not desire most ardently to be with him and to hear from my lover’s lips the terms of endearment which are the sweetest music a woman’s ears can be greeted by, and to be courted by him as other women were by the men who had won their affections. I knew that, in many respects, it would be better for me to remain at a distance from Capt. De Caulp but I was moved by an inscrutable impulse at this time to go to him, and I was almost willing, if he should say so, to abandon the army and to permanently resume the garments of my sex. I did not propose, however, to do this if it could be avoided, and the leading idea in my mind was … to go through the rest of the war with him and to fight constantly by his side. …

So soon as I found that Capt. De Caulp was near at hand, I took the train for the point nearest to where I learned that Van Dorn’s command was stationed. Getting off at Tyner’s Station, I obtained a horse and started off in the direction of Chickamauga. … I saw plainly, as matters were then, that it would be exceedingly difficult … for me to join Van Dorn’s command. … Capt. De Caulp would most likely come my way, and I would be able to meet him sooner by waiting for him than by going after him. I was too impatient, however, to pass my time in idleness and felt as if I must do something for the cause and my own credit as a soldier.

It really appeared to be more trouble than it was worth to endeavor to persuade any of the general officers to assign me to the particular kind of duty I desired, and, as I had been decidedly successful in more than one expedition, planned and executed by myself, and on my own responsibility, I resolved to undertake another one just for the sake of keeping myself busy and of seeing what would come of it. I felt very confident that if I could make a big hit, my services as a spy would be in heavy demand, for there was evidently going to be some close fighting and the movements of the enemy would need watching at every point. …

My idea now was to run through the lines and take a good view of the situation from the Federal standpoint, and I knew that the safest and best way of doing this … was to go as a woman, for, in the proper attire of my sex it would be easier for me to pass the pickets and avoid being suspected of having any end in view to which objection could be taken. The only difficulty in the way of accomplishing my object was in procuring suitable clothing without attracting attention. As there were a number of houses in the vicinity from which the people had fled, some of them in great haste, when they found themselves likely to be in the midst of contending armies, it occurred to me that in all probability I would be able to find what I wanted in … one of them. I, therefore, commenced a search, and soon came to a dwelling that promised to supply me with everything I needed. … [I] transformed myself from a gallant young Confederate officer into a reasonably good-looking woman [and] I packed a carpet-bag with a change of clothing, and other articles, such as I thought might be useful on a journey. …

I picked up my carpet-bag and made directly for the enemy’s lines. I knew that the bold way was the best way … and that the correct plan was to strike directly for headquarters with a plausible story to tell rather than to attempt to slip past the pickets and run the risk of being detected. …

The position and duties of spies are little understood by persons who have had no actual experience of warfare. … Just as the quartermaster, the commissary, the paymaster, and the surgeon are as important as the generals … so the spy, who will be able to obtain information of the movements of the enemy, who will discover the plans for campaigns and battles that are being arranged, who will intercept dispatches, who will carry false intelligence to the enemy, and who, when he does become possessed of any fact worth knowing, will prove himself prompt and reliable in taking it or sending it to headquarters, is indispensable to the success of any movement. The spy, however, occupies a different position from that held by any other attache of an army. According to all military law, he is an outlaw and is liable to be hung if detected — the death of a soldier even being denied him. … [Y]et the spy is nothing more nor less than a detective officer, and there cannot be any good and sufficient reason assigned for the discredit which attaches to his occupation. It is simply one of the prejudices which, having no substantial foundation, have been carefully fostered by military men for their own purposes, and it is high time that it should be given up by sensible people.

During the war a vast deal of the most important kind of work was performed by spies on both sides, and these secret emissaries, men and women, labored with a diligence, a zeal, and an intelligence in the execution of tasks of enormous peril that was rarely equaled and never surpassed by those who had the actual work of fighting to do. The fate of more than one battle was decided … by the movements which the generals were able to make through information furnished them by spies, and more than one commanding officer has testified … to the efficiency and fidelity of the secret service agents who have aided him. …

