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Like most historic battles, the U.S. Civil War had its spies--men and women--on both sides. It was a hazardous occupation with few rewards.


Pauline Cushman

    Pauline Cushman was born as Harriet Wood in New Orleans, but when the war broke out she was a loyal unionist, and she sought a way to serve her country. She enlisted in the Secret Service as a spy and the Union used her in the Western Theater. Her first assignment was in St. Louis, Missouri where she was to find Confederate spies and end their operations there. From St. Louis she was sent to Nashville, Tennessee with the same mission. In May of 1863 General Rosencrans was preparing to drive General Bragg across the Tennessee River and Cushman was sent into the Army of the Tennessee (AOT) to gather information on the strength and location of the army. Cushman was captured by General Bragg and sentenced to hang on the spot. But Shelbyville, Tennessee, where she was imprisoned, had to be evacuated. General Bragg's troops left in such a hurry that they forgot about Cushman and left her behind, to be rescued by the Union troops. The news of her capture and rescue spread like wildfire throughout the country, and she was useless to the Union then. Her identity was then known, and her career as a spy was compromised due to that. But her career with the army wasn't compromised. She a had firsthand knowledge of the terrain of Tennesse, Alabama, and Mississippi so she shared this information and it resulted in very good maps for the Union. After her rescue the Union granted her the honorary title of "Major", and she demanded to be called Major Cushman the duration of her life. After the war she returned to her career as an actress, later married, and after her career as an actress saw its waning she became a dressmaker's assistant and charwoman. She died in the far west in 1894.

    In March 1863 in Louisville... To create a disturbance, paroled rebel officers offered actress Pauline Cushman $300 if she would drink a toast to Jeff Davis and the Confederacy while on stage. She hid the $300 in her shoe and reported the offer to federal authorities. Colonel Truesdale recruited Cushman as a Yankee spy. He told her to go ahead with the toast - She would be a heroine in the south. Her career in espionage lasted less than a year. She was used as a courier, contacting loyal groups in the south, and collecting information on Confederate plans. In early l864 she was captured by scouts from General Nathan Bedford Forrest's cavalry. After the war, Cushman's fame mostly ebbed. She tried acting again and married for the second and third times. Her last marriage ended in separation. For an illness, she began taking opium and died of an intentional overdose at sixty. Veterans of the Grand Army of the Republic paid tribute by burying her with military honors in their cemetery in San Francisco.  Died: Dec. 2, 1893

    BURIED: Grand Army of the Republic Cemetery (Defunct)
    San Francisco
    San Francisco County

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