Sunday, January 2, 2011

Loreta Velazquez

Boston Globe Engraving
Loreta Janeta Velazquez was the daughter of a Spanish diplomat. She married a military officer who joined the Confederate forces and was killed in battle. 

After his death, she enlisted in the Confederate army as Lt. Harry T. Buford, a self-financed soldier not officially attached to any regiment. To make herself look masculine, she wore a false beard and mustache, developed a masculine gait, learned to smoke cigars and padded her uniform coat.

Loreta didn't just fight as a soldier in the historic battles of Bull Run and Shiloh. A story that appeared in the Semi-Weekly Wisconsin on November 28, 1862 reported that she had been arrested and convicted for stealing a woman's gold watch and chain and a gold thimble. For this crime, she was sentenced to six months in jail.

In 1876, she chronicled her adventures as a soldier in a 600-page memoir entitled The Woman in Battle: The Civil War Narrative of Loreta Janeta Velazquez, Cuban Woman and Confederate Soldier. In it she wrote, "Fear was not a word I did not know the meaning of."

While Jubal Early condemned her as a liar, James Longstreet corroborated parts of her story in a letter wrote to a Miss Park of Boston, MA in 1888 where he said he met Loreta in New Orleans after the war. Though he had not known of her in the ranks, he attested to points she gave for identification. Historians have confirmed part of her exploits through documents in the national archives and in newspaper articles.

In Omaha, Nebraska she talked General W. S. Harney into giving her a revolver, a buffalo robe and a pair of blankets. Then she traveled to the mining town of Austin, Nevada where she remarried to a wealthy man and happily settled down. She died in Austin in 1897.

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