One of Robert E. Lee’s most aggressive and successful generals, and probably the most courageous and determined was General John Gordon. He fought bravely and ferociously for the Confederacy the entire war, several times while wounded.
At the Battle of Antietam Gordon’s took a minnie ball through his calf. A second ball hit him soon after in the same leg, but he was still “…able to walk along the line and give encouragement to my resolute riflemen.”
The battle continued, and later in the day Gordon took yet another ball in his left arm. His men pleaded with him to go to the rear, but he refused and Gordon stayed to fight..
Gordon and his men had earlier promised Lee that “…we would stay there till the battle ended or night came.”
A fourth minnie ball ripped through Gordon’s shoulder. He later recalled, “I could still stand and walk, although the shocks and loss of blood had left but little of my normal strength.”
It took a fifth hit that same day to bring Gordon down. The ball struck him in the face. When he woke up, Gordon asked the surgeon what he thought of his condition. Gordon relates,
“He made a manly effort to say that he was hopeful. I knew better, and said: ‘You are not honest with me. You think I am going to die; but I am going to get well.’”
And get well he did. Gordon was again wounded in later battles, but never failed to keep going. In fact, Gordon was the man Lee assigned to conduct the “furling of the flags” after Appomattox, even though Gordon’s leg still ached from a round received just 18 days earlier.
When Gordon died in 1904, President Theodore Roosevelt described him this way,
“A more gallant, generous, and fearless gentleman and soldier has not been seen by our country.”
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