John Anderson Danks was born on March 11, 1826 in Venango County, Pennsylvania. Before the war he was an ironworker. On Christmas Day 1848 he married Anna Reese of Pittsburgh.
On September 9, 1861 Danks became Captain of Company E of the 63rd Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry.
In March of 1862 the regiment was moved to the Peninsula as part of Heintzleman’s Third Corps. Danks was wounded in the right leg at the Battle of Fair Oaks on May 31, 1862. He recovered and returned to the regiment, where he was promoted to major on September 29, 1862.
At the Battle of Chancellorsville Danks was again wounded on May 3, 1862 and taken prisoner. He was taken to Libby Prison in Richmond. He was paroled on May 23, when he returned to his regiment and was promoted to lieutenant colonel. He was promoted to colonel on July 1 and commanded his regiment at the Battle of Gettysburg, where it lost 34 casualties out of the 296 men engaged.
Danks continued to command the regiment until he was wounded in the left arm and hand on May 5, 1864 at the Battle of the Wilderness. Danks honorably mustered out on August 5, 1864.
He returned to civilian life, working after the war as a grocer and serving as a Methodist Episcopal minister, while living in Etna, Connellsville and Glenfield, Pennsylvania. He was elected to the Pennsylvania House of Representatives in 1866 and served for nine years as Chaplain in Chief of the Union Veteran Legion.
John Danks died on July 25, 1896 in Glenfield. He is buried in Etna Cemetery in Etna.