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Loreta Velazquez

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.

 
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Posted by on March 12, 2010 in Civil War

 

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An Army Corps on the March & By The Bivouac’s Fitful Flame

An Army Corps on the March

With its cloud of skirmishers in advance,
With now the sound of a single shot snapping like a whip, and now an
irregular volley,
The swarming ranks press on and on, the dense brigades press on,
Glittering dimly, toiling under the sun–the dust-cover’d men,
In columns rise and fall to the undulations of the ground,
With artillery interspers’d–the wheels rumble, the horses sweat,
As the army corps advances

   This poem is an idealistic and pleasant interpretation of what war is like.  Whitman tells only of soldiers moving about in formations, the sounds of the war, and the equipment used, he doesn’t mention men dieing, blood poring, or any bad sites for that matter.  He even describes the soldiers “glittering,” like we would expect all war heros to do, even though he says these men are “toiling under the sun,” it is as though they are working gloriously, not in vain or in unpleasant labors like “toil” would normally refer to.  This shows that Whitman has a glorified view of war; he must believe it is all about brave men fighting for a cause they so strongly believe in, they ride on horses, and operate modern machinery that eventually leads to a victory.  In this view there is death. but it too is glorious, for the soldier being killed died for a wonderful cause and will be remembered an memorialized forever.  Unfortunately this is not the reality of war.  

      

 By the Bivouac’s Fitful Flame

BY the bivouac’s fitful flame,
A procession winding around me, solemn and sweet and slow–but
first I note,
The tents of the sleeping army, the fields’ and woods’ dim outline,
The darkness lit by spots of kindled fire, the silence,
Like a phantom far or near an occasional figure moving,
The shrubs and trees, (as I lift my eyes they seem to be stealthily
watching me,)
While wind in procession thoughts, O tender and wondrous thoughts,
Of life and death, of home and the past and loved, and of those that
are far away;
A solemn and slow procession there as I sit on the ground,
By the bivouac’s fitful flame

   This poem has a sad tone with words like “solemn,” “stealthily,” “darkness,” “silence,” “phantom,” and “dim.”  We can get an image of a dark and gloomy time, almost eery, when the shrubs and trees are described as “stealthily” watching the narrator and the figures moving about are like ghosts or a “phantom.”  While this is describing was seems just to be and army camped in a field overnight around a fire, Whitman makes this into a lonely and almost frightful event.  He acknowledges that war, and being away from home, can be very lonely, especially when the fighting and action have ceased. This poem shows that Whitman understands some of the realities of war, the loneliness, and missing people at home, and also expresses a sad tone that is more appropriate to the topic.

 
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Posted by on March 5, 2010 in Whitman's Civil War Poetry

 

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John W. Dutko

A war hero is a person who fought under direct enemy fire, they may have been wounded or killed in battle,  or just survived.  These people are honored for sacrificing their lives for our country, and are thus great heroes.  They put their lives in danger for the people of our country and the ideals that we stand for.  John W. Dutko is a great example of a war hero.  On May 23, 1944 Dutko was stationed in Ponte Rotto, Italy staying in an abandoned enemy trench when his infantry division came under fire.  There were four German soldiers, three with machine guns and one with an eighty-eight millimeter artillery gun, despite the odds, Dutko left his trench and charged the enemy.  While they quickly turned all their attention to Dutko, he only experienced two bullet wounds and was successful if killing all four of the enemy soldiers.  Immediately following the attack, her died from his wounds.  On October 5, 1944 Dutko was awarded the Congressional World War II Medal of Honor, as well as being ceremoniously promoted to first sergeant.  At the age of twenty-seven he was buried in Beverly, New Jersey in the Beverley National Cemetery.

The grave of John W. Dutko at Beverly National Cemetery

John Dutko

 
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Posted by on February 10, 2010 in War Heroes

 

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