The Onondaga County Connection to Civil War Hero Alonzo H. Cushing

pettitSome of OHA’s staff members heard a story on NPR this morning about Army 1st Lt. Alonzo H. Cushing (4th U.S. Light Artillery Battery A / “Cushing’s Battery”), who will receive a long overdue accolade, the Medal of Honor, from President Obama on November 6th. What OHA quickly connected was that a group of Onondaga County men, who comprised the 1st Regiment, Light Artillery, N. Y. S. Volunteers (also known as Petit’s Battery)  fought alongside Cushing’s Battery at the Battle of Gettysburg in July of 1863, where Cushing would lose his life.

More on Petit: In 1835 at the age of eight a bright young boy by the name of Rufus Petit (photographed left) came to live with his aunt and uncle at a farm near Baldwinsville, having lost his parents several years before. It is here that he was raised and worked his family farm until the age of 18 when he became an apprentice to architect Elijah Hayden of Syracuse who was also an ardent abolitionist.

In 1846, when Pettit was 22, the United States went to war with Mexico. Serving in Company A of the 1st New York Volunteers he quickly found he had a great talent for soldiering. He fought in a total of 8 battles including those at Vera Cruz, Cerro Gordo and Mexico City where it is said his marksmanship was so great “It knocked a Mexican Flag from its pole”.  After the war Rufus was presented with a silver medal from the city of New York for his gallant service. Although never wounded he did contract a condition of “Chronic Diarrhea”, most likely the cause of a malaric disease that plagued armies at the time, and would trouble him for the rest of his life.

For the next 13 years he would reside at his family farm in Cold Springs near Baldwinsville. Then the Civil War broke out and he decided to sign up once again for the army. Combined with his experience in the Mexican War and the credibility it lent, he recruited a unit from among his friends and neighbors of Baldwinsville, originally named the Cold Springs Rifles before being moved into the artillery to become Company B of the 1st New York Light Artillery in the fall of 1861. Upon its arrival in Washington, Company B was the first to be fully mounted, and remained in camp in the vicinity of Washington until the spring of 1862.