Military Connection: Medal of Honor to Civil War LT: By Debbie Gregory

Alonzo CushingIt’s never too late to recognize and reward members of the military. And it’s never too late to be remembered. This was apparent at the White House when Army First Lieutenant Alonzo Hersford Cushing, a hero of the Battle of Gettysburg, was awarded the Medal of Honor.

Lt. Cushing was a graduate of West Point, Class of 1861. He commanded the 100 men and six cannons that comprised Battery A of the 4th US Artillery at the Battle of Gettysburg. According to accounts of the battle, Cushing’s heroism and dedication to duty helped stabilize his battery, and helped repel Confederate advances from the infamous Pickett’s Charge of July 3, 1863.

Cushing was hit three times by enemy fire. A shell fragment ripped through his shoulder, but the lieutenant remained at his post. A second fragment tore into his groin and abdomen, apparently to the point where the 22-year old needed to use his hand over the wound to survive. The final shot was fatal, a gunshot to his head.

At one point in the battle, Lt. Cushing was ordered to the rear due to his injuries. But knowing that there were no other officers to relieve him and lead the battery, Cushing stayed to lead his men. Eventually, due to the severity of his wounds, Cushing could no longer give his orders loud enough for his men to hear, so he relayed them through Sgt. Frederick Fuger. Sgt. Fuger would carry on his commanding officer’s orders after Cushing’s death, leading the remaining men of Battery A in hand-to-hand combat, a successful, but costly defense, earning Fuger the Medal of Honor and an officer’s commission.

The Battle of Gettysburg is commonly referred to as the turning point of the Civil War. If Battery A had fallen, the battle could have ended much differently.

For his gallantry during the Battle of Gettysburg, Lt. Cushing was posthumously recognized with a brevet promotion to Lieutenant Colonel. He was laid to rest at West Point Cemetery with a tombstone that reads, “FAITHFUL UNTO DEATH.”

Alonzo Cushing was one of four siblings to fight for the Union Army during the Civil War. The other fighting Cushing siblings included Alonzo’s younger brother William, who went on to become a Navy legend; eldest brother Milton, a Navy paymaster; and Howard, who would later die in the line of duty after becoming a legend in the Indian Wars of the American west. A monument to Alonzo, Howard and William Cushing was erected at Cushing Memorial Park in their home town of Delafield, Wisconsin.

The family of Alonzo Cushing has long pushed for the Medal of Honor for the fallen officer. It took more than 150 years, but Lt. Cushing was finally recognized.  Members of Cushing’s family joined President Obama at the White House for the ceremony. Helen Ensign, Cushing’s cousin, twice removed, accepted the Medal on behalf of the family.

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Military Connection: Medal of Honor to Civil War LT: By Debbie Gregory