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Flint axe with wood handle found at Lolland dig

History Blog - Thu, 2014-11-27 22:40


The tally of marvels unearthed at the Fehmarn Belt Link tunnel construction site on the Danish island of Lolland seems to get longer every weeks. We can now add a flint axe with an intact wooden handle to the flint dagger with the intact bark handle and the 5,000-year-old human footprints around the hazel stick gillnets. The axe is about 5,500 years old, around the same age as the footprints and 2,500 years older than the dagger.

Only eight complete Stone Age axes with the full wooden handle preserved have been found in Denmark before now. All of those were discovered in peat bogs. This is the first example discovered on the site of a former fjord lagoon. Jammed into the dense clay of the seabed, the axe was covered in layers of sand and soil that kept oxygen away and waterlogged the organic material, keeping it moist and intact.

Museum Lolland-Falster archaeologists discovered the axe stuck vertically 30 centimeters (just under a foot) below the sea floor east of the harbour town of Rødbyhavn. It was not the only artifact found jammed into what was then the seashore in a vertical position. There were numerous wooden candlesticks, two oars, two bows, eight spears and 14 axe shafts. There were also deposits of ceramic objects and animals. In one grouping they found 60 jaws from different animals and two axes made from red deer antlers with fragments of the wooden hilts in the shaft holes. This was the only complete axe with both head and hilt in perfect condition.

Axes were important tools for Stone Age people, but particularly so around the time when agriculture was introduced to the region. In order to begin planting things, people had to clear the virgin forests that covered the country. The establishment of stationary agricultural communities engendered new social hierarchies and religious rituals. Wetlands were a consistent locus for cultic practices, and burials and sacrificial offerings testify to how important these liminal grounds between water and land were to the people who lived near them.

The proliferation of vertical objects excavated at Rødbyhavn are a prime example of a coastal area being used for offerings. These objects, all of them with significant practical uses and value, were planted into the clay as part of a ritual sacrifice. Their deliberate placement and the lack of any utilitarian purpose to the Stone Age people burying their stuff and animal bones in the shallows identifies them as religious deposits.

Excavations will continue until next summer when construction on the tunnel begins and these precious sites will be bulldozed away. Archaeologists hope what they find in the upcoming months will lend them greater understanding of Stone Age religious practices.

Categories: Arts and Sciences, History

Segontium Roman Fort rises again through digital technology

SCAtoday.net - Thu, 2014-11-27 14:56

Two thousand years ago, the Segontium Roman Fort dominated the landscape in northern Wales. Now, a computer-generated, 3D model of the fort has been created, allowing visitors to fly through the building of the enormous structure. (photo and video)

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Categories: SCA news sites

Notice from SCANZ & SCA Ltd regarding Bullying and Harassment Policy feedback

SCAtoday.net - Thu, 2014-11-27 11:04

The members of the SCANZ Committee and SCA, Ltd Board remind citizens of the Kingdom of Lochac that feedback on the kingdom's Bullying & Harassment Policy closes on 1 December, 2014.

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Categories: SCA news sites

Rare Shakespeare first folio found in French library

History Blog - Wed, 2014-11-26 23:53

One of only 233 known copies of the First Folio edition of Shakespeare’s plays has been discovered in the library of Saint-Omer, a small town in northern France 30 miles south of Calais. Rémy Cordonnier, director of the medieval and early modern collection, found it this September when looking through the library’s stack for materials that would suit an upcoming English literature exhibition. Missing its telltale title page, the volume was wrongly classified as an 18th century edition, but Cordonnier suspected the missing pages might be making a secret identity as one of the rarest and most sought-after books in the world.

He contacted Eric Rasmussen from the University of Nevada, an expert on Shakespeare’s First Folio who spent 20 years cataloguing all known copies and who happened to be visiting the British Library. Last Saturday he took the Eurostar train to France too see the work in person. He authenticated it almost at first glance. The paper, its watermarks and certain errors that were corrected in later editions immediately identified it as the 233rd First Folio, the first new one discovered in a decade. Printed in 1623, just seven years after Shakespeare’s death, by his friends and fellow actors John Heminges and Henry Condell, the First Folio contains 36 of Shakespeare’s 38 plays, and is the earliest, most reliable extant source for half of them.

