John Denny

A soldier wearing a dark colored uniform and brimmed hat
Sgt. John Denny, c.1900

Library of Congress

Quick Facts

The Hero of B Troop

John Denny enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1867 in Elmira, New York and wound up serving with Company C of the 9th Cavalry in the western plains.  Late in 1879, Denny was serving as acting Sergeant of B Troop, 9th Cavalry while they meandered their way through the arid lands of New Mexico in search of renegade Apache Indians. While on patrol, Denny’s troop unknowingly rode into an ambush staged by the Indians they were pursuing. A fierce firefight ensued and casualties began to mount. One of those causalities, Private A. Freeland wound up laying incapacitated in an open area of the battlefield, exposed to enemy fire. Upon witnessing this, Denny raced out to the helpless Freeland and picked him up and carried him to shelter while taking fire from the enemy. Miraculously, Freeland would live to fight another day, thanks to the selfless actions of his fellow trooper, Sergeant John Denny.

For reasons unknown, Denny would not receive any award or citation for his bravery in the immediate years that followed. Twelve years later, with Denny’s former commanding officer attesting and other troopers vouching, Denny would receive the Medal of Honor in 1891. Perhaps it was the legendary tale of Denny’s actions that would allow this story to live on for twelve years, or possibly that the paperwork finally had made its way through the rank and file in Washington? Regardless, this deserving Buffalo Soldier was awarded his just citation and rightfully so. His Medal of Honor citation reads as follows: "Removed a wounded comrade, under a heavy fire, to a place of safety."

John Denny would retire from Army service in 1897 at the rank of Corporal. He would actually be promoted to Sergeant on a couple of occasions, only to be busted down in rank as a result of unruly behavior for fighting and brawling. Nonetheless, his battlefield actions were never lessened by these unfortunate circumstances. After 30 years of service in the U.S. Army, Denny retired in Nebraska. He received a small pension and supplemented it with a job at Fort Robinson. He would reside there until 1899 when he took ill and had to relocate to the U.S. Soldiers’ Home in Washington D.C. His health continued to deteriorate and on November 28th, 1901, John Denny passed away with only his Medal of Honor, a silver watch and sixty-eight cents to his name.

Sgt. John Denny is buried along with other military veterans at the U.S. Soldiers' and Airmen's Home National Cemetery in Washington D.C.

Last updated: June 4, 2018