Two Wisconsin congressmen successfully added an amendment to the annual defense bill that would pave the way for the Medal of Honor to be awarded to a Union artillery officer credited for his heroism at Gettysburg 150 years ago.
First Lt. Alonzo H. Cushing positioned his unit on Gettysburg’s Cemetery Ridge and endured multiple injuries during the historic Pickett's Charge, Hope Landsem, a second class cadet at the U.S. Military Academy, wrote in the Wall Street Journal.
She writes, "In the ensuing Confederate infantry assault that came to be known as Pickett's Charge, Cushing was shot twice, the second bullet tearing through his stomach and groin. The wounded officer kept up the fight, clutching his intestines as he commanded the artillery battery. Then Cushing was hit a third time, struck in the mouth by a bullet that exited at the base of his skull. The defenders of Cemetery Ridge eventually repulsed the Confederate advance, a pivotal moment in the Union victory that turned the tide of the Civil War."
Cushing was from Delafield, Wis., and it was indeed two Wisconsin representatives who pushed for the amendment.
"When it comes to honoring war heroes, it is never too late to do the right thing," Rep. Ron Kind, D-Wis., said, according to the report. Kind was joined by Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, a Republican.
If the Senate passes the National Defense Authorization Act, Cushing will receive the nation’s highest military honor. By law, military commanders must nominate soldiers for the award within two years of the action for which they are nominated. After the two-year period has passed, Congress can nominate potential recipients, Landsem's article said.
Maj. Gen. Winfield Scott Hancock once called Cushing, “The bravest man I ever saw.”
Scott Hartwig, a historian with the Gettysburg National Military Park in Pennsylvania, described the chaotic battle that pitted Cushing's 110 men against 13,000 charging Confederate troops to CBS News.
"Clap your hands as fast as you can -- that's as fast as the shells are coming in," Hartwig said. "They were under terrific fire."
Theron W. Haight recorded that Cushing was "holding his intestines back with one hand, he directed his cannon with the other and sent its load of canister into the faces of the gallant Confederates who were swarming up to the front. As he thus encountered the topmost wave of the southern tide of war, he was struck by a bullet through his mouth and brain."
Pickett’s Charge is considered by many as one of the turning points of the Civil War. Cushing died on the last day of the three-day battle.
Cushing was 22 at the time and commanded 110 men on the ridge, reported the Wisconsin Reporter. He graduated from West Point just a few weeks after the Civil War began. Prior to Gettysburg, Cushing was credited for his part in six battles, had two horses shot out from under him and was hit in the chest by a bullet, according to the Wisconsin Historical Society.
Only four Iraq veterans and seven Afghanistan veterans have received the Medal of Honor. By comparison, there were 1,522 recipients in the Civil War, 464 in World War II and 246 in the Vietnam War, Landsem’s article said.