John B. Gordon was a civilian turned soldier who rose during the course of the war from the rank of captain commanding a company of Alabama volunteers to that of major general in charge of the Confederate 2nd Corps from December of 1864 on through to Appomattox. Unlike some others in the Confederate Army who obtained promotion because of politics, Gordon earned advancement because of ability and bravery.
Before the outbreak of the Civil War, Gordon practiced law, was briefly a newspaper reporter, then formed the Castle Rock Coal Company in partnership with his father.
After 1st Bull Run he was elected colonel of the 6th Alabama when the regiment was reorganized and commanded it in the action at Williamsburg on the Peninsula. He assumed command of a brigade at Seven Pines and distinguished himself in the role. He fought throughout the Seven Days battles, in command of a brigade part of the time.
Gordon was back in command of the 6th Alabama for Antietam, where he assured General Lee that, “These men are going to stay here, General, till the sun goes down or victory is won.” Wounded several times in the viscous fighting there, including once in the head, he survived to tell how a bullet hole in his hat had let the blood to run of it, saving him from drowning in it.
After he had recovered from his wounds, Gordon was given command of a Georgia brigade, which he commanded at Chancellorsville and Gettysburg. Lee was impressed by Gordon’s performance at the Wilderness, and altered his command structure so that he could lead a division. He earned permanent promotion to major general at Spotsylvania, and fought at Cold Harbor , in the Shenandoah Valley with Early’s command, and at Monocacy. Back in the Valley after Early’s withdrawal from the Washington area he participated in the battles of 3rd Winchester, Fisher’s Hill, and was a primary architect of the plan for the Battle of Cedar Creek.Gordon returned with his division and rejoined Lee for the siege of Petersburg, where he directed a corps toward the end of the siege.
At Appomattox his men made the final charge of the Army of Northern Virginia in a futile attempt to break out of the ring of converging Federal forces. General Gordon led the Confederate Army forward for the surrender preceding.
Following the war, Gordon went into politics, serving Georgia as governor and senator, and was very active in veteran’s organizations. He died in 1904.
|History of the War in the Valley||Historic Places||Tour||Valley Museums||Soldiers and Civilians||Site Map||Valley Historical Links|