As nearly 13,000 rebel soldiers streamed forward across open fields with the dream of breaking the center of the Union line on Cemetery Ridge and achieving a war-winning victory for the Confederacy, the steely-eyed 22 year old Wisconsinite gave every ounce of his devotion to the defense of the threatened Federal position.
Struck by a searing hot piece of shrapnel during the Confederate artillery barrage that preceded the assault, both Cushing’s thighs and his stomach were ripped open. With all of his officers dead and only two of his guns still operational, the first lieutenant did not waver, holding his belly to keep his entrails from spilling out and continuing to perform his duty. As other artillery units withdrew from the ridge, Cushing ordered his remaining guns moved up to the stone wall at “the Angle” to meet the enemy onslaught head-on.
Despite pleas from his subordinates urging him to go to the rear for medical treatment, Cushing remained firm: “No, I stay right here and fight it out or die in the attempt.” With the Confederates less than 100 yards away, he grasped the lanyard that fired his gun and shouted, “I will give them one more shot!” As his weapon roared one last time, the young artilleryman was shot in the head and fell dead beside his gun.
Alonzo Cushing gave the last full measure of devotion in defense of the Union center and played an unforgettable role in the resistance that broke the back of the Army of Northern Virginia on July 3, 1863. One hundred fifty-one year after his heroism at Gettysburg, Cushing was posthumously awarded the United States military’s highest decoration for valor under fire, the Medal of Honor.
American Battlefield Trust: Alonzo H. Cushing.
Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era by James M. McPherson.
Hallowed Ground: A Walk at Gettysburg by James M. McPherson.
National Park Service: Lt. Alonzo Cushing at Gettysburg.