George Gordon (Civil War general)

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George Gordon
George Washington Gordon.jpg
Member of U.S. House of Representatives
from Tennessee's 10th district
In office
March 4, 1907 – August 9, 1911
PresidentTheodore Roosevelt
William Howard Taft
Preceded byMalcolm R. Patterson
Succeeded byKenneth D. McKellar
Personal details
George Washington Gordon

October 5, 1836
Pulaski, Tennessee, U.S.
DiedAugust 9, 1911 (aged 74)
Memphis, Tennessee, U.S.
Resting placeElmwood Cemetery
Political partyDemocratic
Alma materWestern Military Institute
Occupationengineer, lawyer, Indian agent, railroad commissioner, school superintendent
Military service
Allegiance Confederate States of America
Branch/service Confederate States Army
Years of service1861–1865
RankBrigadier General
Commands11th Tennessee Infantry Regiment
Vaughan's Brigade
Battles/warsAmerican Civil War

George Washington Gordon (October 5, 1836 – August 9, 1911) was a general in 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 on October 5, 1836 in Pulaski, Tennessee. His father was Andrew Gordon and his mother, Eliza K. Gordon. He grew up in Mississippi and Texas. Gordon graduated from the Western Military Institute in Nashville, Tennessee in 1859. He worked on the Nashville & Northwestern Railway.[1]

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. In November 1862 he became the regiments colonel. Gordon was promoted to brigadier general in August 1864, and was one of the youngest Confederate generals.[2] Gordon led Vaughn's Brigade, in Maj. Gen. John C. Brown's division, 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. Gordon was sent to the prisoner-of-war camp at Fort Warren until he was paroled in the summer of 1865.[3]

Postbellum career[edit]

After the war, Gordon studied law at Cumberland University, was admitted to the bar, and practiced in Memphis, Tennessee, until 1883.[3] 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.[1]

Ku Klux Klan involvement[edit]

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 initiate and likely wrote the organization's original Prescript[4] in 1867 and its revised edition[5] the following year. Following Gordon's death, his widow, Minnie, claimed that he had been the original Grand Wizard of the Klan and that it was he, not Nathan Bedford Forrest, who disbanded it.[3]

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]


  1. ^ a b Allison, John (1905). Notable Men of Tennessee. Personal and Genealogical With Portraits. 2. Atlanta, Georgia: Southern Historical Association. pp. 51–53. Retrieved January 14, 2016.
  2. ^ 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.
  3. ^ a b c Cheathem and Taylor, "Confederate General George Washington Gordon," 41.
  4. ^ Ku Klux Klan (1915- ) (1867-01-01). Prescript of the * * [order of the Ku-Klux klan]. [Pulaski? Tenn., n.p.]
  5. ^ "Revised and Amended Prescript of the Order of the * * * [Ku Klux Klan] :: Alabama Textual Materials Collection". Retrieved 2016-11-17.


External links[edit]

U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by
Malcolm R. Patterson
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Tennessee's 10th congressional district

March 4, 1907 – August 9, 1911
Succeeded by
Kenneth McKellar