In the annals of the Civil War, "Major" Pauline Cushman is little more than a side note. For a brief period in 1864, however, Cushman was the darling of the nation. An unsuccessful actress in Louisville, Kentucky, Cushman was recruited to work behind Confederate lines as a Union spy. Her brief but productive sojourn in espionage ended with her capture by the Rebels in early 1864. Cushman was sentenced to death, but was saved by the rapid advance of Union General Rosecrans' troops. Given the honorary title of Major for her services, Cushman spent the next years travelling the country delivering lectures. During her June 1864 stop in New York City, when this New York Times article was written, Cushman delivered a series of lectures in the American Museum’s Lecture Room.
Serenade to Miss Major Pauline Cushman
SHE MAKES A SPEECH.
A large number of citizens gathered on the sidewalk in front of the Astor House, about 11 o'clock last evening, to testify their appreciation of the eminent service of Miss Major CUSHMAN, the gallant Union scout and spy, whose daring and skill have elicited the warmest commendations of ROSECRANS, GARFIELD, and other Union officers. A fine band was in attendance, and greeted the fair Major with several patriotic airs. Miss CUSHMAN appeared at a window in the second story and was introduced to the assembly by Mr. F.W.B. HIBBARD, Esq., of this City. She was received with three cheers. As soon as the crowd became quiet, she spoke as follows:
GENTLEMEN: I trust that you will in kindness pardon the brevity of my remarks, as this evening I am truly to be ranked with the Invalid Corps. I am at a loss for words to express my heartfelt gratitude for this testimonial of your appreciation of my humble efforts to aid in the glorious work of restoring the union of our once happy States; and, believe me, that I am ever with you in heart and soul for the success of our cause. I am no orator, and make no pretence to eloquence; but as our gallant Gen. GRANT, when called upon to make a speech, I can say, "I can fight for my country." My sufferings at the hands of those who are now arrayed against the flag of our Republic have been far more than requited by seeing the cause of justice triumph. To-night our noble troops are besieging the capital of treason; and with them and you I united my feeble voice in the cry, "Long live the Union!" -- the Union cemented by the blood of so many gallant sons of New-York. Good night, and God bless you all.
After the conclusion of these brief remarks, Miss Maj. CUSHMAN, who was suffering from a severe indisposition, retired, saluted by the cheers of the assemblage.
Source: New York Times, June 3, 1864, p. 1.