Cushman, Pauline

Pauline Cushman was a New Orleans-born actress who became a spy for the Union during the early years of the Civil War. She was celebrated by the North during the conflict and became known as Miss Major Cushman. Her first marriage was to a musician named Charles Dickinson.
Life Span
    Full name
    Pauline Cushman
    Place of Birth
    Burial Place
    Birth Date Certainty
    Death Date Certainty
    Sectional choice
    Slave State
    No. of Spouses
    No. of Children
    Born as Harriet Wood (stage name: Pauline Cushman), Charles Dickinson (first husband), Jere Fryer (second husband), Charles Dickinson Jr. (son), Ida Dickinson (daughter)
    Other Occupation
    Union Army

    Pauline Cushman (Dictionary of American Biography)

    In March of the following year [1863], she was playing in The Seven Sisters at Wood’s Theatre in Louisville. At a certain point in the performance she was called on to drink a toast and was urged by certain Southern sympathizers to toast the Southern cause. Making this public avowal of sympathy on the advice of the provost-marshal, she was dismissed from the theatre. She then took an oath of allegiance to the Federal government and was commissioned as secret agent. A supposed rebel, she was subsequently expelled from Nashville, with instructions to penetrate as far South as possible, and to collect all the military information she could, but under no condition to carry notes or plans. Unfortunately, her opportunities to obtain military maps were so great that she violated her instructions. Her uneasy knowledge of the possession of these materials caused her to make an incriminating effort to escape when detained not far from Bragg’s headquarters at Tullahoma, Tenn. The papers being discovered, she was tried by a military court and sentenced to be hanged in ten days. Anxiety over her position, added to the strain of her hard journeys, brought on a temporary physical collapse. Removed from the military jail to more comfortable quarters at Shelbyville, Tenn., she was left behind when the Confederates hastily retreated from that place in June 1863. She was able to give the advancing army of Rosecrans much valuable information, but had become so well-known that further spying was impossible.
    Allen Johnson and Dumas Malone, eds., Dictionary of American Biography (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1959), 3: 4.
    How to Cite This Page: "Cushman, Pauline," House Divided: The Civil War Research Engine at Dickinson College,