Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Rebel: Loreta Velazquez, Secret Soldier of the American Civil War

"I was bent upon showing I was as good as any man."

I love the way this documentary was done/filmed. It's not just historians nattering away about what they read/know, with a few old photos shown here and there. It's a mixture of a woman's narrative, narrating parts from Loretta's autobiography, The Woman in  Battle, and reenactments of Loretta's life from childhood to marriage to motherhood to war.

With, of course, the occasional historian and photo appropriate to the time period. There's only one known photograph of Loretta herself and even that is in doubt.

Don't know who I'm talking about? I'll tell ya the gist of it. Loretta Janeta Velazquez was born into a wealthy Cuban family and sent to the States to become a proper lady. Instead of becoming a proper lady, Loretta married a man her family didn't approve of (her best friend's boyfriend), and upon being widowed and losing her two daughters (a third stillborn), she cut off all her hair, donned her dead husband's uniform, and fought for the Confederacy, as a man.

What's strange to me, however, and sadly not explained in this documentary--it's said the reasons for her actions were not made clear--is why was a Cuban woman who wasn't even really accepted as a Southern lady, fighting to enslave others?

Though the well-to-do white Cubans did their share of slave owning, not unlike Puerto Rico. And much ado was made about how "white" or how "colored" a person of Latin descent was. Ladies in society even went so far as to pay a lot of money to prove their ancestry was "untouched" by those of darker complexions.

And the documentary does state that the city of New Orleans, where she spent her growing-up years sided with the South even though they weren't slave owners.

Even crazier, in order to be accepted by the white slave owners she was fighting alongside, Loretta bought a slave of her own--Bob. She had to enslave another, in order to explore her own freedom.

There are a lot of things about Loretta that seem contradictory. She's a hard one to figure out. But one thing is for certain: she's a fascinating woman in history who did some brave things, from fighting in the battle of Bull Run to publishing her memoirs at the risk of being publicly declared a fraud to helping with the Cuban Revolution. Did I mention she defected to the North? That put her back in my good graces. LOL

She was even wounded four times, hiding the wounds and averting treatment, in order to hide her sex. She did this until caught in 1863, when she was forced to go from soldier to spy and then became a double agent, having had her eyes open to war and what was really going on behind the battle lines.

A great documentary about an interesting woman. I do wish it had been longer. It's a mere hour, though an intriguing one.

I bought this DVD on PBS.

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