George C. Gordon was born in Canada in 1832 to Samuel and Clarinda Lucas Gordon. He first appears in Redford in the 1860 census with his second wife Caroline (Carrie) Spencer. His first wife, whom he married in 1853, was Charlotte Ross. She died in 1855. Charlotte and George had one daughter named Lottie. Lottie lived with her grandparents and later married H.P. Smith of Howell. George and Caroline had six children – Ada, Grant, Clifton, George, Donald, and Spencer. According to Silas Farmer’s History of Detroit and Wayne County and Early Michigan, Gordon taught at Redford Center for a term when he was 19 years old. He studied law at the University of Michigan, graduating in 1861.
On August 15, 1862, Gordon was commissioned as an officer in Company I, Michigan 24th Infantry Regiment. The regiment became part of what was known as the “Iron Brigade.”
The Iron Brigade arrived at Gettysburg on July 1, 1863, the beginning of the infamous battle, and suffered significant casualties. According to Silas Farmer, Gordon fought valiantly. Farmer quotes Sergeant Nardin:
“The last time I saw Captain Gordon was on the field. I was partly stunned by a musket ball; at the same time our lines fell back a few yards. I soon came to myself again and stepped over several men lying on the ground, back to our company. There, Captain Gordon was using great energy in keeping his men in line. I never saw a man stand with such determined energy as he did. I was told afterwards by the commanding officer of the next company that our captain kept one of the best lines in the regiment. All who saw his conduct speak in the highest praise of his gallantry.”
However, Confederate soldiers captured Gordon along with many other Union men. He spent about 20 months in various Confederate prisons, among them the infamous Libby prison.
Gordon managed a daring escape after 20 months while his captors transferred him between prisons. Farmer tells of Gordon’s harrowing journey (though he does not cite his source):
“Sick, shoeless, and half-naked, he traveled by night and was secreted and fed by slaves during the day. He was again captured by Wheeler’s cavalry, but escaped from them also by crawling a long distance on his hands and knees while the guard was too sleepy to notice him. After three weeks of suffering and hardship he finally reached the Union lines, where he was warmly welcomed.”
Gordon earned a promotion to Brevet Major on March 13, 1865, and mustered out on June 30, 1865 in Detroit. After the war, he worked on his farm, and served as Justice of the Peace and Superintendent of Schools for Wayne County. He died in August, 1878 in Redford. Caroline moved in with her sons and lived until 1929. They are both interred at Grand Lawn Cemetery.
Farmer wrote of George Gordon:
“He was a frank, open-hearted man. Physically large of frame he was equally large of heart, and endeared himself to his friends and fellow-citizens by his many deeds of kindness. His record as a soldier, as a citizen and as a friend is an enviable one and worthy of emulation.”
If you’d like to learn more about George C. Gordon and the other brave soldiers and their families from Redford, pay us a visit. Maybe you will find something out about your ancestors, or the people who used to live in your neighborhood!
This post was written by Stefanie Caloia, a member of the Redford Township Historical Commission from 2014 to 2019.