James Byron Gordon
One of the little known brigadier general's that gave his life for the Confederacy was James Byron Gordon of North Carolina. He was born in 1822 in Wilkes County, North Carolina. He was of Scottish descent. He was a distant cousin of Georgia Major General John Brown Gordon who attained a bit more fame. Prior to the war, Gordon was a business man and farmer. He also served in the North Carolina State Legislature.
Gordon began the war as a lieutenant in the 1st North Carolina Cavalry. During the summer of 1861, he was promoted to major of the regiment. They were assigned to Jeb Stuart's brigade in Virginia. He saw a couple of engagements in late 1861. In the spring of 1862, he was promoted to lieutenant colonel when Laurence Baker was promoted to colonel. Baker had an alcohol problem and took an oath to abstain from drinking until the war concluded. Stuart noted that Baker wasn't near as dashing once he stopped drinking.
Gordon saw action during the Peninsula and Seven Days campaigns. During the summer of 1862, the 1st North Carolina Cavalry was placed in Wade Hampton's cavalry brigade. Gordon was noted for bravery, intelligence, and leadership in the battles of late 1862. He saw action at 2nd Manassas, Sharpsburg, and Stuart's raids. He fought at Brandy Station and at Gettysburg. When Hampton was wounded at Gettysburg, Baker took command of the brigade and Gordon led the regiment.
Gordon led the regiment in an attack at Hagerstown, Maryland and routed Kilpatrick's Federal brigade. Because of this action, Stuart and General Lee both recommended Gordon be promoted to brigadier general. He received his promotion on September 28, 1863 and took command of the North Carolina Cavalry Brigade. Gordon was wounded a month later in a skirmish, yet refused to leave the field. He had his horse shot from beneath him a week later.
Marker where Gordon was mortally wounded
When Sheridan led a raid against Richmond, Stuart was mortally wounded at Yellow Tavern on May 11, 1864. Gordon took command of the cavalry and defended Richmond once Stuart was wounded. The next day, Gordon was fighting Sheridan at Meadow Bridge when he too was mortally wounded. Carried to Richmond, he survived for six days, dying on May 18, 1864. He was one of Stuart's better cavalry commanders always distinguishing himself. He managed to save Richmond from Sheridan. Hampton seemed to think that Gordon would have received a promotion to major general before the war ended had he survived.
Gordon's grave in St. Paul's Episcopal Churchyard, Wilkesboro, North Carolina