About Loreta Velazquez, Confederate Spy
Loreta Janeta Velázquez (June 26, 1842 – c.1897), was a Cuban-born woman who masqueraded as a male Confederate soldier during the American Civil War. She enlisted in the Confederate States Army in 1861, without her soldier-husband's knowledge. She fought at Bull Run, Ball's Bluff and Fort Donelson, but her gender was discovered while in New Orleans and she was discharged. Undeterred, she reenlisted and fought at Shiloh, until unmasked once more. She then became a spy, working in both male and female guises. Her husband died during the war and she remarried three more times; being widowed in each instance.
Loreta Janeta Velázquez was born in Havana, Cuba, on June 26, 1842, to a wealthy Cuban official and a mother of both French and American ancestry. According to her own account, Velázquez was of Castilian descent and related to Cuban governor Don Diego Velázquez de Cuéllar and artist Don Diego Velázquez.
Everything known about Velázquez comes from her 600-page book, 'The Woman in Battle: A Narrative of the Exploits, Adventures, and travels of Madame Loreta Janeta Velázquez, Otherwise Known as Lieutenant Harry T Buford, Confederate States Army. How much of it is true is unknown. Historians have generally doubted its veracity for the improbability of many of her adventures, her frequent vagueness or inaccuracy about names and places, and the absence of any evidence to corroborate her sensational claims.
Her father was a Spanish government official who owned plantations in Mexico and Cuba. Her father hated the United States due to losing an inherited ranch in the Mexican-American War at San Luis Potosi. She learned the English language due to being sent to school in New Orleans in 1849, living with an aunt. While fourteen years old she eloped with a Texas United States Army officer known only as William on April 5, 1856.