Profiles of Valor: George Jordan
“He stubbornly held his ground in an extremely exposed position and gallantly forced back a much superior number of the enemy.”
In 1847, George Jordan was born into slavery in Williamson County, Tennessee. Little is known about his early life.
At the end of the War Between the States, at the age of 18 he enlisted in the U.S. Army on Christmas Day in Nashville — an illiterate but free man. He was assigned to the 38th Infantry Regiment but eventually ended up serving with the 9th Cavalry (Buffalo Soldiers) Regiment, the Army’s first peacetime regiment made up entirely of black soldiers. The 9th served primarily in the Southwest and Great Plains regions.
Jordan learned to read and write in his early years of service and rose to the rank of Sergeant by 1879.
He served gallantly in many conflicts, including his actions in May 1880 at Fort Tularosa, New Mexico, where he and 25 of his men were subject to a surprise attack by a band of more than 100 Apache Indians. They fought back the attack, saving the town residents. His journal entry regarding that attack reads, “On the evening of the 14th, while I was standing outside the fort conversing with one of the citizens, the Indians came upon us unexpectedly and attacked.”
Not one of his Buffalo Soldiers died in the Fort Tularosa attack, and prior to his Medal of Honor, he was awarded the Certificate of Merit for his actions, which included an additional $2 a month pay increase.
In August of the following year, at Carrizo Canyon, New Mexico, under what seemed insurmountable odds resulting from another Apache ambush, he and 19 of his men repulsed the attack under the leadership of Jordan’s fearless and valorous actions. Both the Fort Tularosa and the Carrizo Canyon actions earned him the Medal of Honor.
His citation notes: “The President of the United States of America, in the name of Congress, takes pleasure in presenting the Medal of Honor to Sergeant George Jordan, United States Army, for extraordinary heroism while serving with Company K, 9th U.S. Cavalry. While commanding a detachment of 25 men at Fort Tularosa, New Mexico, on 14 May 1880, Sergeant Jordan repulsed a force of more than 100 Indians. At Carrizo Canyon, New Mexico, while commanding the right of a detachment of 19 men, on 12 August 1881, he stubbornly held his ground in an extremely exposed position and gallantly forced back a much superior number of the enemy, preventing them from surrounding the command.”
In 1896 at age 49, he retired near Fort Robinson, Nebraska, in a community with fellow Buffalo Soldiers.
Jordan died in 1904. By one account: “As was the case with many African-American veterans, he was denied entry into the base hospital. Jordan would die shortly thereafter from his medical conditions. A complaint by the post Chaplain noted that Jordan ‘died for the want of proper attention.’”
This incident is credited with a Department of Veterans Affairs policy to never refuse any service member care for any reason. Today, few current veterans would agree that any such policy is enforced.
Sgt. Jordan was buried in the Fort Robinson cemetery with full military honors.
Altogether, there were 13 enlisted men and six officers from the four Buffalo Soldier regiments who earned the Medal of Honor during the Indian Wars.
Semper Vigilans Fortis Paratus et Fidelis
Pro Deo et Libertate — 1776
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