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1st Lt. Alonzo Cushing - Civil War Soldier Awarded Medal of Honor

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  • 1st Lt. Alonzo Cushing - Civil War Soldier Awarded Medal of Honor

    (AP) Seven score and seven years ago, a wounded Wisconsin soldier stood his ground on the Gettysburg battlefield and made a valiant stand before he was felled by a Confederate bullet.

    Now, thanks to the dogged efforts of modern-day supporters, 1st Lt. Alonzo Cushing shall not have died in vain, nor shall his memory have perished from the earth.

    Descendants and some Civil War history buffs have been pushing the U.S. Army to award the soldier the Medal of Honor, the nation's highest military decoration. They'll soon get their wish.

    Secretary of the Army John McHugh has approved their request, leaving a few formal steps before the award becomes official this summer. Cushing will become one of 3,447 recipients of the medal, and the second from the Civil War honored in the last 10 years.

    It's an honor that's 147 years overdue, said Margaret Zerwekh. The 90-year-old woman lives on the land in Delafield where Cushing was born, and jokes she's been adopted by the Cushing family for her efforts to see Alonzo recognized.

    "I was jumping up and down when I heard it was approved," said Zerwekh, who walks with two canes. "I was terribly excited."

    Cushing died on July 3, 1863, the last day of the three-day battle of Gettysburg. He was 22.

    The West Point graduate and his men of the Battery A, 4th U.S. Artillery were defending the Union position on Cemetery Ridge against Pickett's Charge, a major Confederate thrust that could have turned the tide in the war.

    Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee was planning an invasion of the North; both sides knew how important this engagement was.

    Cushing commanded about 110 men and six cannons. His small force along with reinforcements stood their ground under artillery bombardment as nearly 13,000 Confederate infantrymen waited to advance.

    "Clap your hands as fast as you can - that's as fast as the shells are coming in," said Scott Hartwig, a historian with the Gettysburg National Military Park in Pennsylvania. "They were under terrific fire."

    The bombardment lasted two hours. Cushing was wounded in the shoulder and groin, and his battery was left with two guns and no long-range ammunition. His stricken battery should have been withdrawn and replaced with reserve forces, Hartwig said, but Cushing shouted that he would take his guns to the front lines.

    "What that means is, 'While I've got a man left to fight, I'll fight,"' Hartwig said. Within minutes, he was killed by a Confederate bullet to the head.

    Confederate soldiers advanced into the Union fire, but finally retreated with massive casualties. The South never recovered from the defeat.

    The soldier's bravery so inspired one Civil War history buff that he took up Cushing's cause by launching a Facebook page titled "Give Alonzo Cushing the Medal of Honor." Phil Shapiro, a 27-year-old Air Force captain, said such heroism displayed in one of the nation's most pivotal battles deserved recognition, even at this late date.

    "We need to honor those people who got our country to where it is," said Shapiro, of Cabot, Ark.

    Zerwekh first started campaigning for Cushing in 1987 by writing to Wisconsin Sen. William Proxmire. Proxmire entered comments into the Congressional Record, she said, and she assumed that was as far as it would go. But current Sen. Russ Feingold later pitched in and helped Zerwekh and others petition the Army.

    After a lengthy review of historical records, the Army agreed earlier this year to recommend the medal.

    More than 1,500 soldiers from the Civil War have received the Medal of Honor, according to the Defense Department. The last honoree for Civil War service was Cpl. Andrew Jackson Smith of Clinton, Ill., who received the medal in 2001.

    The Cushing name is prominent in the southeastern Wisconsin town of Delafield. A monument to Cushing and two of his brothers - Naval Cmdr. William Cushing and Army 1st Lt. Howard Cushing - stands at Cushing Memorial Park, where the town holds most of its Memorial Day celebrations.

    Shapiro, the Facebook fan, said he thought of Alonzo Cushing plenty of times last year as he faced a number of dangerous situations during a five-month stint in Iraq.

