On July 3, 1863--the third and final day of the Battle of Gettysburg-- a Confederate infantry assault that came to be known as Pickett’s Charge almost broke the Army of Potomac in two.
First Lieutenant Alonzo H. Cushing, 22, of Delafield, Wisconsin stood against this human wave. He commanded 6 cannons and 110 men. Lt. Cushing had been badly wounded, but he refused to fall back. Meg Jones writes for the Journal Sentinel:
With only two working cannons and a handful of soldiers left, Cushing refused to leave the front line or disband what remained of his battery. Seriously wounded in the shoulder and holding his intestines with his hand after shrapnel ripped through his abdomen and groin, Cushing ignored his superiors' orders to seek medical attention.
His battery remained in place, firing into the Confederate advance and ultimately driving it back. But in the ensuing combat, Lt. Cushing had been shot again and he would not live to see the victory he had helped secure.
Cushing was a West Point graduate, so he was buried with full honors at that school. His family mourned him and his hometown honored him with an obelisk inscribed with his name.
Much later, in 1967, Margaret Zerwekh, an amateur historian, began researching Cushing and his family. Zerwekh began a campaign to have Cushing awarded the Medal of Honor. That effort, which had gathered political and military support over the decades, culminated in a White House ceremony on today. President Obama conferred on Lt. Cushing the Medal of Honor. At 151 years, this is the longest period of time elapsed between a heroic action and the conferring of the medal.
(Photo of Lt. Cushing provided by the Wisconsin Historical Society)