In 1862, Pauline Cushman was a struggling actress
employed in a Louisville playhouse. In a play that
required her character to give a toast, she was
dared on one occasion to toast Jefferson Davis.
She agreed, but gained the permission of the federal
provost marshal first. Perceived now as a self-proclaimed
Southern sympathizer, Cushman was expelled from
the theater. In 1863, a new opportunity presented
itself, the chance to spy for the Union. In lace
and petticoats, she became a camp follower of the
Confederate army in Kentucky and Tennessee. Her
allure and beauty aided her in obtaining information
that would be of value to the federal army. Yet
the frustrated actress soon proved to be wanting
in spying as well. She aroused suspicions and was
finally caught with secret papers. General Bragg
had her tried, and a military court sentenced her
to hang, whereupon her health broke and her sentence
was delayed. Yet military operations intervened.
Bragg moved his army and left Cushman behind. Rescued
by Yankees at Shelbyville, Tennessee, she traveled
north to much acclaim. President Lincoln made her
an honorary major, and wearing her new uniform,
she lectured about her clandestine adventures behind
After the war, Cushmans 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.