Maj. Gen. John Brown Gordon (b. 1832, d. 1904). Without military experience Gordon – a brilliant orator – became one of the most inspiring leaders of Confederate troops. Some historians even call him the best regimental commander of the South. Born in Upson County, Georgia he grew up on his family's plantation. He entered Franklin College (today University of Georgia) and became a good student. However, without giving explanations he left college before graduation. He passed the bar examination in Atlanta, practised law and became involved in his father's mine business in Tennessee. A proslavery Democrat, he supported secession after Abraham Lincoln became president in 1860. When the Civil War started in mid-April 1861, Gordon raised the "Raccoon Roughs", a company which he led as its captain. It became part of the 6th Alabama Regiment and was sent to Virginia in June. Gordon saw no action at First Manassas but witnessed the Federal retreat. Promoted to colonel in April 1862, he led his regiment into its first charge at Seven Pines the next month. Though suffering 60 percent casualties, the regiment fought on in the Seven Days. In the Maryland campaign in fall, Gordon fought notably at South Mountain. He was wounded five times at Antietam while holding the Confederate center before being carried off the field. But he recovered and "the brightest star in (Gen. Robert) Rodes' Brigade" - as Gen. Cullen Battle called him - returned to duty in April 1863. He was given a brigade in Gen. Jubal Early's division, led it at Chancellorsville and was promoted to brigadier general on May 6 – the day after the battle was over. In the ensuing invasion of Pennsylvania, Gordon's brigade was in the lead, playing an important role at Second Winchester in June and thus helped to regain the Shenandoah Valley for the South, vital as source of reinforcements and used as route of invasion. At Gettysburg, Gordon's men spearheaded the successful attack by Richard S. Ewell's corps on the Union XI corps on the first day but remained inactive for the rest of the battle. In the Overland campaign of 1864, Gordon fought remarkably in the Wilderness. When he received news of the chance for a turning movement, he tried to get reinforcements. But Ewell could not spare more than one brigade which was only enough for local success. However, Gordon got the attention of army commander Gen. Robert E. Lee who gave him temporarily command of a division and supported his promotion to major general (confirmed on May 14). Gordon played a prominent role at Spotsylvania Court House where his counterattack after the loss of the salient "Mule Shoe" saved the Army of Northern Virginia. In mid-June, Gordon – now permanent division commander – was sent to the Shenandoah Valley as part of Early's corps. At Monocacy on July 9, Gordon's attack secured the Confederate victory and opened the way to Washington. However, the Federals had bought enough time to reinforce the forts around the capital and the Southerners had to retreat. Gordon stayed in the valley until Early got defeated by Gen. Philip Sheridan and returned to Petersburg in December. He was given what was left of Early's corps, but his nomination for lieutenant general was never confirmed. An ill-planned and executed assault on Fort Stedman in March 1865 was Gordon's last offensive operation during the war. He commanded the rear-guard after the retreat from Petersburg and was one of three Confederate officers who oversaw the surrender of the army at Appomattox Court House on April 9. After the war, he ran unsuccessful for governor of Georgia in 1868, was elected senator three times (1873, 1878, 1891) and served as governor from 1886-1890. He opposed Radical Reconstruction, supported white rule in the South and was very likely one of the founders of the Klu-Klux-Klan in his home state. He was the first commander-in-chief of the United Confederate Veterans and held that post until his death. Gordon was buried in Atlanta's Oakland Cemetery.
Teaches: Brave, Chargers, Heroes, Woodsmen
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