Having been for a long period a spy myself, and a very successful one, and having been engaged in many as hazardous and responsible enterprises as usually fall to the lot of a secret agent of a belligerent power, I naturally feel a … professional interest in this matter. … All I ask is, that fair-minded persons, who will do me the honor to peruse this portion of my narrative, will remember that the circumstances were not ordinary ones. I was mixed up in a good deal of most rascally business but it was my associates, and not myself, who were deserving of condemnation. Their motive was gain, and gain at the expense of a government and people that trusted them, and to the detriment of a cause which they professed to hold sacred. I, on the other hand, was the secret agent of the enemy, who considered that pretty much anything was fair in war, and that I was justified in inflicting all the damage to the enemies of my cause that I was able. …. That I associated with traitors, and strove to make men betray the cause to which they were bound by every tie of honor and duty did not render them less despicable to me, and I even now shudder to think of the depravities of human nature which my career as a secret agent of the Confederate government revealed to me. …

Podcast 15: Ed Ayers and Gary Gallagher

Great conversation

Amerikan Rambler: Everybody Has a Story

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Ed Ayers and Gary Gallagher are two of the best southern historians working today. Ed Ayers is from Tennessee, taught at UVA, and is now president emeritus and professor at the University of Richmond. Gary Gallagher came to UVA by way of Penn State, University of Texas, Colorado, and Los Angeles. Both are now working in the field of Civil War studies. Ed Ayers new book, The Thin Light of Freedom, will be published next fall. Gary Gallagher’s most recent book is The American War, which he co-wrote with scholar Joan Waugh, is available in bookstores now.

It’s a long episode, but a good one. Give it a listen!

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Loreta’s Civil War: I turned my head and spit

KS52

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 26: Confederate authorities in Lynchburg arrest Velazquez and accuse her of dressing as a man, and the town’s ladies are fascinated with her.

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[Confederate Brig. Gen. John H.] Winder was one of the most remarkable men I became acquainted with during my whole career as an officer and a spy in the Confederate service. He was a venerable, pleasant-looking old gentleman, with white hair, and a rather agreeable expression of countenance that was well calculated to deceive superficial observers with regard to his real character. He had a most confiding, plausible way about him, and an air of general benevolence that completely masked the hardness of his heart, and imposed so on his victims that, until they found themselves fairly caught in his cunningly-laid traps, they were unwilling to believe him to be the desperate old sinner he really was. Calculated as Gen. Winder was to leave a favorable impression at first glance, he would not bear inspection. No man of strongly-marked character can long conceal his real self from those who are accustomed to study human nature, and a very slight acquaintance with Winder sufficed to convince me that he was a dangerous man to trifle with, and that cruelty and rapacity were among his predominant traits. His eyes were hard, cold, and piercing, and there was a wicked twist about his mouth that was far from being reassuring. I do not believe that man had such a thing as a conscience, that he was utterly unscrupulous with regard to the means he took for the accomplishment of his ends, I know. He was a most valuable officer, however, and I doubt whether another individual in the whole Confederacy could have been found who would have commanded the secret service corps with the signal ability he did. …

Without more interruption or delay I proceeded on my journey and finally reached [Confederate Gen. Earl] Van Dorn, to whom I delivered my package of supposed dispatches [from Winder]. He read Winder’s letter, and looked through the lot of [blank papers] which had accompanied them, then, glancing at me, he burst into a laugh, which indicated that he saw something funny in the proceeding, and after a few questions, he ordered me to return. This might be good fun for Van Dorn and Winder but I did not particularly admire having been sent all this distance on such a fool’s errand, and was very much disposed to resent it. A little reflection, however, told me that it was none of my business what the pretended dispatches were, and that as I had accomplished my errand according to order, and without falling into the snare that Gen. Winder himself had evidently set for me, I had every reason to be satisfied and would probably find, on getting back to Richmond, that he was satisfied also.

I was anxious to reach Richmond at as early a day as possible, for I heard a number of rumors which induced me to believe that another great battle was shortly to be fought. …. I found, however, on reaching Richmond, that there was no present chance for a battle, and consequently settled myself down as contentedly as possible to do whatever work might be assigned me in the secret service department. It seemed to be an impossibility for me now to avoid getting into continual trouble about my disguise. [I]t began to be whispered about among the soldiers and citizens that a woman dressed as a man had been discovered, and some highly-exaggerated rumors with regard to my exploits were diligently circulated. My having received a wound shortly after the battle of Shiloh appeared to be a particularly attractive episode to the minds of many people, and my performances at that battle were believed, in some quarters, to have been of a most extraordinary nature. Indeed, I do not know but that some people thought me the commander-in-chief of the Confederate forces on the occasion, while I was credited with exploits of unparalleled heroism.

