Pauline Cushman

an HMS American Cultures collaborative production


Pauline Cushman was born in New Orleans. At the age of 18 she decided to go to New York to become an actress, but had little success.But she did meet a musician named Charles Dickinson who she married, they went to Cleveland to live with Charles family and they had two children named Charles and Ida.Then her husband Charles was called to the Union side to fight during the war(his position was a musician in the Forty-first Ohio Infantry's band), but he died on December, 1862, of an illness while in the army. Three months later whlie she toured with a theatrical group, in the Union-controlled, Louisville, Kentucky she was payed after a performance to toast to Confederate President, Jefferson Davis. The theater fired her. But she had bigger plans, she offered herself to the Union as a spy. She fraternized with the rebel military commanders and concealed battle plans and drawings in her shoes. But she was caught and brought to the Confederate General, Braxton Bragg.She was then tried at a military court and sentenced to death. But it is said she was saved three days before her hanging when the Union troops invaded the areas. Reports say that she continued playing her role as a spy and returned to the South where she was given honorary commission as a major by President Abraham Lincoln.She became known as "Miss Major Cushman". At the end of the war in 1865 she was touring the country giving lectures on her exploits as a spy. In her later life she lost both her children in 1868 to sickness and remarried again but was widowed within a year. Then she remarried for the third time, but when her husband lost his adopted child to sickness they both separated.In 1892 she was living in poverty in Texas, where she applied for a pension. She spent the rest of her years in a boarding house in San Fransisco as a Seamstress and Charwomen. But then she became disabled due to the fact that she had rheumatism and arthritis she became hooked on pain medicine and died on December,1 1893. She died at the age of sixty and was buried in the Officers Circle in Presidio's National Cemetery in San Fransisco.

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Image Sources:
"Pauline Cushman" wikipedia 20 May 2009