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Alonzo Cushing’s Medal of Honor unveiled at Fredonia History Days

FREDONIA – History Days in Fredonia was a tribute to the Cushing brothers, Alonzo and William.

The event included an unveiling of the Medal of Honor given to Alonzo H. Cushing 152 years after his death at the Battle of Gettysburg.

Also included Saturday was a presentation of photographs of Fredonia when the brothers called it their home. William survived the war and married a local resident, Katherine Louise Forbes. They lived in Fredonia for some time after the war.

Jessica Loring, a descendant of the Cushing brothers, spoke at Saturday’s ceremony.

“Mary Smith Cushing and our great-great-grandmother, Margaret Smith Loring, were sisters and great friends,” she said. “There have been three successive generations of men in our family named William Cushing Loring, as Mary Cushing specifically requested,” she added.

Mary Smith married Milton Cushing in 1836. They had seven children; five survived to adulthood. All four of their sons served in the Union Army during the Civil War. Besides Alonzo and William, Milton and Howard also served.

Mary was widowed at a young age and moved her five children to Fredonia, where Milton had family. Poor but well-educated, she was ambitious and got appointments for Alonzo to West Point and William to Annapolis.

A lieutenant, Alonzo served at Chancellorsville and most notably at the Battle of Gettysburg, where he was wounded but led his men into a battle on Cemetery Ridge. He died on the battlefield, but history states that he continued to fight until the Confederate troops started to retreat.

Loring said that at one point, Alonzo put his unprotected thumb over the hole in the cannon so that it could be fired.

“His thumb was burned to the bone,” she said.

He suffered several wounds, including a major shot to his groin, and a bullet to his mouth that finally killed him.

“On July 4th, in a driving rain, the Confederates retreat back to Virginia,” she added.

Fredonia Mayor Steven Keefe served as master of ceremonies for Saturday’s events. Speeches were in the gazebo of the Barker Commons, just a few feet away from the monument to William Cushing and his heroics in sinking the Albemarle, a Confederate submarine.

“Fredonia is very proud of its heros and we are blessed to have many of them,” said Keefe.

The audience included actors portraying President Abraham Lincoln, Gens. Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee, as well as many men and women in period clothing from the Civil War era, War of 1812 era and others.