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Medal of Honor - 1st Lt. Alonzo H. Cushing

The White House has announced that on November 6, 2014, President Obama will award the Medal of Honor to 1st Lt. Alonzo H. Cushing for conspicuous gallantry his actions on the last day of the Battle of Gettysburg during the Civil War.

Alonzo Cushing, formerly an active duty Army officer and graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point, will receive the Medal of Honor posthumously for his actions while serving as commanding officer of Battery A, 4th United States Artillery, Artillery Brigade, 2nd Corps, Army of the Potomac. Cushing distinguished himself during combat operations against an armed enemy in the vicinity of Cemetery Ridge, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, on July 3, 1863.

Cushing will be the 64th Soldier to receive the Medal of Honor for actions during the Battle of Gettysburg.

On the afternoon of 3 July 1863, twenty-two year-old 1st Lt. Alonzo H. 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 General 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 19 January 1839 in Delafield, Wisconsin, and was raised in Fredonia, New York. He graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in the class of June 1861 and was 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 3" 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 two of his guns. The area resembled a slaughterhouse. Cushing ordered his last two working guns to be wheeled up to the stone wall and directed that they fire double-shotted canister, a lethal anti-personnel round. As the Confederates surged to within one hundred 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 over ninety 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.

On a date to be announced, President Barack Obama will posthumously award Lieutenant Cushing with the Medal of Honor for conspicuous gallantry on the final day of the Battle of Gettysburg. He will be the sixty-fourth soldier to be so honored for heroism at Gettysburg.


CMH Publications

  • The Gettysburg Campaign | June - July 1863
  • The Overland Campaign
  • The Civil War in the Western Theater 1862
  • The Chancellorsville Campaign | January - May 1863
  • The Vicksburg Campaign | November 1862 - July 1863
  • The Civil War Begins: Opening Clashes, 1861

Additional Resources

Civil War Medal of Honor Recipients