PERSONS OF INTEREST
IMPORTANT PEOPLE IN THE LIFE OF MAJOR A. A. GORDON
Major General Charles George Gordon is a most important figure in the childhood of Major A. A. Gordon. Charles G. Gordon's nephews went to the same school of A. A. Gordon and his elder brother W. E. Gordon when they lived with their mother in Swiss, after their father had suddenly died earlier.
Charles George Gordon, visited his nephews (sons of his older brother General Sir Henry Gordon)
During his stay in Swiss he taught the Sunday school, where A.A. Gordon went through. The teaching of Charles George Gordon had a great effect on the young Archibald Gordon. The two also met outside school hours, on the lake of Geneva.
In his book 'Culled from a diary', major Gordon describes the following event about a witness he spoke in ... about the death of Charles George Gordon during the siege of Karthoum:
"Two years ago I was travelling in the Syrian Desert with a friend, a Lazarist Father from Emmaus in Palestine. He was fluent in Arabic, and one day in talking to some Arabs he learnt that one had been present at the taking of Khartoum. The subject being such an interesting one led the elderly man to recount his experiences, and my friend was amazed when told that when the brave defender of the Residency was killed his assassins removed his heart and dividing it into small pieces partook of it. I give the Arab's statement for what it is worth, but he seemed a reliable man, and it is well known that many tribes believe that if they eat some portion of a person who they acknowledge to be brave they may will thus absorb some of his valour. There may be truth in the story, for I fancy that no one but Gordon's enemies saw what happened after he was overcome and killed, and as the latter considered they had done nothing strange in removing the heart they would not see any reason for describing at the time why they had done so."
Major General Charles George Gordon was born on the 28th of January 1833, in Woolwich, London as the son of Major General Henry William Gordon and Elizabeth (Enderby) Gordon. Major General H. W. Gordon was a fourth-generation British Army officer, so it was natural that his sons were incorporated into the military instead of in the civil service. Because of his father’s high position he spent his youth in England, Ireland, Scotland and the Ionian Islands in Greece, which was under British rule back then.
Charles George Gordon was sent to Taunton School and later to the Royal Military Academy of Woolwich. When in 1846 his favourite sibling sister Emily died of tuberculosis, he became devastated and wrote later in his life:
"humanly speaking it changed my life, it was never the same since."
Because of his great skill in map-drawing he chose to serve with the Royal Engineers and was commissioned a second lieutenant on 23 June 1852, completing his training at Chatham, and he was promoted to full Lieutenant on 17 February 1854. By this time the Crimea war began and Gordon was sent to his youth place, Corfu (Ionian Islands), and after sending some letters to the War Office, he was transferred to Russia in January 1855. It was during this time that Charles George Gordon wrote his first death wish:
"to the Crimea, hoping, without having a hand in it, to be killed"
He was put to work during the Siege of Sevastopol and took part in the assault of the Redan from 18 June to 8 September 1855. During this last assault Charles G. Gordon was shot by a sniper, when he was out mapping the Russian fortifications around Sevastopol. After his recovery he became good friends with Romolo Gessi, Garnet Wolseley and Gerald Graham, all of whom would cross paths with him several times in the future.
On the 18th of June, a coalition of British and French forces launched a major assault for conquering the city of Sevastopol. Gordon was situated in the frontlines this day, and had to dug for cover so many times that his whole body was covered with mud and blood. The French forces failed to take the Malakhov fortress while the British failed to take the Redan fortress that day. Lieutenant Charles G. Gordon spent a total of thirty-four consecutive days in "the Quarries", British name for the trenches around Sevastopol. The following was said in the H.Q. later:
"If you want to know what the Russians are up to, send for Charlie Gordon."
Gordon later took part in the expedition to Kinburn, and returned to Sevastopol at the war's end. During the Crimean war Gordon picked up an addiction to Turkish cigarettes, and became a big smoker for the rest of his life. Gordon returned to Britain in late 1858, and was appointed as an instructor at Chatham. He was promoted to captain on 1 April 1859. After a while Gordon became bored and asked the War Office of he could be transferred to a conflict zone for action. 'Luckily' for Gordon the Second Opium war in China was still ongoing and he volunteered in 1860. When he arrived at Hong Kong, he found out that the hostilities were ended and that a truce was in progress. Gordon than visited the Chinese countryside and was appalled at the atrocities committed by the Taipings against the local peasants. The Taipings was a rebellion led by the charismatic madman Hong Xiuquan, who were planning an up rise against the British forces in China. Because of the Taipings, the British army withdrew to Shangai to protect the Europian settlement.
