"The Woman in Battle" (03:16)
Listen to Loreta Velazquez's journal entry; she disguised herself as Harry T. Buford. There is evidence that she and hundreds of women fought in the Civil War. (Credits)
Learn about Loreta's elite 19th century Cuban upbringing. Her father sent her to New Orleans for finishing school.
New Orleans Race Relations (03:44)
Loreta encountered prejudice against Latinos in 1849. She passed herself as white to fit in and rebelled against efforts to make her a lady.
Defying Marriage Expectations (02:49)
Learn how New Orleans Latinos tried to claim Spanish aristocratic ancestry. Loreta rebelled against her family and fell in love with an American; they were secretly married in 1856.
19th Century Motherhood (01:27)
Loreta tried to protect the children from disease at William's army camps. She became a "good American" over time.
Family Loss (02:59)
When William was sent to Indian Territory, Loreta took the children to St. Louis. They died of fever.
Civil War Outbreak (03:05)
In 1861, William resigned from the U.S. Army and joined the Confederate Army. Having lost her children, Loreta wanted to join him but he died in an accident.
Civil War Cross Dressing (04:35)
After William died, Loreta cut her hair and donned his uniform. Recent evidence shows 500-1000 women secretly joined the army; learn how they passed for men.
Passing as a White Man (02:56)
Learn how Loreta appointed herself a Confederate officer. She fought at Bull Run and bought a slave named Bob to fit in.
Fighting for Equality (01:45)
Experts discuss how Loreta's respect for Bob humanized slaves. Both hoped their contribution on the battlefield would grant them civil rights.
Reality of War (02:23)
Loreta depended on Bob to protect her secret identity. She describes killing a Union officer and losing romantic notions of battle.
Leaving the Front Line (02:33)
Bob escaped to Federal territory after the Battle of Shiloh; Loreta didn't pursue him. She was wounded and rejected medical attention to protect her secret.
Loreta's gender was noticed in Richmond in 1863. She was accused of being a Federal spy and released by General Winder to join his secret police—facing execution if uncovered.
Civil War Spies (02:06)
Learn how women scouted enemy positions and smuggled contraband goods. Loreta discovered that both sides were corrupt and became disillusioned.
Double Agent Mystery (01:39)
Loreta went to Baltimore and worked for the Union secret service. Records suggest she defected.
In 1875, Loreta published her combat experience in "A Woman in Battle." Many Southerners questioned its authenticity, including Confederate ideologue Jubal Early.
History and Memory (03:27)
Narratives challenging mainstream history are often claimed inauthentic. Early convinced readers that Loreta's book was a hoax, but evidence of Union her employment has since surfaced.
Loreta Velazquez's Legacy (01:19)
Loreta's determination to live life on her own terms was unusual during the Civil War. She appears in records until 1902, and "A Woman in Battle" is still in print.
Credits: Rebel: Loreta Velazquez, Secret Soldier of the American Civil War (02:00)
Credits: Rebel: Loreta Velazquez, Secret Soldier of the American Civil War
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