The John B. Gordon Story
Friday, January 29, 2010
By Calvin E. Johnson, Jr.
Author of book “When America Stood for God, Family and Country”
Speaker and Member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans
Jeremiah 6:16 of the Bible reads: “Thus saith the LORD, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls.”
But, have we forgotten God and the old paths of our Founding Fathers and Mothers? Is American history even taught anymore in public and private schools?
As the world looks to America, do we know who helped make the USA free and great?
President Theodore Roosevelt said of John B. Gordon, "A more gallant, generous, and fearless gentlemen and soldier has not been seen in this country."
February is Black History Month and it is also the birthday month of George Washington, America’s first president. February is also the birthday month of John Brown Gordon of Georgia.
John B. Gordon, born February 6, 1832, was an orator, lawyer, statesman, soldier, publisher and governor of the State of Georgia. His is best known as one of Gen. Robert E. Lee’s generals. At Appomattox, Gordon’s corps encounter with the soldiers under Gen. Joshua Chamberlain is a classic story. Gordon would always remember Chamberlain for the courtesy and respect shown he and his men.
Carter Godwin Woodson, father of Black History Week, has much in common with John B. Gordon. Both men believed that accurate American history should be taught in our schools. Woodson also believed the study of Black history should include those African-Americans who fought on both sides of the War Between the States.
Black History Week became Black History Month in the 1960s.
Woodson, eleven years after the first Black History Week, founded the "Negro History Bulletin" for teachers, students and the public.
Gordon also worked to see that the history of the Confederate soldier was taught in public schools. After the war only the Northern version of the War Between the States was taught to Southern children.
John B. Gordon believed in the South’s Constitutional right to secession, but after it was crushed, he worked to reunite the nation and helped white and black Southerners the war had made poor.
In Gordon’s day there were no skyscrapers, telephones, automobiles, bright lights, or bad air to obscure the view of Heaven’s stars. The American Revolution was in the past only as far back as the Great Depression is today. American history was still taught at a time when the Union and Confederate Veterans were still living and honored.
A John B. Gordon birthday celebration was first held in Atlanta, Georgia on Saturday, February 6, 1993, in front of Georgia’s old historic state capitol building. Weather forecasters called for rain and cold but God must have blessed that day as it was warm and sunny. Nearly one-thousand people came to remember Gordon.
A Confederate reenactment band with authentic band instruments played “Dixie” and everyone stood straight and proud. The band gave the melody, but the crowd sang the words.
Many speakers praised Gordon. One man turned to Gordon’s statue and asked "General Gordon what would you say to those who would change the history of America?" Gordon, the American, the Southerner might have answered: "Take your history and teach it to your children or others will teach their history!" Gordon set up a publishing company after the war to help teach children their Southern history.
In 1995, a third John B. Gordon memorial was held in Atlanta, but this time it was cold and snowy. Among the speakers in 1995, was a young Black-American. Eddie B. Page was a true friend and defender of the heritage of America. He was proud of the United States, 1956 Georgia and Confederate flags. Eddie knew his history, Southern style, and did not parrot "Political Correct" history.
John Brown Gordon was born in Upson County, Georgia. He was the fourth of twelve children born to Zachariah and Malinda Cox Gordon.
After attending the University of Georgia he came to Atlanta to study law. Here he met and married Rebecca Haralson and their union was long and happy.
September 17, 1862, is known as the bloodiest day in American history. Confederate General John B. Gordon was there, defending a position called the sunken road. Wave upon wave of Union troops attacked Gordon’s men. The casualties were beyond today’s understanding. Gordon was struck by Union bullets four times, but continued to lead his men. Then, the fifth bullet tore through his right jaw and out his left cheek. He fell with his face in his hat and would have drowned in his own blood except for a hole in his hat. Though Gordon survived these wounds, the last bullet left him permanently scarred. That is why you see later photographs of him only from the right side.
For years the John B. Gordon celebration, in Atlanta, was concluded by a mile march to Oakland Cemetery where the general is buried with his Confederate compatriots. Not since past Confederate Memorial days has there been a scene on an Atlanta street of soldiers in Confederate gray and women and children of black mourning dress.
The spirits of Carter G. Woodson and John B. Gordon were there with us on those February days when Confederate gray marched through a Black-American neighborhood. The people watching the parade were told about the Gordon service and were invited to Oakland. Black children spread the word that this was a memorial to Gordon who was once governor of Georgia.
Woodson and Gordon are still with us—in spirit and, if you listen, they are saying, "Teach your children the whole story of America’s past."
Let’s not forget!