IN­VENT­ING LORETA VE­LAZQUEZ

Con­fed­er­ate Sol­dier Im­per­son­ator, Me­dia Celebrity, and Con Artist

Foreword Reviews - - Foresight Biography -

Wil­liam C. Davis, South­ern Illi­nois Univer­sity Press Hard­cover $39.95 (376pp), 978-0-8093-3522-0

Loreta Ve­lazquez, cross-dresser and al­leged sol­dier for the Con­fed­er­acy, fas­ci­nated peo­ple in her own time and birthed a leg­end that still gen­er­ates in­ter­est to­day. Civil War scholar Wil­liam C. Davis writes In­vent­ing Loreta Ve­lazquez: Con­fed­er­ate Sol­dier Im­per­son­ator, Me­dia Celebrity, and Con Artist with ur­gency and flair, man­ag­ing to make a cliffhanger out of his­tory, in his quest to pin down the woman be­hind the leg­end. In his in­ves­ti­ga­tion, Davis dis­cov­ers a story of me­dia savvy, celebrity, and spin that could be ripped from to­day’s head­lines.

Through­out Loreta’s life, the two dom­i­nant fea­tures were “her quest for re­spectabil­ity and a near ob­ses­sion with at­ten­tion and celebrity.” She wanted to be a writer, but other than press re­leases and a best-sell­ing mem­oir, The Woman in Bat­tle, she seems to have set­tled for be­ing writ­ten about. In her own time, she went vi­ral; sto­ries about her crossed war lines to ap­pear in news­pa­pers from coast to coast in just days. She her­self trav­eled al­most as much, chang­ing names and iden­ti­ties like cloth­ing and liv­ing in al­most ev­ery re­gion of the coun­try be­fore her death. Lit­tle is known about her be­yond the doc­u­ments she pro­duced, doc­u­ments that con­ve­niently le­git­i­mated her celebrity and fur­thered her schemes. And a schemer she was, ma­nip­u­lat­ing the na­tional me­dia and con­stantly rein­vent­ing her­self to es­tab­lish so­cial con­nec­tions and gen­er­ate in­come on lit­tle more than her story of the hour. Loreta seized his­tory in her own time, but, in the process, she buried the woman be­hind that no­to­ri­ety. Her aliases took on lives of their own and, in many ways, never re­ally left the public imag­i­na­tion, while Loreta died in anony­mous penury. Davis’s thor­ough, sur­pris­ing re­search ex­humes the his­tor­i­cal Ve­lasquez, bring­ing to life a trou­bled, de­ter­mined per­son who knew how to ma­nip­u­late and tit­il­late bet­ter than the best.

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