First Lt. Alonzo H. Cushing
Photo Credit: Wikipedia
After years of dogged persistence by a Wisconsin woman and being put on hold the last couple months due to a search for relatives, First Lt. Alonzo H. Cushing received the Medal of Honor on November 6, 2014 for his actions at Gettysburg July 3, 1863.
Cushing, and his men, were part of the artillery barrage that preceded and continued through the Confederate attack on the center of the Union line, the third and final day of the battle at Gettysburg. Positioned on Cemetery Ridge, Cushing commanded artillery fire against the assault we now know as Pickett’s Charge.
The battle was bloody and brutal. So many soldiers fell injured and dying. As Cushing commanded his battery he too was hit. First in the shoulder and then a second shot tore open his mid-section. With his own hands he pushed his protruding bowels back in his body and continued with his command. Told to remove to the rear Cushing refused and had his first sergeant yell out his orders. Determined to hold his part of the Union line, Cushing was killed by a third bullet that hit him in the head. He died there on the Gettysburg battlefield. He was only 22 years old.
Certainly Cushing was one of the many dead President Lincoln spoke of a few months later when he gave his now famous address at the dedication of the National Cemetery at Gettysburg.
“ . . . that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” Abraham Lincoln – Gettysburg Address – November 19, 1863
And finally this past week, 151 years later, First Lt. Alonzo H. Cushing received the Medal of Honor from President Barak Obama. I watched the White House ceremony on YouTube.
My first visit trip to Gettysburg was six years ago. I distinctly remember seeing the monument to Cushing on Cemetery Ridge. I had no idea who he was. It wasn’t until I did some research after that trip that I got the full impact of his actions. The grit and determination of a young man to persevere despite injury and pain. He stood among the smoke, the fear, the sounds of battle, holding his stomach so it wouldn’t spill onto the field and continued to lead. Cushing would not and did not let his commanding officers down, nor his men or his country.
Alonzo Cushing’s story struck a cord with me. I never forgot it. I was well aware of who he was and what he did when his name cropped up in the news this past summer. I’m thrilled his actions are being remembered, that people are learning who he was and what he did. That’s my quest here with Genealogy Circle. To promote the need for all of us to document our Civil War ancestor’s stories so they’re not lost to time.
Let’s do that. Tell and retell the journey of our ancestors, through blog posts, family histories, scrapbooks, and photo albums. Don’t let their stories slip through our fingers.
To Alonzo H. Cushing and all soldiers whose unknown acts of heroism and courage have gone unnoticed or slipped into the pages of history – Thank You. May you somehow know of my/our gratitude and that in some way all of you share in receiving this Medal of Honor. I’m certain First Lt. Cushing wouldn’t mind at all.