Today in History:

Pauline Cushman (Harriet Wood)

Born Harriet Wood in New Orleans in 1833, she later adopted the stage name Pauline Cushman and became one of the most renowned spies for the Union Army during the American Civil War.

Little is known about Pauline Cushman's early life, but she found her way to the stage as an actress, performing in theaters across the United States. In 1863, while performing in Louisville, Kentucky, she found herself in a city divided by the Civil War, with Union and Confederate sympathizers living side by side.

In June 1863, Cushman's life took a dramatic turn when she was recruited by Union officials to act as a spy behind Confederate lines. Using her acting skills and charm, she infiltrated Confederate social circles, gathering valuable intelligence on troop movements, supply lines, and other strategic information.

Cushman's daring exploits as a spy eventually caught the attention of Confederate authorities. In August 1863, she was captured by Confederate soldiers in Shelbyville, Tennessee, while attempting to obtain crucial information about Confederate plans. After a summary trial, she was sentenced to death by hanging.

Cushman's luck took a fortunate turn when Union forces under General William Rosecrans launched a successful raid on Shelbyville. Cushman's execution was postponed, and she was eventually rescued by Union troops, who spirited her away to safety. Her dramatic escape and subsequent return to Union lines earned her a hero's welcome and made her a celebrated figure throughout the North.

Following the end of the Civil War, Pauline Cushman's exploits as a spy catapulted her to fame and fortune. She embarked on a lecture tour, regaling audiences with tales of her daring adventures behind enemy lines. She also published her memoirs, titled "The Life of Pauline Cushman, the Celebrated Union Spy and Scout," which further cemented her reputation as one of the most daring women of the Civil War era.