Obama to award Medal of Honor to Civil War soldier

President Barack Obama takes a Medal of Honor from his military aide before awarding it. Chip Somodevilla, Getty Images

President Obama will award three Medals of Honor next month, including one to a soldier who commanded troops during the Battle of Gettysburg during the Civil War.

The soldier, First Lieutenant Alonzo Cushing, is being awarded the medal posthumously for his actions while serving as commanding officer of Battery A, 4th United States Artillery, Artillery Brigade, 2nd Corps, Army of the Potomac. He fought in the vicinity of Cemetery Ridge during Longstreet's Assault, also known as Pickett's Charge.

During the third day of the battle, on July 3, 1863, while his battery sustained heavy fire from Confederate artillery, Cushing manned the only remaining and serviceable field piece in his battery. Despite being wounded in the stomach and his right shoulder, he refused to evacuate to the rear and continued to fire on the enemy. He was killed by rebel infantry just 100 yards away, but made it possible for the Union Army to hold off the Confederate assault, according to the White House.

Cushing is buried at his alma mater, West Point.

Mr. Obama will also award the medal to Army Command Sergeant Major Bennie Adkins, who served as an intelligence sergeant assigned to Detachment A-102, 5th Special Forces Group, 1st Special Forces, and to Army Specialist Four Donald Sloat, Machine gunner with Company D, 2nd Battalion, 1st Infantry Regiment, 196th Light Infantry Brigade, Americal Division. Sloat was killed in battle.

Adkins, who joined the army in 1956 at the age of 22, was deployed three times to Vietnam. During his second tour, he distinguished himself during combat operations at Camp A Shau in Vietnam between March 9 and 12, 1966. He and his wife, Mary Adkins, reside in Opelika, Alabama and will attend the ceremony.

Sloat was killed in action at age 20 while conducting a patrol in Vietnam. On Jan. 17, 1969, a soldier triggered a hand grenade trap placed in his squad's path. He picked up the grenade to throw it away, but realizing the detonation was imminent, he shielded the blast with his own body and is credited saving the lives of three soldiers.

His brother, William Sloat of Enid, Okla., will accept the medal on his behalf.

  • Rebecca Kaplan

    Rebecca Kaplan is a political reporter for CBSNews.com.

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