Officer Killed In Civil War To Receive Medal Of Honor

Oct 28, 2014
Originally published on October 28, 2014 1:17 pm
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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

And now this - President Obama will award a long delayed Medal of Honor to a soldier next month. He'll honor Army First Lt. Alonzo H. Cushing, who fought in the Civil War. NPR's Sam Sanders reports.

SAM SANDERS, BYLINE: Cushing was 22 years old when he fought at the Battle of Gettysburg in 1863. He was fighting for the Union, helping hold back Pickett's Charge. Kent Masterson Brown wrote a book about Cushing. He says the first lieutenant had been shot badly in his right shoulder and his groin, but he fought on.

KENT MASTERSON BROWN: He was asked to go to the rear many times and refused, saying to his men he'll stay here and fight it out or die in the attempt.

SANDERS: And die he did. Federal law says a Medal of Honor must be given within three years of the event that merits the honor. After some years of controversy, Congress extended that time limit for Cushing. Margaret Zerwekh is in large part responsible for this. She lobbied for decades on Cushing's behalf. In 2010, she told NPR it was all worth it.

MARGARET ZERWEKH: I could see that young guy just out of school - out of West Point - standing by his gun and not backing down. And I thought if he can do that, I can keep after an honor for him.

SANDERS: Kent Brown says Cushing's medal is about more than just one man.

BROWN: I'd like to think that this award to Cushing is an award to all of those we don't know.

SANDERS: President Obama will award Army First Lt. Alonzo H. Cushing the Medal of Honor on November 6. Sam Sanders, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.