This sort of rather indefinite celebrity might have amused me and pleased my vanity were it not the source of much annoyance. Not only did the report that this woman-soldier had come to Virginia have a tendency to attract attention to me and to excite suspicions that might never have occurred to anyone, but the extraordinary vigilance that was exercised on all sides to prevent spies from pursuing their occupations in safety and to prevent deserters from escaping was sure to occasion me troubles of various kinds. I felt out of the reach of serious danger, it is true, having been assigned to duty in the secret service corps by Gen. Winder but the fact of my being in this corps would not prevent my arrest and detention at any time if somebody should take a fancy to believe that I was not all that my outward appearances represented.

I was vexed, therefore, but scarcely surprised, when, shortly after my return from my trip to Van Dorn’s headquarters, on taking a run over to Lynchburg, I was again arrested on the charge of being a woman in disguise. My sword was taken from me, and I was otherwise treated with a good deal more rudeness than I thought there was any occasion for, and this treatment had the effect of making me obstinate and indisposed to give my captors any satisfaction with regard to who I was, and for a considerable time I stood out strongly for my rights as an officer in the Confederate army. I was subjected to a brief examination before his honor the mayor, but refused to commit myself; and it very soon became apparent that my captors were in somewhat of a quandary as to the best course to pursue with regard to me. It was finally, however, decided to hold me for the present, and I was assigned to tolerably comfortable quarters, where I proceeded to make myself as much at home as I could.

Now the fun commenced. It having become rumored about that a woman, disguised as a Confederate officer, had been arrested, all the curiosity-seekers of the town became immensely excited, especially as the most exaggerated reports of my heroic deeds on the battlefield and elsewhere were in circulation, and everybody — the women in particular — evinced the most eager desire to see the heroine of innumerable bloody conflicts.

I began to be pestered with visitors, who plied me with all sorts of questions, some of them most insulting ones, but which I was compelled to refrain from getting angry at for fear of betraying myself. My position was a most unpleasant one, and it required very skillful management for me to play the part of a man to advantage. What gave piquancy to the situation was that, while it was generally believed I was a woman, and the particular woman whose exploits had reached their ears, my visitors were [not] quite sure which sex I belonged to, and all their efforts were directed to solving the mystery.

While the attentions I received from the good citizens of Lynchburg, and particularly from the women folk of that town, were all in a greater or less degree annoying, some of my interviews with the visitors who persisted in calling upon me were decidedly amusing and caused me much hearty laughter.

On one occasion I heard feminine voices and footsteps approaching and prepared myself for the ordeal which I would be compelled to go through with. During the two years and more I had been wearing male attire, I had not only learned the general carriage of a man, but had picked up a good many little masculine traits which I had practiced until I was quite perfect in them. I relied greatly upon these to aid me in maintaining my incognito, for they were eminently characteristic and well calculated to throw a suspicious person off guard. So when I heard these visitors coming, I stuck my feet up on the window-sill, and, just as they were opening the door, I turned my head and spit.

This action attracted the attention of the youngest of the two ladies who were entering, immediately, and I heard her say in a whisper to the elder, “Oh, ma, that can’t be a woman! See how he spits!” I saw that my little ruse was a success and laughed inwardly at the impression it made on the ladies.

They were a mother and daughter, and had evidently come to remonstrate with me in good set terms about the impropriety of my costume. One little peculiarly mannish gesture, however, so completely confounded them that they did not venture to approach the subject they had in their minds except in the most roundabout way. They were very nice people and were disposed to be as kind to me as they possibly could but I did not think proper to give them any satisfaction with regard to what they were most concerned about, and, after a somewhat embarrassed conversation … they took their departure as wise as they came.

