Samuel Johnson was born January 28, 1845 in Connellsville Pennsylvania. He was recruited by Captain John Brookbank in Connellsville. In Washington, on July 27, 1861, Johnson was mustered as a private in Co G of the 9th Pennsylvania Reserves in Washington. Records indicate that he was a shoemaker standing 5 feet 8 1/2 inches tall, with brown hair and dark eyes. Johnson apparently added four years on to his age, as records give his age as 20.
As a member of the 9th, he would participate in the Battle of Dranesville, the Peninsula Campaign, 2nd Bull Run, and the Maryland Campaign. At the battle of Antietam, he retrieved two flags of the 1st Texas from the Cornfield. In the act of retrieving the flags, Johnson was struck by a shell fragment, fracturing his right leg between his knee and ankle. For his actions at Antietam, he was awarded the Medal of Honor on May 30, 1863 and discharged from the 9th in order to receive a commission in the Veterans Reserve Corps.
Johnson was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Veterans Reserve Corps on June 4, 1863, and assigned to duty on Bedloe’s Island, N.Y. Harbor. In July, he commanded a detachment sent to New York during the draft riots. After being relieved, he was assigned to duty at the City Hall Park barracks in New York City.
His military career would go rapidly downhill from that point. Johnson was brought up on charges and dismissed from the service for conduct unbecoming of an officer on November 12, 1863. He did not stay out of the service for long. On December 28, 1863, he enlisted as a private in Company C, 17th U.S. Infantry receiving a $300 bounty. He would be detailed on recruiting duty to Freehold, NJ in February of 1864 before being ordered to return to his regiment.
At the Battle of Cold Harbor, two pieces of bone from his Antietam wound worked their way to the surface. (He would later claim in a pension application that he received a gunshot wound to the right leg during the battle.) In June, he would be sent first to the Fifth Army Corps Field Hospital, then to the Soldier’s Rest General Hospital in Alexandria, VA.
At Alexandria, Johnson would receive a 30-day furlough. While in the hospital, he made an application for a commission in the Veterans’ Reserve Corps, and was ordered to appear before the Board of Examination. He then went home to Connellsville.
In July of 1864, he received an appointment as a first Lieutenant in the Veterans Reserve Corps. He would travel to Washington, DC with the intention of reporting for duty. However, Johnson instead opted to go to Clarksburg, NJ. Since he had never been officially been discharged from the 17th US Infantry, he was considered to be a deserter.
In November of 1864, he returned home to Connellsville where he transacted business for his mother. He then proceeded to Greensburg, PA where he enlisted in the 16th PA Cavalry as a substitute on November 27, 1864, receiving a bounty of $200. From Greensburg he was sent to a camp outside Pittsburgh, PA. After receiving a 3-day pass on December 1, 1864 Johnson deserted yet again.
On December 6, 1864, he was arrested by a detective in Baltimore while dressed in civilian clothing. Taken before the local Provost Marshal, he would deny being in the service. He would be confined at the Baltimore Slave Pen before being transferred to Fort McHenry, and then to Prince Street Military Prison in Alexandria, VA.
While at Alexandria, Johnson was hospitalized and treated for pneumonia and encephalitis. Discharged from the hospital in January of 1865, he was sent to Bull Ring Prison at City Point, VA. There he was tried by General Court Martial and assigned to Troop K or Troop L in the 16th Pennsylvania Cavalry.
During the Appomattox campaign he had a horse shot out from him and received a flesh wound to the thigh. While serving with the dismounted cavalry at City Point, VA Johnson was ordered to rejoin his regiment in Washington. Unable to locate the 16th, he decided to return home to Connellsville. As a result, he was listed as a deserter for a third time on May 20, 1865.
His life post-war was as eventful as his military career. Johnson would reside in four different states, be married four times, and become a physician. In 1873, he married Fannie McCormick. That same year he, would apply for and receive a pension of $2.00 per month for his Antietam shell wound. After the death of Fannie, Johnson married Pearl Taylor in 1885.1 Pearl would pass away sometime after the birth of their daughter Myrtle in 1888.
The 1900 Census lists Johnson as a widowed physician residing in Cole, Arkansas with Myrtle. His third marriage would be to Erica Contessa, some-time after 1900. This marriage would end in divorce in 1908. In 1909, he would marry Carrie Jones in Hugo, Oklahoma. The 1910 Census lists Johnson as residing with 20-year-old Carrie in Ashdown, Arkansas.
In an 1897 article Johnson would make a number of unsubstantiated claims about his military service. These would include being wounded at the First Battle of Bull Run while serving with the 22nd PA, and being wounded by a spent ball at the Battle of Dranesville.2
In an application for a pension increase dated November 26, 1909, Johnson stated that during the war he incurred a gunshot wound through the abdomen and body, a shell wound to the right leg, a saber wound to the right thigh, and gunshot wound to the right leg near the ankle.
Johnson’s demise would be as dramatic as any other of the events in his life. He would die on November 25, 1915 from injuries suffered in a horse and buggy accident at the age of 70. He would be interred in Onda, Arkansas.
In recent years, Johnson was honored by both his home town of Connellsvile and the town of Onda. In 2011, his grave in Onda would be marked with a stone denoting his status as a Medal of Honor recipient. In 2012, a memorial to Johnson would be dedicated at Connellsville City Hall’s Veterans Plaza.
Long time Civil War Enthusiast since early childhood. As a former resident of nearby Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, I became interested in the 9th Pennsylvania Reserves and since then, have become engaged in researching the regiment and the men who served in it. I currently reside in Northern Virginia and work in Washington D.C.
- The 1880 Census has a bootmaker named Samuel Johnson born in Pennsylvania in 1845 living in Washington, Arkansas with his wife Annie. If this is the correct Samuel Johnson, and census taker mis-recorded Fannie’s name, then Fannie would have died sometime between 1880 and 1885.
- The Story of American Heroism as Told by Medal of Honor winners and Roll of Honor Men (Chicago: Riverside Publishing, 1897), 175-177. There is no record of Johnson having served in the 22nd PA, nor was the 22nd PA present at the First Battle of Bull Run. In the piece Johnson would also claim to have captured two color bearers in addition to the flags.