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Gettysburg Hero Awarded Medal of Honor 150 Years Late

Thirty years after Wisconsin
lawmakers began pushing for a Civil War soldier to receive the
Medal of Honor, and 151 years after he died in battle, First
Lieutenant Alonzo H. Cushing has been given his award.
Cushing was killed at the battle of Gettysburg on July 3,
1863. He was 22 years old. The fight in the Pennsylvania
countryside was a pivotal battle in the war, won by the Union
army for which Cushing fought.
“This medal is a reminder that, no matter how long it
takes, it is never too late to do the right thing,” President
Barack Obama said as he bestowed the highest military honor
posthumously on Cushing at the White House today.
Members of the Wisconsin congressional delegation including
Representatives Ron Kind, a Democrat, and James Sensenbrenner, a
Republican, attended the ceremony honoring the native of their
state. They finished an effort begun in the 1980s by the late
Wisconsin Democratic Senator William Proxmire, for whom Kind
worked as an intern.
Proponents of Cushing’s medal fought opponents including
former Senator James Webb, a Virginia Democrat who served in the
U.S. Marine Corps in Vietnam. He stripped legislative language
authorizing the award in 2012, saying more than 150 years later
it was impossible to verify the circumstances of battle to
determine whether the highest military honor was merited. U.S.
law requires recommendations for the Medal of Honor to be made
within two years.
Artillery Commander
New legislation to award Cushing the honor passed in
December 2013, within a year after Webb left the Senate, and the
nomination was sent to the Defense Department for review.
Cushing was commander of a Union artillery battery on the
third day of the Gettysburg battle, during what’s now known as
Pickett’s Charge, according to an account provided by the White
House. After Confederate cannon fire ripped into his position,
he took over firing the only artillery piece in his battery that
was still operable.
During the fighting, he was severely wounded in the
shoulder and stomach. Cushing refused to be moved to the rear
and continued directing firing of the artillery piece until he
was mortally wounded by a bullet.
“His actions made it possible for the Union Army to
successfully repulse the Confederate assault,” the White House
account states.
Cushing was buried with honors at the U.S. Military Academy
at West Point, New York, from which he graduated two years
before his death. He was posthumously promoted to lieutenant
colonel. A monument in his honor stands on the Gettysburg
battlefield.
Cushing’s cousins, Frederic Stevens Sater of New York and
Frederic Cushing Stevens III of Hoschton, Georgia, and Helen
Stevens Sater, of Palm Desert, California, were among the
relatives attending the ceremony, according to the White House.
Previously this year, Obama awarded Medals of Honor to
veterans who fought as far back as World War II when he
recognized 24 Army veterans who had been passed over for the
recognition because of bias.
To contact the reporter on this story:
Angela Greiling Keane in Washington at
[email protected]
To contact the editors responsible for this story:
Steven Komarow at
[email protected]
Laurie Asseo


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