WASHINGTON, D.C. — President Obama is reportedly furious with both the White House staff and the Pentagon after a paperwork error led him to accidentally award the Medal of Honor to a deceased Confederate general.
The award, originally intended for Union artillery officer 1st Lt. Alonzo Cushing, was instead bestowed on George Pickett, a general in the Confederate Army who fought opposite Cushing at Gettysburg and commanded the charge which Cushing lost his life trying to repel.
The error was not discovered until shortly after the ceremony began, when several descendants of Pickett arrived to receive the medal. Flying a large Confederate flag, and just as confused as President Obama, they reluctantly accepted it, “On behalf of a grateful Confederacy.”
As the president’s military aide turned beet red and tried to stammer out an explanation, an exasperated Obama said, “Folks, you’re going to have to give us a few minutes to figure this one out,” and quickly walked off stage.
According to senior White House sources who had approved the citation without actually reading it, at some point during the approval process the Army apparently thought the award was being submitted for carrying out Pickett’s Charge, and duly substituted Pickett’s name for Cushing.
Due to his general officer rank, Pickett’s award was fast-tracked through the military awards process and approved by dozens of officers, none of whom appear to have read it closely.
Ironically, Cushing’s nomination was put on hold by Army leaders, who were concerned that the 1st. Lt. had never properly accounted for the six 3-inch cannons which had been under his command during the battle, and instead sent his descendants a missing gear statement and an invoice for several thousand dollars.
While more than 1500 Medals of Honor were awarded for gallantry during the Civil War, none are known to have gone to Confederate officers, making Pickett the first.
The medal will be displayed at West Point, Pickett’s former alma mater, where he graduated last in his class.