This past October, I traveled to western New York for a wedding in Fredonia. The small town is located on the shores of Lake Erie and is about an hour or so southwest of Buffalo. A day before the wedding, while enjoying a cup coffee in the hotel restaurant, I formally met the father of the bride, Russ Valvo. It was not long before the conversion turned to Fredonia’s most famous and honored son, Alonzo Cushing. To my great surprise, Russ informed me that we were “not 500 yards” from a Cushing monument in the Pioneer Cemetery.
Although born in Wisconsin, Cushing grew up in Fredonia and nearby Pomfret. The family lived on Green Street and his widowed mother worked as a seamstress and ran a primary school out of their home. “Lon” as he was known to family and friends entered West Point in 1857. He graduated in June 1861, standing twelfth in a class of thirty-four. Cushing received his commission and served in Battery A, 4th U.S. Artillery. He fought at Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville, where he received brevets for captain and major, respectively.
At the Battle of Gettysburg on July 3, 1863, Cushing’s battery was positioned on Cemetery Ridge. During the Confederate artillery bombardment that preceded the Pickett-Pettigrew-Trimble attack, Cushing was wounded in the shoulder and the abdomen, yet he refused to leave his guns and remained on the field. At the climax of the attack, he was shot through the mouth and died.
“More than once I stood where the brave Cushing gave up his life, right at the peak of Pickett’s Charge” remembered Union officer and fellow West Point classmate Morris Schaff. “Oh that day and that hour! History will not let that smiling, splendid boy die in vain; long her dew will glisten over his record as the earthly morning dew glistens in the fields.”
Schaff’s words were prophetic. In 2014, Cushing was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions at Gettysburg. The monument is located in near the southwest corner of the cemetery and fronts East Main Street. Cushing rests today in the West Point cemetery.