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Gordon, John B.


Confederate general and Georgia politician John B. Gordon was born in Upson County, Georgia on February 6, 1832. Gordon attended the University of Georgia. After reading law, he was admitted to the bar and practiced law in Atlanta. Gordon also was involved in a coal mining operation when the Civil War broke out. Though he had no previous military training, Gordon quickly distinguished himself through great courage and inspirational leadership. By the end of the war he had attained the rank of lieutenant general - one of only three Georgians to do so. At the Battle of Antietam he was wounded five times, but refused to leave the field, ultimately losing consciousness. Gordon fought at Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, Spotsylvania, Petersburg, and Appomattox, in addition to smaller battles. Gordon and Nathan Bedford Forrest are considered the two the finest untrained leaders the Confederacy produced during the Civil War.

Gordon’s military accomplishments made him quite popular at home in Georgia, and he was soon drawn into a political career. Opposing radical reconstruction, Gordon was elected to the United States Senate in 1873. Gordon, Alfred H. Colquitt, and Joseph E. Brown were to dominate Georgia politics in the post-war era, becoming known as the “Bourbon Triumvirate.” In 1886, Gordon and Atlanta Constitution editor Henry Grady persuaded ex-Confederate president Jefferson Davis to come to Atlanta for the unveiling of a statue. Other Civil War heroes were also present; Gordon used this emotional appearance to announce his candidacy for governor. With his popularity, personal magnetism, and distinguished good looks, along with a healthy dose of Grady’s publicity, Gordon won the 1886 election.

As governor he oversaw the establishment of the Georgia Institute of Technology, and the beginnings of Grady’s “New South” dream of cities, factories, and railroads. After his term as governor, Gordon became commander-in-chief of the newly formed United Confederate Veterans, a post he held until his death. In 1903 he published his account of the battles in which he fought - Reminiscences of the Civil War. He also traveled extensively, delivering a famous speech entitled “The Last Days of the Confederacy.” He died in Miami during one of these trips. His body was returned to Atlanta and buried in Oakland Cemetery. In 1907, a statue of Gordon in uniform sitting on his horse was erected on the northwestern corner of the Georgia State Capitol square.

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