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Power of the Pen

“He died at a particularly momentous event in a very momentous battle, the largest land engagement of the war, and he died in one of the most critical, if not the most critical spot on the field,” said Kent Masterson Brown, a Civil War historian, in an interview with the New York Times.

“He” refers to Lt. Alonzo Hereford Cushing, the subject of a biography Kent authored in 1993 that was used as the basis for Lt. Alonzo Hereford Cushing, who died at Gettysburg, receiving a Congressional Medal of Honor from President Barack Obama on Nov. 6, 2014.

Kent, a 1974 graduate of the Washington and Lee School of Law, became enthralled with Cushing’s story as a young boy when his family visited Gettysburg in 1964. His book, “Cushing of Gettysburg: The Story of a Union Artillery Commander” (University Press of Kentucky) was many years in the making.

“It took me 29 years to collect the information and write the story of Cushing’s life,” said Kent. “In 1977, I found all of Cushing’s letters to his mother and brother, William, stuffed in an envelope at the bottom of an old trunk in the attic of the Chautauqua County Historical Society in Westfield, New York. The Society had no idea they existed. There were 24 letters written by him that dated from his 2nd class year at West Point until one month before he was killed. That made a full biography of him possible. I have lived with “Lon,” as his friends called him, most of my life; I was 15 years old when I became interested in him while viewing the Cyclorama at Gettysburg. He was extraordinarily brave and absolutely revered by those who knew and fought alongside him.”

As the story about the Cushing’s posthumous award broke, numerous news outlets across the country and in Europe, including NPR and the New York Times, interviewed Kent. A feature program was made about him for “America Tonight” on Al Jazeera America television.

Kent, who is in private law practice in Lexington, Kentucky, will deliver the keynote speech on Lt. Cushing at the 151st Anniversary of the Gettysburg Address in the Gettysburg National Cemetery on Nov. 19, and it will be covered by C-SPAN.

Kent is the founder and former editor in chief of The Civil War: The Magazine of the Civil War Society and has won numerous awards for his books, which include “Retreat From Gettysburg: Lee, Logistics and the Pennsylvania Campaign” and “The Civil War in Kentucky: Battle for the Bluegrass State.” In addition, he has hosted and produced nine award-winning documentary films for public and cable television on various aspects of American history. In October, he was named a 2014 Distinguished Graduate of Centre College of Kentucky for his efforts challenging government authority as a practicing lawyer, as well as for his Civil War scholarship.

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