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Loreta Janeta Velazquez, b. 1842 and C. J. Worthington
The Woman in Battle: A Narrative of the Exploits, Adventures, and Travels of Madame Loreta Janeta Velazquez, Otherwise Known as Lieutenant Harry T. Buford, Confederate States Army. In Which Is Given Full Descriptions of the Numerous Battles in which She Participated as a Confederate Officer; of Her Perilous Performances as a Spy, as a Bearer of Despatches, as a Secret-Service Agent, and as a Blockade-Runner; of Her Adventures Behind the Scenes at Washington, including the Bond Swindle; of her Career as a Bounty and Substitute Broker in New York; of Her Travels in Europe and South America; Her Mining Adventures on the Pacific Slope; Her Residence among the Mormons; Her Love Affairs, Courtships, Marriages, &c., &c.
Richmond, Va.: Dustin, Gilman & Co., 1876.


Loreta Janeta Velázquez, born in Cuba in 1842, was the daughter of a Spanish official. Sent away to school in New Orleans, she eloped with an officer in the United States Army in 1856. They had three children, all of whom died young. After they had been married for several years, Velázquez persuaded her husband to renounce his commission and join the Confederate forces. Velázquez herself joined the troops by dressing as man and going by the name Harry T. Buford. Disguised as Buford, according to her account, she served variously as a Confederate officer, a spy, and a blockade runner. She was wounded several times, including, allegedly, at Shiloh, and was involved in several intrigues in and around Washington, D.C. After her husband's sudden death from a weapon malfunction in the field, she remarried one of his close friends, Captain De Caulp. Prior to their engagement, DeCaulp had known Velázquez for over three years as Confederate soldier Harry T. Buford. Although Velázquez writes that DeCaulp was killed in action shortly after their marriage, he actually survived the war. Following the Civil War, Velázquez was married twice more, went on an extensive expedition to Venezuela, Cuba, and other Latin American countries with her third husband, and lived throughout the American West with her fourth husband, who was a miner. She died in 1897.

The Woman in Battle: A Narrative of the Exploits, Adventures, and Travels of Madame Loreta Janeta Velázquez (1876) is Velázquez's gripping story of her experiences as a woman in male-dominated arenas. "A woman labors under some disadvantages in an attempt to fight her own way in the world," she writes, "and at the same time, from the mere fact that she is a woman, she can often do things that a man cannot." In her memoir, Velázquez begins with an explanation of her background, describing the effect of the Mexican War on her family, her education in New Orleans, and her early interest in dressing as a man and imagining a destiny similar to Joan of Arc's. She also recounts her experiences as a Confederate soldier, as well, fighting at the Battles of Bull Run and Ball's Bluff, and at the siege of Fort Donelson. She was arrested as a Union spy in New Orleans, but successfully cleared her name without revealing her true identity. After leaving New Orleans, she joined a Louisiana regiment and fought at the Battle of Shiloh, where she fought by the side of her fiancée, Captain de Caulp, although he did not recognize her. Velázquez became a spy shortly thereafter and went to Cuba in order to discuss tactics with Confederate officers living there. Her experiences during the war were as varied as they were unique, and her memoir captures the typical life of a Confederate soldier, describes camp life, and depicts the adventures of war. The narrative continues beyond her war adventures, and details her travels in Latin America and the American West.

Upon publication in 1876, the book's veracity was questioned and it continues to be debated by contemporary historians to this day.

Works Consulted: Garraty, John A. and Mark C. Carnes, eds., American National Biography, New York: Oxford University Press, 1999; Ireland, Norma Olin, Women in World History: A Biographical Encyclopedia, Metchuen, NJ: Scarecrow Press, 1998.

Harris Henderson

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