Loreta Velazquez Facts:
Known for: Confederate spy in the American Civil War; also fought for the Confederacy disguised as a man
Dates: (1842 - ?)
Also known as: Harry T. Buford, Loreta Janeta Velazquez, Madame Loreta J. Velazquez
Loreta Velazquez Biography:
According to The Woman in Battle, a book published by Loreta Velazquez in 1876 and the main source for her story, her father was the owner of plantations in Mexico and Cuba and a Spanish government official, and her mother's parents were a French naval officer and the daughter of a wealthy American family.
Loreta Velazquez claimed four marriages (though never took any of her husbands' names). Her second husband enlisted in the Confederate army at her urging, and, when he left for duty, she raised a regiment for him to command. He died in an accident, and the widow then enlisted -- in disguise -- and served at Manassas/Bull Run, Ball's Bluff, Fort Donelson and Shiloh under the name Lieutenant Harry T. Buford.
Loreta Velazquez also claims to have served as a spy, often dressed as a woman, working as a double agent for the Confederacy in the service of the U.S. Secret Service.
The veracity of the account was attacked almost immediately, and remains an issue with scholars. Some claim it is probably entirely fiction, others that the details in the text show a familiarity with the times that would be difficult to completely simulate.
A newspaper report mentions a Lieutenant Bensford arrested when it was disclosed "he" was actually a woman, and gives her name as Alice Williams, which is a name which Loreta Velazquez apparently also used.
Richard Hall, in Patriots in Disguise (see bibliography), takes a hard look at The Woman in Battle and analyzes whether its claims are accurate history or largely fictionalized. Elizabeth Leonard in All the Daring of the Soldier (also see bibliography) assesses The Woman in Battle as largely fiction, but based on real experience.
Loreta Vazquez Bibliography:
- Hall, Richard. Patriots in Disguise: Women Warriors of the Civil War. 1994.
- Leonard, Elizabeth D. All the Daring of the Soldier: Women of the Civil War Armies.
More About Loreta Velazquez:
- The Woman in Battle - etext of Velazquez' first-person account (the veracity of this account has been questioned by scholars)