Henry Johnson (June 11, 1850 – January 31, 1904) was a Buffalo Soldier in the United States Army and a recipient of America’s highest military decoration—the Medal of Honor—for his actions in the Indian Wars of the western United States.
Johnson was originally from Boydton, Virginia. In 1866, he enlisted in the Army at Detroit, Michigan as an original member of F Troop of the 10th Cavalry. He fought with the 10th against the Cheyenneon the Republican River. Johnson joined D Troop of the 9th Cavalry in June 1877, where the troop was stationed at Fort Wallace. The troop was patrolling southern Colorado at the time of the Meeker Massacre.
On September 29, 1879, a group of Ute warriors, led by Chief Colorow ambushed a group of around 175 soldiers and militiamen from Fort Steele near Milk Creek. At the same time, the Utes also killed the Indian agent and his white employees at the Ute reservation nearby. The troops near the creek created a perimeter around their wagons with dead animals while their remaining animals were picked off by the Utes. Captain Francis Dodge, Sergeant Johnson, and D Troop arrived on October 2, 1879 and were able to enter the encampment without being shot at. For the next three days, D Troop’s animals were picked off, leaving only four wounded horses. Johnson was charged with the responsibility of securing the outposts for the defense for the encampment, and under heavy fire from the Utes, made the rounds to meet with his men. On October 5, five troops from the 5th Cavalry arrived shortly after the Ute attackers dispersed.
Johnson was awarded the Medal of Honor at Fort Robinson on September 22, 1890, for his actions during the Battle of Milk Creek against the Ute Indians from October 2–5, 1879 in Colorado. His Medal of Honor citation reads:
Voluntarily left fortified shelter and under heavy fire at close range made the rounds of the pits to instruct the guards, fought his way to the creek and back to bring water to the wounded.— Indian War Period Medal of Honor recipients, 22 September 1890
At the time of the awarding, he was a private. He had been promoted to sergeant for the third time in 1889, but was demoted after tangling with a bartender at Fort Robinson.
Johnson was a sergeant in Company D. He was cited for twice leaving his position under heavy fire, first to check on his men, then, on October 4, going to the nearby Milk River to obtain water for them. However, some have questioned whether he was under fire when he went for water.