There are differences between this copy and the 232 other ones known to survive. The printers made corrections and alterations throughout the original print run of around 800, so each First Folio is a unique work. In addition to the printing differences, the Saint-Omer copy is also missing the entire text of Two Gentlemen of Verona; the pages were deliberately torn out. There are also annotations that suggest the volume was used for performances. Some of the words are replaced with more modern language, and a character in Henry IV is changed from “hostess” to “host” and from “wench” to “fellow” with utter disregard for iambic pentameter.

The library has had the book in its stacks for 400 years, thanks to its arrangement with the now-defunct college of Jesuits in Saint-Omer which used the city library’s Heritage Room as its own library. Saint-Omer is a small town now, but in the Middle Ages it was an important city with the fourth greatest library in Western Europe. The Jesuit college was founded in the late 16th century when Catholics were forbidden by law to attend college in English. They could just cross the Channel and get an education in France instead, and Saint-Omer was well attended by English Catholics.

One particularly intriguing note is the name “Nevill” written on the first page of The Tempest (also the first page of the book entire since the title pages are gone). It could be the explanation of how the folio got to Saint-Omer since there is only one other known copy in the whole country. Neville was a name adopted by several members of the Scarisbrick family, a prominent Catholic family of landed gentry with a pedigree stretching back to the 1200s. Edward Scarisbrick (Neville), born in 1639, was educated at the Jesuit college of St. Omer, and, following in the footsteps of others in his family, became a Jesuit in 1660.

There’s some speculation that the find may be relevant to the question of whether William Shakespeare was a secret Catholic, but I don’t see how. Shakespeare was dead and gone when this book got to Saint-Omer. It could be relevant to how Catholics read and performed his plays in the 17th century; I doubt it goes beyond that.

First Folios are of course very valuable. One sold at Sotheby’s in 2006 for $5.2 million, but this copy would not be so expensive because of its missing pages. It doesn’t matter anyway, because there is no way the library is selling it. As Rémy Cordonnier notes succinctly: “It is an inalienable property that cannot be sold, like all the works of the library.”

It will be conserved for a while and then put on display some time next year. There are also tentative plans to scan it and make it available on the library’s website.

Categories: Arts and Sciences, History

Pollings Close Tonight

East Kingdom Gazette - Wed, 2014-11-26 14:51

Reminder: The second pollings of Their Royal Majesties Edward and Thyra close tonight, November 26, at 11:59pm EST. This is 12:59am Atlantic Standard and 1:29am Newfoundland Standard for folks in the eastmost parts of Tir Mara.


Filed under: Uncategorized

Unofficial Court Report for 100 Minutes War

East Kingdom Gazette - Wed, 2014-11-26 13:10

The Court of our most excellent prince and lord, Edward, by right of arms most illustrious King of the East, third of that name, and Thyra, his Queen, second of that name, held in the Shire of Rusted Woodlands upon 22 November in the forty-ninth year of the Society; on which day were called all and sundry the lords of the realm and the great persons of the kingdom to hear the following publicly proclaimed:

Item. Their Majesties summoned Gellyes Joffrey before the assembled populace and thereupon inducted him into the Order of the Tygers Combattant.

Item. The Order of the Tygers Combattant being as of yet incomplete, Their Majesties summoned Caius Pontus of La Familia Gladiatoria before the assemblage and did thereupon induct him into the Order aforesaid, the which deed was memorialized in a Roman scroll created by Luke Knowlton and Eva Woderose.

Item. Their Majesties gave thanks and greetings to those attending the event from foreign lands, including visitors of rank from the Middle Kingdom, Aethelmearc and the Kingdom of Acre.

Item. Their Majesties presented a document authored by Bjorvig Huldarson and calligraphed and illuminated by Nemania filia Huweli to Ioannes Serpentius in commemoration of his victory in the 100 Minutes War.

Item. Their Majesties presented a document authored by Bjorvig Huldarson and calligraphed and illuminated by Nemania filia Huweli to Arn Ulrichson in commemoration of his leadership of the second place team in the 100 Minutes War.

Item. Their Majesties commanded the presence of Melora of Settmour Swamp before the Tyger Thrones, and thereupon inducted the said Melora into the Order of the Tyger’s Cub, the which deed was confirmed in a document calligraphed by Jan Janovich Bogdanski and illuminated by Asisa al-Shirazi.

