US & Canada

President Obama grants Medal of Honor to Civil War hero

US Army First Lieutenant Alonzo Cushing in a photograph dated 1861 Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Cushing fought for the Union army

The US has bestowed its highest military honour on a soldier killed in the Civil War Battle of Gettysburg.

First Lt Alonzo Cushing fought for the Union Army in the 1863 battle, often viewed as a turning point in the war.

US President Barack Obama presented the award to members of Cushing's extended family at the White House.

Recommendations for the honour must usually be made within two years of the heroic act, but an exemption for Cushing was granted by Congress.

"Sometimes even the most extraordinary stories can get lost in the passage of time," Mr Obama said during the medal ceremony on Thursday.

"This medal is a reminder that no matter how long it takes, it is never too late to do the right thing."

Born in Wisconsin, Cushing attended the US Military Academy at West Point and later commanded 110 men and six cannons for the Union army during the battle.

His small force was barraged by heavy artillery bombardment and nearly 13,000 advancing enemy soldiers.

Cushing, wounded in the shoulder and stomach, refused to move to the rear and ordered his guns to the front lines of the fight before his death at the age of 22.

Image copyright AP
Image caption Obama handed the medal to Cushing's relative, Helen Loring Ensign

Since the 1980s, the soldier's descendants have pushed for him to receive the Medal of Honor - created during the Civil War in which Cushing fought.

The award is granted to service members who risk their lives in acts of personal bravery.

Cushing and two of his brothers, Naval Cmdr William Cushing and Army First Lt Howard Cushing, have a monument to their service in their hometown of Delafield, Wisconsin.

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