Alonzo H. CushingThe years long wait for the awarding of the Medal of Honor to Lt. Alonzo Cushing for his actions at the Battle of Gettysburg is coming to an end.  The final hurdles have been cleared and the White House announced that Cushing, along with Army Command Sergeant Major Bennie G. Adkins and Army Specialist Donald P. Sloat both of whom fought  in the Vietnam War, will receive their Medals of Honor from President Obama on September 15th.

Cushing, who was killed while manning his artillery battery during Pickett’s Charge on July 3rd, 1863, was born in Wisconsin and a graduate of West Point.  He continued to direct artillery fire despite being seriously wounded, refusing to withdraw, until he was finally killed. Over the years, admirers and Civil War buffs  have tried to get Cushing the award, but various roadblocks, such as the length of time since the Civil War, have always slowed or stopped the process.  But there isn’t–or shouldn’t–be a statute of limitations on bravery in combat, and Cushing’s actions have been well documented.  Cushing, who was just 22 years old when he was killed, should have won the award in the 1800′s but somehow he slipped though the cracks.  Now he’ll finally get the Medal of Honor that he earned 151 years ago.

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Frederick Benteen 1834-1895

Frederick Benteen 1834-1895

In late August 1864, Major General Sterling Price and a 12,000 man Confederate Army left Princeton, Arkansas and headed north to Missouri. Price had an ambitious goal. He would invade Missouri, capture St. Louis, and retake the Show Me State for the Confederacy. Along the way, he expected to pick up recruits for his army (a couple of thousand joined along the way, many of whom were guerrillas already fighting in irregular units) which was greatly outnumbered by Union forces in the state. Price moved north toward St. Louis, fighting several engagements, but found the city too well fortified to capture. He then headed west, again fighting his way across the state.

In mid October, Union Major Generals Samuel Curtis and James Blunt organized a defense in western Missouri in front of Price’s advance. In addition, a cavalry division under the command of Major General Alfred Pleasonton closed in on Price’s rear. There was fighting at Lexington, the Big and Little Blue Rivers, and at Independence, Missouri, delaying the Confederate advance. Finally, Curtis and Blunt set up a defensive line at Westport, a town outside Kansas City. With Union forces closing in from two sides, Price decided to attack and defeat Curtis first and then turn and attack Pleasonton.

Curtis had established a strong defensive line that held despite repeated attacks. Pleasonton caught up with Price, and with Union forces attacking on two sides, the Confederate commander was forced to retreat south to avoid annihilation. The Battle of Westport was a decisive Union victory, and Price retreated though Missouri, Kansas, and the Indian Territory, with Federal cavalry harassing him along the way. Continue reading “Lt. Col. Frederick Benteen’s Report on the Battle of Westport October 1864” »

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Gen. Henry W. BirgeOn September 19th, 1864, the 6th and 19th Corps of Major General Philip Sheridan’s Army of the Shenandoah crossed Opequon Creek and advanced toward the Shenandoah Valley town of Winchester, Virginia.  Just east of the town, Sheridan attacked the Confederates of Lieutenant General Jubal Early’s Army of the Valley.  Sheridan, who also had the 8th Corps in reserve plus some cavalry divisions for a total of about 40,000 men greatly outnumbered Early’s 12,500, the fighting at the Battle of Opequon, or Third Winchester as it was also called, was intense with heavy casualties on both sides.  The Union forces finally gained the advantage when Sheridan attacked with the 8th Corps and his cavalry, collapsing Early’s left flank and forcing him to withdraw.

Brigadier General Henry W. Birge commanded  the 1st Brigade of Brigadier General Cuvier Grover’s Second Division of the 19th Corps.  Grover’s division was on the Union right in wooded area with a stream called Red Bud Run on the division’s right.  Birge’s brigade consisted of the 9th Connecticut, 12th and 14th Maine, 26th Massachusetts, 14th New Hampshire, and 75th New York Infantry regiments.  Some of these regiments, like the 12th Maine and 75th New York, had seen extensive action with the 19th Corps in Louisiana, while others, like the 14th New Hampshire, and seen little.  Birge’s brigade was heavily engaged at Opequon, facing the Georgia, Virginia, and Louisiana regiments of Major General John B. Gordon’s Division of Major General John C. Breckinridge’s Corps.  After the battle, Birge filed this report on his brigade’s action: Continue reading “General Henry W. Birge’s Report on His Brigade at the Battle of Opequon” »

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