Samuel Johnson (1845–1915)

Samuel Johnson was a young Union soldier who received the Medal of Honor for gallantry when fighting in a Pennsylvania regiment in the 1862 Battle of Antietam. He eventually settled in Arkansas.

Samuel Johnson was born on January 28, 1845, in Springfield Township, Pennsylvania, the oldest of eight children of John Johnson and Sara Kemp Johnson. He grew up in Connellsville, Pennsylvania, and attempted to join the U.S. Army in April 1861 following the Confederate attack on Fort Sumter in South Carolina, but he was rejected because of his age. The sixteen-year-old tried again three months later and was mustered into Company G, Ninth Pennsylvania Reserve Regiment, on July 27, 1861.

The Ninth Pennsylvania saw action at Dranesville, Virginia; during the Seven Days’ Battles in the Peninsula Campaign; and at Second Manassas prior to Robert E. Lee’s 1862 invasion of Maryland. The Ninth lost its brigade commander in fighting at South Mountain on September 14, 1862, and the regiment was led by a captain when it fought at Antietam three days later.

Some of the most desperate fighting in the incredibly bloody Battle of Antietam took place in a cornfield, through which a series of attacks and counterattacks occurred. The Ninth Pennsylvania Reserves were on high ground north of the cornfield in support of an artillery battery when they observed the Fourteenth New York Infantry withdrawing from the field, with the First Texas Infantry Regiment (CS) in hot pursuit. Waiting until the Texans were within twenty-five yards, Captain Samuel Johnson ordered the Ninth to rise and fire a volley. The First Texas withdrew under the furious fire, and Private James K. Malone, the fourth color bearer for the regiment that day, fell wounded. Johnson reported: “I advanced and continued driving the enemy out of the corn, capturing two stand of their colors.” It was Private Samuel Johnson who took the flags, and he was badly wounded doing it.

Some eight months later, on May 30, 1863, Assistant Adjutant General E. D. Townsend issued General Orders No. 160, reading: “A medal of honor has been awarded to Private Samuel Johnson of Company G, Ninth Pennsylvania Reserves, for having, by individual bravery and daring, captured from the enemy two colors at the battle of Antietam, September 17, 1862, and received in the act a severe wound. He will be transferred to the Invalid Corps as a commissioned officer.” Johnson’s official Medal of Honor citation mistakenly states that he captured the flags from “the 1st Texas Rangers (C.S.A.).”

Johnson mustered into the Veteran Reserve Corps on June 4, 1863, and served as a second lieutenant in Company C, Tenth Veteran Reserve Corps, when it was created in October, but he was dismissed from service on November 7, 1863.

Johnson became a doctor after the war and moved west, living at various times in West Virginia, Ohio, Missouri, and Kansas before settling in northwestern Arkansas. He outlived three wives and was divorced by a fourth in 1908 before marrying the woman he would spend the rest of his life with. He died on November 25, 1915, following a carriage accident, with a Fayetteville (Washington County) newspaper reporting his death “as a result of injuries sustained in a runaway some days ago.” Johnson is buried in Baker Cemetery in Onda (Washington County).

For additional information:
Borders, Matt. “Maryland Campaign Medal of Honor Series: Samuel Johnson, 9th Pennsylvania Reserve Infantry.” (accessed May 13, 2022).

Medal of Honor Recipients, 1863–1978. Washington DC: Government Printing Office, 1979.

“Onda Physician Dies Result of Injuries.” Daily Fayetteville Democrat, November 27, 1915, p. 1.

Priest, John Michael. Antietam: The Soldiers’ Battle. New York: Oxford University Press, 1989.

The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies. Series 1, Part 1, Section 2, Vol. 51, p. 1042. Washington DC: Government Printing Office, 1897.

Mark K. Christ
Central Arkansas Library System


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