Oliver Tucker Cushman

From The story of Dartmouth By Wilder Dwight Quint:

Oliver Tucker Cushman, ‘63, enlisted in his junior year in the First Vermont Cavalry. From sergeant to second lieutenant, to first lieutenant, to captain, he made his way. Terribly wounded in the face while charging with General Farnsworth at Gettysburg, he returned to Hanover, but could not rest content. He rejoined his regiment in October and then, its term of enlistment having expired, he re-enlisted and kept on fighting. His hour of fate came at Hawes’ Shop near Richmond, June 3, 1864, just as he was about to receive his commission as major. Of him said General William Wells: “He was not only one of our bravest, but also one of our best men, and had he lived would have obtained a high rank in the army. His company was devotedly attached to him, and his superiors in command, as well as all his associates, bear witness to his high character as a soldier and a man.”.

From Biographical sketches of the class of 1863, Dartmouth College by John Scales, Dartmouth College. Class of 1863:

CAPTAIN OLIVER TUCKER CUSHMAN, son of Clark and Abigail (Tucker) Cushman, was born at Hartland, Vt., May 5, 1841. His father was a farmer and sent his son to Kimball Union Academy, Meriden, N. H., where he fitted for college and entered Dartmouth in 1859, and remained till the Civil War began in 1861; soon after this he left to join a company of Vermont Cavalry, in which he was appointed Sergeant. He was promoted to Second Lieutenant April 10, 1862; to First Lieutenant February 1, 1863; to Captain March 7, 1863, and remained one of the most daring, the most skillful, and the most successful company cavalry commanders in the Union Army. There was nothing he would not dare to undertake in the way of a raid or a charge upon the ranks of the enemy. On July 3, 1863, at Gettysburg, he was dangerously wounded in his face and taken prisoner. As soon as he was released he returned to Hanover and placed himself under the care of Dr. Dixi Crosby, where he remained several weeks, till he was able to return to active service in the army, in October, 1863.

On pages 394-5-6 of the “Century History of Battles and Leaders of the Civil War,” Vol. 3, is a map and fine description of what Captain Cushman passed through on that terrible day, riding two miles inside of the Confederate lines and capturing a large number of prisoners. He wore a white duck “fighting jacket” trimmed with yellow braid. A fellow officer suggested that he was dressed too conspicuously for a mark for the enemy; he answered, “A lady sent this to me, and said it was made with her own hands, and no rebel bullet could pierce it. It may be a good day to try magic mail.” He tried and the “magic mail” was not pierced, but his face was, most horribly. Before entering upon the last grand charge, in which his superior officer, General Farnsworth, was killed and he was wounded and taken prisoner, he threw a silk handkerchief over his cap, pinning it to the visor, and this he wore into the ranks of the enemy in that grand and terrific charge on the 4th Alabama, and later on the 15th Alabama, where he fell at General Farnsworth’s side, and, though terribly wounded in the face, fought with his revolver until he fainted. He was a notably handsome officer, and the Confederates mistook him for the Commanding General. Captain Cushman lay insensible and apparently dead until the next day, when he revived, and soon after returned to Hanover, N. H.

The term of his enlistment having expired in November, 1863, he re-enlisted and was granted ninety day’s furlough, which he passed at his home in Vermont. In March, 1864, he returned to his command. During the battles of the Wilderness he commanded a battalion and was brilliantly daring during that bloody campaign. His classmate, Prof. E. D. Woodbury, who was in that campaign and under Cushman’s immediate command, said at our class meeting in Hanover, June 23, 1903, that Captain Cushman was perfectly fearless, and, in fact, seemed to court death on the battlefield, not caring to survive the war with such a disfigured face as he had. He was killed at “Hawes’ Shop”, near Richmond, June 3, 1864. A Major’s commission was ready for him at Vermont, but it came too late. General William Wells of the Vermont Cavalry said of him: “He was not only one of our bravest, but also one of our best men, and, had he lived, he would have obtained high rank, in the army. His company was devotedly attached to him, and his superiors in command, as well as his associates, bear witness to his character as a soldier and a man.”

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