10 Fearsome Women in History Who Defied Gender Roles to Become Warriors

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2. Loreta Janeta Velazquez

Another woman who fought in the Civil War but on the side of the Confederacy was a woman named Loreta Janeta Velazquez. However, much of her history comes from her own personal memoir, 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. Besides the extraordinarily long title, the stories within have not all been fully verified so some skepticism may be in order.

Velazquez was born in Cuba on June 26, 1842. When she was about 7 years old she was sent to New Orleans to live with her aunt. At the tender age of 14 she eloped with an officer from the Texas army. After succession in 1861, her husband joined the Confederate army. Velazquez did not want to be separated from him, so she created a uniform and disguise for herself and became Harry T. Buford with a self-appointed rank of lieutenant.

She raised a regiment of volunteers on her own and followed her husband to Florida but unfortunately for him, he was killed in a shooting accident shortly after their reunion. Velazquez decided to continue the fight in her own way and proceeded to Virginia to join the Confederate army in several battles. She then reverted back to her female self and worked briefly as a spy in Washington, DC. For the next couple of years, Velazquez would transition between her male and female alter egos. As a “man,” she traveled to Tennessee and supposedly fought in the Battle of Shiloh. As her female self, she returned to Richmond to act as a spy.

Her post-war life was almost as colorful. Velazquez met a man, married, and moved to Venezuela for several years. After the death of her second husband, she returned back to the United States. In 1876, she decided to publish her story and earned mixed reviews. Some Confederate veterans would not believe a woman had served in their ranks and dismissed her time in the army as a fabrication. She married once more and was last believed to reside in Nevada where she is believed to have died sometime in 1897.

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