Civil War Conversation: Loreta Velasquez- The Confederate Kardashian

Here’s an absolutely outstanding talk by William C. “Jack” Davis on Loreta Velasquez, who claimed to have been a woman posing as a male confederate soldier named Lt. Harry Buford in the Civil War. He’s done a prodigious amount of research on this woman, whose real name we don’t know and likely will never know.

His opening is also fascinating as he tells about a newly discovered cache of letters from various Civil War generals that are in the transcription process and will be published in a forthcoming book.

The video’s description reads, “One of the most famous cases of a woman posing as a man to be a soldier in the Civil War is that of Loreta Janeta Velasquez, who detailed her adventures as Lieutenant Harry Buford in her 1876 book The Woman in Battle. Controversy has raged over the truth of her claims since the war itself, but the reality of her life is even more sensational and improbable than all of her claims. Now for the first time, extensive research can reveal the real story of the Confederacy’s first, and perhaps only, true ‘media celebrity’. Our presenter is William C. ‘Jack’ Davis, the author or editor of more than 50 books in the fields of Civil War and Southern history.”

You can read her book for free here, and here is an article from Civil War Times on Loreta Velasquez [aka Velazquez].

This is well worth your time to watch.

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11 comments

  1. disbeliever · · Reply

    “absolutely outstanding” ??? yes his research is meticulous and story of her post war life that he has assembled is amazing in the book … but do you endorse his cheap jokes at the expense of non cis-gendered people, his clear anxieties about feminist and minority history writing, his denouncing of legitimate post modernism and literary theory, his superficial and old fashioned reading of sexuality, e.g. how he treats prostitution his old fashioned his constant bragging about his skillset …

    look at the last chapter of his book

    all of which makes me wonder at his motivations in writing this book at such length, to promote an ultimately conservative viewpoint … and also his sub-theme that many more female soldiers recorded in Civil War history such as Anna Clark and Pauline Cushman are also frauds

    the author has been doing the rounds of SCV’s and Roundtables for years dissing women soldiers …. why???

    and what anxieties make you’all endorse this mission

    are you all Good Ole Boys at heart who think that women should be barefoot and in the kitchen, and certainly not running for president???

    1. I endorse his research and his putting together an array of facts that corrects the record on Loreta Velasquez, as well as his engaging style of presentation. What you saw in the presentation is not what I saw in the presentation, but perhaps it’s a blind spot on my part. I don’t see where he claims Pauline Cushman was a fraud.

      Jack has been invited to speak to round tables because he’s a respected historian. He’s been reporting on his research in advance of the release of this book. When he spoke to my round table he wasn’t “dissing women soldiers.” He was correcting the record on Loreta Velasquez.

      You make a fairly feeble attempt at ad hominem instead of concentrating on the facts of the presentation. I think you do yourself a disservice. Let’s talk about the facts of Loreta Velasquez and leave aside trying to imagine malevolent motivations that aren’t there. Claiming disagreement stems from misogyny while admitting the meticulousness of his research speaks of simply trying to use character assassination instead of facts. I think you know this better than I do. I’m not trying to lecture, merely respond to what I’m seeing in your post.

  2. Shoshana Bee · · Reply

    Wow — popular topic Ms Loreta has turned out to be. Nope, Albert, you are not going blind, perhaps it is the other way around: the poster above you chooses to be blind to fact, and prefers to adhere to myth. Yes. We discussed this once already this morning, ma’am, but I am happy to go another round here. It is most unfortunate that you seem to hold Mz Loreta in such high esteem as an example of feminist role modeling, as it seems that her most celebrated prowess is that of a swindling charlatan — not exactly the skill set that I would want my daughter (if I had one) to model herself after. The only anxiety that I see demonstrated here is the frustration that yet another myth has been busted wide open with fact. Why would any female wish to have a fraudulent role model held in regard when there are so many other patently honourable examples to celebrate, instead?

    Finally, just as Mr. Mackey knows Dr. Davis and can vouch for him, I in turn know Mr. Mackey and can vouch for him., The assertion that he is a “Good Ole Boys at heart who think(s) that women should be barefoot and in the kitchen, and certainly not running for president” is such stereo-typical hogwash, that to put such a statement in writing is so degrading to the poster, that I can certainly see why one would use a fake pseudonym.

    1. Thanks, Shoshana. In my opinion we can give some slack to women who wish to remain anonymous on the internet. Perhaps it’s paternalistic of me, but predators abound.

      1. Shoshana Bee · · Reply

        I quite agree, but one has to be mindful not to take advantage of the benefits of anonymity.

  3. disbeliever · · Reply

    and “the benefits of anonymity” may provide a reason for the pulling of the video by the American Civil War Museum. I think this is a strange act, if any of the parties were embarrassed or concerned that there have been complaints about offensive content, then why was the video uploaded to the public, and why was no one amongst the stake holders alert to potential triggers of offence when the whole event took place?

