George Gordon (Civil War General)

George Gordon (Civil War General)

George Washington Gordon (October 5, 1836 – August 9, 1911) was an officer in the Confederate States Army, rising to be the youngest brigadier general in the Confederacy by the last year of the war. After the war, he practiced law in Pulaski, Tennessee, where the Ku Klux Klan was formed. He became one of the Klan's first members. In 1867, Gordon became the Klan's first Grand Dragon for the Realm of Tennessee, and wrote its "Precept," a book describing its organization, purpose, and principles. He was also a member of the United States House of Representatives for the 10th congressional district of Tennessee.

Gordon was born in Pulaski, Tennessee. He graduated from the Western Military Institute in Nashville, Tennessee, in 1859. Until the beginning of the Civil War, he practiced civil engineering. He enlisted in the military service of the Confederacy and became drillmaster of the 11th Regiment, Tennessee Infantry, before rising to brigadier general.

Gordon led Vaughn's Brigade, under Maj. Gen. John C. Brown, at the Battle of Franklin (30 November 1864). Many of the men he led are buried at McGavock Confederate Cemetery in Franklin, Tennessee.

After the war, Gordon studied law, was admitted to the bar, and practiced in Memphis, Tennessee, until 1883. He was appointed one of the railroad commissioners of Tennessee. He received an appointment in the Department of the Interior in 1885, as special Indian agent in Arizona and Nevada, and he served until 1889. He returned to Memphis, Tennessee and resumed the practice of law. He was the superintendent of Memphis city schools between 1889 and 1907.

According to one oral report, he went to General Nathan Bedford Forrest in Memphis, and told him about the newly formed Ku Klux Klan, to which Forrest replied, "That's a good thing; that's a damn good thing. We can use that to keep the niggers in their place." Forrest went on to become the nationwide leader of the first Klan. [Stanley Fitzgerald Horn, Invisible Empire; the Story of the Ku Klux Klan, 1866-1871, 2d ed., Patterson Smith Reprint Series in Criminology, Law Enforcement, and Social Problems ; Publication No. 81 (Montclair, N.J.,: Patterson Smith, 1969), 314-315]

The historical record includes an 1868 proclamation by Gordon. In it, he warns that the Klan had been "fired into three times," and that if the blacks "make war upon us they must abide by the awful retribution that will follow." He also states that the Klan is a peaceful organization, but that some people have been carrying out violent acts in the name of the Klan.

Gordon was elected as a Democrat to the Sixtieth, Sixty-first, and Sixty-second Congresses. He served from March 4, 1907 until his death in Memphis. He was interred in Elmwood Cemetery.


* [ History of 11th Tennessee Infantry Regiment(Confederate), American Civil War]
* Horn, Stanley F. "Invisible Empire: The Story of the Ku Klux Klan from 1866 to 1871", Patterson Smith Publishing Corporation: Montclair, NJ, 1939.
* Hubbard, John Milton, "Notes of a Private. By John Milton Hubbard, Company E, 7th Tennessee Regiment. Forrest's Cavalry Corps, C.S.A.".
*CongBio|G000310|name=GORDON, George Washington|inline=1
* [ Political Graveyard]

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