General George W. Gordon, CSA

RECORD OF GENERAL GEORGE W. GORDON [Memorial address of Hon. Kenneth D. McKellar, M.C., successor to Gen. George W. Gordon, of Tennessee, in the House of Representatives on Sunday, May 12, 1912.] RESOLUTIONS ADOPTED BY THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES. Resolved: 1. That the business of the House be now suspended that opportunity may be given for tributes to the memory of Hon. George Washington Gordon, late a member of this House from the State of Tennessee; that as a particular mark of respect to the memory of the deceased and in recognition of his distinguished public career the House at the conclusion of these exercises shall stand adjourned. 2. That the Clerk communicate these resolutions to the Senate and send a copy to the family of the deceased. Mr. McKellar said in addressing the Speaker: "On May 12 the House held memorial exercises in honor of my predecessor from Memphis, the late Gen. George W. Gordon. Only a few days before Judge L. B. McFarland, a distinguished and eloquent lawyer of Memphis and an ex-Confederate soldier and a lifelong friend of General Gordon, delivered an able and beautiful address upon the life and character of General Gordon before the annual Reunion of ex-Confederate veterans at Macon, Ga., and it is so beautiful and fitting a tribute that I ask unanimous consent that it may be printed in the Record as a part of my remarks and included as one of the memorial addresses of this House upon the life and character of my distinguished predecessor. It is especially fitting that this address should have a place in the Record, because it contains an unfinished and hitherto unpublished farewell address of General Gordon to his old comrades in arms." ADDRESS OF L.B. McFARLAND AT REUNION IN MACON, GA. Beloved Commander and Comrades: When delegated by our Commander in Chief to deliver on this occasion a memorial of the life and character of your late Commander in Chief, Gen. George W. Gordon, I hesitated to attempt compliance, fearing that my great admiration for the subject, born from years of intimate association, would tempt to adulation, and, on the other hand, my incapacity to speak fittingly of a character so noble and a life so full of usefulness, self-sacrifice, and noble deeds gave me pause. I felt that the deeds of such a man should not be feebly uttered; but I took the delegation to be a command and an honor, and the opportunity to perpetuate in the records of this association a tribute to a dead friend and brother could not be disregarded. George W. Gordon was born on the 5th of October, 1836, in Giles County, Tenn. He was the son of Andrew Gordon, a native of Tennessee, and Eliza K. Gordon, a Virginian born. This county - one of the blue grass region of Tennessee - was one of the most fertile and fairest of the land, its people educated, refined, and prosperous to a high degree. He was reared there and in Mississippi and also Texas, he having spent part of his youth in each. He graduated at the Western Military Institute at Nashville, then the West Point of the South, and was thus fitted for the performance of arms. He first made civil engineering his occupation, and served in that field from 1859 to 1861, and until Tennessee seceded from the Union and called her sons to arms. He enlisted at once and was made drill master of the afterwards famous 11th Tennessee Infantry, whose first colonel was Col. J. E. Rains, afterwards General Rains, who fell in the desperate conflict at Murfreesboro. Gordon was soon made captain of his company, and then lieutenant colonel and colonel of his regiment, and in 1864 was made brigadier general. At the close of the war he studied law, and was early elected attorney-general of one of the criminal courts of Shelby County, Tenn., and served the State ably and well. He was then appointed a railroad commissioner for the State, and served until 1885, when upon the election of Mr. Cleveland he received an appointment in the Department of the Interior, and was assigned to duty in charge of an Indian agency amid the mountains of Arizona and Nevada. He was eminently fitted for this particular post, feeding, educating, and controlling these children of nature and wards of the government, and these duties and opportunities were congenial to the habits of his then lonely life and his intense love of nature. It required that he take, alone and unattended, long trips amid the solitudes and vastnesses of the mountains, now wandering through beautiful meadows where the dun deer fed and the grizzly roamed, and then high above the clouds, threading the narrow path that wound around seemingly bottomless precipices; often overtaken by storm, he reveled in the grandeur of nature's supremest effort, saw the lightning flash and heard the thunders roll, when "Far along, From peak to peak, the rattling crags among, leaps the live thunder." And then at night, his horse tethered near, he made his lonely