Men of Honor, Part 5: A Soldier of the West


photo by the Author

This week is the final (for now at least) installment in the current series about Men of Honor. Most medal of honors come from a conflict, such as the American Civil War, World War II, or the War on Terror. The man in this week's story showed bravery in a lesser known conflict in American history.


Recently, my husband, his family and I got to visit the National Medal of Honor Heritage Center museum in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The museum tells not only the story of the creation of the Medal of Honor, but it shares characteristics of those who receive the medal. These characteristics include patriotism, citizenship, courage, integrity, sacrifice, and commitment. The museum's permanent exhibits are set up on a timeline highlighting the most well known or interesting stories of those who have received the honor throughout history. Several of the stories covered in the museum were of the Great Locomotive Chase, Desmond Doss, and Charles H. Coolidge.


One story that caught my eye was that of this week's honoree. Unlike the previous soldiers that we have honored in this series, there is not much known about this week's honoree.


George Jordon was born in 1847 in Williamson County, Tennessee. Like many African Americans of the time, he was born into slavery - thus not much is know about his early life.

Photo by the Author's husband, from the museum's exhibit.

"In 1866, just after the end of the Civil War, the 19-year-old Jordan left the small stretch of land his family farmed and tied his fortune and fate to the U.S. Army. Over the next 20 years- in times of extreme racial tension and segregation- barely removed from the specter of slavery, Jordan rose from an illiterate youth to a recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor.

He enlisted in the 38th Infantry Regiment on Christmas Day 1866, a short unimposing figure. Yet he proved a capable soldier. In 1870 he transferred to the 9th Cavalry’s K Troop, where he would spend the next 26 years, rising in the ranks and leading troops in the escalating, various border skirmishes that have come to be called the Indian Wars." (1)


George was part of what was known as the Buffalo Soldiers. These units were given their name by the Native Americans whom they came in contact with. No one is quite sure how the units got their nicknames. "Their main tasks were to help control the Native Americans of the Plains, capture cattle rustlers and thieves and protect settlers, stagecoaches, wagon trains and railroad crews along the Western front." (2)


The skirmishes George was a part of were (part) of what is known as the Indian War Campaigns. According to the U.S. Army, these campaigns began with conflicts with the Miami tribes in January 1790 through August 1795. George was part of the campaigns against the Apache tribe in New Mexico.


"The first action was on May 14th, 1880 at Fort Tularosa, NM where Sergeant Jordan, his men and the town citizens were surprise attacked by a band of more than 100 Apaches. Jordan and his men successfully fought back the invaders and saved the town and the town’s cattle. The second action occurred on August 12th, 1881 in Carrizo Canyon, NM. Jordan and his troopers were detached from a larger force when they were ambushed by Apache Indians. Sergeant Jordan and the 19 men under his command performed valiantly in combat and Jordan’s actions were responsible for repelling the attack, likely saving the company’s command from being surrounded and suffering further casualties." (3)


It was for these two battles that George was awarded the Medal of Honor. However, with this recognition that didn't make George's life any easier. He retired from the Army in 1896 at the rank of Sergeant. George "became a successful land owner in the Fort Robinson [Nebraska] area." (3) In 1904 George's health was deteriorating yet he was denied access to medical care at army base hospital. He passed away soon after that. "A complaint by the post Chaplain noted that Jordan 'died for the want of proper attention.' Sergeant George Jordan was buried in the Fort Robinson cemetery where he received a funeral with full military honors." (3)


"Despite the appaling circustances surrounding his death, George Jordan's name and legacy as a Buffalo Solider Medal of Honor recipient live on. During WWII, an Army facility was named after Jordan, Camp George Jordan in Seattle, Washington. In 1999 the Army’s 6th Recruiting Brigade in North Las Vegas, Nevada named their new headquarters building after Sergeant George Jordan." (3)


Footnotes:

(1) https://williamsonsource.com/slavery-medal-honor-winner-story-sgt-george-jordan/

(2) https://www.history.com/topics/westward-expansion/buffalo-soldiers

(3) https://www.nps.gov/people/george-jordan.htm


Resources:

Charles H. Coolidge Medal of Honor Heritage Center ~ Exhibits

Collectors Weekly ~ Civil War and Indian Wars Campaign Medals

Congressional Medal of Honor Society ~ George Jordan

History Channel ~ Buffalo Soldiers

The Hall of Valor Project ~ George Jordan

Medal of Honor Convention ~ George Jordan

National Park Service ~ George Jordan

Williamson Source ~ From Slavery to Medal of Honor Recipient: the Story of Sgt. George Jordan

Wikipedia ~ George Jordan (Medal of Honor)

YouTube ~ Buffalo Soldier - George Jordan