There are not a great many photos of Will Cushing, and nearly all of the ones we have are from various sessions Will spent at Mathew Brady‘s studios. One exception is the group portrait of Admiral Porter and his captains, taken in December 1864, in which Will is included. That photo appears on this site.
Now comes another photo from that session. It has been in the hands of private collectors, most recently a Maryland man named Peter Tuite, who has donated the photo, along with a ceremonial sword presented to Cushing by his fellow officers, to the US Naval Academy Museum.
The director of the museum, Claude Berube, and the chief curator, James Cheevers, allowed me to publish the photo in the April issue of Smithsonian.
I love the picture. Here Will is lounging on deck of the USS Malvern–the ships he captains–, in a posture totally inappropriate for a senior officer, but that is so perfect for a too cool for school 22 year-old who has just become a national hero and whose face is on the cover of Harper’s Weekly. The next best thing is in the lower right hand corner, where Admiral Porter, arms on hips, fumes at his young hero. It’s hilarious.
Two Republican congressmen from Wisconsin, Will Cushing‘s birth state, have petitioned Navy Secretary Ray Mabus to name a new ship after Commander Cushing.
As Rep. James Sensenbrenner and Rep. Ron Kind have pointed out, the Navy has seldom been without a ship named after one of its greatest heroes. The first was commissioned in 1890, sixteen years after Cushing’s death; the ship was the Navy’s first torpedo boat USS Cushing TB-1) , an appropriate choice given that Cushing sank the confederate ram Albemarle with a primitive torpedo. The most recent vessel to bear his name was the destroyer USS Cushing (DD-985), which was decommissioned in 2005.
Congressmen Sensenbrenner and Kind have recommended that one of the new Littoral Combat Ships be designated. An LCS is a small surface vessel intended for naval operations that take place close to shore. It was “envisioned to be a networked, agile, stealthy surface combatant capable of defeating anti-access and asymmetric threats in the littorals.” The ships have been likened to corvettes of other navies. It combines the capabilities of a small assault transport with a flight deck large enough for two Seahawk helicopters, and enough cargo volume and payload to deliver a small assault force with fighting vehicles. Given that Cushing spent much of the Civil War fighting in littoral North Carolina, an LCS seems like a perfect choice.
Congressmen Sensenbrenner and Kind helped lead the effort last year to get a long overdue Medal of Honor for Alonzo Cushing. To support this proposal, write to The Hon. Raymond Mabus/ Secretary, The United States Navy/ 1000 Navy Pentagon/ Washington DC 20350-1000