“As I love the name of honour more than I fear death.”
Yesterday First Lt. Alonzo H. Cushing was awarded the Medal of Honor, the country’s highest military decoration, to recognize the heroism of the Union Army officer who was killed during the Battle of Gettysburg in 1863.
Lt. Cushing commanded 110 men and six cannons, defending the Union position on Cemetery Ridge against Pickett’s Charge, the greatest Confederate assault of the war. On the third day of battle, Cushing’s small force stood its ground under severe artillery bombardment and an assault by nearly 13,000 advancing Confederate infantrymen. Wounded in the abdomen and right shoulder, Cushing refused medical evacuation, continuing to command his guns while being supported by his sergeant, who also received the Medal of Honor. He was killed as Confederate forces closed in on his position.
The presentation was all the more extraordinary because recommendations for a Medal of Honor normally must be made within two years of an act of heroism, and the medal presented within three. During the Civil War, they were not awarded posthumously. Congress had to grant an exemption for Cushing’s honor — 151 years later.
The Medal of Honor is the United States of America’s highest military honor, awarded for personal acts of valor above and beyond the call of duty. The medal is awarded by the President of the United States in the name of the U.S. Congress to U.S. military personnel only. Medal of Honor recipients are usually personally decorated by the President. Since 1941, more than half of the Medals of Honor have been awarded posthumously.