Many remarkable Niagara men and women served their country with distinction during the Civil War. One individual not only fought for the United States in the conflict, but also served the Iroquois Nation. The Iroquois Nation sometimes elected white men as sachems and Cornelius Cusick, originally a Tuscarora Sachem or holy man, was one of 23 Tuscaroras to volunteer for service for the Union forces during the Civil War.
You might say that military conflict was in Cusick’s blood. He was born in August 1835 and was the grandson of Nicholas Cusick, the bodyguard of General Lafayette during the American Revolution. Cornelius Cusick was also the maternal grandson of Captain Chew who fought for the British in the same conflict.
History remembers Cornelius Cusick as the most important Haudenosaunee officer throughout the War Between the States. His notable campaigns included fighting with General Sherman on his “march to the sea,” and the defense of Newbern against Confederate General Pickett. After the war Cusick was commissioned 2nd Lieutenant by President Andrew Johnson , 1st Lieutenant by President U. S. Grant and Captain by President Grover Cleveland.
Cusick’s fluency in eight Native American languages made him an invaluable soldier in the United States’ efforts to settle the western territories after the Civil War. His ties to the United States led him to wage campaigns against the Sioux, fighting the notorious Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse.
In 1889 Cusick had retired from military life and settled once again in Sanborn. In 1904, Captain Cornelius Cusick died and was buried with full military honors at Old Fort Niagara. He was denied burial in the Tuscarora Nation because of his military battles against the Sioux and other Native American tribes.
Douglas Farley, Director
Ann Marie Linnabery
Erie Canal Discover Center
24 Church St.
Lockport NY 14094