bivouac under the clear heavens and near the clear stars, and felt himself, as did Moses, communing with the God of all these wondrous works. To him this was not solitude; "'twas but to hold converse with nature's charms and view her stores unrolled." His term of office expired, he returned to Memphis and was soon elected superintendent of the Memphis city schools, which he held until March, 1907, when he was elected to Congress. The growth and efficiency of the public school system of Memphis during these years became a monument to his zeal, intelligence, and devotion to his work; and the spread of general education and intelligence signaled his beneficent influence upon the youthful thousands under his superintendence, while the gratitude and devotion of teachers and scholars was afterwards demonstrated by their activity and influence in his several candidacies for Congress - in 1908 and reelected in 1910 - by overwhelming majorities given by an appreciative constituency, where he served with the same zeal, fidelity, and devotion that he gave any duty of life. General Gordon was married twice. While Attorney-General of Shelby County, in 1876, he married Miss Ora Paine. Their bridal trip was to Niagara Falls. I met them there - she a lovely young woman in all the bloom and beauty of youth; he noble in manly bearing, his brow bound with the oak of his many battles, and with them love was dear and life was sweet, and their future horizon seemed spanned with the golden bow of promise. They went to New York. In a few weeks she was dead. Bridal carols turned to funeral dolors; the orange wreath decked her bier, and instead of the joyous wedding march was heard the sad words of the ritual: "He cometh up and is cut down like a flower. Earth to earth, dust to dust." He was alone and desolate. In 1899, he was fortunate in finding a companion of congenial culture and taste in Miss Minnie Hannah, of Memphis, to whom he was married, who thence shared the honors showered upon him by a grateful constituency, and graced his every station. She survives him to remember with pride that she was the wife of a soldier, a gentleman, and your Commander in Chief. The limits of this occasion will permit only a suggestion of his services as a soldier, his adventures, and his distinguished gallantry on every field. Captured early in 1862, he was a prisoner for ten days and then exchanged. Desperately wounded at Murfreesboro in one of the bloodiest struggles of that field, he was left on the retreat and again became a prisoner, and on recovery, after long suffering, was held in prison at Camp Chase and then Fort Delaware, suffering the horrors of those hells until May, 1863, when he was again exchanged and returned to the command of his regiment, then in Pres. Smith's brigade, Cheatham's Division. Then followed Chickamauga, Missionary Ridge, the campaign from Dalton to Jonesboro (one hundred and twenty-one days under fire), including the conflicts of Resaca, Calhoun, New Hope Church, and Kennesaw Mountain. With his regiment he held part of the celebrated Dead Angle. He was made brigadier general at that time, and then the youngest of brigadier generals he first led his brigade at Peach Tree Creek, then on the 22nd of July at Jonesboro. Afterwards came the disastrous campaign into Tennessee and perhaps the most useless battle and bloodiest slaughter of the war - Franklin. General Gordon led his brigade in the desperate charge up to and over the breastworks "into the very jaws of hell," when he was captured. There is an interesting incident connected with this charge and capture of Gordon. Earlier in the war Gordon had permitted his hair to grow longer than military rules sanctioned, and General Cheatham in sending him an order one day added jocularly to his adjutant:" "Ingram, tell Gordon to cut off that hair." Ingram delivered his orders, adding, as directed, the supplement. Gordon replied: "Tell General Cheatham I will carry out his military order, but tell him it is none of his business how I wear my hair." It became somewhat a matter of jest with Cheatham, who was devoted to Gordon, and of pride with Gordon, who was equally devoted to Cheatham, to wear his hair long. When Cheatham ordered the charge at Franklin, he sent word to Gordon to go over the works if he had to be pulled over by his hair. After his capture, when leaving with his captors, he left word with a citizen to tell General Cheatham: "Gordon had gone over the works and was not pulled over by his hair, either." During the terrible epidemic of yellow fever in Memphis in 1873 he was one of a heroic band that remained, and for many dark days of suffering and death preserved order, ministered to the sick, and buried the dead, displaying self-sacrifice and heroism greater than all the mastery of arms. He was after the war a Confederate in heart and soul and purse. No appeal for help coming from the aged or crippled Confederates, though often pretended nobility