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Cushing’s Medal of Honor to go on display during Fredonia History Days

FREDONIA – The Medal of Honor given to hometown hero Alonzo Cushing will be on display here during a festival on Saturday.

As a wounded first lieutenant in the Army, Cushing is credited with leading the advance at Pickett’s Charge, considered a turning point in favor of Union troops in the Civil War.

Historians say the strength and courage behind the actions of Cushing’s heroism at the Battle of Gettysburg may well be directly attributed to his mother, Mary Butler Cushing. 

It was his mother’s bloodline and descendants of her sister Margaret that brought the family members together last fall in Washington, D.C., to receive the medal. It took an act of Congress, and a lot of research to locate Helen Loring Ensign, who is a descendant of Cushing and the great-great-granddaughter of Margaret Sprague Smith Loring – the aunt of Alonzo and his siblings.

Ensign accepted the medal on behalf of the Cushing family, and her niece Jessica Loring has been coordinating the display of the medal.

The medal is usually awarded within a few years of the heroic act, not 152 years later. The efforts of local historians and a persistent history researcher from Delafield, Wis., Cushing’s birthplace, finally persuaded federal leaders to confer the award and make the presentation in November. 

Jessica Loring, in town for this weekend’s Fredonia History Days, is enthusiastic to share the family memories she has heard since childhood. She said her speech on Saturday will follow the family tree. Her family has a long patriotic history.

Alonzo Cushing and his brothers died without having children, but the Loring family has carried on their names. She has donated many family letters written by Alonzo and his brothers to their mother and aunt. The letters include requests that Aunt Margaret ask that the brothers be remembered when children were named.

Jessica has a 2-year-old grandson whose name is Joseph Alonzo Cushing Mayne, The toddler’s parents are both members of the Marine Corps. 

“Throughout history, the names run through our family,” said Loring on Thursday as she toured the Chautauqua County McClurg Museum in Westfield. The Medal of Honor is on display in a special room with other Civil War items. Loring said she is pleased with curator John Paul Wolfe’s treatment of the medal and the display that he coordinated there.

She said the medal would remain on display in Westfield until September, when it will travel to a museum in Gettysburg, Pa.

Loring said Cushing’s mother was an inspiration to her children. She left Ohio after her husband died and traveled with five very young children to Fredonia, where she had relatives. Soon after her arrival she started a school where she took in neighborhood children and taught them academic skills.

She wrote many letters asking for placement for her own sons at the military academies and was successful at getting Alonzo into West Point, where he is buried today.

His brother, William Cushing, was said to be the youngest student ever admitted to the Naval Academy and also went on to a heroic career in the Civil War.

During the winter of 1863 while Alonzo was on leave from his military duty as an army officer, he returned to Fredonia to visit his mother. He wrote her many letters throughout his time away.

The McClurg Museum has about 1,100 letters stored on microfilm. More are still being found and some have been put on display in Gettysburg. Some of the letters will be read on Saturday during a ceremony in the village square.