Not long after, I had another visitor of a somewhat different kind. This was a motherly old lady who seemed to consider that her years and experience gave her a right to speak to me in plain words, whether I was a man or a woman. She accordingly, without any ceremony, began to subject me to a very rigid cross-examination but I replied to her questions in a manner that was anything but to her satisfaction. The result was that both of us at length began to be somewhat vexed, and, as I could not understand what right she had to undertake such a task … and considered her behavior impertinent in the extreme, I resolved to say a few words that I thought would settle her.

Finding that she could not obtain any definite answers to her questions, she finally said, “Well, all I’ve got to say is, that if you really are a young man, you deserve credit for what you have done to advance the interests of the cause. If you are a woman, however, you are disgracing your sex by dressing yourself up in men’s clothes and attempting to be a soldier. If you wanted to serve your country, you might have found some other way of doing it, and you ought to be ashamed of yourself.”

This made me a little mad, but I kept cool, and, shrugging my shoulders, said, in as deliberate a manner as possible, looking the old lady straight in the eyes, “Well, madam, as you seem to be in doubt about my sex and are apparently exceedingly anxious to find out whether I am a man or a woman, allow me to suggest that the facts of the case can very readily be established to your satisfaction. Suppose you –”

But it would be cruelty to the reader to give the rest of my reply, so I will leave it unrecorded.

It had an astonishing effect, however, on my visitor. She got red in the face, her eyes flashed, and, muttering something that I did not hear, she bounced out of the room, leaving me to enjoy a hearty laugh at the comical termination of the adventure. My irate visitor went down stairs in hot haste, and, in a terrible state of excitement, informed the mayor that that nasty little fellow had insulted her. The supposed insult I explained in such a way that the laugh was fairly turned upon the ancient dame.

If such occurrences as these had been the only annoyances to which I was subjected, no particular harm would have been done. … To my surprise and indignation, however, I received one day the following letter from a general officer with whom I was acquainted and whom I had hitherto regarded as something of a gentleman:

“Lieutenant Harry T. Buford, C.S.A.

“Dear Sir: If you will accept a position on my staff as one of my [aides], I can obtain for you your release from the civil authorities. You will have a pleasant time. I will furnish you with a fine horse and you can share my quarters and my mess.”

The meaning of this did not require explanation. It stung me to the heart that a man who had fought with me on the same field of battle should offer me such an indignity, situated as I was, and I was so overcome with rage at the insult that I would have killed him without thought of the consequences to myself, could I have reached him. I replied instantly to his note, stating that I would meet him at any time and place he might designate, and that I would either kill him or he would have to kill me, for I was resolved that no man should insult me with impunity. I heard no more from him, and when I gained my freedom once more, he was gone. At that time the writer of this insulting note was single, but now he is married, and it is only for the sake of his noble little wife and his family that I refrain from branding his name with infamy. I am informed that he always speaks of me with the highest respect but, as I have no respect for him, I care not what his opinion of me may be.

Finally, I obtained my release, and having had quite enough of Lynchburg, and being anxious to escape from the gaze of the impertinently curious people, who watched my every motion, I took my departure without any delay.

Loreta’s Civil War: The proper constume of my sex

KS53

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 25: Velazquez barely escapes a hotel fire, reunites with her missing slave, and returns to Richmond to resume her espionage activities.

******

In leaving New Orleans I had no very definite plans for the immediate future … but did not doubt of my ability to find a field for the display of my talents ere a great while. I was now more intent than ever upon being employed on detective and scouting duty, for which my recent residence in New Orleans had been an excellent schooling; so excellent, indeed, that I considered myself as well out of my apprenticeship, and as quite competent to assume all the responsibilities of the most difficult or dangerous jobs that might be thrust upon me. …

I judged that matters ought soon to be approaching a crisis somewhere, although exactly what definite aims the belligerents were driving at, if, indeed, they had any just then, I could not comprehend. I resolved, if a grand movement of any kind was coming off, that I must have a hand in it in some shape but that if something of importance was not attempted before a great while I would return to Virginia and see what Fortune had in store for me there. I judged, however, that I would not have much difficulty in finding work to do in the West if I went about looking for it in the right way, and I knew of no better locality in which to seek the information I needed before commencing operations in the field again than Jackson.

