Thursday, July 5, 2018

Hudson and History

Today, most of us know the story of Henry Johnson and his extraordinary acts of bravery on May 15, 1918, when he and a fellow soldier, Needham Roberts, repelled an enemy raiding party in the Argonne Forest. Johnson was born in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, but he moved to Albany his early teens and was working as a redcap porter at Albany Union Station when he enlisted in the military in June 1917. Johnson was the first U.S. soldier to receive France's highest military honor, the Croix de Guerre, but aside from the a parade down Fifth Avenue with his regiment, the New York National Guard 15th Infantry Regiment, known as the the "Harlem Hellfighters," in February 1919, Johnson received no official acknowledgment of his bravery from the United States government during his lifetime. He died in obscurity of myocarditis on July 1, 1929.

Recognition of Johnson's bravery came posthumously. In 1992, a monument was erected in his honor in Washington Park in Albany. In 1996, he was awarded the Purple Heart. In 2003, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, the second highest award for valor. On May 14, 2015, Johnson was awarded the our country's highest military award, the Medal of Honor. In presenting the award, President Barack Obama said of Johnson:
Henry was one of the first Americans to receive France’s highest award for valor, but his own nation didn’t award him anything--not even the Purple Heart, though he had been wounded 21 times. Nothing for his bravery, though he had saved a fellow soldier at great risk to himself. His injuries left him crippled. He couldn’t find work. His marriage fell apart. And in his early 30s, he passed away.
Last year, Henry Johnson was the subject of a WMHT special: Henry Johnson: A Tale of Courage. Earlier this year, he was featured in the first episode of the podcast, A New York Minute in History: Spirits of Sacrifice.

This synopsis of the story of Henry Johnson is by way of introduction to two items I discovered yesterday on the front page of the Columbia Republican for July 9, 1918. The first reports that Henry Johnson, along with Needham Roberts (called in the report Herbert Robinson), had been "cited for bravery" by the "French command." It also provides the information that Johnson "is well known in Hudson, where his sister resides and where he frequently visited. His wife spent last week here." 

This item appeared above the fold. In a different column, below the fold, there was a related item, reporting that Henry Johnson's wife had been in Hudson on Friday, July 5. She had been interviewed by a reporter from the Republican. In this article, it is revealed that she too had a sibling living in Hudson: Clarence Jackson.

The Hudson city directory for 1918 lists Clarence Jackson living at 430 Diamond Street. Today, of course Diamond Street is called Columbia Street, and 430 Columbia Street is the location of the parking lot for Time and Space Limited.

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