Valerie Hamill as Pauline Cushman,
Spy of the Cumberland

Hamill to Address Rosecrans Command Headquarters, Thursday, October 25, 2012

"Pauline Cushman, Spy of the Cumberland - - -  How intriguing this title was to noted Valerie Hamill.   As a Civil War reenactor for nearly a decade, it has always been a challenge to find substantial documentation of women and their roles during the Civil War.  Miss Pauline Cushman is one of the few to have had a few books written on her death-defying activities to uncover confederate information to report to General William Rosecrans!
Ms. Cushman was 30 years old (no spring chicken) when she donned men's clothing and went deep into enemy territory, by both horse and on foot.  She was shot at, captured, declared a spy and sentenced to death by hanging.  Thankfully, the Union troops were able to rescue her three days prior to her execution.  She even became a close acquaintance to General John Hunt Morgan (both visited each other while in prison - the General while being held at the Ohio State Penitentiary).
Although she was born in the south (to a father that served under Napoleon & to a Spanish mother), Pauline was raised in Michigan, where she was raised with 7 brothers and a tribe of friendly Native-Americans.  This is where she learned how to ride, hunt, track, and shoot better than most men.  The Native-Americans called her "Laughing Breeze".  And this is where she came to the realization that the Union must be preserved at all costs!
As an actress, a few rebel soldiers asked her to make a toast to Jefferson Davis.  Horrified at this request, Pauline reported to a union officer under Rosecrans of the request.  He felt it a perfect opportunity for her to endear herself to the confederacy and to earn their trust and respect.  So she did make the toast; although the theater promptly fired her, her role as a Union Spy was now underway!
Valerie Hamill is a member of the Big Walnut Area Historical Society and has served as chair of the Rosecrans Ladies Aid Society as well as a volunteer to the fundraising efforts for the Rosecrans statue.  She is the director of the Ohio Herb Education Center in Gahanna, Ohio.  Valerie and her husband Bruce live on Valerie's family homestead in Galena and raise chickens and enjoy gardening.  And three closets full of civil war clothing and uniforms!


Return to Programs