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Bill Thayer

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[image ALT: An engraving of the head and shoulders of a man of late middle age, with a full head of somewhat wavy hair, and a full beard and moustache, seen from the profile, looking to our left. He wears a suit with wide lapels, a vest and a dress shirt with a bowtie, and his expression has a hint of a smile to it. It is Thomas Jordan, a Confederate general, whose career is detailed on this webpage.]

General Thomas Jordan

The text that follows is reproduced from (the report of the) Twenty-Seventh Annual Reunion of the Association of the Graduates of the United States Military Academy, June 11th, 1896.

 p77  Thomas Jordan
No. 1057. Class of 1840.
Died, November 27, 1895, at New York, N. Y., aged 76.

Brigadier-General Thomas Jordan was born at Luray, Virginia, September 30th, 1819, both parents being of Revolutionary stock. A maternal grand-uncle, a Withers of South Carolina, had served on the staff of General Sumter. It was a family tradition that the Jordans were kinsmen of the Washingtons in England. The fact is confirmed by genealogists, among them Moncure D. Conway, who attributes to one of the Jordans the suggestion of the emigration of the Washingtons from England to Virginia. It is noteworthy in this connection that Thomas, as a Christian name, was common in both families.

Thomas Jordan was graduated at West Point in 1840, one of his class-mates and room-mate being William Tecumseh Sherman. He entered service at once in the Infantry, and early distinguished himself during the Seminole uprising in Florida, 1841 to 1843. During a portion of this period he was the Adjutant of his regiment, acting later as Assistant Adjutant-General of a military district. While still a Lieutenant he served with his regiment in the Mexican war, taking part in the battles of Palo Alto and Resaca de la Palma. His company, with three others, constituted the first battalion to cross the Rio Grande, as a cover to the crossing of General Taylor's whole army into Mexico. Later he was selected for a Captaincy on the General staff, was assigned to the Quartermaster's Department and stationed at Vera Cruz, the base of operations of General Scott, from which the army drew its supplies in the campaign which ended in the conquest of Mexico. He had finally charge of all the Quartermaster's arrangements for the evacuation of Mexico, owing to the illness of his senior, and in this was included the sea and land transportation of 35,000 men, in completion of which Captain Jordan was the last  p78 American soldier to leave the soil of Mexico. His efficiency in this service was specially mentioned by General Twiggs, the Commander at Vera Cruz, to the Quartermaster-General at Washington.

During a second uprising of the Seminoles and their transfer West of the Mississippi, Captain Jordan was in charge of the chief depot of the Quartermaster's staff, until he was assigned in January, 1852, to special duty at Washington, D. C. From August, 1852, to December, 1860, he served as Quartermaster on the Pacific Coast, notably during the skilful operations conducted by Colonel George Wright, for the suppression of a serious widespread Indian insurrection in the present State of Washington. His services received the highest official testimony. The introduction of steam navigation on the Upper Columbia River, above the Dalles, at this time, was his own project and first achieved by him; and the first successful system of irrigation of the arid plains was instigated by him. The former matured into the Oregon Navigation Company. He was well known and esteemed for the intelligent painstaking with which he aided, by the influence of his official station, everything in the nature of legitimate pioneering, as also for the personal friendliness and assistance which he bestowed upon the seemingly worthy among unfortunates.

Among his familiars in the army of the United States at that time, Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Ethan Allen Hitchcock, Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Edward J. Steptoe, Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Robert S. Garnett, Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.William T. Sherman and Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.George H. Thomas may be mentioned with the last named of whom he corresponded intimately.

In May, 1861, under a sense of superior obligation, he resigned his commission in the army of the United States to offer his sword and life to his native State, Virginia. He was appointed Lieutenant-Colonel in the Virginia service and assigned to the staff of General Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Philip St. George Cocke, commanding the State forces then occupying Culpepper Court House, General Lee being Commander-in‑Chief of the forces of Virginia. With General Cocke was Captain Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.David B. Harris of the Engineers, an old West  p79 Pointer, as modest as he was able. From him Colonel Jordan became convinced of the strategic importance of Manassas Junction and the critical necessity of occupying it in force immediately; otherwise its occupation by the Federals in a few days seemed to him certain. In a formal memoir, in which he mapped the district with which he was personally familiar, he successfully commended the movement through the Adjutant-General, Colonel Rob't S. Garnett, to General Lee, by whom Colonel Jordan was complimented in a personal letter and assigned as Adjutant-General of the forces which were thereupon ordered to assemble there. On June 3d, General Beauregard took command and on July 21st the battle followed known as the first Manassas, or Bull Run. It is worthy of note that, after the battle, Colonel Jordan suggested to General Beauregard that the Federal surgeons should be released without parole. The General readily acceded and dismissed them, after a voluntary stay on duty, and with a high commendation of the devotion they showed to their wounded. This was the first time in war that an enemy's surgeons were thus treated as non-combatants.

