WASHINGTON – A century and a half after his valiant death at the Battle of Gettysburg, a Union Army officer is being awarded the nation’s highest military decoration, thanks to a decadeslong campaign by his descendants and Civil War buffs.
The White House announced Tuesday that President Barack Obama approved the Medal of Honor for 1st Lt. Alonzo H. Cushing, who was killed standing his ground against Pickett’s Charge during the pivotal, three-day Battle of Gettysburg.
Congress granted a special exemption in December for Cushing to receive the award posthumously since recommendations normally have to be made within two years of the act of heroism and the medal awarded within three years.
The White House also announced that Obama will award the medal in a Sept. 15 ceremony to two Vietnam War soldiers who also received the congressional exemption – Army Command Sgt. Maj. Bennie G. Adkins and Army Spc. Donald P. Sloat. The medal is given to members of the Armed Forces who risk their own life in an act of great personal bravery.
Cushing was killed July 3, 1863, at age 22. He commanded about 110 men and six cannons, defending the Union position on Cemetery Ridge against Pickett’s Charge, a major Confederate thrust that could have turned the tide in the war. Cushing received a bullet wound in the head.
The fierce battle near the town of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, resulted in more than 51,000 casualties.