Cushman, Pauline

Cushman, Pauline,

1835–93, Union spy in the Civil War, b. New Orleans. She became an actress at 18 in New York City. In 1863 she was banished to Confederate lines as a supposed Southern sympathizer, when in reality she had already performed valuable services for Union intelligence in Louisville and Nashville. Captured with compromising papers upon her, she was taken to Gen. Braxton Bragg, court-martialed, and sentenced to be hanged. However, in the hasty departure (June, 1863) of the Confederates from Shelbyville, Tenn., she was left behind and was thus able, for the last time, to help the Union cause with information about Confederate strength and plans. Dressed in a Union uniform, she lectured afterward about her experiences. Her later life was unhappy, and she committed suicide in San Francisco.
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Cushman, Pauline

(1833–93) actress, Union spy; born in New Orleans. Of Spanish and French descent, she was raised in a frontier settlement with Indian children. She joined the New Orleans "Varieties" (1851); by 1852, she had come to New York City where she gained some reputation as an actress. She was in Kentucky with a traveling show in 1863 and, although secretly working for the Federal espionage branch, she pretended to be sympathetic to the South. This allowed her to move about and observe Confederate troop movements; during the Tullahoma, Tenn., campaign of June 1863, she was caught with compromising papers on her; court-martialed and sentenced to be hanged, she was saved by the arrival of Union troops. To capitalize on her notoriety, she began to lecture, wearing a Federal uniform. She eventually went back to acting, but her life was not happy; she had been married three times and she killed herself by taking an overdose of morphine.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.