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Cemetery Ridge hero approved for Medal of Honor

A commanding officer who experienced the hell of Pickett’s Charge and was wounded three times before dying at his artillery position on Cemetery Ridge, may finally receive the Medal of Honor, thanks to efforts by his hometown and Senator Russ Feingold (WI-D).

At the time 1st Lieutenant Alonzo H. Cushing died, the newly established Medal of Honor was given only to the living heroes; the dead ones didn’t qualify. If ever there was a soldier who met the qualifications of “distinguishes himself conspicuously by gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty,” Cushing is one of them.

Last month, Feingold received a letter from Army Secretary John M. McHugh saying the Cushing medal application had been approved. Next, the Senate and House Armed Services Committees will have to advance the paperwork and then the nomination would be included in the next Defense Authorization bill. From there it would go to the President.

Cushing, who was born and raised in Delafield, Wisc., graduated from West Point in 1861. At Gettysburg, on July 3, 1863, he commanded Battery A, 4th U.S. Artillery positioned on Cemetery Ridge. Although shot through the left shoulder and then wounded in the gut, he continued to command, even firing one of the last two functioning canons.

His voice was growing weak and he couldn’t be heard over the roar of the guns. First Sergeant Frederick Fuger held him upright and repeated his orders until Cushing was shot through the mouth and died. He was buried with full honors at West Point.

Fuger, who did make it through the war and eventually retired as a Lieutenant Colonel, did receive the Medal of Honor but not for his assistance to Cushing. He was honored for succeeding to the command on Cemetery Ridge after all his officers were killed or wounded and manning the last remaining gun until his battery was ordered withdrawn

By Linda Wheeler  |  March 17, 2010; 7:31 PM ET
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