A militia of Europeans and Asians was raised for the defense of the city of Shangai and placed under the command of the American, Frederick Townsend Ward. The British forces arrived at a crucial moment on the scene, and drove the Taipings 30 miles back from the city. By the end of 1862 the situation around Shangai was completed neutralized. Li Hongzhang, the governor of the Jiangsu province, requested the British General
Staveley to appoint a British commanding officer for the contingent. Staveley chose Gordon, who was just promoted to Major, to become the new commander. Gordon was honest and incorruptible, and unlike many Chinese officers, did not steal the money that was meant to pay his men. Gordon designed the uniform for the Ever Victorious Army, which consisted of black boots together with turbans, jackets and trousers that were all green while his personal bodyguard of 300 men wore blue uniforms.
In March 1863 Gordon took command of the force at Songjiang. Without waiting to reorganize his troops, Gordon led them at once to the relief of Chansu, a town 40 miles northwest of Shanghai. The relief was successfully accomplished and Gordon quickly won the respect of his troops. Gordon made a point of treating prisoners well to encourage the Taipings to surrender and many of his men were former Taipings who chose to enlist in Gordons unit. Gordon's major victory was conquering the city of Quinsan on the 30th of May 1863. Gordon led the 4th regiment of the Ever Victorious Army with an amphibious assault on the city. Because of the surprise attack early in the morning and the off guard of the enemy, the city was taken. Gordon later wrote:
"The rebels did not know its importance until they lost it"
Remarkably Gordon always refused to carry a gun or sword with him. He only had his rattan cane as a weapon. This decision and chose of weapon cost him many time almost his life. This contributed to the legend of Gordon's bravery in battle, his string of victories, apparent immunity to bullets and his intense, blazing blue eyes led many Chinese to believe that Gordon had supernatural powers.
The Chinese emperor wanted to celebrate Gordon for his victory at Quisan and Soochow, and offered him some ten thousand silver coins, which Gordon refused and sent back to the emperor that he couldn't take the gift because of the executions of prisoners of war during that siege. The emperor was much offended and Gordon's military career came to an hold in China for a time. In February 1864 he made a compromise with Li and participated in the capturing of the city Changzou, a major stronghold for the Taipings. Gordon wrote in his diary:
"The hour glass broken"
The war ended with the capture of Nanking, in which Gordon did not participated because the Imperial Army wanted to take the Taiping capital on their own. Gordon's army was ordered to capture the small surrounding cities of Yesing, Liyang and Kitang. At Kitang Gordon was wounded and evacuated. He recovered quickly and took presents in the capture of Chang-chou in May 1864. After the Taipin surrender, Gordon disbanded the "Ever Victorious Army", and had now won up to 33 battles. Gordon was than promoted by the emperor to Tidu (Field-Marshall) and decorated him with the yellow jacket. He later was promoted to Lieutenant-Colonel by the British army and was made a companion of the Order of the Bath. Although he was offered many financial gain, he declined all of them and stated:
"I know I shall leave China as poor as I entered it, but with the knowledge that, through my weak instrumentality, upwards of eighty to one hundred thousand lives have been spared. I want no further satisfaction than this"
Gordon returned to Britain and commanded the Royal Engineers' efforts around Gravesend, Kent, to erect forts for the defense of the River Thames, for a possible French invasion. Gordon disapproved the effort that was done here, and said that the possession of the forts where useless. After his father died, he became a great social worker and began teaching in the local Ragged school, he also helped many homeless children and often took him in his own home. Gordon and his father had a long dispute, because his father didn't approved his service in China. Gordon never had the change to reconcile with his father. This gave him an immense gilt, that let him to do many charity work as well. Gordon gave away about 90% of his annual income of £3,000 to charity.
Although Gordon enjoyed his time at Gravesend, he always asked the War Office, if he could be transferred to a conflict area.
Because of his constant requests, he became appointed as a British representative on the international commission to maintain the navigation of the mouth of the river Danube in October 1871. During this time he took the chance to meet his old friend, the Italian soldier Romolo Gessi. Together they got involved in an incident where a couple told them that their 17-year-old daughter was abducted by an Ottoman pasha. Gordon and Gessi later went to the pasha and threatened to go to the British and Italian press if she was not released at once, a threat that proved sufficient to win the girl her freedom.
