Born into slavery in 1847, George Jordan enlisted in the U.S. Army at age 19 on Christmas Day in Nashville as an illiterate, free man. He ended up in the hands of the 9th Cavalry Regiment, better known as the Buffalo Soldiers, the first regiment consisting of African American soldiers.
As he rose through the ranks, Jordan learned to read and write, which contributed to his rank of sergeant, some sources say.
Jordan received the Medal of Honor for his actions in two different battles in 1880 and 1881.
On May 14, 1880, at Fort Tularosa, Jordan led 25 men against 100 Apache fighters. His journal entry for that night 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."
Though greatly outnumbered, not a single Buffalo Soldier died.
The second battle was the Battle of Carrizo Canyon. The Apache had the advantage of fighting from above the Buffalo Soldiers, who were on the ground. Jordan was credited with leading his troops to hold their position and force the Apache out.
At 49, he retired to Fort Robinson, Nebraska, where, eight years later, in poor health due to kidney disease, he went to a local Army hospital. He was denied entry and died soon after. A post chaplain cited that Jordan "died for the want of proper attention."
This incident led the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to create a policy to not refuse any service member care for any reason.
Jordan is buried in the Fort Robinson cemetery, where he received service with full military honors upon his death.
Sources: Black Past, Medal of Honor Convention, National Park Service