To Jackson, therefore, I went … and arrived just in time to witness an occurrence for which I was sincerely sorry. This was the burning of the Bowman House by [Confederate Gen. John C.] Breckenridge’s men, who were infuriated at being told that the proprietor had permitted the Federals to occupy the hotel, and that he had entertained them. … The unfortunate man was in reality not to blame in the matter, for the Federals had occupied his house without his consent. … This incident will serve to show the desperately unpleasant position of the non-combatants throughout this whole region at this and later periods of the war. They were literally between two fires, and no matter how peaceably disposed they might be, they could satisfy neither party and were made to suffer by both. The proprietor of the Bowman House was forced to witness a fine property destroyed before his eyes through the reckless and unthinking anger of men who never stopped to inquire whether he was guilty or not of any offense against them or their cause before taking vengeance upon him. He was reduced to poverty by the burning of his hotel, and I could not help feeling the keenest regret for the occurrence, although I recognized it as one of the inevitable calamities of warfare.

I was, myself, in the hotel when it was fired and barely succeeded in escaping from the building with my life. Not expecting any such occurrence, I had taken rooms and was proceeding to make myself comfortable when, all of a sudden, I found that it was in flames, and that it would be as much as I could do to get out unscathed. The men who fired the building did not give the proprietor an opportunity to make explanations, or if they did, they refused to believe him. …

Several times already had the Federals made attacks of greater or less importance on Vicksburg, which city was now the most important position held by the Confederacy, and commanding the Mississippi River as it did, its possession was considered a matter of the most vital importance. The fall of Vicksburg, everybody knew, would practically give the Federals possession of the river throughout its entire length, and as such a calamity would … be an even greater blow to the Confederate cause than the fall of New Orleans had been. … That sooner or later the Federals would make a more determined effort than they had done previously to take this post appeared to be certain but the natural advantages of the position were such and the fortifications in course of construction were so strong … that the utmost confidence in the ability of the garrison to hold it was felt by every one. …

On my arrival at Jackson I heard of my negro boy Bob for the first time since I had lost him, just after the battle of Shiloh. I therefore proceeded to Grenada, where I found the darkey, who appeared to be heartily glad to see me again after such a long separation. Bob, it seems, had gone plump into a Federal camp, having missed his road, after I had started him off for Corinth but, not liking the company he found there, had slipped away at the earliest opportunity and had wandered about in a rather aimless manner for some time, seeking for me. Not being able to hear anything of me, he had made up his mind that I was dead, and was quite surprised to see me turn up again alive and well. …

From Grenada, I returned once more to Jackson and found the place in considerable excitement over the prospective army movements but as there did not seem to be much for me to do in the particular line of business I desired to take up, I now determined to put my old intention of returning to Virginia into execution, and … I was soon speeding eastward again on my way to Richmond.

I should have mentioned that after leaving New Orleans I resumed male attire at the earliest possible moment and figured once more as Lt. Harry T. Buford. Perhaps if I had gone to [Confederate Gen. Joseph E.] Johnston or some other commanding officer of high rank and frankly stated that I was a woman, giving at the same time a narrative of my exploits, and furnishing references as guarantees of the truthfulness of my story, I would have obtained the kind of employment I was looking for, with permission to use the garments of either sex, as I might deem expedient for the particular errand I had in hand. …

Once past the Confederate pickets, I believed that I could easily reach Washington, and I felt certain that a skillful spy, such as I esteemed myself now to be, could, without great difficulty, find out plenty of things which the Richmond authorities would be glad to know, and for the furnishing of which they would be glad to extend me such recognition as I desired. The military situation in Virginia, too, was more satisfactory than it was in the West, and I had a hankering to be where the Confederates were occasionally winning some victories. Since I had been in the West, I had witnessed little else than disaster, and I greatly desired to take a hand in a fight when the victory would rest with the Confederates, if only for the sake of variety. …

The war had now been in progress nearly two years, and, although the South had not been conquered, affairs were beginning to look decidedly blue for us. All our fine expectations of an easy achievement of our independence had long since vanished, and the situation every day was getting more and more desperate. The country was becoming exhausted, and had not its natural resources been enormous, our people must, ere this, have given up the contest. As it was, with a large portion of the male population in the field, and with heavy drafts being constantly made upon it to fill the ranks of the armies, the cultivation of the ground was neglected, and the necessities of life every day became scarcer and dearer. We were shut out, too, owing to the stringency of the Federal blockade, from anything like regular intercourse with Europe, and all kinds of manufactured articles, and the food we had been accustomed to import, were held at such enormous figures, that they were utterly beyond the reach of any but the most wealthy. The suffering among the poorer classes in all parts of the South was very great, and in those portions which had been devastated by the tramp of the different armies, many of the people were very nearly on the verge of starvation.

