The Kentucky in the Civil War Message Board

Clarksville, TN CWRT January meeting


The January, 2008 meeting of the Clarksville Civil War Roundtable will be held Wednesday, January 16th, 2008 at 7 PM in the cafe of Borders Books store in Governor's Square Mall. This is located on Wilma Rudolph Highway (US 79) just south of Exit 4 off I-24 in Clarksville, TN. The meeting is always open to interested members of the public and you do not need to be an expert to attend!. We meet the Third Wednesday of each month.


This month we welcome author and historian Bill Christen of Warren, MI. His program is “Pauline Cushman: Spy of the Cumberland,” which is based on his recent book.

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 his program, William Christen sorts through the evidence to draw a more complete and accurate portrait of the woman, placing her within the social setting of the era. We will 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.

Bill Christen is a retired automotive engineer who has spent the last twenty-five years engaged in research about the social and material culture of the nineteenth century. He is the publisher of The Watchdog, a quarterly journal for enactors and interpreters of the 1850 to 1875 time period. It is a non-profit, historical preservation organization that also publishes monographs on social and material culture.

For the last thirteen years, Pauline Cushman has been the primary focus of that interest—bringing her story to life once again by uncovering new primary source material. In the course of his work on the book, Bill and his wife, Glenna Jo, visited many of the scenes where Pauline’s story unfolded. They live in Warren, Michigan, amidst a collection of nineteenth-century photographs, clothing, and ephemera.

Please join us as Bill Christen speaks on “Pauline Cushman: Spy of the Cumberland” at the January, 2008 Clarksville CWRT meeting.

Greg Biggs
Clarksville CWRT