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Alonzo Cushing To Receive Medal Of Honor After 150 Years

Cushing, a Union Army officer, died in 1863 after holding off a group of advancing Southern soldiers during the last day of the Battle of Gettysburg.
Posted at 9:24 PM, Aug 27, 2014

It's taken more than 150 years, but President Obama is set to award a Union Army commander from the Civil War with the Congressional Medal of Honor after the longest wait in the award's history.

ABC: "Lieutenant Alonzo Cushing was killed while helping fight off Pickett's Charge on the final day of the Battle of Gettysburg." 

In July of 1863, Cushing — only 22 at the time— manned the only working gun in his battery and held off rebel forces from 100 yards away until he was shot and killed. (Video via History Channel)

A White House statement described his heroics: "During the advance, he was wounded in the stomach as well as in the right shoulder," but he refused "to evacuate to the rear despite his severe wounds. ... His actions made it possible for the Union Army to successfully repulse the Confederate assault."

Although his actions on the battlefield can't be overstated, the process of having Cushing recognized with nation's highest military honor is also noteworthy.

"Under federal law, an act of Congress is required if the medal of honor is to be awarded more than three years after the incident took place. ... The campaign to award the medal to Cushing started more than a quarter-century ago. It was initiated by a now 94-year-old granddaughter of another Union soldier." 

That woman is 94-year-old historian Margaret Zerwekh from Cushing's home town of Delafield, Wisconsin. Here she is speaking to NPR in 2010

"​I went to the mayor and I said: 'Hey, Alonzo belongs to us. Let's get him a Medal of Honor.'" That was back in 1987. ​

Zerwekh and others who supported her campaign actually got the word Cushing would be honored in 2010. She told The New York Times, "I jumped up and down."

Cushing isn't the only military person whose Medal of Honor nomination has been stalled by years, thanks to a huge time gap and a lengthy nomination process.

The Washington Post wrote earlier this year, "Pentagon officials said it can be difficult to gather the 'incontestable proof' needed for the Medal of Honor."

But an archivist from the Congressional Medal Society told USA Today Cushing benefited from being written about around the time of his death. "It was something people saw and wrote about and remembered later in life."

Cushing will be awarded the medal on Sept. 15 alongside Vietnam veterans Command Sergeant Major Bennie G. Adkins and Army Specialist Four Donald P. Sloat. 

This video includes an image from Getty Images.