It was fast becoming a serious question how long the contest could be prolonged, unless some signal advantage could speedily be achieved in the field by the Confederate forces. It is impossible to express in words how eagerly all classes looked for the achievement of some such advantage, and how bitter was the disappointment, as month after month wore away, and in spite of occasional victories, the people saw, day by day, the Federals drawing their lines closer and closer, and slowly but surely closing in upon them.

We were now entering upon the desperate stage of the war, when the contest was conducted almost against hope, and had the South been inhabited by a less determined race, or one less animated by a fixed resolve to fight to the very last, and until it was impossible to fight any longer, the Federal forces would have succeeded long ere they did in compelling a surrender of the Confederate armies. The men who commanded the armies, however, were not the sort to give up until they were absolutely defeated, and it was starvation, rather than the Federal arms, that at length forced the contest to the conclusion it reached, by the surrender of the armies under the command of [Robert E.] Lee and [Joseph E.] Johnston. …

Richmond … was a very different place from what it was on my last visit to it, as I soon found to my cost. Martial law was in force in its most rigorous aspect. … Beleaguered as Richmond was, every person was more or less an object of suspicion, and strangers, especially, were watched with a vigilance that left them few opportunities to do mischief, or were put under arrest, and placed in close confinement. …

It is not surprising, therefore, that almost immediately upon my arrival in Richmond I fell under the surveillance … as a suspicious character, and was called upon to give an account of myself. My story was not accepted in the same spirit of credibility that some rather tough yarns I had manufactured in the course of my career, for the purpose of satisfying the curiosity of inquisitive people, had been. … There was, evidently, something suspicious and mysterious about me, and, suspicion having once been excited, some lynx-eyed detective was not long in noting certain feminine ways I had, and which even my long practice in figuring as a man had not enabled me to get rid of, and the result was, that I was arrested on the charge of being a woman in disguise, and supposedly a Federal spy, and was conducted to Castle Thunder to reflect upon the mutabilities of fortune until I could give a satisfactory account of myself.

I thought that this was rather hard lines, but as good luck often comes to us in the guise of present tribulation, as matters turned out it was the very best thing that could have happened to me, for it compelled me to reveal myself and my plans to persons who were willing and able to aid me, and to tell my story to friendly and sympathetic ears.

The commander of Castle Thunder was Major G. W. Alexander, a gentleman who, ever since I made his acquaintance through being committed to his custody as a prisoner, I have always been proud to number among my best and most highly-esteemed friends. Major Alexander and his lovely wife both showed the greatest interest in me, and they treated me with such kindness and consideration that I was induced to tell them exactly who I was, what my purposes were in assuming the male garb, what adventures I had passed through, and what my aspirations were for the future. They not only believed my story, but thinking that my services to the Confederacy merited better treatment than I was then receiving at the hands of the authorities, interested themselves greatly in my behalf.

Both the major and his wife … seemed to be shocked, however, at the idea of a woman dressing herself in the garb of the other sex and attempting to play the part of a soldier, and they eagerly urged me to resume the proper costume of my sex again, assuring me that there would be plenty of work for me to do if I were disposed still to devote myself to the service of the Confederacy. The major, however … was urgent that I should abandon my disguise and represented, in forcible terms, the dangers I ran in persisting in wearing it.

To these remonstrances I turned a deaf ear. I had passed through too many real trials to be frightened by imaginary ones, and I did not like to change my costume under compulsion. I accordingly refused positively to put on the garments of a woman, except as a means of gaining my liberty, and with the full intention of resuming male attire at the earliest opportunity. Major Alexander, therefore, finding me fixed in my determination to have my own way, undertook to have matters arranged to my satisfaction without putting me to the necessity of discarding my disguise. …

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