Item. Their Majesties caused Halldora Rolandsdottir to be brought before the Court, whereupon they inducted the said Halldora into the Order of the Tyger’s Cub, the which deed was celebrated with the gift of a painted box created by Emma Makilmone and marked with words and runes created by Eithne from beyond the long meadow and Wulfgar Silverhair.

Item. The Order of the Tyger’s Cub being still incomplete, their Majesties commanded Charles ap Brochfael to appear before them, whereupon they inducted him into the aforesaid Order, the which deed was memorialized with a document authored by Aislinn Chiabach, calligraphed by Colin MacLaran of Greinvall and illuminated by Rennewief van Grunwald.

Item. Their Majesties caused gifts of toys to be distributed to the children of the East.

Item. Their Majesties bestowed gifts of friendship upon Duke Edmund of Hertford and Count Cellach MacCormaic, and praised the artisans who have donated their work for use as Royal gifts.

Item. Their Majesties homolgated the act of their ancestors of blessed memory, Brennan Augustus and Caoilfhionn Augusta, naming Bjorvig Huldarson as Brewer to the Crown.

Item. Their Majesties requested the Court to observe a moment of silence in memorial for the passing of their much beloved subject Breuse de Taraunt.

Item. Their Majesties called into their presence Christolffel d’Allaines-le-Comte, and thereupon caused him to be inducted into the Order of the Silver Rapier, the which deed was confirmed with a document created by Nataliia Anastasiia Evgenova Sviatoslavina vnuchka.

Item. Their Majesties homolgated the act of their cousins of Aethelmearc by elevating Date Rokurou Yoshimitsu to the nobility and awarding him Arms, the which deed was memorialized in a document created by Eleanore Godwin.

Item. Their Majesties commanded the presence of Marna Jagerin before the Tyger Thrones and thereupon caused the said Marna to be awarded Arms, the which deed was memorialized in a document created by Mariette de Bretagne.

Item. Their Majesties invited into their presence newcomers to the Society and gave them tokens of welcome in memory of the day.

Item. Their Majesties summoned before them Conor Ó Ceallaigh, and, praising the said Conor’s work in glass, did then induct him into the Order of the Maunche, the which deed was confirmed with a document created by Lada Monguligin.

Item. Their Majesties gave public thanks to Martyn de Haliwell, the King’s Bard, for his singing during Court.

I, Alys Mackyntoich, Eastern Crown Herald, wrote this to memorialize and make certain all such things that were done and caused to be done as above stated.

Witnesseth:
Master Ryan Mac Whyte
Baroness Alesone Gray of Cranlegh
Lord Yehuda ben Moshe
Lady Anastasia da Monte

Event photos courtesy of Vettorio Antonello and Brochfael the Anglespurian.
Filed under: Court Tagged: 100 Minutes War, Maunche, OTC, Rusted Woodlands, Silver Rapier, tyger's cub

Lilies 2016 Survey

SCAtoday.net - Wed, 2014-11-26 12:39

Eowyth þa Siðend reports that His Grace Joe Angus has posted the following on the Calontir Website, with regards to gathering information for Lilies 2016. Please take a moment to answer the TWO questions being posed.

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Categories: SCA news sites

Known World Dance Symposium 2015 - reserve your beds now

SCAtoday.net - Wed, 2014-11-26 07:50

Margaret de May, co-event Steward for the Known World Dance Symposium (KWDS), reports that bed reservations for the event are limited and filling up fast.

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Categories: SCA news sites

Hoard of Roman silver found in The Hague

History Blog - Tue, 2014-11-25 23:12

Archaeologists excavating the future site of the Rotterdamsebaan access road in The Hague announced on Friday that they’ve unearthed a Roman-era pot containing a hoard of coins and jewelry. The contents of the pot were discovered fused together in a large lump of metal. Conservators were able to separate the individual parts of the mass and discovered 107 silver coins, six silver bracelets, a large silver plated fibula (cloak brooch) and some glass beads that were probably on a chain that has now disintegrated. The silver bracelets look the same, but there are small differences between them that indicate they are three matched pairs.