In 1872 Gordon was promoted to Colonel and was sent to inspect the British cemeteries in the Crimea. During his stay in Constantinople he med the Egyptian Prime Minister, who insisted that he would serve for the
Ottoman Khedive, Isma'il Pasha. With the British ministry consent he accepted the offer. Isma'il Pasha stated the following over Gordon:
"What an extraordinary Englishman! He doesn't want money!".
The Egyptian authorities had been extending their control southwards since the 1820s.
Isma'il Pasha asked Gordon to succeed Samuel Baker as the governor of Equatoria province that comprised much of what is today South Sudan and northern Uganda, and to control the Great Lakes region of East Africa, and so expending the Empire. Gordon was accompanied by his old friend Romolo Gessi on his way to Equatoria together with a former US Army officer Charles Chaillé-Long who did not get along well with Gordon.
During his time in Sudan, Gordon tried to suppress the slave-trade, but learned quick that his superior, the Governor-General of the Sudan, supported the slave-trade and sabotaged Gordon with any attempt he made. Gordon stated that the corruption of this empire was institutionalized, and that the regime was very cruel. He later said:
"I taught the natives they had a right to exist".
Gordon established a line of way stations from the Sobat confluence on the White Nile to the frontier of Uganda, where he afterwards proposed to open a route from Mombasa. In 1874 he built the station at Dufile on the Albert Nile. Gordon personally explored Lake Albert and the Victorian Nile, pushing on through the thick, humid jungle and steep ravines of Uganda. Gordon wrote in his diary:
"It is terrible walking...it is simply killing...I am nearly dead".
Despite the corruption of the Egyptian government, Gordon made good progress by surprising the slave-trade and became close to the Anti-Slavery Society. Ultimately it came to a big clash between the Khedive and the governors, and Gordon returned to London. During his short time in London, he was approached by Sir William Mackinnon, who with the Belgian King Leopold II was conducting a partnership to chartered company that would conquer central Africa, and liked to employ Gordon as there agent. Gordon accepted because of the so called naive purely philanthropic interest, without mention the exploiting Africans for profit. Gordon would later waive the company, because the Khedive Isma'il Pasha asked his return, as promised, and was appointed Governor-General of Sudan along with the title of Pasha, which made him a aristocrat in the Ottoman-Empire.
C.G. GORDON LAST STAND BY George W Joy (1844-1925)
As Governor-General, Gordon had a larger power than his previous position and was determined to suppress the slave-trade in this region. However, his efforts became fruitless, because the corrupt system didn't comply with Gordon. In 1876, Egypt went bankrupt, and Gordon was left with no resources and was unable to pay his soldiers and staff. After Evelyn Baring was appointed financial executive of the Egypt Dept, Gordon travelled to Cairo to meet with him and suggest the solution that Egypt suspends its interest payments for several years to allow Isma'il to pay the arrears owned to his soldiers and civil servants, arguing that once the Egyptian government was stabilized, then Egypt could start paying its debts without fear of causing a revolution. Baring disapproved Gordon's idea.
Gordon's attack on the slave-trade became a huge risk in Sudan, because slave traders as Rahama Zobeir, the so-called King of Slavers, was conducting a rebellion in the region. Gordon went to see this enemy in person and travelled to his camp, where he met Suleiman Zobeir, the son of Rahama, and both had a long and intense discussion but agreed on terms for a truce. During his visit, Gordon was only armed with his rattan cane and could have been killed instantly, but his diplomacy and daring paid off and he returned to his office afterwards.
In 1878, Gordon fired the governor of Equatoria for corruption and replaced him with his former chief medical officer from his time in Equatoria, Dr. Emin Pasha, who had earned Gordon's respect. In July 1878, Zobeir started back rebellion and Gordon's subordinate Gessi Pasha, inflicted a large defeat to Zobeir in March 1879, but it was only till July 1879 when Zobeir and 250 of his men were arrested. Zobeir was executed in public on Gordon's orders, for breaking his oath to the Khedive.
Gordon later tried another peace mission to Abyssinia, that ended with his imprisonment and transfer to Massawa. After he was released he returned to Cairo and resigned his position. Years of many reformation attempts where fruitless and Gordon was exhausted by now.
In March 1880, Gordon recovered for a couple of weeks in the Hotel du Faucon in Lausanne, 3 Rue St Pierre, famous for its views on Lake Geneva. The hotel was probably chosen because Gordon's hero Giuseppe Garibaldi had stayed here. Another fact was that his nephews were studying here. Gordon also met here the Reverend Reginald Barnes. Gordon was a religious catholic and stated in a letter to his sister:
"Through the workings of Christ in my body by His Body and Blood, the medicine worked. Ever since the realization of the sacrament, I have been turned upside down".
