FREDONIA – Church bells rang and “Amazing Grace” was sung at Barker Commons Friday, where residents had gathered for a memorial service for Civil War hero Alonzo Cushing, who died 152 years ago on Friday.
During the service last fall presenting the Medal of Honor, the county’s highest military award, to Cushing’s relatives, President Obama said, “It is never too late to do the right thing.”
Cmdr. John Plumb of the U.S. Naval Reserves, who was a speaker at the memorial service, was on the military history review ommittee researching Cushing and contributed to the president’s address at the ceremony. A Jamestown native, Plumb has been in the military more than two decades.
Plumb noted the hour for Friday’s service – 2 p.m. – was chosen because it about the same time Cushing died on the battlefield at Gettysburg. Cushing’s actions were considered pivotal in changing the outcome of the legendary battle.
“The actions of one person can change history,” said Plumb, who added that Cushing’s leadership in the face of critical injuries inspired his men to fight on – even though their cannons were outnumbered. Cushing was 22 when he died.
Cushing grew up in Fredonia, where he lived from the age of 5 until he went to West Point, then was commissioned as a lieutenant in the Union army. Fredonia has a street named for his family and considers him a local hero.
“He was fiercely patriotic,” Plumb added.
Mayor Steven Keefe coordinated of the ceremony, which featured addresses by State Sen. Catharine Young, R-Olean, and Chautauqua County Executive Vincent Horrigan.
The event also featured a performance by a fife and drum line as well as a 21-gun salute. The ceremony ended with two bugles sounding “Taps” in the distance. Another Fredonia native, country singer Sean Patrick McGraw, sang the opening hymn, “Amazing Grace.”
The memorial service preceded Fredonia History Days next Friday, with many Civil War events, including an encampment in Town Square and a parade.