At only 22 years old, Wisconsin native Alonzo Cushing valiantly led his men into combat during one of the most important battles in American history: the Civil War battle at Gettysburg. He did not survive the battle, but his heroism remains.
In order to honor Alonzo Cushing’s sacrifice and courage, I introduced legislation that would allow the president to award him the Medal of Honor.
Alonzo Cushing was born in Delafield. After graduating from West Point, he was put in command of an artillery battery for the Union Army. Lieutenant Cushing fought bravely in several battles, but his greatest act of heroism would come on July 3, 1863. Robert E. Lee's Confederate Army had marched as far north as Pennsylvania, and Cushing's unit was part of the Union army that confronted Lee near the small town of Gettysburg.
The Battle of Gettysburg lasted three days. On the final day, a large Confederate force led by General George Pickett charged the center of the Union line. Cushing’s unit was hit hard by the attack, and Cushing was shot multiple times. His wounds were serious, and his men urged him to leave the battle for treatment. But Cushing knew how important his artillery were to the defense of the Union line, and he remained at the front to lead his men. In the end, Alonzo Cushing was killed, but the Union won Gettysburg and turned the tide of the Civil War.
During the Civil War, Medals of Honor were rarely awarded posthumously, and there is now a time limitation on awarding the Medal of Honor. Alonzo Cushing has long passed the required time to be awarded the honor. The only way to bypass the time limitation is through an act of Congress.
The effort to honor Alonzo Cushing began with Sen. Russ Feingold, who nominated Alonzo Cushing for the Medal of Honor in 2003. His nomination was then reviewed and approved through the Department of the Army as well as the Secretary of Defense – a rigorous process which took over seven years to complete. My legislation is the next step in the process. It waives the time limitation to allow Alonzo Cushing to receive the Medal of Honor. The final step is approval of the nomination by the president.
Alonzo Cushing was a true American hero. He held his ground at the Battle of Gettysburg despite severe and ultimately fatal wounds, and led his troops to victory. His valor in combat deserves to be recognized with our nation's highest honor. This legislation is an important step to properly honor Wisconsin’s own Alonzo Cushing with the Medal of Honor.