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The Gettysburg Soldier Who Received The Medal of Honor 151 Years After His Death

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb
The Truth Network Radio
May 28, 2024 3:02 am

The Gettysburg Soldier Who Received The Medal of Honor 151 Years After His Death

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb

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May 28, 2024 3:02 am

On this episode of Our American Stories, here's the story of Alanzo Cushing as told by those who fought to have him recognized long after he fell at Gettysburg.

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To search for the Our American Stories podcast, go to the iHeartRadio app, to Apple Podcasts, or wherever you get your podcast. In 2014, Union Artillery Officer Alonzo Cushing was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor. 151 years after the fact, here's Army Chaplain Major General Donald L. Rutherford to start things off with the invocation he gave at Cushing's Hall of Heroes induction ceremony, followed by Deputy Secretary of Defense Bob Work. Lord faithful God, there is glory for the brave fallen soldier. As we honor First Lieutenant Alonzo H. Cushing, we acknowledge that the passage of time has failed to darken the luster of a life lived and given in service to a proud and a grateful nation. On the fields at Gettysburg, the men he led fired the final shots that ensured both the victory in battle and the preservation of our sacred republic. We recognize that on the theater of combat which secures the eye and applause of history, our comrade performed his duty, just as we, his younger brothers and sisters, are expected to perform ours. Faithful unto death were the words written in stone by a proud and a grieving mother. In truth, his death was but a beginning. In your hallowed name, we pray this day.

Amen. Now an astonishing 1,522 Medals of Honors were awarded to those who fought in the Civil War, but the heroic deeds of Lieutenant Cushing on that bloody day at Gettysburg were overlooked, probably because he did not live to share his own account. In those times, most of the awardees of the honor lived, and they were there to advocate for their award. Just two percent of all these 1,500 brave American soldiers who were awarded the Medal of Honor died. I mean, it's understanding that Lieutenant Cushing's heroic deeds were kind of forgotten. So 151 years later, which is the longest gap ever between the awarding of a Medal of Honor and the act of valor for which the medal was given, we finally have been able to address that mistake and honor him for the role that he played at such a decisive moment in that decisive battle in the Civil War. Bartiller men are a unique bunch.

They adore their cannon, which they treat with loving care. So when the time comes, and at that decisive moment in battle, their guns are able to operate and able to fire and support in the Civil War of the infantry and the cavalry, the Civil War correspondents wrote that while Americans might be an un-military people, the mechanical aspects of artillery appeal to a nation of tinkerers, and the American soldier seems to take naturally to artillery. Now that was certainly true of Alonzo Cushing. He was only 22 years old, but he was already at that tender young age a veteran of some of the greatest and most bloodiest battles of the Civil War. They included Malvern Hill, Antietam, and Fredericksburg. And on the third day of the Battle of Gettysburg, Cushing and his battery, his artillery battery, positioned on a critical ridge, the anchor of the entire Union position, Cemetery Ridge. For two days, General Lee's army battered itself against this line of brave Union soldiers.

Searching for weakness. But the Northerners held firm, rushing reinforcements from one part of the threatened battlefield to the other. But on the morning of July 3rd, 1863, General Lee and his commanders took a look across that field and said it was time to try to force the issue. So he decided he would roll the dice, throw all of his fresh troops under General Pickett, and have them charge straight at the line on Cemetery Ridge. 12,000 men in gray began to converge on the Union defenses right where Lieutenant Cushing and his battery stood waiting. Now Lee had his own artillery, it was called the Grand Cannon Battery, and he blasted away at the Union lines to try to soften up their defenses. Lieutenant Cushing found himself with only one workable cannon left at the end of this barrage. Most of the artillerymen who served the guns were either dead or wounded. But Cushing, without even thinking about it, rolled his two remaining cannon right up to the stone wall that created the bloody angle, and he stood there and fired into the oncoming mass of infantry as they charged across the field.

First it was solid shell, then it was grape, and then it was canister. But the southern troops were brave that day, as brave as the Union troops, and they came on until they had reached the very muzzle of Lieutenant Cushing's guns. Now Lieutenant Cushing had already been shot twice. He was grievously wounded, and his comrade said, Lieutenant, it's time for you to leave.

We can take over from here. But like any truly dedicated artilleryman or any dedicated soldier, he refused to leave his guns. No, he said, I stay right here and fight it out or die in the attempt. Minutes later, the Confederate wave crashed over the position, and Lieutenant Cushing was cut down, and he joined the radiant followship of the Fallen as Gettysburg veteran Colonel Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, who himself won the Medal of Honor, so welcome, we put it. And although he didn't know it, or his comrades didn't know it at the time, his valor was worthy of being awarded the highest medal that our nation bestows on its men and women, even if it took a little time to do it.

And thanks to Monty Montgomery for producing that piece, and thanks to Army Chaplain Major General Donald L. Rutherford, and also Deputy Secretary of Defense Bob Work, the story of Alonzo Cushing, a Medal of Honor recipient, 151 years after the fact, and not a second too late, here on Our American Stories. Folks, if you love the stories we tell about this great country, and especially the stories of America's rich past, know that all of our stories about American history, from war to innovation, culture, and faith, are brought to us by the great folks at Hillsdale College, a place where students study all the things that are beautiful in life, and all the things that are good in life. And if you can't get to Hillsdale, Hillsdale will come to you with their free and terrific online courses.

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