On 2 March 1880, on his way from London to Switzerland, Gordon had visited King Leopold II of Belgium in Brussels and was invited to take charge of the Congo Free State. Gordon rejected Leopold's offers, partly because he was still emotionally attached to Sudan and partly because he disliked the idea of working for Leopold's Congo Association, which was a private company owned by the King. King Leopold II of Belgium insisted a long time to employ Gordon for the Congo-Free state but had to struggle with the utmost offered positions to Gordon. Gordon later complied to take the position, but after his return England, he was contacted by the War Office, if he could go back to Sudan because a new uprise was held by Mahdi, Mohammed Ahmed. The long exploitation of Sudan by Egypt led many Sudanese to rally to the Mahdi's black banner as he promised to expel the Egyptians, whom Ahmed denounced as apostates and he announced he would establish an Islamic fundamentalist state marking a return to the "pure Islam". Gordon wasn't interested to go back to Sudan, until an interview about him in the newspaper was published, and became a huge sensation in the country. Afterwards, Gordon accepted and arrived in Khartoum as a folk hero.
Gordon, ordered his soldiers to take defensive positions and commenced the task of sending the women, children, the sick and wounded to Egypt. Gordon suggested in a telegram to Gladstone (prime-minister) that the notoriously corrupt Ottoman Sultan Abdul-Hamid II could be bribed into sending 3,000 Ottoman troops for the relief of Khartoum and if the British government was unwilling and/or unable to pay that amount, he was certain that either Pope Leo XIII or a group of American millionaires would be.
The notorious Colonel Valentine Baker, conducted the first battle near Karthoum and was badly defeated. Because this event let to a major threat, a British force was sent to Suakin under General Sir Gerald Graham, which drove the rebels away in several hard-fought actions. Gordon urged that the road from Suakin to Berber be opened, but his request was refused by the government in London, and in April General sir Gerald Graham and his forces were withdrawn and Gordon and Sudan were abandoned, and Karthoum became entirely isolated. Gordon stated in his diary:
"I own to having been very insubordinate to Her Majesty's Government and its officials, but it is my nature, and I cannot help it. I fear I have not even tried to play battledore and shuttlecock with them. I know if I was chief I would never employ myself for I am incorrigible"
The actual siege of Karthoum began on 18 March 1884. Gordon sent the following message to Baring, just before the siege:
"You state your intention of not sending any relief force up here to Berber...I shall hold on here as long as I can, and if I can suppress the rebellion, I shall do so. If I cannot, I shall retire to the Equator and leave you with the indelible disgrace of abandoning the garrisons"
It was not until August 1884 that the government decided to take steps to relieve Gordon, with the British relief force, called the Nile Expedition, or, more popularly, the Khartoum Relief Expedition or Gordon Relief Expedition. The relief force was commanded by Field Marshal Sir Garnet Wolseley, but was not ready until November 1884, because many of Wolseley soldiers were Canadian and it was a whole journey to mobilize them from Canada.
In September 1884, Gordon's subordinate Mohammed Aly suffered a major defeat on a raid. Mohammed Aly had made another disastrous dissection, of which Gordon states in his diary:
"a lad of 12 or 14 years of age, and the little chap spoke out boldly and said he believed Mohamed Ahmed was the Mahdi and that we were dogs. He was shot! Before I heard of our defeat I heard of this, and I thought, 'THAT will not pass unavenged'.
By the end of 1884, both the garrison and the population of Khartoum were starving to death; there were no horses, donkeys, cats, or dogs left in Khartoum as the people had eaten all of them. Gordon said to the population if they wish to leave they can do so. Later Gordon wrote a note and was sent out by a messenger from Khartoum who reached Wolseley's army on 30 December 1884. The note stated the following:
"Khartoum all right. Can hold out for years. C.G. Gordon"
The note was undoubtedly a decoy and the messenger was given another message. Gordon wrote his last entry in his diary in December 1884:
"Now MARK THIS, if the Expeditionary Force and I ask for no more than two hundred men, does not come in ten days, the town may fall; and I have done my best for the honour of our country. Goodbye, C. G. Gordon"
Gordon was later killed and beheaded on 26 January 1885. He became an international hero and is celebrated in many countries. Many places, buildings and other things are named after him.
THE MAJOR A. A. GORDON SOCIETY, founded in 2019, is the worlds prominent international non-profit educational society for preserving the historic legacy of Major A. A. Gordon and his family.
The Stewart Society