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Alonzo Cushing  
Submitted by Gerald Cushing, San Gabriel Chapter

On May 19, 2010, the Associated Press (AP) released a news story about a U.S. Civil War soldier being awarded the Medal of Honor by the U.S. Army 147 years after sacrificing his life at the Battle of Gettysburg on July 3, 1863. This belated recognition of First Lt. Alonzo Cushing was made possible by the determined lobbying of several people, including 90-year-old Margaret Zerwekh who lives on the Wisconsin land where Cushing was born and an admirer who created the Facebook page "Give Alonzo Cushing the Medal of Honor."

The AP article briefly describes Lt. Cushing's situation:

"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 His stricken battery should have been withdrawn and replaced with reserve forces...but Cushing shouted that he would take his guns to the front lines....Within minutes, he was killed by a Confederate bullet to the head."

A House Report and another Senate Report, both in response to Mary Cushing's claim, gives us vivid details. Alonzo is described as:

"...holding his lacerated bowels in one hand and firing a cannon with the other having already been ordered to retire on account of his wounds, but answering, 'Let me give them one more shot.'"

This is more. Alonzo's mother is the "widow of a direct descendant of Mr. Justice Cushing of the first Supreme Court of the United States." After her husband's death in 1850 she raised her children as a single mother. Another of her sons, an officer in the U.S. Cavalry, was killed in a battle with Indians in Arizona in 1871, while yet another son died serving in the U.S. Navy. And a fourth son, William, was a commander in the Navy during the Civil War "who received the thanks of Congress for his most brilliant exploit in destroying the Confederate ram Albemarle in 1864." And we discover that in 1890, Mary Cushing was 83 years old, and "in her great age and infirmity is living with and dependent upon a daughter for her support."

This story should catch the attention of anyone interested in American history, in the Civil War, in the courage of our warriors, and in justice delayed. The full weight of this single tragedy is magnified by the thousands of similar claims, many of them even more graphic in the descriptions of wounds and disease. These first-hand accounts of the experiences of so many Civil War veterans bring the era strikingly to life in our time.

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