Obama to award Medal of Honor for Civil War heroism

Tue Oct 28, 2014 5:08pm EDT
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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama will award a Civil War artillery officer the Medal of Honor, the highest U.S. award for bravery, 151 years after he was killed at the Battle of Gettysburg, the Pentagon said on Monday.

The officer, First Lieutenant Alonzo Cushing, was the commander of an Army artillery battery on July 3, 1863, at the height of the battle at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, a turning point of the 1861-65 Civil War.

During the Confederate attack on the Union center known as Pickett's Charge, Cushing's battery was mauled by rebel artillery. As the Confederate forces advanced, Cushing manned the only remaining cannon in his battery, the Defense Department said in a statement.

Cushing was wounded in the abdomen and the right shoulder but refused to leave his post. He was shot and killed when Confederate forces were within 100 yards (meters) of his position and his bravery made it possible for the Union Army to repel the assault, it said.

Cushing's relatives, Frederic Stevens Sater and Frederic Cushing Stevens III, will be at the Nov. 6 White House ceremony with their families, the Defense Department said.

Carol Cepregi, the deputy director of operations at the Congressional Medal of Honor Society, in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, said it was not unheard of for Medals of Honor to be awarded more than a century after the Civil War was over.

In 2001, President Bill Clinton presented the Medal of Honor to the descendants of Corporal Andrew Jackson Smith for rescuing the flags of his black regiment at the Battle of Honey Hill, in South Carolina.

Cepregi said there had been 1,522 Medals of Honor awarded for bravery during the Civil War, the deadliest U.S. conflict. Many were awarded for saving or capturing regimental flags.

(Reporting by Ian Simpson; Editing by Eric Walsh)

U.S. Army First Lieutenant Alonzo Cushing is pictured in a military academy graduation photograph dated 1861. 
REUTERS/Courtesy U.S. Military Academy