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Born in Upson City, Georgia, February 6, 1832 he attended the University of Georgia but dropped out to study law and become a member of the Atlanta Bar. A civilian turned soldier, John B. Gordon became a trusted corps commander under Lee in the final days of the Confederacy. Involved in the coal industry in his native Georgia, Gordon raised the Racoon Roughs for the Southern cause.
Having fought at lst Bull Run, he was elected colonel upon the regiment’s reorganization and led it at Williamsburg. At Seven Pines he distinguished himself when he assumed command of the brigade. He fought through the Seven Days, part of the time in brigade command. He led the regiment at Antietam where he was wounded in the head and lived to relate how a hole in his cap from a bullet earlier in the day saved him from drowning in his own blood, which had accumulated in it. Recovering, he was given command of a Georgia brigade with which he fought at Chancellorsville and Gettysburg. At the latter he aided a wounded Union general, Francis C. Barlow, whom he met, decades later, each thinking the other had died in the war. They were friends until Barlow’s death. Gordon received Lee’s praise for planning a successful attack on the Union right at the Wilderness, and two days later Lee juggled a number of cornmands so that Gordon could lead Early’s Division. At Spotsylvania, Gordon earned permanent promotion to major general and was soon given the remnants of johnson’s former division plus his own Georgia brigade. This unit he led at Cold Harbor and in the Shenandoah Valley Campaign during which he was sometimes in charge of an informal corps. He saw action at Monocacy, on the outskirts of Washington, at 3rd Winchester, Fisher’s Hill, and Cedar Creek. Rejoining Lee in the trenches at Petersburg, he directed the corps and planned the attack on Fort Stedman. At Appomattox his men made the last charge of the Army of Northern Virginia.
It is often claimed that he was a lieutenant general, but Gordon himself is silent on the matter in his Reminiscences of the Civil War in which he recounts each of his other promotions. He went on to a distinguished career in politics, serving as governor and senator and was active in veterans’ affairs. He died in Miami, Florida, January 9, 1904 and was buried in Oakland Cemetery, Atlanta.