First Lieutenant Alonzo H. Cushing
- January 19, 1841
- Fredonia, New York
- U.S. Military Academy, June 1861
- unit at time of action
- Battery A, 4th U.S. Artillery, II Corps, Army of the Potomac
- major battles
- Bull Run, Antietam, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, and Gettysburg
Alonzo Hereford Cushing was born on Jan. 19, 1841, in Delafield, Wisconsin, and was raised in Fredonia, New York. Cushing was appointed to the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York, in 1857. Upon graduation in June 1861, he was commissioned a first lieutenant in the U.S. Army.
Cushing participated in most of the campaigns and battles of the Army of the Potomac, to include Bull Run (Virginia), Antietam (Maryland), Fredericksburg (Virginia), Chancellorsville (Virginia), and Gettysburg (Pennsylvania). Cushing also trained volunteer troops in Washington, D.C., served as an ordnance officer on the staff of Gen. Edwin V. Sumner, and as a topographical engineer. During the Chancellorsville Campaign, Cushing was promoted to command Battery A, 4th United States Artillery, in the Army of the Potomac's II Corps.
Cushing was killed in action on July 3, 1863, at the age of 22. Although he received a posthumous brevet promotion to lieutenant colonel for his service at the Battle of Gettysburg, on July 1, 1863, no award was awarded to Cushing for his efforts during that critical day of battle. He was buried with full honors at his alma mater, West Point, beneath a headstone inscribed, "Faithful unto death."
"FAITHFUL UNTO DEATH"
Alonzo Cushing's headstone at West Point Cemetery, N.Y. (Photo courtesy of West Point Public Affairs)
- area of operation
- Gettysburg, Pennsylvania
- Commander, Battery A, 4th U.S. Artillery
- date of action
- July 3, 1863
On the third day of the Battle of Gettysburg, July 3, 1863, Cushing commanded 126 men and six cannons positioned on Cemetery Ridge. In the face of Lt. Gen. James Longstreet's Assault, Cushing's battery took a severe pounding by Confederate artillery. Cushing and his battery stood at the apex of the assault where Confederate Maj. Gen. George Pickett intended to pierce the Union line.
Within just a few hours, all of Cushing's officers had been killed, and all but two of his guns had been silenced. During the Confederate cannonade, he was wounded in the abdomen, as well as the right shoulder. Refusing to evacuate, despite his severe wounds, he directed the operation of his two remaining guns -- firing in the face of the enemy. When the rebels were less than 100 yards from his position, Cushing was shot in the head, and died instantly. His actions materially aided the Union Army's successful repulse of the Confederate assault. History shows that the Confederacy would be on the defensive from this point forward, and never again mount a major offensive.
The Gettysburg Cyclorama
The Gettysburg Cyclorama, painted by French artist Paul Dominique Philippoteaux, in 1883, depicts Lt. Gen. James Longstreet's Assault on July 3, 1863. In this segment of the cyclorama, Cushing is pictured in the center, leaning against the left side of the canon. (Photo courtesy of Gettysburg National Military Park Public Affairs)
The Battle of Gettysburg
Fought over the first three days of July 1863, the Battle of Gettysburg (Pennsylvania) was one of the most crucial battles of the Civil War. The fate of the nation literally hung in the balance that summer of 1863, when Gen. Robert E. Lee, commanding the "Army of Northern Virginia," led his army north into Maryland and Pennsylvania, bringing the war directly into northern territory. The Union's "Army of the Potomac," commanded by Maj. Gen. George Gordon Meade, met the Confederate invasion near the Pennsylvania crossroads town of Gettysburg, and what began as a chance encounter quickly turned into a desperate, ferocious battle. Despite initial Confederate successes, the battle turned against Lee on July 3, and with few options remaining, he ordered his army to return to Virginia. The Union victory at the Battle of Gettysburg, which is sometimes referred to as the "High Water Mark of the Rebellion," resulted not only in Lee's retreat to Virginia, but an end to the hopes of the Confederate States of America for independence.