March 25 is National Medal of Honor Day. Here at Civil War Tails, we currently have 11 recipients either portrayed or mentioned on our dioramas. In today’s Mewsing, we are highlighting those recipients who were involved in repulsing Pickett’s Charge at Gettysburg on July 3, 1863. (Italicized quotes are from each man’s Medal of Honor citation, which can be found on the Medal of Honor Society’s website or on Wikipedia.)
Lt. Alonzo Cushing, Battery A, 4th U.S. Artillery, Pickett’s Charge, Gettysburg, Pa., 3 July 1863 – “First Lieutenant Alonzo H. Cushing distinguished himself by acts of bravery above and beyond the call of duty… [During the cannonade before Pickett’s Charge,] First Lieutenant Cushing directed fire for his own artillery battery. He refused to leave the battlefield after being struck in the shoulder by a shell fragment. As he continued to direct fire, he was struck again – this time suffering grievous damage to his abdomen. Still refusing to abandon his command, he…continued to direct devastating fire into oncoming forces.… First Lieutenant Cushing’s extraordinary heroism and selflessness above and beyond the call of duty at the cost of his own life are in keeping with the highest traditions of military service and reflect great credit upon himself, Battery A, 4th U.S. Artillery, Army of the Potomac, and the United States Army.”
Sgt. Frederick Füger, Battery A, 4th U.S. Artillery, Pickett’s Charge, Gettysburg, Pa., 3 July 1863 – “…for extraordinary heroism on 3 July 1863, while serving with Battery A, 4th U.S. Artillery, in action at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. All the officers of his battery having been killed or wounded and five of its guns disabled in Pickett’s assault, Sergeant Füger succeeded to the command and fought the remaining gun with most distinguished gallantry until the battery was ordered withdrawn.”
Gen. Alexander Webb, Philadelphia Brigade, Pickett’s Charge, Gettysburg, Pa., 3 July 1863 – Gen. Webb commanded the Philadelphia Brigade at the Angle, where Pickett’s division struck the Union line. After trying to lead the immovable 72nd Pennsylvania forward, Webb joined the 69th Pennsylvania at the stone wall where they were grappling—sometimes literally—with the Confederates. Despite being in the thick of the fighting alongside his men, Webb emerged safely, having only been grazed by a bullet. He received the Medal of Honor for “distinguished personal gallantry in leading his men forward at a critical period in the contest.”
Maj. Edmund Rice, 19th Massachusetts Infantry, Pickett’s Charge, Gettysburg, Pa., 3 July 1863 – The 19th Massachusetts was one of the regiments that piled into the Copse to plug the gap in Webb’s line and help repulse Pickett’s Charge. Maj. Rice received the Medal of Honor for “conspicuous bravery… [in] the countercharge against Pickett’s division where he fell severely wounded…”
Cpl. Henry O’Brien, 1st Minnesota Infantry, Pickett’s Charge, Gettysburg, Pa., 3 July 1863 – “for extraordinary heroism on 3 July 1863…. Taking up the colors where they had fallen, Corporal O’Brien rushed ahead of his regiment, close to the muzzles of the enemy’s guns, and engaged in the desperate struggle in which the enemy was defeated, and though severely wounded, he held the colors until wounded a second time.” Cpl. O’Brien is one of two enlisted men that we at Civil War Tails often credit with starting the Union counterattack in the Angle.