Pauline Cushman: Spy of the Cumberland

Pauline Cushman, said P. T. Barnum, was the "greatest heroine of the age." An early biographer, Ferdinand Sarmiento, wrote, "The deeds of the Scout of the Cumberland will live as long as American hearts beat." She was, according to historian Elizabeth Leonard, one of the “five women who became best known both during and after the Civil War” as spies. Yet, for all her renown, Cushman’s life story has remained a blend of fact and legend—until now.

In contemporary descriptions, she was “the Heroine of the People” who combined “all the daring of the soldier with the tenderness and modesty of the woman.” By the early twentieth century, she became the stuff of fiction, both in the movies and, later, television. In the late twentieth century, some historians told a darker story, hinting at alcoholism and drug abuse.

In this book, the first full biography, William Christen sorts through the pieces of evidence to draw a more complete and accurate portrait of the woman, placing her within the social setting of the era. Much more than a book about the Civil War, we learn about mid-nineteenth century theater and gender roles in the Wild West, featuring a cast ranging from impresario P. T. Barnum to future president James Garfield. As one reviewer says, “Christen brings the real woman to life.”

"Christen's diligence shows us a clearer picture of the legend and the person behind the curtain." -- The Journal of Arizona History

"A welcome contribution to scholarship about the historical roles of women, particularly in relation to the Civil War. It also is overdue recognition of a 19th-century personality who served the Union cause and went on to make a name for herself despite societal barriers that existed at the time."--The Washington Times

ISBN 1-889020-11-7, 480 pages, hardbound, illustrated, $39.95

Learn more about the author, Bill Christen.

Explore and learn more about Pauline Cushman.

Edinborough Press (c) 2006