Alonzo Hersford Cushing was an artillery officer in the Union Army during the American Civil War. He died at the Battle of Gettysburg while defending the Union position on Cemetery Ridge against Pickett's Charge, for which he earned the Medal of Honor 147 years after his death.
More than 150 years after he gave his life at Gettysburg leading the effort to repel Pickett’s Charge, 1st Lt. Alonzo H. Cushing is finally on track to get the Medal of Honor after Congress last month approved waiving the time limit for the nation’s top military honor.
The waiver was one of a half-dozen included in the massive defense policy bill — legislation that also began to tweak the Medal of Honor system, standardizing the amount of time a nomination may be considered and removing a cap that, in recent years, had said nobody could win the medal more than once.
In the case of Cushing, Congress‘ approval puts him over a major hurdle. Now he must clear a review by the Defense Department, which has expressed support, and then one by President Obama.
“Having members of both parties in both Houses coming together to recognize Lt. Cushing’s valor is amazing,” said Dave Krueger, one of those who has picked up the banner to fight for Cushing. “It has not, nor should it be, an easy process. The story of Lt. Cushing is so compelling that our legislators have cleared the way for the president to award him this nation’s highest military honor.”
It’s unclear why Cushing wasn’t awarded the medal in the 1800s.
Those above and below him in rank both earned it, including Gen. Alexander S. Webb, who led the overall defense against Pickett’s Charge and gave permission for Cushing to advance, and Cushing’s own trusted Sgt. Frederick Fuger, who held up the wounded Cushing so he could see the battlefield and served as the lieutenant’s megaphone, calling out the orders Cushing could only whisper because of his two injuries.
Cushing died on the Pennsylvania battlefield of a third injury.