By VINCE EISAMAN
I had the good fortune to visit Annapolis, Md., to visit my sister who recently moved there. It is a lovely old town with much history.
If you know anything about Annapolis, you'll know that the United States Naval Academy is there.
The first day I visited the Naval Academy while my sister worked. As I walked to the Visitor Center I thought I remembered somewhere that William Cushing was buried there in an eloquent tomb stone. If you are from Northern Chautauqua County, hopefully you'll know who the famous William Cushing was. He blew up the Confederacy's ironclad Ram CSS Albemarle during the Civil War.
When I got to the Visitor's Center, I asked where I would be able to find William Cushing.
"Is he a student here?" they asked.
"No," I responded, "He was the famous Civil War hero who blew up the Albemarle."
"Is he buried here?"
"That's what I'm trying to find out," I replied.
So they dusted off a book and looked up his name. Sure enough, it showed he was buried at the Naval Cemetery. The employee could not pinpoint where the grave was, but he gave me a rough outline of the cemetery.
He then said to me, "Good luck finding it."
"By the way," I asked, "Where is the cemetery from here?"
He told me it was at the complete opposite end of the campus, a mile or more of a hike.
As I started walking towards the cemetery, I stopped off at the chapel. Beautiful. I saw the crypt of John Paul Jones and paid my respects. I then went to Preble Hall, the Naval Academy's museum. A must see when visiting Annapolis.
By then the neuropathy in my feet started getting the best of me and I was still a far distance from the cemetery. Before I left Preble Hall I went to the bookstore and took four books off the shelf and sat down in a comfortable chair. I came across a book on naval civil war battles and I refreshed my memory of the heroic deed of William Cushing.
He and his men worked their way up the Roanoke River in a small cutter to blow up the Albemarle.
As they approached the Confederate docks, their luck turned and they were spotted in the dark.
In the midst of gunfire, Cushing stood up in the bow and detonated the torpedo's explosive charge at the Albemarle. Cushing stripped off his uniform and swam to shore, where he hid until daylight.
That day he found out his mission was a success. This is something straight from Hollywood. If William Cushing accomplished that, I thought, I owed it to him to find his grave.
I finally got to the cemetery. One of the small roads through the cemetery was named after him. I thought I should be able to find the grave without too much trouble. No such luck.
Rain was fast approaching, and by now my neuropathy was really bothering me. I was so close but so far away.
That evening I told my sister of my escapades.
Her first response was, "Who's William Cushing?"
"Who is William Cushing?" I responded. "He single handedly won the Civil War for the north."
She didn't quite believe me. I looked William Cushing up on the internet and told her about his heroic deed. There on the internet was a picture of his tomb, his monumental casket made of marble, and decorated with a Commander's hat, sword and coat. On one side of the stone the word "Albemarle" is cut and on the other side, "Fort Fisher."
I also read that it took him two tries to go up the Roanoke River. If it took William Cushing two tries to win the Civil War for the Union, then I needed to give it a second try to find his gravestone. By now I'd started to bond with William Cushing.
The next day my sister, being a good sport, asked if I was ready to find that Crashing guy.
"Whatever," she said. So off we went.
By now my sister and I had a picture in our minds of what the grave looked like, and that it overlooked the bay. When we got to the cemetery, we started to walk up Cushing Street. It was a beautiful, sunny day.
After about 10 minutes of looking, my sister yelled out, "I found Crashing's grave."
There it was, at the highest point of the cemetery, in all of its glory. What does one do when you finally reach the sacred burial place of William Cushing? I gave a weak salute and had a moment of silence.
On my way home to Fredonia, I thought to myself, "If Westfield, N.Y., has a bronze statue of Grace Bedell and Lincoln meeting, why doesn't Fredonia have a bronze statue of William Cushing?" Don't get me wrong, the story of Grace Bedell is cute, but it doesn't hold a candle to the heroic deed of blowing up the Albemarle.
I'm proposing that the village of Fredonia owes it to themselves to have a bronze statue of William B. Cushing with a torpedo in his hand made and put it in the center of the commons.
Next time when I have family from out of town visiting, instead of going to Westfield and showing them the statue of Grace Bedell, I can really impress them and show them the statue of William B. Cushing.
Vince Eisaman is a Fredonia resident.