By on Apr 13, 2010 in Essays

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Alonzo Cushing in uniform

Transcribed from the recently discovered memoir of the late Alonzo Cushing

Introduction and transcription by Donna Marie Miller and Adam David Miller

Sifting through information on a subject completely different, the 1825 visit of General Lafayette to the little country village of Fredonia, New York, I came upon an interesting entry in the minutes of the Fredonia Scientific and Historical Society, circa 1863.  Here at the Barker Historical Museum we get many, many book researchers, who want to see our Civil War collection, and who are extremely excited about anything at all that we can offer on the family of local Civil War heroes, the Cushing brothers; for this reason, the excerpt caught my eye.  Members of the FSHS asked A.C.  Cushing, who was still alive after the war, to provide a memoir of the early life of Captain Alonzo Cushing, who had died a hero’s death at Gettysburg.  After it was presented at the meeting, the Society voted that they would have the memoir published in the newspaper, the Fredonia Censor.  Accordingly, I set my historical research assistant, Adam, to find it in our microfilm files.  The result is a newly-unearthed piece of information on the early life of a popular Civil War hero from the Union Army. 

All punctuation and spelling, as well as some obsolete forms of abbreviation, are left as they are in the Fredonia Censor article of January 6, 1864. The memoir is a stirring tale of courage, of the highest standards of honor and patriotism, and of an almost superhuman devotion to duty and to his unit.

OF    THE     LATE

From Fredonia Censor1/6/1864

Alonzo Hereford Cushing, the subject of this biographical sketch, was born in Delafield, Wisconsin, on the 19th of January 1841.  His life, though brief, was an eventful one.  Descended on both sides from the good old Puritan stock, he was endowed with the rich heritage of their heroic virtues.  Upon the death of his father, which occurred in 1847, his mother, a New England lady of rare adornments of mind, removed with the family to Fredonia, N. Y. where lived and died his grandfather, Judge Zattu Cushing.

The record of years spent there is a proud and stainless one.  At home he was schooled in those noble and patriotic sentiments which were so fully exemplified in his after life, while he was distinguished at the Fredonia Academy, for a faithful observance of duty, an ardent ambition to excel, and a remarkably clear method of thought and expression.

At the age of sixteen, he entered the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, and from the first bent all his energies to the acquirement of his chosen profession.  His quiet, manly deportment soon won for him the esteem of his classmates and instructors, while the estimation in which his soldierly qualities were held, was evinced by his appointments as Captain of the color-company of Cadets.

He was recommended for his gallantry during the Penindar campaign.  A short time before the army left Harrison’s Landing, Capt. Cushing resigned his staff appointment to take command of a battery, several officers of which had been disabled by sickness.  He remained with the battery until after the battle of Antietam, where his services attracted the special notice and commendation of General Sumner and McClellan, who recommended him for another brevet.

About this time, the War Department transferred him to the corps of Topographical Engineers, and his first labor in this new field of duty, was the preparation of the official map of the battle field of Antiemtam. 

In the advance of the army to Fredericksburg, he acted as aid to Gen. Cotreh, and there displayed his usual distinguished gallantry, for which he received the precedence of praise over all others in that General’s official report.

He had always been enthusiastically attached to the artillery service, and was not satisfied with the transfer to a corps, which though nominally a higher branch of the service, did not open to him so wide a filed for active usefulness. He accordingly applied to be restored to his favorite corps, and on the 23 of February, 1863, assumed command of company A, 4th Regiment of U.S. artillery. The men and material of this battery were superb, and he soon brought it to a state of great discipline and efficiency.

The battery took a highly creditable part in the battle of Chancellorsville, protected the re-crossing of our army on its retreat, and was the last to leave the south side of Rappahancock. 

But it is remained for the terrible and unexampled struggle of Gettysburg to call out all the innate heroism of his nature, and stamp him, in the language of the gallant Gen. Hancock, “the bravest man I ever saw.”

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Donna Marie Miller is an artist, writer, singer/songwriter, small press publisher and teacher. She has also done much freelance graphic design work, and has been a graphic artist for the local newspaper and museum. She has shown in museum and art gallery exhibits in several regions, including Columbia Museum of Art, the Walker Art Center, and Erie Art Museum. Ms. Miller has taught classes in creativity, Benedictine spirituality, Native American Spirituality, oil and acrylic painting, drawing, hand made book art, Victorian art and creativity theory and writing. She has recently taught both children and adults for Chautauqua Institution Special Studies, Erie Art Museum, Barker Historical Museum and SUNY Research Foundation Upward Bound Summer Programs. She also substitute teaches for a number of local public schools. She has made local historical discoveries in the areas of: the history of the science of light; the Native settlements in the town of Pomfret, New York; and the early history of and exploits of Alonzo and William Cushing, Civil War heroes. She has created exhibits and lectured on Victorian Art and Textiles as well as more than 20 historical exhibits and programs for the Barker History Museum in Fredonia, New York. Her most recent programs, The History of the Science of Light, and Victorian Manners Seminar, were produced December 2009 and January 2010 through the civic and cultural projects committee for Swan Press & Studio.