‘Spies in skirts’ subject of Civil War Forum

Published 3:00 am Thursday, August 2, 2018

During 2018, the second year of Alabama’s three-year Bicentennial celebration, the focus is on people. The Troy Civil War Forum will highlight a remarkable group of women at its 6:30 p.m. Monday meeting at Old Beulah Church on South Three Notch Street in Troy.

“Secret Agents in Skirts: Female Spies for the Confederacy” will be the topic of Georgia Fleming’s presentation and, oh, the stories she will tell about a mixed bag of women for whom adventure, intrigue and a spirit of “catch me if you can” prevailed.

“The women, who were spies for the Confederacy, had interesting personalities and interesting lives,” Fleming said. “Loreta Velazquez immigrated from Cuba and, not only was she a spy for the Confederacy, she also joined the army as a man.”

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Velazquez was wounded and, when it was discovered that she was a woman and not Lieutenant Harry T. Buford, CSA, she was released from the army.

“When Loreta’s identity was discovered, she was found to have several identities,” Fleming said. “Why Loreta was willing to risk her life spying for the Confederacy no one knows for sure. One thought is that, since she was married to a man who was killed in the war, she was trying to avenge him. It’s also thought that she was an adventurous woman who enjoyed playing different roles.”

Rose Greenhow was a Confederate spy cut from different cloth.

“Rose Greenhow did a lot of work on the political end,” Fleming said. “Dolly Madison introduced her to socialites in Washington. In that social circle, Rose flirted with Union politicians and officers to get information to pass along to the Confederates.”

Fleming said Greenhow went to Europe on diplomatic missions.

“Returning from one of those missions, Rose’s boat sank while trying escape a Union gunboat and she drowned.”

Velazquez and Greenhow are two among many female Confederate spies and Fleming will introduce several of them at Monday night’s meeting.

Fleming, a native of Enterprise, and her husband, Brian, a native of New Jersey, lead the monthly forum and both are captivated by the period of American history during the Civil War.

“My great-grandfather was born during Reconstruction and he lived during my lifetime,” Fleming said. “I’ve heard many stories of his father who fought in the Civil War so I’ve always been interested in the war. I also have several ancestors who fought.

“Being from New Jersey, Brian doesn’t have any ancestors who fought on either side. Of course, they weren’t Americans at that time. We both enjoy the stories of the war and are always anxious to learn more.”

Fleming earned a master’s degree in history from Samford University in Birmingham. She and her husband are involved in the annual reenactment of the Battle of Newton the first weekend in October at John Hutton Park.