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Loreta Janeta Velázquez - a Cuban born woman who dressed as a male Confederate soldier during the Civil War

Loreta Janeta Velázquez as herself, and disguised as “Lieutenant Harry T. Buford”

After her soldier husband’s accidental death, she enlisted in the Confederate army in 1861. She then fought at Bull Run, Ball’s Bluff, and Fort Donelson, but was discharged when her gender was discovered while in New Orleans. Undeterred, she reenlisted and fought at Shiloh, until unmasked once more. She then became a Confederate spy, working in both male and female guises, and as a double agent also reporting to the U.S. Secret Service.

She remarried three more times, being widowed in each instance. According to William C Davis, she died in January 1923 under the name Loretta J. Beard after many years away from the public eye in a public psychiatric facility, St. Elizabeths Hospital. She spied on the Union for about 5 years.

Velázquez recorded her adventures in 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. The Confederate general Jubal Early refused to accept her memoirs as fact, but recent scholars have verified her claims on the basis of secondary documents, including stories in contemporary newspapers.

In October 2016, William C. Davis has published a detailed biography of Velázquez entitled Inventing Loreta Velásquez: Confederate Soldier Impersonator, Media Celebrity, and Con Artist. His account is based on newspaper and archival research which claims that the whole of The Woman in Battle is fiction. Davis asserts that Velázquez was neither Cuban nor a Confederate soldier, but was a thief and a prostitute, possibly born in New York, and eventually a swindler and con artist. Velázquez used many aliases and he is uncertain of her actual name, age, and place of birth, and thus unable to be certain of her family background or ethnicity. -WIKI