John Johnson was born in Toten Christiana (Oslo) Norway on March 25, 1842. He came to the United States “with his parents when quite a young lad, settling in Wisconsin.” Johnson, who was 5 feet 4 ½ inches tall with fair skin, blue eyes and light brown hair, was working on a farm near Janesville, Rock County, Wisconsin when he enlisted as a private in Company D, 2nd Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry Regiment on April 20, 1861, at the age of nineteen. In November 1861 he was detached from the 2nd Wisconsin to serve with Light Battery B, 4th United States Artillery, remaining with the battery until he was mustered out of the service due to disability on April 10, 1863.
Johnson noted “I was in eleven battles of the Army of the Potomac beginning at Blackburn’s Ford and ending at Fredericksburg, December 13, 1862, where I lost my right arm at the shoulder. The Medal of Honor was given me, on August 28, 1893, on the recommendation to the Secretary of War by Major James Stewart, U. S. A., retired, for distinguished bravery, coolness in action, soldierly conduct, and conspicuous gallantry at the battle of Antietam, Md., September 17, 1862 and Fredericksburg, Va., December 13, 1862, while serving under Stewart’s personal command and in the same section with Lieutenant (William P.) Hogarty.”
At Antietam Johnson “was a cannoneer in Lieutenant Stewart’s section during the whole time the section and battery was engaged.” Stewart’s section had gone into battery near some stacked straw on the west side of the Hagerstown Pike in support of Brig. Gen. John Gibbon’s Iron Brigade. “In less than ten minutes fourteen med were killed and wounded.” Soon afterwards the other four guns of the battery were brought up to support Stewart’s section. The fighting, at close quarters, was intense and deadly. “Several attempts were made by the enemy to capture the guns and at one time they were within fifteen or twenty yards”. Johnson noted “we were firing double canister…I filled every position on the gun including gunner…cannoneers had been killed and wounded so rapidly that those remaining had to fill their place.” The loss at this position included 40 of 100 cannoneers killed or wounded, twenty-six horses killed and seven wounded.
At Fredericksburg Johnson noted “I was a cannoneer and filled two or three places on the guns of cannoneers who had been killed or wounded. While in the act of carrying two case-shots to the gun I was wounded by a piece of shell which carried away my right arm at the shoulder blade.” The same shell killed two other men instantly and wounded several others.” Augustus Buell wrote in The Cannoneer, “the cavity of the body was exposed and the tissue of the lung plainly visible through the hole. Johnson’s recovery was miraculous, and the way he stood up under this terrible wound caused his name to be cherished by his comrades in the battery as an example of “grit” and “nerve”.”
John Johnson was carried to a field hospital in a brick house near the Fredericksburg battlefield. He was later transferred to Lincoln Hospital in Washington D.C., several days before Christmas. He was discharged from the hospital on April 10, 1863. After being discharged from the army for disability Johnson went to Rochester, Minnesota for a time but finally moved to Washington D.C., where he got a job as a clerk with the Treasury Department. On August 17, 1868 Johnson married Mary Cline. The Johnsons would have eight children, two sons and six daughters. John Johnson died on April 3, 1907 at the age of sixty-five at his home in Washington D. C. Johnson, who was a member of the Grand Army of the Republic, the Elks, Association of Old Inhabitants, Royal Arcanum and the Old Guard, was laid to rest at Rock Creek Cemetery on April 6, 1907.
Beyer, Walter F. and Keydel, Oscar F. Deeds of Valor. Detroit, The Perrien-Keydel Company, 1901
Buell, Augustus. The Cannoneer. Washington, D.C., The National Tribune, 1890.
Jones, J.W. The Story of American Heroism. Springfield, 1897.
Rolston, Les. Home of the Brave. Litchfield, Revival Waves of Glory Books & Publishing, 2015.
Funeral John Johnson, Washington Post, Washington D.C. April 7, 1907.
1880 United States Federal Census. Ancestry.com.
1900 United States Federal Census. Ancestry.com.
Washington, D.C., U. S., Marriage Records, 1810-1953, Ancestry.com
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By Brad Gottfried
Born on February 20, 1840, in Chatham Ohio, Leonidas H. Inscho enlisted in Company E, 12th Ohio Infantry on June 16, 1861. He had risen to the rank of corporal by the time his regiment, part of Col. Eliakim Scammon’s brigade (Kanawha Division, IX Corps), marched to Fox’s Gap on the morning of September 14, 1862.
Inscho’s citation reads: “Alone and unaided and with his left hand disabled, captured a Confederate captain and four men.”
Inscho’s deeds are best described in his own words:
“. . . our regiment, with others, charged the Confederates, who were posted behind a stone wall on the side of the mountain. As we approached the enemy, a rifle-ball struck my gun, wounding my left hand. While stopped to examine my piece and my hand, the regiments made a flank movement to the left, leaving me alone near the wall. A Confederate captain was on the other side, and as he came near me, I caught him by the collar and told him to surrender. He refused, and pointed his revolver at my head, but I caught it by the barrel and turned it up just as he fired. I clung to the revolver and disarmed him, and grabbing him by the shoulders began to pull him over the wall. He struggled vigorously and struck me in the face several times, but I got him over the wall and knocked him down compelling him to surrender.
“I then turned my attention to some of his men, who were taking refuge behind a clump of trees. I pointed my revolver at them and demanded their surrender. Four of them dropped their guns and came over to the Union side of the wall, but a fifth man came up to me with his gun in his hand and swore he would not give up to a Yankee. He took aim at me as he spoke, and I dropped behind the wall just as he fired. He turned to run away and I at once rose from my position and emptied the contents of my revolver into him. I then ordered the captain and his four men to fall in, and marched them over to the colonel of my regiment [Carr B. White].”
Inscho’s 12th Ohio was up against the 23rd North Carolina of Brig. Gen. Samuel Garland’s brigade (Maj. Gen. D. H. Hill’s division) and the regiment did shift to the right to attack Confederates near the Wise house, as Inscho described.
Inscho would fight with his regiment until it was mustered out during the summer of 1864. He subsequently re-enlisted in the 23rd Ohio and rose to the rank of lieutenant. Inscho was wounded again at the battle of Third Winchester on September 19, 1864. A comrade noted how he, “never was sick a day during his whole term of service, and never missed a roll call, drill or guard duty.”
After mustering out of service on August 7, 1865, Inscho returned home to Ohio, married in 1870 and opened a grocery store. He would not receive his medal until January 31, 1894. He died on November 12, 1907.
Inscho slipped into obscurity until a local historian learned of his exploits. The mayor of Newark, Ohio subsequently proclaimed November 12, 1988 as “Leonidas H. Inscho Day” that included placing a bronze marker at his grave site.