Colonel Jordan accompanied General Beauregard thence upon his assignment to command in the West, in January, 1862, to foil the suspected undertakings of Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Halleck and Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Grant. During the Shiloh and Corinth campaigns he was the Adjutant-General of the Confederate Army, and after the former was promoted a Brigadier-General. When Beauregard was relieved by Bragg, Jordan remained with the latter until Beauregard was re-assigned to duty, in command of the Department of South Carolina Georgia and Florida, when he rejoined him and served as Chief of Staff during the operations of 1862‑3‑4, including the siege of Charleston. Illness prevented his accompanying Beauregard on the latter's assignment to the Department of North Carolina and Southern Virginia in April, 1864. Upon his recovery and reporting to the War Department, and while awaiting assignment, he rejoined Beauregard in North Carolina in 1865, and was with him unofficially when the struggle ended.

In 1869 General Jordan consented to direct the revolutionary  p80 forces of Cuba, and was commissioned by the Cuban government Commander-in‑Chief, with headquarters in the field. The odds against him in that campaign are now well known. But as evidencing his methods, it may be mentioned that on one occasion, with 580 men inadequately equipped, he entered between two columns of Spaniards, ambushed one of them several thousand strong, inflicting upon it a loss of 700 men, and, his ammunition being exhausted, carried off his own wounded in a creditable retreat. Spain valued his services against her at a reward of $100,000, which she placed upon his head. Dissensions in high places, making it impossible to impress upon the revolutionary authorities his policy of concentration for strategic operations, and some differences as to the achievements to be aimed at led to General Jordan's resignation from the hopeless undertaking, and later he escaped out of Cuba in an open boat.

As a professional soldier, General Jordan's most notable merit is that evinced by him as a Chief of Staff and as an organizer. His office in fact, became such a training school that a number of his clerks, were promoted out of it into positions as Adjutant-Generals of other departments. The Confederate Assistant Secretary of War, Judge John A. Campbell, declared that no such satisfactory returns were received from any department as from that of General Beauregard. Beauregard pronounced General Jordan as one of the ablest military organizers living, and this at a time when the great organizers of Europe were displaying such imposing results in the field.

General Jordan was a man of unusually wide research, keen discernment and close observation, a vigorous, conscientious writer. The clearness of his military narratives and criticisms not only impressed professional soldiers and military students, but made them intelligible to unversed readers. Reverend Henry Ward Beecher, personally unknown to General Jordan, wrote of his narrative of Shiloh in the United Service Magazine that it was the only account of the battle that he could ever understand.

After the war and prior to his service in Cuba, General Jordan had been for a time editor of the Memphis Appeal. After  p81 his return from Cuba to New York, he founded the Financial and Mining Record which, as its editor, he devoted to the merits and claims of silver coinage into lawful money. His accuracy as a statistician, together with his abilities as an analyst and reasoner, won him the confidence of many Representatives and Senators in Congress, and made the Financial and Mining Record recognized as an authority on the silver question. His ill health ended the paper.

Captain Jordan married the daughter of Edmund Kearny, of Keyport, N. J., who had been a Captain in the British Navy. She died in 1884. Their surviving issue are a son and a daughter.

Until a recent period General Jordan had abstained from any open profession of a religious creed. An intimate contact with the Jesuit missionaries in the Northwest had, however, earned his appreciation of their cheerful endurance of privations and the intelligence of their efforts to such extent that he liked to talk about them. His experience inclined him to adopt their faith when he determined for himself to distinguish between creeds. About two years before his death he sought and received the sacrament of baptism at the hands of Father Campbell, of the Society of Jesus at the Church of St. Francis Xavier, and was later, during his illness visited and confirmed by the Archbishop of New York. From this church his remains were borne to their last resting place, on the 29th of November, 1895, with such honors as could be paid his memory by his many friends.

Prepared by his friend and counsel, William J. Marrin, of New York.

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Page updated: 27 Nov 10