Alonzo Cushing, Medal of Honor Winner

For a June 2012 update on the status Cushing’s Medal of Honor click here.

The anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg on July 1st-3rd, is an appropriate time  to remember the heroics of the men who fought and died there.  One of these men who fell was Lt. Alonzo Cushing who was in command of Battery A, of the 4th U.S. Artillery.  Cushing died while directing the firing  of his artillery during the assault known as Pickett’s Charge on July 3rd.  After years of lobbying on his behalf by Civil War enthusiasts and others dedicated to getting him the recognition he deserved, it was announced earlier this spring that Cushing would be awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for his actions on that day 147 years ago.

Alonzo Cushing was born in Delafield, Wisconsin (at that time, Wisconsin Territory) in 1841.  He graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York in 1861.  Cushing saw action is several campaigns.  On July 3rd, 1863, Cushing’s Battery was serving in Major General Winfield Scott Hancock’s Second Corps, and was located behind the copse of trees and the stone wall that was the focal point of the Confederate assault that day.  The Confederate artillery bombardment prior to the assault put four of Cushing’s six cannon out of action, but Cushing received permission to move his two remaining guns forward for maximum effectiveness.  During the assault,  Cushing was wounded multiple times as the Virginians of Brigadier General Richard Garnett’s Brigade advanced towards the stone wall.  But the 22 year old Cushing maintained his position and directed the fire of his artillery and even fired the guns himself as his men were hit.  Finally, Cushing was killed when a bullet entered his mouth.

In his report for the  battle, Cushing’s commander Captain John G. Hazard wrote of Cushing’s bravery.  “He especially distinguished himself for his extreme gallantry and bravery, his courage and ability, and his love for his profession.  His untimely death and the loss of such a promise as his youth cherished are sincerely mourned.”

Cushing is buried at West Point, and a small stone monument stands at the place on the Gettysburg battlefield where he fought.  But that wasn’t the end of it.  In recent years, those who believed Cushing deserved the Medal of Honor for his actions led a lobbying effort on his behalf.  Perhaps the most dedicated and persistent of these was Margaret Zerwekh, who 40 years ago moved to some land in Delafield that the Cushing family once owned.  She researched the previous owners of the property, and discovered what Alonzo Cushing had done in the war.  She wrote to politicians or anyone who could help, and kept at it, determined to see that the medal would be awarded to Cushing.  Now, at age 90, she has achieved that goal.

I checked recently with the people at Gettysburg Military Park to see if they knew when and if a ceremony would take place where the Medal of Honor would officially be awarded, but they were not aware of when such an event would take place.  A lot of places would love to be the home of Cushing’s medal, including Delafield, where the Cushing family (he also had brothers who served) are an honored part of the city’s history.  But where the medal physically ends up at is less important than the fact that Alonzo Cushing’s bravery has finally been properly recognized by the awarding of the nation’s highest military honor.

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