was made a plea of pity, was ever disregarded. General Gordon was closely affiliated with Confederate organizations, and successively made Commander of his Camp and Bivouac at Memphis, President of the Confederate Historical Association, Memphis (oldest of the Confederate organs), and of which Mr. Davis himself was a member, President of the State Association of Confederate Bivouacs, Major General commanding Tennessee Division, United Confederate Veterans, Commander of the Department of the Army of Tennessee, United Confederate Veterans, and, crowning all, Commander in Chief of the United Confederate Veterans. His devotion to his comrades in arms and his duties in this high office at your last Reunion at Little Rock hastened his death, and at Memphis, Tenn., he died on the 9th of August, 1911. His funeral cortege was a weeping city, his dirge the farewell shot by his beloved comrades, Company A, United Confederate Veterans, over the grave of the hero we buried, and our Commander in Chief will be with us nevermore. These are in brief the prominent facts of his life, but they naturally suggest inquiry from whence sprung such nobleness of character, such high ideals of duty, and such ability of performance. The power of heredity and the influence of climate, food, and soils upon the character of men is an essential thesis of science. These, with the impress of an age's morality, the advantages of education and fortune, the civilization of a particular era, shape and mold men to physical and intellectual worth and greatness. It is also equally well established that the tendency is to harmony of human types along east and west isothermal lines; that, unless marked topographical and race differentiation intervenes, the same characteristics will mark the men of Carolina that appear in the men of Texas. These elements, then, of heredity, climate, soil, and social economy had united in the growth of a race of young men in the South, from Maryland to Florida, and Westward to the Rio Grande, immediately preceding the Civil War, whose superior, physically, intellectually, and morally, the world had never seen. I know that some foreign and Northern writers, political economists, and pseudo-Philosophers assert that religious freedom was the motive of the Northern settlement, while greed of gold was that which populated Virginia and the Carolinas, and from this argue a nobler race of men for the North. Draper says: "The settlement of the South was inspired by material interests; that of the North by ideas. * * * Aristocratic influence was the motive power of Southern immigration; it sought material profit in tobacco and land speculation." It is not appropriate here and now to attempt comparison of sections nor depreciate the worth and greatness of any portion of our people. We only assert that the early settlers of the South, the ancestors of our Southern youth, brought with them the physical, mental, and moral characteristics of a high order of humanity and civilization. They brought with them lofty ideas of the rights of man and man's relation to God. In the face of obstacles that would have deterred a less hardy race they subdued a wilderness, conquered the warlike inhabitants, and assisted in the establishment of an empire. They rebelled against the parental tyranny of England, and the sons of Hampden and Sydney successfully fought the first revolution. Their sons and daughters then addressed themselves to the extension of this territory, the perfection of constitutional government, and the upbuilding of their private and family fortunes. The South "blossomed one day and bore fruit the next." That they had succeeded beyond the dreams of Raleigh or the ambition of Baltimore, the population, the wealth, and the culture of the South in 1861 attest. I wish the time and the occasion would permit me to sketch the condition of the South at this period; its material wealth, its political economy, its social organization, the influence of slavery upon this people, and particularly the habits of its young men. Whatever may have been the influence of slavery upon the material growth of the South, and whatever may have been its evils, there was certainly a compensating effect in the production of a society the highest and most delightful. Mr. Burke in his celebrated oration on "Conciliation with America," one of the English classics, in speaking of the love of liberty in America, says: "In Virginia and the Carolinas they had a vast multitude of slaves. Where this is the case in any part of the world, those who are free are by far the most proud and jealous of their freedom. Freedom is to them not only an enjoyment but a kind of rank and privilege." The well-to-do, including slave-owning, society of the South had no superior. It was an aristocracy that fostered and cultivated the noblest sentiments of humanity - culture, independence, courage, and knightly courtesy among men; grace, beauty, and virtue among its