Much has been said in this space over the past 2 years and more about actions during the Civil War, the Spanish American War, the Philipines, the two Great Wars, Korea, Vietnam and elsewhere. Today I want to bring an update that had it's start back in the 1860's in the US.
It involves a little village in the east of just a few thousand population. Over a few days it would grow a little. Actually a lot! To over 150,000. It was little known then. Today the name Gettysburg is known around the world. And so it should for many reasons, not the least of which many countries..including Canada, had many who fought there, many shedding blood and some even still there at rest after dying in one of the numerous battles over three days of hell in July of 1863. When you add up all the dead from both sides, almost 1 in 3 in battles over the 3 days, over 51,000 would not survive. And this is not believed to include later deaths from wounds, disease etc.
Twenty two year old Alonzo Cushing from Delafield Wisconsin was one of these who was killed in action. Regular readers of this blog have read much about him in this space.
Twenty years after the battle an artist painted a massive cyclorama of the historic battle, shown at above right, and it is now on display at Gettysburg. Alonzo is shown at the centre appearing to lean against his cannon.
If you dig into the story of Alonzo Cushing you quickly see that his actions ought to have resulted in the awarding of a Medal of Honor, albeit, a posthumous one. But this did not happen during CW days. It appears that the reason it didn't is because his superiors promoted him on the spot...after death... to the brevet rank of Lt. Colonel. They then left it at that. They could have chosen to make the required formal recomendation for the MOH but for whatever reason they did not do so. Some silly news stories suggest that he could not get a medal because he was killed. Homework would have shown upwards of 30 or more posthumous medals in CW days including to a few Canadians.
Many years ago a woman living on the original Cushing homestead lands discovered the historical importance of this man's actions and set about contacting politicans of the day to see if steps could be taken to finally recognize the bravery and awarding the MOH.
The army said it would take the medal and find a suitable home. Then a very distant relative steped forward. And finally a closer..yet still distant cousin by the name of Helen Loring Ensign came forward to accept the award on behalf of Alonzo Cushing.
Shown at the left and above is Margaret, and below her is of course Presidernt Obama presenting the MOH at the White House to Helen.
The family have been most gracious in loaning the medal out to Cushing's old school... the St. John's Northwestern Military Academy briefly. This weekend it was on loan for the Memorial Day services to City Hall, at Delafield where the hero and family once lived, and soon it will be making its home back at Gettysburg at their famous National Military Park, a place and locality well worth the visit for any interested in their heritage and military history.
Before switching topics, the reader should know that the Cushing family produced three other brothers that fought in the Civil War and later. One famous brother was none other than Lt William B Cushing, famous for sinking the Confederate CSS Albemarlie, and another... Howard who after the war was killed during the Indian uprisings.
Brother William had 5 US war ships named in his honour. Not many had that distinction. One, a Canadian, by the name of Sam Preston had 6, but that is a story still needing more telling.
This is one of the "Cushings". It saw sevice in the 1890's and was the first navy steel hulled vessel. It was also the only ship of the day in the US Navy that fired self propelled Howell torpedoes.
During the Cuban hostillities of 1898 the ship was in their waters when a large wave rolled across the deck and swept an officer overboard. Life preservers were tossed out to save the man but he could not reach them.
A life boat was then lowered and two men rowed towards the officer but the boat collapsed and they had to swim for their own lives. The officer was lost but the two were saved. One of these was Ontario born John Everetts. Both were later awarded the Medal of Honor.
Another update is sitting on my desk to bring to you next Sunday. It involves a CW story as well known as that of Gettysburg. Hope to see you then.