Say What Special: General John B. Gordon's Advice to his Youngest Staff Member


Sergeant Major
Aug 6, 2016

During the Civil War John Brown Gordon was a soldier that became familiar with close calls while serving on the battlefields. On September 17, 1862 while fighting along a sunken road in Maryland he had already been wounded from gunshot shots; 2 hitting his right leg and another shot in his left arm and left shoulder. Surprisingly the Colonel still led his command until a enemy shot hit him in the face forcing him face down into his hat. Fortunately a Yankee bullet had gone through his hat earlier in the battle that according to Brown allowed the blood to drain out so he did not drown in his own blood held in his own hat.

It would take 7 months and the care of his beloved wife to strengthen him up and return to the fighting. During this time Gordon would write - “My extraordinary escapes from wounds in all the previous battles had made a deep impression upon my comrades as well as upon my own mind, If I had allowed these expressions of my men to have any effect upon my mind, the impression was quickly dissipated when the Sharpsburg storm came and the whizzing Miniés, one after another, began to pierce my body.” **

He returned to duty in March of 1863. He fought at Chancellorsville and Gettysburg and by this time Colonel Gordon had been promoted to Brigadier General Gordon. On the morning of May 12th in 1864 he was out in the early morning scouting Union positions as he was preparing for General Winfield Scott Hancock’s attack at the Mule Shoe salient. It was during this “look-see”, while riding with his officers a Minie ball went shooting through his coat and grazed his back.

Thomas G. Jones his youngest staff member was the closest to him and saw what had happened. Jones immediately asked if General Gordon had been hit. Gordon glanced over at the young man (taking time to notice how he was sitting on his horse in a “not very erect posture”) and admonished his young aide with a wonderful piece of advice:

“No but suppose my back had been in a bow like yours? Don’t you see that the bullet would have gone straight through my spine? Sit up or you’ll be killed!” **
**A Civil War Treasury of Tales, Legends and Folklore, edited by Benjamin Albert Botkin