You’ve probably never heard of this particular Charles Dickinson, but it’s likely that you are familiar with his wife. In 1853, Dickinson was a musician in a traveling variety show, and he married one of the actresses, born Harriet Wood, but known to history as Pauline Cushman. Dickinson and his bride eventually returned to his hometown of Cleveland, Ohio, where he found work as a music teacher. The couple lived with Dickinson’s parents and had two children, Charlie and Ida. At the end of 1861, Dickinson enlisted as a musician and marched off to the Civil War. In less than a year, he was discharged home in extremely poor health. He expired almost exactly a year after his enlistment. Cushman left her children with her husband’s family and resumed her acting career. Not long after, the opportunity presented itself to become a spy for the Union Army. Once she was discovered to be a spy and narrowly escaped execution, Cushman continued to travel the lecture circuit talking about her exploits. She was not present when either of her children by Dickinson died. The rift between Cushman and her first husband’s family, who resented what they considered her abandonment of her maternal duties, never healed.
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A Grave Concern by Ashley D. Smith is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.