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Encyclopedia Of Arkansas Minute: Loreta Velazquez

A young Cuban woman pursued dreams of military glory by masquerading as a Confederate soldier in Arkansas.

Loreta Velazquez was born in Havana in 1842, the youngest child of a wealthy trader. She married a young American officer in 1856, and he left to join the Confederate army when the Civil War began. That is when Valezquez donned a Confederate uniform and fake facial hair and began calling herself Lieutenant Harry T. Buford.

According to her somewhat questionable memoir, she went to Hurlburt Station on the Mississippi River in Arkansas and recruited a battalion called the Arkansas Grays. Velazquez, as Buford, was wounded in the April 1862 battle of Shiloh and surgeons discovered she was a woman, ending her military career. After recovering in New Orleans, Velazquez spent the rest of the war as a spy and intelligence officer for the Confederacy.

She traveled the American West extensively after the war ended, and the date of her death is unknown. You can read the full Encyclopedia of Arkansas entry on Loreta Velazquez

Mark Christ produces and hosts Encyclopedia of Arkansas Minute on KUAR. He is head of adult programming for the Central Arkansas Library System. He previously served as community outreach director for the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program, which he joined in 1990 after eight years as a journalist.