Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Born in the Upson County, Georgia in February 1832, John Brown Gordon attended the University of Georgia, practiced law in Atlanta and, in the years immediately preceding the Civil War, developed coal mines in northwestern Georgia. He responded to the Confederate call to arms by raising a company of volunteers. In spite of his want of formal military schooling, Gordon displayed courage, boldness, vigilance, aggressiveness, and sound military sense on every battlefield upon which he fought. His rise from captain to corps commander was unmatched in the Army of Northern Virginia. Emerging from the war as one of the South's most respected generals, Gordon drifted into politics. He was elected to the United States Senate in 1873 despite formidable opposition from several of Georgia's most prominent politicians. In Washington, Gordon quickly established himself as a spokesman for Georgia and for the South as a whole. He defended the integrity of southern whites while working for an end to federally supported Republican governments in the South and for a restoration of home rule. In addition to defending and promoting southern interests, he also preached a nationalism that supplanted sectional antagonism and replaced it with a commitment to the growth of a strong and united country. Throughout his postwar career, Gordon contributed significantly to the process of national reconciliation. Even in the wake of charges of corruption surrounding his 1880 resignation from the Senate, he remained the most popular man in Georgia, if not in the South. Energetically engaged in a variety of speculative ventures, Gordon was widely recognized as a major proponent of the "New South." His occasionally spectacular successes, however, were overshadowed by his business failures and led to his return to politics in 1886 when he was elected governor. He permanently retired from public office in 1897 following two terms as governor and another as senator. He devoted his final years to extensive lecture tours, serving as commander-in-chief of the United Confederate Veterans, and writing Reminiscences of the Civil War--all of which helped to promote national reconciliation. He died at his winter home in Miami, Florida in January 1904.