Howard B. Cushing

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Howard Bass Cushing
Born (1838-08-22)August 22, 1838
Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Died May 5, 1871(1871-05-05) (aged 32)
Whetstone Mountains, Arizona Territory
Place of burial San Francisco National Cemetery
San Francisco, California
Allegiance  United States of America
Service/branch  United States Army
Years of service 1861–1871
Rank Union army 1st lt rank insignia.jpg First Lieutenant
Battles/wars American Civil War
Indian Wars
Relations Alonzo Cushing (brother)
William B. Cushing (brother)

Howard Bass Cushing (August 22, 1838–May 5, 1871) was an American soldier during the American Civil War and the Indian Wars, who was killed by the Apache during a campaign in Arizona Territory.[1] Cushing was five foot, seven inches tall and described as “spare, sinewy, and active as a cat” with “keen gray or bluish green eyes.” His physical stature and reputation as an Indian fighter made him renowned throughout the young American southwest immediately following the end of the Civil War.[2]

Military Service and Family[edit]

Because of his conquests and accomplishments, including the events that led to his death in 1871, Cushing was called “The Custer of Arizona.” [3] In addition, Cushing's brother, Alonzo was in fact a classmate of George Armstrong Custer at the West Point Military Academy.[4]

He served in the Union Artillery throughout the Civil War, first volunteering as a Private in the 1st Illinois Light Artillery and later earning a Federal Commission as a Second Lieutenant in the 4th U.S. Artillery upon his brother's death.[5]

Cushing belonged to a family which won deserved renown throughout the Civil War. One brother, William Barker Cushing, was known for his defeat of a Confederate ironclad, the CSS Albemarle; another, Alonzo Cushing, died at his post of duty on the battlefield of Gettysburg in the Union Army. Throughout Howard Cushing’s career, he was known for trying to measure up to his brothers’ successes. It was said that his family felt that he had been unluckily placed, and had thus been engaged in only half a dozen battles.[6]

By the end of 1867, Cushing was promoted to First Lieutenant in Troop F of the 3rd Cavalry, serving first in western Texas and then southern Arizona.[7] It has been said that he and his troops had killed more Apaches than any other officer or troop of the US Army.[8]

Cushing Massacre[edit]

Cushing was charged with pursuing Chiricahua Apache elements under Chief Cochise, who had recently broken a winter truce in the Tucson area in 1871. Cushing and 22 troopers pursued the Apache elements south towards the Mexican border, which was often used as a sanctuary when pursued by US forces.[9]

On May 5, 1871, Cushing came into contact with an Apache element approximately fifteen miles north of today’s Fort Huachuca, in an area known as Bear Spring in the Whetstone Mountains.[10] This element was not led by Chief Cochise, but reportedly by the chief named Juh, who was known for stating his desire to kill Cushing.[11] Cushing and his lead element were immediately ambushed, resulting in the death of Cushing and several of his troopers. The battle was described as fierce, and reduced to hand to hand combat. Cushing’s non-commissioned officer, Sergeant John Mott, managed to rescue the wounded and lead a successful retreat with the remainder of the troopers.[12] Within 48hrs three US Cavalry Troops were dispatched from Fort Crittenden to pursue the Apaches, and found Cushing’s body with his fellow fallen troopers, who were all stripped of their clothing and left by the Apaches.[13]

General Orders 11 was released by the Headquarters Department of Arizona on June 2, 1871 announcing his death “while gallantly leading his command in an attack against the band of Indians.” Cushing was buried at Fort Lowell, northwest of Tucson.[14] He was later reinterred at San Francisco National Cemetery in the Presidio of San Francisco.


Cushing Street and the Cushing Street Bar, both located in downtown Tucson, Arizona are named in Cushing's honor.[10] A monument that honors Alonzo, William, and Howard Cushing is located at Cushing Memorial Park in Delafield, Wisconsin.[15]



  1. ^ (Kenneth A. Randall, Only the Echoes - The Life of Howard Bass Cushing)
  2. ^ (John G. Bourke, On the Border with Crook)
  3. ^ (James M. Barney, The Custer of Arizona)
  4. ^ (Kenneth A. Randall, Only the Echoes - The Life of Howard Bass Cushing)
  5. ^ (Kenneth A. Randall, Only the Echoes - The Life of Howard Bass Cushing)
  6. ^ (Ralph J. Roske, Lincoln’s Commando)
  7. ^ (Ralph J. Roske, Lincoln’s Commando)
  8. ^ (James M. Barney, The Custer of Arizona)
  9. ^ John G. Bourke, On the Border with Crook
  10. ^ a b Malanowski, Jamie (20 October 2014). Commander Will Cushing: Daredevil Hero of the Civil War. W. W. Norton. pp. 178–179. ISBN 978-0-393-24579-0. 
  11. ^ Utley, Robert M. (27 November 2012). Geronimo. Yale University Press. pp. 1680–1681. ISBN 978-0-300-18900-1. 
  12. ^ NY Times, Circumstances Attending the Death of Lieut. Cushing
  13. ^ John G. Bourke, On the Border with Crook
  14. ^ James M. Barney, The Custer of Arizona
  15. ^ Downs, John Phillips (1921). History of Chautauqua County New York and its People. Рипол Классик. p. 357. ISBN 978-5-87200-087-7. 

Literature cited[edit]

  • Ralph J. Roske, W. B. Cushing, Charles Van Doren - Lincoln's Commando: The Biography of Commander William B. Cushing, U. S. Navy (revised and expanded from the original 1957 first edition), Naval Institute Press, 1995, ISBN 1-55750-737-6
  • David Leighton, "Street Smarts: Three downtown Tucson streets named for men killed by Apaches," Arizona Daily Star, April 9, 2013
  • James M. Barney - The Custer of Arizona
  • Ray Brandes - Guide to the Historical Landmarks of Tucson, published in Arizoniana; the Journal of Arizona History, Volume 3, Number 2, Summer 1962; Arizona Pioneers’ Historical Society, Tucson
  • John Gregory Bourke - On the Border with Crook (first published 1891), reprinted Rio Grande Press, Chicago, 1962
  • Official Report of the Fight between the United States Troops and the Apaches - Circumstances Attending the Death of Lieut. Cushing, The New York Times, published July 5, 1871
  • Fort Huachuca Cavalry Museum

External links[edit]