Restorer Johan van der Helm did such a fine job detangling the rusted lump and cleaning the coins that in the end all 107 coins were readable. They are all silver denarii, a very valuable collection at a time when brass coins were far more common in circulation. The oldest coin dates to the reign of the emperor Nero (54-68 A.D.), the youngest to the reign of Marcus Aurelius about a century later (161-180 A.D.). One extremely rare coin was struck under the reign of Emperor Otho who only ruled three months, from January 15th to April 16th 69 A.D., the second in the turbulent Year of the Four Emperors which came to a close with the ascent of Vespasian.

This find doubles the number of Roman coins discovered in The Hague, which in the 2nd century was sparsely populated countryside in Rome’s Germania Inferior province. The area that is now The Hague was just south of the estuary of the Rhine, the empire’s western frontier, so there were fortifications here and there but the regional capital was the nearby town of Forum Hadriani, modern day Voorburg, which was the northernmost Roman city in continental Europe. It was abandoned in the wake of Saxon raids in around 270 A.D.

Earlier this fall, the Rotterdamsebaan excavations uncovered the remains of two Roman houses and several wells close to where the coins were unearthed. It seems to have been a small farming community. Since the hoard was buried all at once rather than deposited over time as savings, it was either an offering to the gods or the earthly goods of an area resident seeking to protect them from marauders.

The hoard is now on display at the Historical Museum of The Hague.

Categories: Arts and Sciences, History

A Message from the Prince

East Kingdom Gazette - Tue, 2014-11-25 15:48

His Highness, Crown Prince Darius, called Omega has asked the Gazette to share the following with the populace.

For my failings in Crown I apologize to my wife, the King and Queen, to Duchess Avelina, to Duke Kenric, to the Order of The Chivalry and to the Kingdom.

I am now Prince. I will use my time as Prince and later as King to serve this Kingdom and show each of you that the tournament is only a small part of this reign. I will respect the guidance of the Peers. I will treat each person with the honor and dignity that everyone in this Kingdom is entitled.

I ask now that we move forward as a Kingdom and work toward making our hobby fun, exciting and honorable for everyone. For my part, I again apologize and pledge to serve this Kingdom to the best of my ability. I would also like to add that this is the last Crown tourney I will fight in.

 


Filed under: Tidings

Stefan's Florilegium updates for November 2014

SCAtoday.net - Tue, 2014-11-25 12:14

THLord Stefan li Rous reports that he has published updates for Stefan's Florilegium for November 2014.

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Categories: SCA news sites

New Event Concept Allows Easterners to Explore Research in a Novel Way

SCAtoday.net - Tue, 2014-11-25 07:33

On Saturday October 25, in Carolingia, over 70 Easterners participated in a new way to hold an event.

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Categories: SCA news sites

Norfolk museum acquires Bronze Age dirk used as doorstop

History Blog - Mon, 2014-11-24 23:52

When a farmer turned up a hunk of bent bronze while ploughing a field in East Rudham, Norfolk, 12 years ago, he had no idea he’d found an archaeological treasure. He used the four-pound object as a doorstop for years and was considering throwing it out when a friend suggested he have it checked out by an archaeologist first. In 2013, the object was reviewed by Andrew Rogerson, Senior Historic Environment Officer of Norfolk’s Identification and Recording Service which is in charge of county’s Portable Antiquities Scheme. He identified it as an extremely rare and important ceremonial dirk from the Middle Bronze Age, around 1,500 B.C.

The landowner agreed to sell it to the Norwich Castle Museum and Art Gallery for £40,970 ($64,272). Thanks to a £38,970 grant from the National Heritage Memorial Fund and a £2,000 donation from the Norfolk and Norwich Archaeological Society, the Norwich Castle Museum is now the proud owner of a 3,500-year-old bronze ceremonial dirk.


Images of Rudham Dirk courtesy of the Norwich Castle Museum and Art Gallery.

Its large size, deliberately blunt edges and the lack of rivet holes where a handle would be attached are what mark it as having no practical use. Dirks meant for actual stabbing are sharp, pointed and can be wielded easily with one hand. This piece was designed for a ritual purpose, which is why it was found folded. Bending a metal object as a symbolic act of destruction before burial was a common practice in the Bronze Age and later.