    "I'd think about what Cushing accomplished, what he was able to deal with at age 22," Shapiro said. "I thought if he could do that then I can certainly deal with whatever I'm facing."
    Last edited by Docman; 20 May 2010, 16:52.

  • #2
    Dumb Question, Have anyone form the confederate side of the war recieved bravery commendations?
    But there's no danger
    It's a professional career
    Though it could be arranged
    With just a word in Mr. Churchill's ear
    If you're out of luck you're out of work
    We could send you to johannesburg.

    (Elvis Costello, Olivers Army)


    • #3
      I believe the first part of this scene from the film Gettysburg portrays the final attack on Cushings battery, and the defence of it by 1st Sergeant Frederick Füger, after Cushings death. (about 1.50 for 30 seaconds)
      Emigrating from his native Germany in 1853, Fuger joined the 4th U.S. Artillery in 1856 and was assigned to Battery A. He saw service in Florida in 1856 against the Seminoles, Kansas in 1857, Utah in 1858 against the Mormons, and Nevada in 1860 against the Paiutes.

      Fuger’s five-year enlisitment was set to expire in 1861 when Confederate forces fired on Fort Sumter. He reenlisted as was promoted to First Sergeant of Battery A, 4th U.S. Artillery under the command of Lt. Alonzo Cushing. During Pickett's Charge, as the Confederates were about the cross over the stonewall, Sgt. Fuger was aiding his commander in directing the battery's fire when Cushing was killed. Fuger assumed command of the battery and fired the remaining rounds of cannister before fighting hand-to-hand to drive the Confederates off the field. He was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for this action. He also received a commission as Second Lieutenant in the Regular Army. By his own account Fuger was present at 63 Civil War battles and minor engagements being slightly wounded twice, once in the head at the Battle of White Oak Swamp, June 30, 1862 and once in the left arm at the Battle of Antietam, September 17, 1862.[1]

      Fuger was breveted 1st Lieutenant U.S. Army for gallant and meritorious services in the Battle of Dinwiddie Court House, Virginia, March 31, 1865. Promoted to 1st Lieutenant 4th Artillery in December 1865. Promoted to Captain 4th Artillery, March 1887. Promoted to Major 4th Artillery February 13, 1899. Retired for age being 64 years old in June 1900. By an Act of Congress passed in April 1904 Frederick Fuger, being a Civil War veteran, was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel U.S. Army.
      Cushing was born in what is now the city of Delafield, Wisconsin, but was raised in Fredonia, New York. His younger brother was future Union Navy officer Lt. William B. Cushing. They were the youngest of four brothers that eventually would serve in the Union Army.

      He graduated from the United States Military Academy in the class of 1861. He commanded Battery A, 4th U.S. Artillery at Gettysburg, and was hailed by contemporaries as heroic in his actions on the third day of the battle. He was wounded three times. First, he was wounded by a shell fragment that went straight through his shoulder. He was then greviously wounded by a shell fragment which tore into his abdomen and groin. This wound exposed Cushing's intestines which he held in place with his hand as he continued to command his battery. After these injuries a higher ranking officer said, "Cushing, go to the rear." Cushing, due to the limited amount of men left, refused to fall back. The severity of his wounds left him unable to yell his orders above the sounds of battle. Thus, he was held aloft by his 1st Sergeant Frederick Füger, who faithfully passed on Cushing's commands. Cushing was killed when a bullet entered his mouth and exited through the back of his skull. He died on the field at the height of the assault.

      His body was returned to his family and then interred in the West Point Cemetery in Section 26, Row A, Grave 7. His headstone bears, at the behest of his mother, the inscription "Faithful until Death."

      Cushing was posthumously cited for gallantry with a brevet promotion to lieutenant colonel. Füger received the Medal of Honor.
      Last edited by Flamingo; 20 May 2010, 17:44.
      'He died who loved to live,' they'll say,
      'Unselfishly so we might have today!'
      Like hell! He fought because he had to fight;
      He died that's all. It was his unlucky night.