York should have lost rebel Gen. John B. Gordon and his ‘Last Days of Confederacy’ talk

This newspaper advertisement touts Gen. John B. Gordon’s return to York to deliver a speech. The friendly, enthusiastic crowd welcomed the general-turned-politician. (See photo of Gordon below.) Background posts: York County Civil War hero grandmom of Gore Vidal and Civil War affected women in York County – and vice versa and Years after Civil War, (a) Longstreet steps onto York County soil .

Imagine if a Pancho Villa-type invader from Mexico had penetrated into the United States as far as the west bank of the Susquehanna River maybe 30 years ago.
The head of this hypothetical invading force was gentlemanly, but this did not keep his men from stealing the cars and other property from many York countians. Further, he damaged other property – catalyzing the destruction of an expensive Susquehanna River bridge and trampling valuable crops in fields. He killed at least two defenders of the county and shaped the way York viewed itself for years.
Would we welcome him back as a hero? … .

That’s exactly what York did with John B. Gordon, who was on the lecture circuit in his later years. In late-June 1863, then-Gen. John B. Gordon had been in the vanguard of the Confederate Army’s invasion of York County.
Some might argue that the older John B. Gordon was a fellow American, and the nation was still trying to regroup as a nation.
But it shows again that York countians did not have fire in their bellies against those grayclad horse thieves (back to the car analogy) who terrorized most of their county in those days before the Battle of Gettysburg. And they could not muster resolve against an enemy that was protecting the enslavement of an entire race of people.
They should have disinvited Gordon and his Lost Cause ideas.
June Lloyd blogs with much more on his appearance in York. (Her Universal York post really got me thinking about this.)

About Jim McClure

Editor of the York Daily Record/Sunday News, ydr.com and its many digital products. Journalism/history blogger: yorktownsquare.com. Author or co-author of seven York County, Pa., history books.
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3 Responses to York should have lost rebel Gen. John B. Gordon and his ‘Last Days of Confederacy’ talk

  1. Falmanac says:

    Further illustration that 19th Americans had a large capacity for reconciliation, while 21st century Americans have an almost infinite capacity to be offended.

  2. Cary Dover says:

    How would South Carolinians have greeted Sherman had he wanted to pay a visit?
    How would they have greeted someone who deliberately sacked and destroyed civilian property?
    Pennsylvanians were treated with kids gloves. Lee issued orders that civilians were to be treated with respect and everything was to be paid for. No doubt some problems occurred.
    The bridge was a military target and when the fire spread to civilians homes Gordon had his men assist in putting it out.
    Learn your history or everytime I see you spout off lies, I’ll call you on it.
    Cary Dover

  3. Cary Dover says:

    On second thought maybe Gordon shouldn’t have ordered his men to help put out the fire. The bridge was intentionally burned by local militia to deprive the southern armies use of it. It prevented Gordon from bringing his artillery and wagons across the river. Gordon tried to put out the fire on the bridge before it was destroyed but locals couldn’t seem to find buckets to carry the water.

    Seeing the bridge a hopeless case, Gordon then ordered his men to help extinguish the fires that had spread to local homes, but low and behold a miracle occured. Buckets appeared as if from nowhere.

    York should erect a monument to Gordon for saving their town from destruction.

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