FREDONIA – The search for a relative to receive the Medal of Honor that Alonzo Cushing was awarded 150 years after his heroism at the Battle of Gettysburg may have ended with some connections made in Fredonia on Saturday.
About 65 people attended a lecture at Fredonia Grange No. 1, where local historian Jim Boltz talked about his recent research into the life of William Cushing and asked if anyone in the audience knew any more about the search for a relative of William’s older brother, Alonzo.
Dr. Brian Cushing of Williamsville stood up and said he can trace his family history to the Cushing brothers. The recently retired dentist said his father told him about the family history and he knew there was some evidence.
“But I didn’t really think much about it until recently, when I read in The Buffalo News about how they were searching for a family member” to present the medal to, he said.
The campaign for a medal for Alonzo was started several years ago by a historian from Wisconsin, where Cushing was born, but the approval came just this year. The plan was to award the medal in September; however, a blood relative could not be verified.
Brian Cushing said that his family’s blood lines have been traced in publications twice, once in a 1905 book and again in another document around 1960.
“I plan to call the Pentagon this week and explain the family history and provide whatever documentation that I can,” he said.
He said that on his family tree, he is the eighth cousin, three times removed, of Alonzo, who had no children.
Alonzo Cushing died on the third day of the Battle of Gettysburg, fighting in what most historian’s consider a battle that turned the tide toward Union troops in the Civil War. He is being honored for his role in the defense of Cemetery Ridge during Pickett’s Charge, according to a White House citation.
“Refusing to evacuate to the rear despite his severe wounds, he directed the operation of his lone field piece, continuing to fire in the face of the enemy. With the rebels within 100 yards of his position, Cushing was shot and killed during this heroic stand. His actions made it possible for the Union Army to successfully repulse the Confederate assault,” the citation states.
Fredonia was considered the home of the Cushing brothers. Their father died in Ohio, and their mother, Mary Barker Cushing, brought the boys to Fredonia, where she was helped by her late husband’s family.
The Cushing brothers all had military careers and William’s Navy service in the Civil War has been documented in films and books. The U.S. Navy website says, “Lt. William B. Cushing took the torpedo boat Picket Number One upriver to Plymouth and bravely attacked Albemarle sinking her with a spar torpedo.”
Now that Alonzo is being recognized, there is a push to have William recognized, as well.
“Not to take anything away from the heroics of Alonzo, but William is well-deserving of the medal, too,” said John A. “Jack” Glenzer, former Chautauqua County executive and retired SUNY Fredonia professor. William Cushing was given rank and a $50,000 reward for his efforts in the Navy. Some accounts call him “the first Navy SEAL.”