Saturday, March 9, 2013

Lady Spies of the Confederacy, Part 2

Laura Ratcliffe

       Another lady who provided information to both J.E.B. Stuart and John Mosby was Laura Ratcliffe. She was 24 years old when South Carolina left the Union. General Stuart wrote poems to Laura for her service to the country. John Mosby credited her with saving his life once. She had learned of an ambush intended for Mosby and Laura and her sister walked through inclement weather to warn the partisan. 
       In 1914, Laura fell and possibly broke her hip. The reason it was never known if it was broken or not was because the town doctor was male and she refused to allow him to examine her. Regardless, she remained an invalid until her death in 1923 at the age of 87. 

File:Loreta Janeta Velazquez .jpg

Loretta Janeta Velazquez
A.K.A. Lieutenant Harry Buford

       One of the more interesting stories is that of Loretta Janeta Velazquez. She was born in Cuba. Loretta's father hated the United States and Loretta further alienated her family by eloping with a soldier and converting from Catholicism to Methodism. 
       When the war began the 18 year old Cuban asked her husband to allow her to join the army with him. When he refused, she bought a uniform and raised her own command of 246 men while disguised as an officer named Henry Buford. After her husband died in an accident during the early part of the war, she claims to have fought for the Confederacy at First Manassas. She then got bored with camp life and donning a dress went to Washington. There she claimed to have met Abraham Lincoln and spied for the South. Everything that is known about her is written in her 600 page book, but historians dismiss a lot of her claims because there is no proof most of it happened. The adventures just come across as too grand. Confederate General Jubal Early claimed the entire book was one big lie. 
       After the war, Loretta traveled around Europe and South America. She eventually returned to the United States and  moved west. It is only fitting that this mysterious woman's place of death and date is unknown. Some believe she died in 1897.

Belle Edmondson

       Isabella "Belle" Buchanan Edmondson was twenty years old when the war began. Born in Mississippi, she lived  just south of Memphis, Tennessee during the war. After Memphis fell to the Federals, Belle smuggled medicine, money, and information in her petticoats to the Confederate army. Federal General Stephen Hurlburt in command of Memphis learned of her activities and issued a warrant for her arrest. She managed to escape down into Mississippi where she remained for the rest of the war. She died in 1873 at the age of 33 and rests today in Memphis's Elmwood Cemetery.

Mary Kate Patterson

       Born in Kentucky, Mary Kate and her family had moved to Tennessee. When the war began she was 16 years old. Nashville, Tennessee was occupied early in the war by the Federal army and Kate's family lived  just a few miles southeast of that city. She smuggled drugs, boots, blankets, almost anything needed by the Confederate army through the lines. Her buggy had a false bottom where she concealed these items. 
       Mary Kate soon fell in love with John Davis, the older brother of Sam Davis. She actually bought the boots that Sam was wearing when he was captured by the Federals and executed in Pulaski, Tennessee. It was Mary Kate that volunteered to travel to Pulaski and identify the body of poor Sam Davis. 
       Mary Kate went on to marry John Davis, but he was killed in a steamboat accident two years after the war ended. She would survive two more husbands and die in 1931 at the age of 93. She is the first woman to have been allowed burial in Confederate Circle, Mt. Olivet Cemetery, Nashville, Tennessee. A piece of the vest worn by Sam Davis when he was hanged was pinned to her blouse before burial. 


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