    I started as anonymous with this comment as I found the video on youtube – independent of the posting here, when another colleague began expressing distress about the potential for negative treatment of female soldiers and feminist historiography beyond Loreta in the extracts that she had found from the book. I have also colleagues who have in the past 3 years or so attended talks by this speaker and on this subject and been distressed, not so much on the treatment of Loreta, but on the concomitant parallel side remarks about female soldiers and women’s history.

    Having watched it I then found the whole video highly disturbing, and can not pull back from the fact that the “humour” registered in a negative and wounding manner to me and no doubt to others.

    I could not resist from commenting here

    I certainly found the framing “humour” to be highly offensive, not funny, … how can you justify cheap jokes about crossdressing and transgender people or non-cis sexual orientations … e.g. Caitlyn Jenner … not to mention the outdated dumb broad type jokes about Zsa Zsa Gabor and Kim Kardashian … it was indiscreet and uncalled for, if not thoroughly unprofessional from both institution and speaker – and also out of step with current social mores. Not to mention the fact that the jokes were well accepted by the audience

    Realising now that I have “jumped upon the wasps’ nest” by presenting a criticism that now can resonate through an impressive and much loved series of highly regarded blogs around the civil war … I prefer to remain anonymous,.

    However given that many of these blogs are highly sensitive to issues of speaking insultingly within a multi racial community, and often criticise those parties and colleagues who frequently use history making and writing as an excuse to critique/offend people different to themselves, and also these various blogs constantly defend modern academic practices and disciplines around writing about the Civil War … which by the way are broadly critiqued – ex cathedra – in the last chapter 18 … I suspect you would not defend a talk about the civil war that included racist or Anti-Semitic jokes, so why are you blind to sexism and anti-feminism and cheap jibes at non-cis sexual presentation? Or are some differences not so important than others, and as the old proverb says “never mind the quality feel the width” and therefore the idea of exploding a “myth” of the “South” – which was never part of the Lost Cause canon anyway – is paramount to other considerations.

    If you are seeking to make the Civil War relevant to contemporary ways of seeing and speaking within the academy and present day culture how can you defend a passage such as this

    p 252 “Aware of the multiple questions raised about the book’s [that is the autobiography of LJV] reliability, their authors choose not to venture beneath the surface, finding security for their themes by invoking tenets of literary analysis and the postmodernist creed of the primacy of narrative over fact. Viewing the book as literature, even if fictive, their constructs work because no rules bind them once they assert that even the fictional “the Woman in Battle” has historical significance.”

    (This stands aside from the questions about Loreta’s moral and business practices, although in a society that witnessed the subprime mortgage scandal – a sort of on paper dealing in people’s economic instability as a commodity – a modern form of slave auction – and excuses the leaked comments made by the current presidential candidates, I don’t think much moral or historical leverage is achieved by William C Jack Davis’ 250+ pages of deconstruction of her, that of course is my personal opinion only and may not be shared by others)

    1. I’m fine with your maintaining anonymity. No worries. As to the video, I can think of several reasons why it would not be available now that have nothing to do with anyone being embarrassed, or any other negative reason.

      I hope you really don’t feel as though you’ve jumped into any “wasps’ nest” here. While I disagree with your perspective, your perspective is still welcome.

      I suppose I’ll have to refresh my memory on the presentation in some way before I can intelligently engage your remarks. I can only say I don’t have a memory of any offensive remarks.

  4. When I clicked on the video, it would not let me view it and described it as “private”. Any idea how I could access it?

    1. Not off the top of my head, Pat. It worked when I posted it.

  5. disbeliever · · Reply

    It was made private about 3-4 days ago … the URL still exists … the Museum controls the youtube channel and sets the settings of accessibility on their videos

    Here are their uploads as now visible and there are an excellent range of interesting speakers and topics and it is a useful resource for lay and professional studies of the war

    https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC9LWfcSZ68HpFTaROJQ8i5A/videos

    the quality of material here makes me wonder why they felt obliged to pull this video, or why they feel they have to hide something they previously endorsed

    This is not only my personal response, a colleague who heard a talk by the same speaker on women soldiers about 2-3 years ago was appalled and angry, about the jokes about minorities and people with non-traditional identities, but to be fair also felt that the audience was equally responsible in a way for responding in kind and escalating the deployment of the jokes so the speaker alone should not be slated, but that did not lessen the emotional impact. Across the years people have encountered this project about women soldiers as well LJV’s singular career and shared concerned emails. It’s not about uncritically accepting the falsehoods of the Loreta Velazquez story, or dissing diligent and fresh primary source research, but it is about the framing and uses of the story and also the treatment of other professionals and their legitimate work..

    Thank you for your time and respect …

    1. You’re very welcome. I’m going to search around to see if I can find another version of the presentation.

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