Early Bronze Age metal work was done on a small scale for local usage, much like flint knapping or the production of pottery. The Middle Bronze Age saw the development of more specialized metallurgy. Metalworking became the province of increasingly skilled artisans who would have needed workshops and apprentices and imported raw materials to create more elaborate objects. The ceremonial dirks were prestige pieces, the work of the best artisans money could buy. Owning such a heavy, large metal object intended for no practical use was a symbol of power both temporal and, given their ritual purpose, spiritual.

Bronze is composed of 90% copper and 10% tin, and it’s that 10% that was hard to come by in quantities sufficient to make a giant four-pound unusable dagger. In Bronze Age Europe, sources of tin were few and far between. There were in tin mines in the Ore Mountains on the border between Germany and the Czech Republic, on the northwest coast of the Iberian Peninsula, in Brittany in France and in Devon and Cornwall in England. The tin for the Rudham Dirk could have come from the English mines, but the artifact could have been fabricated on the continent.

Only five other ceremonial dirks of this type have been found. Two were discovered in France — the Plougrescant Dirk (1,500–1,300 B.C.), now at the Musée d’Archéologie Nationale in Saint-Germain-en-Laye, and the Beaune Dirk (1,500–1,350 B.C.), now at the British Museum — two in the Netherlands — the co-type find the Ommerschans Dirk (1,500 – 1,100 B.C.) which at last tally was in Bavaria, still in the possession of the family who owned the estate where it was discovered, and the Jutphaas Dirk (1,800-1,500 B.C.), now in the National Museum of Antiquities in Leiden — and one in Oxborough, Norfolk (1,450-1,300 B.C.), which is also in the British Museum.

Their dimensions and details are so similar that all dirks likely came from the same workshop, perhaps even the same hand. They are virtually identical in form, decoration and cross-section. The Beaune and Ommerschans examples are the same length (68 centimeters or just short of 27 inches) as the Rudham Dirk. The Oxborough Dirk is slightly longer at 70 centimeters, while the Jutphaas Dirk is 20 centimeters shorter. If one shop is responsible for all of them, it had an impressive reach through ancient trade networks.

The Norwich Castle Museum’s acquisition of the Rudham Dirk is momentous not just because of the artifact’s immense rarity and archaeological significance. It’s also a homecoming that was denied them the first time a ceremonial dirk was unearthed in the county. The Oxborough Dirk was found in 1988. It was thrust into the peat vertically and erosion had exposed the hilt leaving the finder to literally stumble over it.

The artifact was exhibited at the Norwich Castle Museum in 1989 and the British Museum in 1990 before the owner decided to sell it at a Christie’s auction on July 6th, 1994. It was purchased by high society antiques dealer and notorious loot fencer Robin Symes for £51,000 ($79,076), five times the pre-sale estimate. An export block stopped it from leaving the country and gave the British Museum the time to fundraise so they could buy the dirk from Symes for the price he paid. Thanks to a £20,000 Art Fund grant, the museum was able to acquire the Oxborough Dirk later that year.

So it was saved for the nation, but not so much for Norfolk. The dirk visited its home county three times, twice in exhibits at the Norwich Castle Museum, last winter at the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts in Norwich. This time around, Norfolk’s principal museum gets to keep the rare Middle Bronze Age ceremonial dirk in the county where it was discovered, the only county in the world where two of them have been found.

Dr Tim Pestell, Senior Curator of Archaeology at Norwich Castle said: “We are delighted to have secured such an important and rare find as this, which provides us with insights into the beliefs and contacts of people at the dawn of metalworking. Through its display we hope to bring residents and visitors to Norfolk closer to the remarkable archaeology of our region and stories of our ancient past.”

Categories: Arts and Sciences, History

Job Opening: Northern Region Rapier Marshal

East Kingdom Gazette - Mon, 2014-11-24 16:45

The East Kingdom’s Marshal of Fence wishes to share the following:

Unto the Kingdom of the East do I, Don Frasier MacLeod send greetings -

I am officially calling for resumes to fill the Northern Regional Rapier Marshal position.  If there is anyone interested in taking on this challenge, please forward your SCA resume to me via the Kingdom Rapier Marshal’s e-mail.  I will be accepting resumes for this position through December 15th, at which time I will close the window and review the resumes I have received.  Also, if you are interested and have questions, please feel free to contact me at the same e-mail and I will be happy to answer whatever questions you may have.

