Voces on PBS: Rebel

About This Episode


During the Civil War, officer Harry T. Buford fought in the battle of First Bull Run, was wounded at Shiloh and then served as a secret agent for the Confederacy. But the deepest secret that he kept was who he (she) really was: Loreta Janeta Velazquez. She was not a woman ahead of her time but also ahead of ours - the American military only recently cleared women for combat yet Loreta was one of an estimated thousand women who secretly soldiered during the Civil War.

Born in Havana and raised in New Orleans, Loreta was not your typical Southern Belle. She was brash, quick-witted, unconventional and clearly a master of disguise. After her tours with both the Confederacy and then the Union, Loreta revealed that she had fought as a soldier and spy in her 1876 memoir "A Woman in Battle," which scandalized the South. Attacked not only for her criticism of the Confederacy and the corruption of wartime society, but for her sexual freedom and social rule breaking, Loreta was dismissed as a hoax for over a century until recent evidence said otherwise.

Who was Loreta Janeta Velazquez? Why did she fight? And what made her so dangerous she was erased from history?