By Ely Schosek
Each month, the Concord Historical Society invites all to come to their series of presentations called “Echoes Through Time” on important local history surrounding the American Civil War. July’s presentation welcomed Todd Langworthy as the special guest speaker. Over the years, Langworthy has taken an interest in the history of a specific family from his hometown of Fredonia, the Cushings.
The Cushing brothers were as follows, oldest to youngest: Milton Jr., Howard, William and Alonzo. All four brothers served in the Civil War, although in different capacities.
Among the brothers, William Cushing is likely the most well-known, which is why Langworthy usually focuses his presentations on William. However, he made an exception this time and wanted to focus on one of the lesser known brothers, Howard.
Growing up, Howard had always taken a keen interest in business. He worked for his hometown newspaper for some time before joining the war, at first doing simple tasks around the office and eventually writing a bit.
Howard volunteered for active duty in Illinois at the start of the war and became a private in an artillery unit.
Each of the brothers suffered from tuberculosis, although the severity varied. Milton Jr. seemed to have the worst symptoms and was even forced to take a “desk-job” during the war because of it. Howard’s symptoms weren’t nearly as severe but they were still noticeable. The disease was somewhat of a “family curse,” said Langworthy.
Despite the disease, boldness and courage ran in the family. This fearlessness can be argued to have led to Howard’s death.
In July of 1863, Howard’s life changed when his youngest brother, Alonzo, was killed at Gettysburg.
“Howard wanted to do something for his brother’s memory,” said Langworthy. He asked for a transfer to his brother’s unit to essentially take his brother’s place.
Howard is said to have enjoyed his time in his brother’s unit and have been well-liked by his men. At one point, one of his officers got himself in trouble. When Howard attempted to help, he got in even more trouble and was sent home. It didn’t last long before he was reinstated and transferred out west to the cavalry where he “made his name.”
Here, they were fighting the Native Americans to gain land for the white settlers on behalf of the U.S. government. Howard took the job extremely serious and treated the natives with much brutality. He and his men were mainly fighting the Apache Indians.
In 1871, Howard was leading a small group of men when a few noticed an Apache woman in the distance and decided to follow her lest she “get away”. A few of the men had even hoped she would lead them to the camp.
But something was off. The woman made no attempt to cover her tracks, which wasn’t normal for an Apache. She was stepping in mud and leaving clear footprints. Once they realized what was happening, it was too late. They were being ambushed. It was almost as if every tree, cactus and rock became an Apache. The men were outnumbered nearly 15 to 1, they had no chance.
Once Howard heard the noise and figured out what was going on, he didn’t hesitate to charge in to save his men, only he was the target. It was less of an ambush and more of an assassination.
The Apache’s had noticed that Howard was almost always the reason they lost their loved ones and did not take kindly to his treatment towards them. A few chiefs wanted revenge for Howard’s blatant disregard for the loss of life he caused, the homes he devastated and the crops he destroyed.
All four Cushing brothers had a strong “sense of duty” likely resulting from the fact that they came from a military family. Their grandfather had served in the War of 1812 and they were even related to former President John Adams as closely as three generations back.
Howard was buried at a fort cemetery in Arizona but when the fort closed a local group advocated for moving the men to different cemeteries. Thus, Howard and a few other soldiers were moved to Presidio, a fort in San Francisco, Cali.
The fort was started by the Mexicans before California was a part of the United States and was taken by the U.S. during the Mexican War. Made an official fort in 1850, it was closed in 1989. The National Parks Service took control of the fort and so it remains today.
Presidio is considered to be a sort of “Arlington of the west coast.”
Although Howard may not be the most influential or well-known Cushing brother, he cannot be ignored. His sense of duty and bravery can be seen in his every action throughout his life.