In Service,
Don Frasier MacLeod, KRM, East


Filed under: Fencing Tagged: rapier

The Crusader Bible on display at the Morgan Library

SCAtoday.net - Mon, 2014-11-24 14:07

The Maciejowski Bible, better known as the Crusader Bible, is the star of a new exhibit at the Morgan Library and Museum in New York City. The 13th century manuscript is considered one of the greatest illuminated manuscripts in the world. It will be on display through January 4, 2015.

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Categories: SCA news sites

Kinggiyadai Ba'atur victor in Lochac Spring 2014 Crown Tournament

SCAtoday.net - Mon, 2014-11-24 05:53

Crispin reports that Viscount Sir Kinggiyadai Ba'atur was the victor of the November 1, 2014 Crown Tournament in the Kingdom of Lochac. His Excellency was inspired in His eneavour by Viscountess Altani Khalighu.

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Categories: SCA news sites

Leaning Tower of Bad Frankenhausen saved

History Blog - Sun, 2014-11-23 23:58

The funding cavalry has arrived to save the dangerously leaning tower of the Church of Our Dear Ladies on the Hill in the Thuringian spa town of Bad Frankenhausen. The 14th century bell tower, built on a chalk foundation over subterranean salt deposits that get washed out by the springs that put the Bad in Bad Frankenhausen, has been leaning precipitously since a 1908 landslide. It leans 15 feet eastward of the perpendicular, more than the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

The Protestant Church in Central Germany (EKM), owner of the church for most of its life, tried to stabilize it several times over the years, but to no avail. Finally in December of 2011, the EKM decided to demolish the roofless, structurally unsound church and its leaning tower. The only chance of reprieve was if the city could raise the funds necessary to restore the tower, the EKM would sell the Church of Our Dear Ladies to the city for a token sum of €1 and chip in the money they had planned to spend on demolition (about €150,000).

It was a close call. By a vote of nine votes for, seven against and three abstentions, the Bad Frankenhausen city council agreed to the acquisition of the church. The estimated total cost of restoration was €1 million. Subtracting the demolition funds, that left the city with €850,000 to scare up. They put €50,000 into immediate stabilization work in early 2012, and then went to work trying to secure government funding. Without it, the city would not be able to raise the €800,000 and Bad Frankenhausen’s most recognizable landmark, symbol of the town just as the Leaning Tower is of Pisa, would have to be demolished for safety reasons.

The city applied to the Thuringian Ministry of Construction for state funding, but were rejected. With time running out, Bad Frankenhausen threw a hail mary pass and applied to the National Urban Planning Projects, a new €50 million federal program to support city development projects of “national visibility, high quality, above-average investment volume or high potential for innovation.” The program received 271 applications, 24 from Thuringia alone, for a total of €900 million in requested funding.

A jury of members of parliament, academics and urban planning experts selected 21 applications for project funding. The Bad Frankenhausen tower was one of only two winners from Thuringia. The stabilization of the tower will now be funded to the tune of €950,000. Mayor Matthias Strejc was particularly pleased to note the tower was considered a historic landmark of national importance by the federal government because the state government had sent them yet another rejection letter just a few days before they heard their application had been accepted by the National Urban Planning Projects.

The next step for the tower is research into the movement of the soil underneath it. Three holes will be dug, one 400 meters (437 yards) deep and two 70 meters (77 yards), and sensors inserted into the holes. The sensor readings will be viewable in real time by visitors to the tower’s information pavilion. The data will be submitted in a new report due by December 31st. Structural engineers will use that information to fine tune the stabilization plan which as of now involves building a reinforced concrete core in the basement of the tower and creating a steel corset structure on the outside.

Categories: Arts and Sciences, History

Medieval furniture lecture at Castlerock Museum

SCAtoday.net - Sun, 2014-11-23 16:42

Anplica Fiore reports that the Castlerock Museum in Alma, Wisconsin will host a lecture entitled Medieval Furniture of the Maciejowski Bible on November 30, 2014 at 2pm.

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Categories: SCA news sites

SCA BoD seeking Director nominees

SCAtoday.net - Sun, 2014-11-23 10:12

Lisa Czudnochowsky, Director, SCA Inc. and Ombudsman for Board Recruiting reports that the SCA Board of Directors is seeking nominees.

