Alonzo Cushing, a hero of the Battle of Gettysburg and Pickett’s Charge, will be awarded a posthumous Medal of Honor in September, 2014, 151 years after the action for which he will be honored. This is coincidental for me because some of us were discussing that very battle around a campfire recently.
Alonzo graduated from West Point in June 1861. He was a first lieutenant in command of a Union artillery battery during Pickett’s famous charge on the third day of the battle, July 3, 1863. The battery, at the center of the Union line, was almost completely wiped out by Confederate artillery fire and musket fire. Cushing was severely wounded twice but continued to fight his dwindling battery until a bullet killed him instantly. He was just 22. He is buried at West Point.
Alonzo was one of four Cushing brothers to serve in the Union forces in the Civil War. The oldest, Milton, was a Navy paymaster. He stayed in the Navy after the war.
Howard, the next oldest, also served in the artillery during the Civil War, but he joined the cavalry after it. He was killed by Apaches in Arizona in 1871, age just 32.
Alonzo came next and then William. William Cushing was an officer in the Union Navy. He is often referred to as Lincoln’s Commando, though that term wasn’t used in the Civil War. He was always eager for small raiding parties in the rivers and shores of the Confederacy. He was most famous for a daring nighttime raid in 1864 on which he sank the Confederate ironclad CSS Albemarle at its dock in Plymouth, NC. He survived the war but died of ill health in 1874, also age just 32. He is buried at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis. The Navy named a series of five ships after him, the last decommissioned in 2005.
Howard was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and Alonzo and William were born in Delafield, Wisconsin. The Cushings were early settlers in that small village, and Delafield established a Memorial Park in honor of Howard, Alonzo, and William.