By Capt. Charles B Cooper
USS Gettysburg (CG 64) Commanding Officer
Seven score and eleven years ago today, President Abraham Lincoln delivered his historic Gettysburg Address at the site of one of the bloodiest battles in American history – and the acknowledged turning point in the American Civil War. The battle, itself, occurred four months prior to Lincoln’s now famous remarks, pitting Union Major General George Meade’s Army of the Potomac against Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia in a three day slugfest that witnesses almost 8,000 dead and another nearly 27,000 wounded.
Since the battle, many Soldiers have been recognized for their bravery and self-sacrifice on the field at Gettysburg. For some, unfortunately, this recognition was long delayed. 1st Lieutenant Alonzo Cushing of Battery A, 4th U.S. Artillery, waited 151 long years for his well-deserved recognition. Believing it never too late to honor a hero, President Barack Obama awarded the Medal of Honor to Cushing in a White House ceremony earlier this month.
And so today, on the 151st anniversary of the Gettysburg Address, the officers and crew of USS Gettysburg (CG 64) are honoring Cushing in our own way. In a special ceremony presided over by Rear Admiral Bruce Lindsey, Commander, Carrier Strike Group 10, our wardroom is being dedicated as the “Cushing Wardroom” in his memory.
Cushing is the 64th Medal of Honor recipient from the Battle of Gettysburg. To borrow President Lincoln’s words from his address… “It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this” … as it is only appropriate to honor the 64th Medal of Honor recipient … right here CG 64!
As history tells us, Cushing’s story is remarkable. He and his artillery battery held a position atop Cemetery Ridge during Pickett’s Charge — the Confederacy’s “High Water Mark.” Cushing, facing down over 10,000 charging Confederate Soldiers, held his position, and continuing to direct his battery’s cannon fire despite being wounded twice and urged to go to the rear by his 1st Sergeant, Frederick Fuger. Eventually wounded a third and final time, Cushing fell that day, but his extraordinary heroism and leadership undoubtedly played a significant role in turning back the Confederate onslaught on Cemetery Ridge, ultimately leading to a victory by the Union Army.
Here in USS Gettysburg, we have many historical reminders of the courage, dedication, and sense of purpose displayed by those who fought at our namesake battle. Our ship’s motto, “Deeds, not words” is emblematic of the heroic deeds performed by 1st Lieutenant Cushing and those like him. The dedication of our wardroom to this extraordinary American hero is another reminder to our officers and crew – and our Navy — of the lasting legacy and tradition that connects us to the excellence and heroism of those who have gone before us.