House approves WI reps’ measure to honor Civil War hero

By   /   June 14, 2013  /   No Comments

By M.D. Kittle | Wisconsin Reporter

MADISON – Two Wisconsin congressmen from different sides of the aisle have won a major victory in their campaign to award a Civil War hero with the Congressional Medal of Honor.

An amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act authored by U.S. Reps. Ron Kind, D-La Crosse, and Jim Sensenbrenner, R- Menomonee Falls, passed Friday in the House.

The measure would posthumously award Lt. Alonzo Cushing, a Wisconsin born Civil War hero killed at Gettysburg, with the prestigious medal.

“When it comes to honoring war heroes, it is never too late to do the right thing,” Kind said in a statement.

Lt. Alonzo H. Cushing, killed on the decisive last day of the Civil War’s Battle of Gettysburg. The House on Friday passed a bill that could posthumously honor the Delafield, Wis., native with a Medal of Honor and other heroes like him.

Lt. Alonzo H. Cushing, killed on the decisive last day of the Civil War’s Battle of Gettysburg. The House on Friday passed a bill that could posthumously honor the Delafield, Wis., native with a Medal of Honor and other heroes like him.

Under current law, recommendations for the Medal of Honor must be formally made within two years of the heroic action and awarded within three years. The bill, strongly backed by the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War, makes it possible to waive this requirement with an act of congressional approval and the president’s signature.

Cushing, a Delafield native, is remembered for his heroic actions on the last day of the pivotal Battle of Gettysburg. His bravery helped turn the tide during Pickett’s Charge.

He was 22, commanding Battery A of the 4th United States Artillery, a battery that became the center of the assault on Confederate positions.

The lieutenant commanded 110 men and six canons positioned on Cemetery Ridge.

“The intense bombardment preceding the attack left Cushing and many of his men wounded by shell fragments and only two guns still serviceable,” according to the Civil War monument website StoneSentinels.com.  

Cushing persisted. He may have lived if only he had withdrawn the shattered battery. The soldier was wounded three times during the assault, according to StoneSentinels. The final round of gunshots killed him.

Carol Cepregi is deputy director of operations for the Congressional Medal of Honor Society, the organization made up exclusively of Medal of Honor recipients. Staff at the society’s Mount Pleasant, S.C., headquarters like to say they have 79 bosses, the surviving holders of this prestigious award.

It’s a select group – only 3,461 men have received the nation’s highest award for military valor.

Cepregi said the campaign to decorate Cushing has been going on for years. She said House passage of the bill may mean little in the end.

“They can legislate all they want, but unless it’s approved by the Department of Defense and the president it’s not going to happen,” she said.

The amendment moves on to the Senate.

“I am pleased to see this amendment pass the House of Representatives with such strong bipartisan support, and I urge the Senate to pass the amendment so we can finally honor Lt. Cushing in the manner he deserves,” Kind said.

Contact Kittle at mkittle@wisconsinreporter.com

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M.D. Kittle