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Categories: SCA news sites

Medal of Honor awarded to Gettysburg hero 151 years later

History Blog - Sat, 2014-11-22 23:59

Union Lieutenant Alonzo Hersford Cushing died at Gettysburg on July 3rd, 1863. On November 6th, 2014, he was awarded the Medal of Honor, the highest military decoration in the country, for his heroism on that field of battle that day. It has taken 151 years and a campaign of more than three decades for Cushing to get this richly deserved recognition. It’s the longest gap between the act of valor and the awarding of a Medal of Honor in history.

Alonzo Cushing was born in Delafield, Wisconsin, on January 19th, 1841. He was one of four brothers and his widowed mother struggled to make ends meet. The congressman who recommended Alonzo to West Point described her as “poor but highly committed and her son will do honor to the position.” He was appointed to West Point in 1857 and graduated in June 1861, two months after hostilities began at Fort Sumter, with a commission as first lieutenant in the U.S. Army. He was in the thick of all the most famous battles: Bull Run, Antietam, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, and of course, the one that would claim his life, Gettysburg. At Chancellorsville Cushing was promoted to commander of Battery A, 4th U.S. Artillery of the Army of the Potomac II Corps.

He was in command of 126 men and six cannons on July 3rd, 1863, the third day of the Battle of Gettysburg. They were positioned inside a bend in the rock wall, known as the Bloody Angle, on Cemetery Ridge that was the center of the line General Robert E. Lee hoped to break through with a massive 13,000-person infantry attack known as Pickett’s Charge. After being pounded by Confederate artillery, Battery A was all but destroyed. All the officers and most of the soldiers were dead. Only two cannons were still functional.

Cushing himself had been grievously wounded during the artillery assault. A shell fragment hit him in the shoulder and shrapnel gutted him, tearing through his groin and abdomen. He refused categorically to move to the rear, saying he would “stay right here and fight it out or die in the attempt.” Instead, literally holding his intestines in one hand, Cushing ordered that the two remaining cannons be moved right up to the stone wall to shoot at the three Confederate divisions of infantry advancing in rows a mile wide towards the Angle.

Weak and unable to shout, Cushing was bodily supported by 1st Sergeant Frederick Füger who relayed his orders to his men. He observed the charge through a field glass, and ordered his men to fire double-shotted canister, deadly anti-personnel rounds. He used his own thumb to stop the cannon’s vent, burning his fingers to the bone. With the Confederate infantry less than 100 yards away, he yelled “I will give them one more shot.” A few seconds later a bullet hit Cushing in the mouth, exiting out the back of his skull and killing him. He was 22 years old.

Cushing had stood his ground for more than an hour and a half after his wounding, inflicting heavy casualties and opening gaps in the Confederate lines that played an important role in the Union’s repelling Pickett’s Charge. He was given a posthumous brevet promotion to lieutenant colonel for his service at the Battle of Gettysburg, but no medal. He was buried at West Point, a very high military honor, under a headstone inscribed “Faithful unto death.”

The story of Alonzo Cushing wasn’t widely known, but he was still beloved in his hometown of Delafield, Wisconsin. That’s where Margaret Zerwekh heard about it when she married her second husband and moved into his Delafield house that had once belonged to the Cushing family. An amateur historian, she researched Alonzo’s story and sometime in the 1980s (she doesn’t remember the exact date), wrote a letter to then-Sen. William Proxmire of Wisconsin recommending Cushing for a Medal of Honor. It would be the first of many, many letters sent to many, many members of Congress.

The procedure for awarding a Medal of Honor more than three years after the events being recognized are complex. First the branch of the military in which the would-be recipient served has to approve the nomination. In Cushing’s case, the U.S. Army approved his nomination in 2010. Then legislation had to be passed by both Houses of Congress to waive the three-year time limit. That took three years. Then the President has to approve the nomination. This August, the White House announced that Alonzo Cushing would be awarded the Medal of Honor.

The deed was done at a ceremony in the Roosevelt Room of the White House attended by more than two dozen Cushing family members and Margaret Zerwekh. Alonzo’s next of kin, cousin twice removed Helen Loring Ensign, accepted the medal on his behalf.

Categories: Arts and Sciences, History