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Loreta Velazquez
Confederate Spy
U.S. Civil War

From Spies! Women in the Civil War

Loreta Janeta Velazquez spied for the Confederacy during the Civil War. Born in Havana, Cuba, Velazquez grew up in New Orleans, LA. She married a United States Army officer who, when the war started, decided to fight for the Confederacy. According to her book, The Woman in Battle, Velazquez fought for the South, too. Although she may have exagerrated her adventures, her story is fascinating.

As Velazquez told the story, she disguised herself as a man by flattening her breasts with wire shields and braces and wearing an army uniform. Calling herself Harry T. Buford, Velazquez adopted a manly swagger, perfected the ability to spit, and organized a company of soldier's, the "Arkansas Grays." As a lieutenant of the company, Velazquez fought in several battles -- the first battle at Bull Run, Ball's Bluff and Shiloh. "Fear was a word I did not know the meaning of," Velazquez wrote later.

Living as a man among men, Velazquez concluded that their conversations were generally "revolting and utterly vile." She also reported that soldiers' talk about women was "thoroughly despicable."

By 1863, Velazquez's husband had been killed, she had been wounded twice, and her true sex had been discovered. At this point, Velazquez switched to spying. She claimed that she managed to work undetected on the staff of Union Colonel Lafayette C. Baker, chief of the United States Secret Services. She was also sent to Canada to spy. According to one account, Velazquez was "the beautifu Confederate spy whose black eyes bewitched passes from Union generals."

After the war, Velazquez wrote The Woman in Battle and then headed west. In Omaha, NE, 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, NV, where she married a wealthy man and happily settled down.

Loreta Velazquez died in Austin, NV, in 1897.

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