women. Its hospitality was unbounded. The stately homes of the James, the homes and the plantations of the hole South were scenes of elegant hospitality. Roman riches and the Roman villas and gardens of the days of Cicero, Atticus, and Lucullus were not more famed for elegant hospitality. The lives of the young men were but a training in all manly arts, all noble endeavor. All outdoor sports and manly exercise were theirs. They delighted in horses and rode like centaurs. The ear and eye, accustomed to hunt and chase, could detect the rustle of a leaf and spy ptarmigan in snow. They fished with skill and swam like Leander. These manly exercises, with generous food and genial but hardy climate, resulted in fine physical perfection. They were as a class a handsome race of men. They were graduates of the best schools, and many of them foreign alumni. The first American to graduate in a foreign university was a Virginian. While born and trained as masters, the parental authority of the race taught them obedience and restraint. Their belief in the rights of man did not teach them socialism, nor independence of thought and worship in religion, nor skepticism of the great truths of Christianity. They were taught that "valor was the chiefest virtue, the most dignified the haver." They were near enough to the frontier life of their fathers and to the Revolution to catch at the fireside stories of the endurance, the skill, and the bravery of those who fought Indians, of how Washington commanded and Marion rode. King's Mountain and Yorktown were to them places of pilgrimage; the graves of the heroes of the Revolution were around them. They had themselves declaimed in every schoolhouse from Richmond to Austin the fiery and patriotic words of Patrick Henry. It was not wonderful, then, that when the South was to be invaded - by whom they did not care, for what they did not stop to ask - her youth poured out from every schoolhouse, college, and university at the first call. The log schoolhouses and colleges of the South - Lebanon, La Grange, Chapel Hill, Lexington, Nashville, and hundreds of others - each gave their all of youth. It was a goodly sight to see these handsome boys and young men, full of courage, ardor, and ambition, come and offer themselves, their lives, and their fortunes to their beloved land. How well they redeemed the offer cannot be told. Their endurance in the cold and wary marches with Jackson in the valley, with Bragg in Kentucky, their courage at Manassas, Richmond, and Chickamauga - all attest that this heredity, climate, and other influences had made a race of heroes. The story of "Marse Chan" is a true epic of these days. In this outline we have but suggested the genius and pictured the character, the prowess, and the performances of General Gordon. But it is of him as a man that I would fain dwell longest and most lovingly. In his early manhood he was a picture of manly grace and bearing - some five feet eight and a half inches in height, weighing some one hundred and forty pounds, erect and lithe, his face symmetrical in features, but without a trace of effeminacy, with firmness and decision written in every line. His eyes were dark, quickly melting to tenderness at another's woes, but on occasion slashing with the suppressed lightning of passion. His brown hair, while a soldier unwittingly neglected , would sometimes hang in golden brown to his shoulders, suggesting the cavalier of the Charles I age. A gallant and distinguished officer writes of him as he then appeared at the head of his brigade as "the long, curly-haired young brigadier from Tennessee, of dashing field qualities and handsome personal appearance." He was a splendid horseman, witching the world with noble horsemanship. Mounted and leading his men to battle, he was a picture for troubadour song. It was thus he rode in many a conflict. The romance and the history and song of Southern literature are justly full of the pictures of Stuart and Ashby and Forrest as they rode in battle; but had Gordon been a cavalryman, with their opportunities for single combat and individual display, his name would have linked with theirs. He was earnest. To whatever he was called he devoted himself earnestly and seriously. To him life was earnest, life was real. He know little of society, was too much of a monologist, with hobbies, to be entertaining in a drawingroom, talked only occasionally and always with force. He was fond of books and loved the beautiful in everything, devoted to music, and in his early years, like "Our Bob," played the violin well. One of the chief characteristics of his life was his sense of and devotion to duty. Whatever he thought it was his duty to do he did, like Luther, "though devils blocked his way." Another characteristic was his high sense of honor, or rather his sensitiveness to honor. Other men might do things and feel no wrong, but from the same acts he would instinctively and intuitively shrink. His was a