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Civilian Casualty on the Home Front


On this date in 1917, the Second Regiment of the North Dakota National Guard prepared to leave for Camp Greene, North Carolina. Among them was Joseph Jordan, a Sioux of the Standing Rock Reservation, who had enlisted in Company I, Second Infantry of the guard on July 22 that same year. He was anxious about what lay ahead for him.

But war does not discriminate; it feeds upon both the fears of the soldiers who courageously face death, and also upon the families and friends who worry about their safety – burdened with the fear of never casting their eyes on their loved one again.

On the night before departure, Joseph Jordan’s eighteen-year-old wife joined him in Bismarck. She spent the night weeping and begging him to allow her to accompany him to Camp Greene, but that was not possible. He repeatedly assured her that he would be fine and she would have to remain behind. For the distraught young bride, this reassurance was not enough.

As the train left the station, the lifeless body of Sarah Jordan lay in a mortuary but a few hundred yards from the tracks. Unable to overcome the grief of seeing her husband off to war, the young woman, in the early morning hours, came into the bedroom and cried out that she had taken poison. As she slumped onto the bed, a bottle of carbolic acid fell from her hands and clattered on the floor. Her husband rushed her to the hospital, but nothing could be done. She died within the hour. Her remains would be returned home to the reservation, escorted by her family. In the eyes of many, she was Sioux County’s first victim of the Great War.

Only four hours after the death of his wife, Private Joseph Jordan boarded the train, bound for Camp Greene and eventually the battlefields of Europe. He served overseas from December 15, 1917 to January 3, 1919 and was wounded during the fighting. According to General Order #5, issued from the 1st Infantry Brigade at Selters, Germany, he showed gallant conduct and self-sacrificing spirit during numerous battles in France and Germany. He was cited for his courage and awarded a Silver Star.

But for this bereaved husband and soldier, his greatest battle was fought long before he faced the enemy guns on the battlefields of France

Dakota Datebook written by Jim Davis


Sioux County Pioneer October 5, 1917

Bismarck Tribune, September 29, 1917

Roster of the Men and Women Who Served in the Army or Naval Service (Including the Marine Corps) of the United States or Its Allies from the State of North Dakota in the Great War, 1917-1918; by the Adjutant General’s Office; 1931.