George Gordon (Civil War General)

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George Washington Gordon

George Washington Gordon (October 5, 1836 – August 9, 1911) was a general of the Confederate States Army during the American Civil War. After the war, he practiced law in Pulaski, Tennessee, where the Ku Klux Klan was formed. He became one of the Klan's first members. In 1867, Gordon became the Klan's first Grand Dragon for the Realm of Tennessee, and wrote its "Precept," a book describing its organization, purpose, and principles. He was also a member of the United States House of Representatives for the 10th congressional district of Tennessee.

Early life[edit]

Gordon was born in Pulaski, Tennessee. He graduated from the Western Military Institute in Nashville, Tennessee, in 1859, and practiced civil engineering.

Civil War[edit]

At the start of the Civil War, Gordon enlisted in the military service of the Confederacy and became drillmaster of the 11th Regiment, Tennessee Infantry, before rising to brigadier general. He was one of the youngest Confederate brigadier generals at the end of the war.[1]

Gordon led Vaughn's Brigade, under Maj. Gen. John C. Brown, at the Battle of Franklin (November 30, 1864), where he was wounded and captured. Many of the men he led are buried at McGavock Confederate Cemetery in Franklin, Tennessee.

Postbellum career[edit]

After the war, Gordon studied law, was admitted to the bar, and practiced in Memphis, Tennessee, until 1883. He was appointed one of the railroad commissioners of Tennessee. He received an appointment in the Department of the Interior in 1885, as special Indian agent in Arizona and Nevada, and he served until 1889. He returned to Memphis, Tennessee and resumed the practice of law. He was the superintendent of Memphis city schools between 1889 and 1907.

Ku Klux Klan involvement[edit]

For more details on this topic, see Ku Klux Klan.

The KKK (the Klan) was formed by veterans of the Confederate Army in Pulaski, Tennessee, in 1866 and soon expanded throughout the state and beyond. Gordon was an early member, if not a founder.

According to one oral report, he went to General Nathan Bedford Forrest in Memphis, and told him about the Klan, to which Forrest replied, "That's a good thing; that's a damn good thing. We can use that to keep the niggers in their place." The organization had grown to the point where an experienced commander was needed, and Forrest fit the bill. Forrest became involved sometime in late 1866 or early 1867. A common report is that Forrest arrived in Nashville in April 1867 while the Klan was meeting at the Maxwell House Hotel. In Room 10 of the Maxwell, Forrest was sworn in as a member.[2] Forrest went on to become the nationwide leader of the first Klan.[3]

The historical record includes an 1868 proclamation by Gordon. In it, he warns that the Klan had been "fired into three times," and that if the blacks "make war upon us they must abide by the awful retribution that will follow." He also states that the Klan is a peaceful organization, but that some people have been carrying out violent acts in the name of the Klan.

Political career[edit]

Gordon was elected as a Democrat to the Sixtieth, Sixty-first, and Sixty-second Congresses. He served from March 4, 1907, until his death in Memphis. He was interred in Elmwood Cemetery.

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Martinez, James Michael, Carpetbaggers, Cavalry, and the Ku Klux Klan, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 2007, ISBN 978-0-7425-5078-0, p. 15. Retrieved June 20, 2009.
  2. ^ Hurst pp. 284-285. Wills p. 336. Wills quotes two KKK members who identified Forrest as a Klan leader. James R. Crowe stated, “After the order grew to large numbers we found it necessary to have someone of large experience to command. We chose General Forrest.” Another member wrote, “N. B. Forest of Confederate fame was at our head, and was known as the Grand Wizard. I heard him make a speech in one of our Dens.”
  3. ^ Horn, pp. 314-15.

References[edit]

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