All we know about Loreta Velazquez comes from her book “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.” Some historians believe that her book is fictious because some of the details don’t match other accounts, and some of her experiences are explained very vaguely, but from what is written, she had to overcome many obstacles, due to her sex, to become the soldier and spy she claims to have been.
According to her account, after the Civil War broke out, Loreta urged her husband to join the Confederate army, and was disappointed when he wouldn’t permit her to go along with him. This led her to disguise herself as the soldier, Henry T. Buford; under this alias, she was able to recruit 236 men to join the Confederate Army. She traveled with these men to Pensacola, Florida, where her husband was stationed, shortly after her arrival, her husband was killed in a shooting accident. With this group she fought in the Battle of Bull Run and continued to live as a male soldier until she grew tired of life in an army camp and decided to travel to Washington, DC, as a woman, and work as a spy. Apparently, during this time she met Abraham Lincoln and Simon Cameron, the Secretary of War. She eventually returned to the South as Henry T. Buford and fought in the battles of Fort Donelson and Shiloh. During the latter, she was wounded and while being treated was discovered to be a woman; she decided to give up her Confederate uniform and fled to New Orleans. She was then hired by authorities in Richmond to continue her spying, so she traveled all over the country, including Indiana and Ohio, where she attempted to start an uprising of the Confederate prisoners there.
After the war, Velazquez continued traveling around the US and even traveled to other countries. She married Major Wasson and lived with him in Venezuela until his death, upon which she returned to the US and wandered all across the country and eventually gave birth to a baby boy, impoverished, she decided to write and publish her stories to in order to provide for her son.
Because Velazquez was a woman, she had to take some drastic measures to contribute to the war. Since women were not allowed to fight in combat she decided to disguise herself as a soldier, she must have been a very strong and brave soldier too since she got to fight in so many battles, and still survived. She broke the traditional mold for female etiquette in many other ways as well, she disobeyed her husband, when she joined the military, when she went to Washington DC as a woman she went alone, another thing that wouldn’t have been customary, and she eventually had a child while she was unmarried. Many of the things she did were very unlawful, but Loreta Velazquez is an excellent example of a strong and brave woman.