SGT John Dennys actions set example of courage
Personal courage, loyalty, dedication to duty, honor, selfless service, integrity and respect the Armys core values are more than just words. They translate into actions. Such actions were taken by SGT John Denny, Company C, 9th US Cavalry in September of 1879 during the Victorio Apache campaign.
Five days of tracking the Apache Chief Victorio and more than 200 of his warriors through the deserts of New Mexico ended when the worn out Buffalo Soldiers, of the 9th Cavalry found themselves ambushed and trapped within a box canyon.
Soon after the battle started, Denny saw a wounded private lying in the open, more than 100 yards from the nearest source of cover. When Denny asked CPT Beyer to have the troop cover him while he retrieved the private, he was ordered not to leave the safety of the rocks where most of the troop had found cover and to let the private die. Denny understood that if left in the open the wounded private faced certain death. He also understood that if he werent killed in the rescue attempt, he would face a court martial for disobeying an order. Denny elected to do the right thing. He ran 100 yards under heavy fire to the privates position, put the private on his back, and carried him to safety.
Later the same day a plan was devised to enable the soldiers of the 9th Cavalry to escape the box canyon. The mission called for a small group to climb a cliff and displace the Apaches on the East Side of the canyon. 1LT. Emmet G Troop, 9th Cavalry, asked for volunteers, but most of the soldiers knew it was almost certainly a suicide mission. It wasnt until Denny volunteered for the mission first that the other soldiers followed suit and volunteered to go as well.
Emmet took Denny, five other soldiers and two Navajo scouts on the mission.
After climbing about half way up the cliff, the volunteers found themselves trapped under heavy enemy fire. They could no longer advance up the cliff, but the Apaches above couldnt fire on the cavalry troops below with the volunteers in the middle. The volunteers however, could fire effectively enough to suppress the Apaches on the west side of the canyon, enabling the remaining cavalry soldiers to escape to safety.
When the four cavalry troops below had escaped from the canyon, the soldiers on the cliff fought their way down to safety while surrounded by the enemy. During the fighting one of the Navajo scouts was wounded. Denny carried the scout on his back as they descended the cliff.
Emmet said the deciding factor of the battle had been Dennys actions. He, time and time again, kept the group focused on the mission and why they were facing certain death along the cliff. If not for the actions of SGT Denny all four of the cavalry troops within the canyon would have been killed.
The small group accomplished their mission and returned safely to their units losing only one soldier to enemy fire. For his actions that day, Denny did not receive a court martial, but a Congressional Medal of Honor.
Dennys display of values was not limited to the battlefield. He practiced them throughout his career. The men of the 9th Cavalry spoke of the values Denny displayed prior to and after the battle. He continually displayed the high moral ethics of the non-commissioned officer. We should remember that the next time we see something wrong and set the standard as SGT Denny did.
Rank and organization: Sergeant, Company C, 9th U.S. Cavalry. Place and date: At Las Animas Canyon, N. Mex., 18 September 1879. Entered service at: 1867 Elmira, N.Y. Birth: Big Flats, N.Y. Date of issue: 27 November 1891. Citation: Removed a wounded comrade, under a heavy fire, to a place of safety.