By Mark Bradley
President Barack Obama announced today that he will award 1st Lt. Alonzo H. Cushing the Medal of Honor at a White House ceremony, Nov. 6.
The award is for conspicuous gallantry on the final day of the Battle of Gettysburg. Cushing will become the sixty-fourth Soldier so honored for heroism at Gettysburg.
Cushing’s next-of-kin will be present to accept the posthumous award from the president.
On the afternoon of July 3, 1863, 22-year-old Cushing, commanding Battery A, 4th U.S. Artillery, gazed through his field glasses at massed ranks of Confederate infantry advancing across a smoke-shrouded field toward his position on Cemetery Hill, about a mile south of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.
Although severely wounded by shrapnel in the shoulder, abdomen, and groin, the five-foot-nine-inch Cushing refused to leave his post. Bleeding profusely and in intense pain, the lieutenant could barely speak and had to relay his orders to Sgt. Frederick Fuger, his second in command.
Cushing and his comrades of the Union II Corps, Army of the Potomac, were on the receiving end of a 13,000-man infantry assault ordered by Gen. Robert E. Lee, the commander of the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia. Popularly known as “Pickett’s Charge,” the attack against the Union center involved not only Maj. Gen. George E. Pickett’s division, but also the divisions commanded by Maj. Gen. Isaac R. Trimble and Brig. Gen. James J. Pettigrew. The assault occurred on the third and final day of the Battle of Gettysburg.
Alonzo Cushing was born on Jan. 19, 1839, in Delafield, Wisconsin, and was raised in Fredonia, New York. He graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York, in the class of June 1861, and was immediately commissioned a first lieutenant in the U.S. Army. Cushing participated in most of the campaigns and battles of the Army of the Potomac, up to and including Gettysburg. One of his brothers, Howard, also served in the Union Army, and another, William, emerged from the war as a Union naval hero for sinking the Confederate ironclad CSS Albemarle.
At Gettysburg, Cushing’s battery — consisting of six three-inch ordnance rifles — was located inside a bend in the rock wall on Cemetery Ridge known as “The Angle.” A rebel artillery bombardment that had preceded the infantry assault had not only left Cushing grievously wounded, but had also killed or injured many of his men and horses while disabling all but one of his guns.
The area resembled a slaughterhouse. Cushing ordered his last working gun to be wheeled up to the stone wall and directed that it fire double-shotted canister, a lethal anti-personnel round. As the Confederates surged to within 100 yards of the wall, a rebel bullet entered Cushing’s mouth and exited out the back of his skull, killing him.
Since his wounding, Cushing had remained on the ground for more than 90 minutes and had contributed mightily to the eventual repulse of the rebel assault, thereby securing a Union victory at Gettysburg. Cushing was later buried with full honors at West Point, his alma mater.
TRACING CUSHING’S DESCENDANTS
The Army identified next-of-kin belonging to the Sater and Stevens families, descendants of Cushing’s first cousin, Douglass Houghton Stevens. Accepting the medal on behalf of Cushing are Frederic Stevens Sater, of New York City, and Frederic Cushing Stevens III, of Hoschton, Georgia. Both are the first cousins, three times removed, Cushing.
The Army Past Conflict Repatriations Branch, an organization under the Army Casualty and Mortuary Affairs Operations Center, at the Army Human Resources Command, in Fort Knox, Kentucky, identified Cushing’s next-of-kin.
Mortuary Affairs Specialists at the Past Conflict Repatriations Branch, in accordance with Department of Defense Instructions and Army Regulations, located pertinent family information (such as birth and death certificates, and marriage licenses) and subsequently evaluated the validity of this information from several genealogical databases, as well as historically available information. The Past Conflict Repatriations Branch confirmed that this information adhered to federal and state laws of succession and basic order of precedence.
Department of Defense Instructions and Army Regulations in reference include:
– Section 2647 of U.S. Code, Title 10
– Section 481f of U.S. Code, Title 37
– DOD Instruction 1300.18
Special thanks: ARMY