Loreta Velazquez: Secret Confederate Soldier, Union Spy, or Liar?

Friday night detective doc, 'Rebel,' premieres on PBS

Loreta Velazquez: Secret Confederate Soldier, Union Spy, or Liar?

The rebellious spirit and mysterious complexities of secret solider Loreta Velazquez continue to spark debate more than 100 years after her death.

Rebel, a documentary feature examining the historical evidence proving her existence and cultural significance, premieres tonight on Voces on PBS on KLRU at 9pm.

One of an estimated 1,000 women soldiers who secretly served during the American Civil War, Velazquez – played by Romi Dias – was a Cuban immigrant raised in New Orleans. A teenage wife and mother whose life took many mournful turns, she disguised herself as a man and joined the Confederate Army as Harry T. Buford … supposedly. She bound her breasts, wore a wig and mustache, and recruited several hundred men for a battalion. Then, through a riveting turn of events, she became a Union spy. After several marriages a life in activism against slavery and in support of immigrant rights, her story continued to defy the norm. She published a 600-page memoir in 1876 and was consequently accused of lying and prostitution, effectively erasing her legacy from the history books.

Rebel, directed by Maria Agui Carter, took 12 years to write, direct, and produce the project. Beginning with a chance encounter with a series of articles from a senior military archivist from the National Archives, Carter includes historians and reenactments in this old-fashioned mystery. Whether Velazquez's Bull Run battle and Lincoln meeting were facts or folklore, a woman living in the Deep South who criticized the corruption of wartime society was certainly a prime target.

Was Loreta Velazquez a real person? Did she really fight as a man in the Confederate Army? Why did she become a Union spy? And was her story wiped from the record simply because she was a woman with a courageous heart who did not fit the standard societal mold?

Find out tonight on PBS.

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PBS, Loreta Velazquez, Rebel, Romi Dias, Civil War, Confederate solider, Union spy, Maria Agui Carter, Confederacy

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