Cushing, Lt. Alonzo H. (1841-1863) | Wisconsin Historical Society

Historical Essay

Cushing, Lt. Alonzo H. (1841-1863)

Wisconsin Civil War Officer, Medal of Honor Recipient

Cushing, Lt. Alonzo H. (1841-1863) | Wisconsin Historical Society
b. Delafield, Wisconsin, January 19, 1841
d. Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, July 3, 1863

Alonzo Cushing was commander of Battery A of the 4th U.S. Artillery. He is best remembered for his actions on the last day of the Battle of Gettysburg, in which he helped turned the tide during Pickett's Charge. Nearly 150 years later, he was recommended to receive the Medal of Honor.

EnlargeLieutenant Alonzo Hereford Cushing, WHI 34188.

Alonzo Hereford Cushing

View the original source document: WHI 34188

Early Life

Cushing was born January 19, 1841, in Delafield, Wisconsin, but was raised in Fredonia, New York, until he entered West Point. He graduated on June 24, 1861; just a few weeks after the Civil War began. On that same day, he was appointed 1st lieutenant of Battery A, 4th U.S. Artillery.

Military Career

Cushing went to Washington, D.C., in July 1861 and assisted in the training of new recruits. He also fought at the Battle of Bull Run and served as an assistant to General Edwin Sumner.

Cushing earned high praise for his part in a series of six battles around Richmond, Virginia, from June 25-July 1, 1862. While delivering dispatches under fire, two horses were shot out from under him and he was struck in the chest by a bullet. He worked as a topographical engineer until the Battle of Fredericksburg, Virginia, on December 13, 1862. For his bravery there, he was brevetted a captain. He was honored again after the Battle of Chancellorsville on May 2, 1863, by being brevetted a major.

Battle of Gettysburg Bravery

Eight weeks later, on July 1, 1863, the Battle of Gettysburg began. After witnessing Cushing's performance on July 2, Maj. Gen. Winfield Scott Hancock called him, "The bravest man I ever saw."

On the third day of battle, July 3, 1863, Cushing commanded 110 men and six cannons positioned on Cemetery Ridge. They received the full force of Confederate artillery and Pickett's Charge of 13,000 infantry. Within just a few hours, all of his officers had been killed, and all but two of his guns had been silenced. He was shot through both thighs but refused to withdraw from the field. He was then shot in the shoulder and abdomen but continued to fight. As he loaded his cannon for the last time, he was shot in the head and instantly killed. In 2010, Cushing was formally recommended for the Medal of Honor.

Links to Learn More

[New York Times, May 12, 2010; Haight, Theron W. Three Wisconsin Cushings (Madison, 1910); Schneller, Robert J. Cushing (Washington, 2004)]