Sgt William Jourdan

Fallen HeroSergeant William Jourdan 

On this day in Baltimore Police History 1857, we lost our brother Sergeant William Jourdan to gunfire based on the following: The 1800’s were a mixing pot for Baltimore, made up of different nationalities that were struggling to find their political direction. A city divided into wards was literally fighting in the streets for control of everything from polling places to a political party. There was the “No Nothing Party” and “The Democratic Party” in 1857 alone, and tons of arrests were made for people shooting at police officers. While the police were charged with keeping the peace and maintaining order, it didn’t stop those they swore to protect from turning their guns on us; police were shot at on a regular basis.

14 October 1857 was like any other day in Baltimore, a confused society taking its misguided, misinformed political confusion out on the police. At the time, the police ran the city, and the commissioner panel, made up of Charles Howard, William H. Gatchell, Charles Hinks, and John W. Davis, was political in itself. Often,  these commissioners either went on to become mayors or were mayors who later became police commissioners and ran the city government. It was frustrating to the people of Baltimore, a port town made up of so many different nationalities, all vying for their place, to have some sort of identity and fair treatment. Sergeant William Jourdan fell victim to a bullet fired at him while keeping order at a polling place when he was shot for no other reason than that he wore the badge and uniform of a Baltimore Police Officer. He wasn’t out to arrest anyone; it wasn’t a wanted person, a robber, or a thief; it was a voter in the 5th ward at Gay and Front Street, ready to cast his ballot, but several Democratic candidates withdrew their names from consideration for seats on the city council. This served to quiet some of the trouble that had been brewing, but it didn’t stop around. At approximately 1:30 pm, with streets full of voters and political activists, a man on the roof of an Omnibus fired a pistol into the crowd. After discharging several rounds, many of the onlookers chased after him. The shooter ran through a store owned by Jehu Gorsush at the corner of Front and Gay Street, then onto the roof of that store, and finally escaped by descending through an adjacent house. Once again, those in the street began fighting. The situation demanded action by the on-scene police in order to prevent more fighting and an eventual riot.

Fortunate for nearly everyone there, one of the groups involved in the fighting retreated down High Street toward French Street. Wanting the retreat to continue, police did all they could to maintain the push, moving them further out of the area. As police encouraged the crowd to continue their move, the shots started up again, this time from a window of the Democratic headquarters, “Jackson Hall.”. One of the rounds struck Sgt. Jourdan, killing him within minutes. Lieutenant Carmichael took over, transporting Sgt. Jourdan’s lifeless body to his home near Ann Street and Eastern Avenue. 250 or more police officers attended his funeral; they came from all four districts. At 3:00 pm on October 15, 1857, a procession led by fellow officers carried his body to the Baltimore Cemetery. When his death was reported in the Baltimore Sun, he was remembered as being “Faithful, full of zeal for good order, looking for “Peace” in our city.”

There were seven people arrested and charged in this killing: 1) M. J. Grady, 2) Henry Burns, 3) Jas. Fawcett, 4) Thomas Murray, 5) William Quinn, 6) Chas. Reilly, and 7) Peter Ward, each indicted in Baltimore City for the murder of Sergeant William Jourdan, each as principal and each as an accessory to the murder on or about October 10, 1857.

As his brothers and sisters of the Baltimore Police Department, we will not let him be forgotten. His service honored the City of Baltimore and the Baltimore Police Department. May he rest in peace, and may God bless him.

(250 officers in attendance, how times have changed, about 2,000 police officers gathered to bury John Platt and Kevin McCarthy; in either case, they will be remembered the same.)

1 black devider 800 8 72More Details

End of Watch 14 October, 1857
City, St. Gay and Front Street
Panel Number 23-E: 21
Cause of Death Gunfire
Weapon - Handgun
District Worked Central

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