Pauline Cushman: Actress and Union Spy

My heart was pounding in my chest. My hands were shaking, clammy. Looking up at the General, I realized that it was over. The game was up, and I had been caught. I took a few deep, calming breaths and started to tell my cover story, just hoping and praying that he would believe what I was saying.

It all started on a regular day. I was performing in my latest play and was minding my own business when I was approached by a man. He offered my money, and in exchange I would make a toast to Confederate President Jefferson Davis. I agreed to do it. I was fired by the owner of the theater that I was working at for being a Southern sympathizer in Kentucky, a state supposedly on the Union’s side. This however granted me an opportunity that I had never considered before – Union Spy.

Before agreeing to toast Jefferson Davis, I talked to a Union officer. He agreed with me that if I did do a toast to Jefferson Davis, I would gain the support and confidence of the Confederates. Their trust would then allow me to go behind their lines and into their camps unsuspected, for I had also already gained their respect.

When behind enemy lines, everything was going well for a while. Then, I discovered the battle plans of General Braxton Bragg. I hid the plans in my shoe, thinking that no one would ever find them there. Eventually, Bragg became suspicious of me and when they found the papers in my shoe he would not believe my story of just being a simple Southern woman searching for her brother. I have now lost perhaps the greatest opportunity I have had in my life because I did not memorize some battle plans. All my hard work has been for nothing.

Author’s Note: Pauline Cushman was not executed for her betrayal of the Confederate army. She was saved when the Union army descended on General Bragg’s camp and the surrounding area. 


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2 thoughts on “Pauline Cushman: Actress and Union Spy

  1. This is a really interesting topic! It’s so cool how you were able to take an obscure topic and teach us about some happenings of the Civil War.

  2. This is so interesting! I had never heard of Pauline Cushman before. I liked your choice of writing this post in the first person – it helped to bring the subject to life.

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