soul "To whom dishonor's shadow is a substance More terrible than death here and hereafter, And who, though proof against all blandishments Of pleasure and all pangs of pain, are feeble When the proud name on which they pinnacled Their fame is breathed on." And woe to the man or men who breathed upon the bright escutcheon of his honor. His attainments were scholarly, and as a public speaker he was animated, forceful, and classic. He was much in demand, and was ready on all Confederate occasions and delighted at every opportunity for commemorating the virtues and gallantry of Confederates. His eulogy on the life and services of the great commander Joseph E. Johnston, delivered to an immense audience in Memphis, was a masterpiece of power and pathos and a classic oration. Another of his chiefest virtues was his earnest and constant devotion to his friends, whose adoption he had tried. To those virtues of valor and gentleness, of sense of duty and practice of virtue add truth and honesty, and we have said it all. No wonder that, living, he was loved by all, and, dying, his obsequies were an affectionate outpouring of a whole people. All felt that "this earth that bears him dead bears not alive so true a gentleman." With him, as is often the case, death brought a retrospect of the dearest aims and strongest emotions of his life, and as the fluttering pulse presaged the coming end he was upon the battle field among his men again. The serried rank, the charging squadron, the waving banners, the rattle of musketry, the roar of cannon, and all the pride, pomp, and circumstance of the big war were his again, and his last words were: "Send other couriers; those may be killed." But, comrades, I wish to add in conclusion that his chiefest aim in life was to vindicate the justness of the Confederate cause and to assist in the perpetuation of the honor and glory of the Confederate soldier. His chiefest ambition was to be your Commander and his love and devotion to you his intensest emotion. The chief purpose of my coming before you today was to bring you a message from him. His last thoughts were of you. While gradually sinking to the great beyond his thoughts were with you and he wrote you a last farewell, and that I will read to you from his own pencil: "To the Federation of United Confederate Veterans, Comrades and Countrymen: About to die, I salute you; and in bidding you a final farewell I desire once more to make my profoundest acknowledgments and to express my heartfelt gratitude to you for the many manifestations of your partiality and devotion evidence by the many honors that you have conferred upon me, and more especially for the last profound and exalted distinction with which you have crowned me - that of making me your Commander if Chief. I esteem this last expression of your regard and consideration a grander and more glorious distinction than all of the combined public plaudits, achievements, decorations, and honors of my entire life, and for which I would express my thanks and appreciation from the grave. What patriotic glory can equal that of being the Commander in Chief of the surviving and venerable fragments of those brave and heroic Confederate armies who for four trying and perilous years maintained their cause against odds of more than four to one, and who fought battles and won victories when barefooted, ragged, and hungry, and who at last were overpowered more by the preponderance of numbers and resources than by courage and prowess, more by famine than by fighting"-- This last farewell to you was never finished. Here, my comrades, the pulse of life throbbed low. His feeble hand could write no more, and in a few days his noble spirit winged its flight to join again, we hope, his comrades gone before, all to await our speedy coming in the great reunion hereafter. The above was taken as it was printed in the "Confederate Veteran" magazine, Vol. 20, no. 19, Sept. 1919, pages 427 - 431. The General died August 09, 1911 in Memphis, Shelby Co., Tennessee and is buried in the Elmwood Cemetery, Memphis, Tennessee, Lot 180, # 7, Fowler section.

See Gen. Gordon's Photograph.

Additional information: Six of his 10 siblings are buried in Texas, five in this cemetery:

The oldest of his siblings was Robert McDonald Gordon born June 02, 1827 and died December 08, 1827 in Tennessee as an infant. He's buried somewhere in Tennessee but the location is yet unknown (probably Giles County). He lost two during the War of Northern Aggression; one of those is buried in Brick Church Cemetery, Giles Co., Tennessee, with the other being buried on the battle field near New Hope Church, Georgia. Another was a sister, not yet located but suspected to be buried here in Texas.

His first wife, Ora Paine, is thought to have died by disease while in a weakened state of body. His second wife, Mary Harbor "Minnie" Hannah, was struck by a car while trying to cross the street in Memphis.

Submitted by Fred (Ric) Gordon