Almost 150 years after his death in the battle of Gettysburg in July of 1863, Alonzo Cushing, first lieutenant of Battery A, 4th U.S. Artillery, has received the Medal of Honor, the highest military decoration awarded by the United States. On Monday, President Obama officially bestowed the honor on Cushing along with Command Sergeant Major Adkins and Specialist Four Donald P. Sloat who both served and distinguished themselves during the Vietnam War.
Army First Lieutenant Alonzo H. Cushing
According to a statement released by the White House, “Army First Lieutenant Alonzo H. Cushing distinguished himself during combat operations against an armed enemy in the vicinity of Cemetery Ridge, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, on July 3, 1863.” In Cushing of Gettysburg: The Story of a Union Artillery Commander, Kent Masterson Brown offers an expansive view of the life and career of Lt. Cushing. Brown, author of Retreat from Gettysburg: Lee, Logistics, and the Pennsylvania Campaign and creator of The Civil War magazine, incorporates vivid descriptions of the fury of battle and the exhaustion of forced battles to honor the historic contributions of Cushing.
Cushing courageously led the Union troops to break Pickett’s Charge in the battle, even placing his thumb over the vent of a Confederate gun and having it burned to the bone. Shortly after this incident he was killed instantly by a gunshot to his face. His first sergeant, who survived the battle, was awarded the Medal of Honor.
In an NPR interview, Brown revealed that the Army War Decorations Board contacted him as
part of their verification process while vetting Cushing’s story. The board drew on Brown’s extensive knowledge of Cushing and the body of information that he had cultivated while writing Cushing of Gettysburg.
For many, though, Cushing’s award is long overdue. Residents in Cushing’s hometown of Delafield, Wisconsin; the former governor of Wisconsin, Jim Doyle; and many Facebook fans pushed for the recognition. Former U.S. Senator Russell D. Feingold endorsed Cushing’s nomination in 2003, and in March of 2010, Secretary of the Army John M. McHugh confirmed that the Army supported Cushing’s nomination, ending years of lobbying by descendants and admirers.
In Brown’s interview he closed saying, “I wonder whether Cushing may be the last Civil War soldier to receive it. And if he is, I’d like to think that it’s being given to him but on behalf of all those others who are going to go unnamed – that they will all share in Cushing’s award of the Medal of Honor because we’ll never be able to right all those, quote, ‘wrongs,’ unquote, of all those other soldiers who were equally valorous.”
Continue for an excerpt from Brown’s Cushing of Gettysburg: The Story of a Union Artillery Commander: