Demetrius Charles de Kavanagh Boulger.

The life of Gordon, major-general, R. E. C. B.; Turkish field-marshal, Grand cordon Medjidieh, and pasha; Chinese titv (field-marshal) yellow jacket order online

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Online LibraryDemetrius Charles de Kavanagh BoulgerThe life of Gordon, major-general, R. E. C. B.; Turkish field-marshal, Grand cordon Medjidieh, and pasha; Chinese titv (field-marshal) yellow jacket order → online text (page 1 of 40)
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Some Press Notices o)i the First Edition.

" For some years prior to his death in Khartoum, Gordon
appears to have bestowed his friendship and confidence on Mr
Houlger. . . No reader of these vohimes, who possesses even
an elementary acquaintance with the main events of Gordon's
active and varied life, will rise from their perusal without feeling
that mnny of these events are placed in a wholly new aspect by
Mr Boulger ' — Times.

"Is to be welcomed as a valuable addition to the Library
of National Biography." — World.

" An interesting, highly controversial, and far from final
sketch of a most impressive career. . . It has the qualities
of vigour, rapidity of narrative, and personal conviction." —

" Has much to recommend it, and it will probably rank as
the best Life of Gordon for years to come." — ll'estinijister

" A WELL-EXECUTED portrait of the great soldier-statesman.
. . . Contains much concerning its illustrious subject that will
be new to the vast majority of General Goruon's numberless
admirers." — Daily Telegraph.

" Mr Boulger is successful in his attempt to bring into clear
relief every side of Gordon's nature." — Daily y^cius.

" Of interest, containing as it does many fresh details of the
career of that heroic soldier. No one is perhaps more com-
petent to write Gordon's Biography than the present author." —
Literary IVorld.

C. K. OGDEN . o^4.




marshal), yellow jacket order.

" ' Tis a name winch ne'er hath been dishonour' d.
And never will, I trust — most surely never
By such a youth as thou''

— SwiNTON ON Adam Gordon.




Asia;" "lord vvilliam bentinck," etc., etc.







[A// rights resitfed.]

, ^ -, DHlVERSrTY OF r 'ttfori



As so many books of a more or less biographical nature
have been written about General Charles Gordon, it is both
appropriate and natural that I should preface the following
pages with a statement of a personal character as to how and
why I have written another.

In the year 1881 I told General Gordon that I contemplated
describing his career as soon as I had finished writing my
" History of China." His laughing reply was : " You know I
.shall never read it, but you can have all my papers now in the
possession of my brother. Sir Henry Gordon." My history
took a very long time to write, and the third volume was not
published until April 1884, when General Gordon was hemmed
in, to use his own words, at Khartoum.

For over two years General Gordon's papers and letters
remained in my custody, and they included the Equator and
Soudan correspondence, which was so admirably edited by Dr
Birkbeck Hill in that intensely interesting volume, " Colonel
Gordon in Central Africa." The papers relating to China and
the Taeping Rebellion were freely used in my history. To
them I have the privilege of adding in the present volume an
authoritative narrative of the events that followed the execution
of the Taeping Wangs at Soochow, and of thus rendering tardy
justice to the part taken in them by Sir Halliday Macartney.
Among the contents of the large portmanteau in which all these
documents were stored, I noticed a thick bundle of letters,
in somewhat faded handwriting, and an examination of their


vl Preface.

contents showed me that they were of the deepest interest
as relating to the important events of the Crimean War, and
to the first seven years of Gordon's service in the Army, I
at once went to Sir Henry Gordon, who honoured me with his
friendship and confidence in no less a degree than his dis-
tinguished and ever-lamented brother, and begged of him
permission to publish them. He at once gave his consent,
which was ratified by the late Miss Augusta Gordon, the hero's
favourite sister. The letters appeared in July 1884, under the
title of " General Gordon's Letters from the Crimea, the
Danube, and Armenia." In the proper place I have told
what Kinglake, the historian of the war, thought of them
and their author.

In the rush of books that followed the fall of Khartoum,
no favourable opportunity for carrying out my original purpose
presented itself; and, indeed, I may say that the anonymous
biographical work I performed during the course of the year
1885 would have filled a large-sized volume. Moreover, the
terrible events of the fall of Khartoum, and the failure of the
relieving expedition, were too close at hand to allow of a just
view being taken of them, and it was necessary to defer an
intention which I never abandoned. It seemed to me that
the tenth anniversary of the fall of Khartoum would be an
appropriate occasion for the appearance of a Life claiming to
give a complete view and final verdict on the remarkable
career and character of the man, with whom his own friendly
inclination had made me exceptionally well acquainted.

In 1893, therefore, I began to take steps to carry out my
project, and to the notification of my intention and the appli-
cation for assistance in regard to unpublished papers, I received
from several of the principal representatives of the Gordon
family encouraging replies. But at this time both Sir Henry
Gordon and Miss Gordon were dead, and I discovered that
the latter had bound her literary executrix, Miss Dunlop, a
niece of General Gordon's, by a promise not to divulge the bulk

Preface. vii

of the unpublished papers during her lifetime. I am happy to
say, however, that Miss Dunlop, without accepting any respon-
sibility for what I have written, has with the greatest possible
kindness read these pages, and assisted me to attain complete
accuracy in the facts, so far as they relate to family and personal
matters, but excluding altogether from her purview all military
and political topics. For that co-operation, unfortunately re-
stricted by the condition of the promise to Miss Gordon, I avail
myself of this opportunity to express my grateful thanks ; and I
am also indebted to Miss Dunlop for the youthful unpublished
portrait of Gordon which forms the frontispiece of this volume,
and also for that of the house in which he was born.

When I was first confronted with the difficulty that the
unpublished papers would not be accessible to me, I contem-
plated the abandonment of my task ; but a brief consideration
made me conclude that, even without these documents, I had
special knowledge, derived from Sir Henry Gordon and many
other sources, that would enable me to deal with all the more
important passages of General Gordon's life. The result must
be judged from the Life itself; but I have not sought to
make any partisan attack on anyone, although, when I have
felt compelled to criticise and censure, I have done so with a
full sense of responsibility as well as with reluctance. I may
be pardoned the confidence I express when I say that I am
sure nothing in the unpublished documents will affect the main
conclusions to which I have come on the Khartoum mission,
its inception and disastrous close.

I am permitted by the courtesy of the proprietors of The
Times to reproduce in these pages the several articles and
letters which originally appeared in the columns of that paper.

It is a personal matter, of no interest except to myself, but
I should like to state that the work would have been out much
sooner but for a long and serious illness.

icjth Atigust 1896.













PORTRAIT OF GENERAL GORDON, With Autograph . . ), ,: 195






Charles Geokge Gordon was born on 28th January 1833, at
No. I Kemp Terrace, Woolwich Common, where his father, an officer
in the Royal Artillery, was quartered at the time. The picture given
elsewhere of this house will specially interest the reader as the birth-
place of Gordon. It still stands, as described by Gordon's father in
a private memoir, at the corner of Jackson's Lane, on Woolwich

The name "Gordon" has baffled the etymologists, for there is every
reason to believe that the not inappropriate connection with the
Danish word for a spear is due to a felicitous fancy rather than to any
substantial reality. There is far more justification for the opinion that
the name comes through a French source than from a Danish. The
Gorduni were a leading clan of Caesar's most formidable opponents, the
Nervi ; a Duke Gordon charged among the peers of Charlemagne ; and
the name is not unknown at the present day in the Tyrol. The " Gordium"
ofPhrygiaand the "Gordonia" of Macedonia are also names that suggest
an Eastern rather than a Northern origin. History strengthens this sup-
position and entirely disposes of the Danish hypothesis. The first
bearer of the name Gordon appeared in Scotland at far too near a date
to the Danish descents upon that country to encourage the view that he
was a member of that most bitterly hafed race. Nowhere were the
Danes more hated or less successful than in Scotland, yet we are asked
to believe that the founder of one of the most powerful families in that
kingdom belonged to this alien and detested people. The silence itself
of the chronicler sufficiently refutes the idea that the first Gordon was a
renegade or a traitor, as he must have been if he were a Dane.


2 The Life of Gordon.

In all probability the first Gordon, who helped Malcolm Canmore,
and received in return a large grant of lands in Berwick, which became
known as the Gordon country, was one of the many Norman knights
attracted to the Court of Edward the Confessor. Accepting for the
occasion the popular legendary version of Shakespeare, rather than
the corrected account of modern historians, he may be supposed to
have found his way north to the camp of Siward, where the youthful and
exiled Scotch Prince had sought shelter from Macbeth, and it is no
undue stretch of fancy to suggest that he took his part in the memorable
overthrow of that usurper at Dunsinane, and thus obtained the favour of
his successor. The growth of the Gordon family in place and power was
rapid. To the lands on the borders was soon added the Huntly country
on Deeside, where Aboyne Castle now stands, and in a very short period
the Gordons ranked among the most powerful and warlike clans of
Scotland. As Sir Walter Scott wrote of Adam Gordon, in words which
might be appropriately applied to the subject of this biography :

'• 'Tis a name which ne'er hath been dishonour'd,
And never will, I trust — most surely never
By such a youth as thou ! "

Be its remote origin what it may, no name has appeared more pro-
minently or more honourably in the British Army Lists during the last
century and a half than that of Gordon. One of the most famous of
our regiments bears and has nobly upheld the name. In honourable and
friendly rivalry with the equally numerous and equally distinguished
clans of Grant and Cameron, the Gordons have figured on every battle-
field from Minden to Candahar, thus establishing at the same time the
political wisdom of Chatham, who first turned the Highlanders from a
cause of danger into a source of strength, and the military ardour and
genius of their own race. Thus it came to pass that the .spirit of remote
warlike ages was perpetuated, and that the profession of arms continued
to be the most natural one for any bearer of the name Gordon. It is
not surprising, therefore, to find that the practice of his nearest relations,
as well as the traditions of his race, marked out Charles Gordon for a
soldier's career.

Passing over an uncertain connection with the General Peter Gordon,
who rose high in the Russian service under Peter the Great, the nearest
direct ancestor of whom we can speak with absolute confidence was
Charles Gordon's great-grandfather David Gordon, who served as a
lieutenant in Lascelles' regiment of foot — afterwards the 47th Regiment —
at the battle of Prestonpans. Although the majority of the clans were still
loyal to the Stuarts, it seems from this that some of them had entered
the Hanoverian service probably in that most distinguished regiment,

Birth and Early Life. 3

the First Royal Scots, which a few years before Culloden had fought
gallantly at Fontenoy. At Prestonpans David Gordon had the bad
fortune to be made prisoner by the forces of Charles Edward, and he
found on the victorious side the whole of the Gordon clan, under the
■command of Sir William Gordon of Park, a younger son of the Earl of
Huntly. As he was able to claim kindred with Sir William, David
Gordon received better treatment than he might have expected, and in
a short time was allowed to go free, either on an exchange of prisoners
or more probably on his parole. This incident is specially interesting,
because, after making every allowance for the remoteness and vagueness
of the old Highland custom of cousinship, it seems to bring Charles
Gordon's ancestry into sufficiently close relationship with the main
Gordon stem of the Huntlys. After his release David Gordon does not
appear to have taken any further part in the war which terminated at
Culloden, and he emigrated shortly afterwards to North America, where
his death is recorded as having taken place at a comparatively early age
at Halifax in the year 1*752.

That he came of gentle blood is also proved by the fact that the
Duke of Cumberland stood sponsor to his son, who bore the Duke's
names of William Augustus. This second Gordon, of the particular
branch that has interest for us, also entered the army, and held a com-
mission in several regiments. The most memorable event in his life
Avas his taking part in Wolfe's decisive victory on the heights of Abraham.
In 1773 he married a lady, Miss Anna Maria Clarke, whose brother was
rector of Hexham in Northumberland, and by her had a family of
four daughters and three sons. Of the latter, two died at an early age
and only the youngest, William Henry, born in 17S6, survived to man-
hood. He is especially interesting to us, because he was the father of
General Gordon.

Like his father and grandfather, William Henry Gordon chose the
profession of a soldier, and entered the Royal Artillery. He saw a great
deal of active service, being with his corps in the Peninsula and at
Maida, commanding at a later period the Artillery at Corfu and
Gibraltar, and attaining before his death in 1865 the rank of Lieutenant-
General. He was also connected with the Woolwich Arsenal as Director
of the Carriage Department. He has been described as an excellent
officer if a somewhat strict disciplinarian, and his firm character of noble
integrity lived again in his sons. He married, in 1S17, Elizabeth, the
daughter of Samuel Enderby, a merchant whaler, one of those west
country worthies who carried on the traditions of Elizabeth to the age
of Victoria. It would not be possible to present a complete picture of
Gordon's mother, and therefore none will be attempted here ; but all the

4 The Life of Gordon.

available evidence agrees in describing her as a paragon of women, andi
as having exercised an exceptional influence over her children. Gordon
himself bore the most expressive testimony to her virtues and memory
when, long years afterwards, he closed an exordium on the filial affectior>
due to a mother with the outburst — " Oh! how my mother loved me ! "
Such in brief were the forebears of the hero who comes next after
Nelson in national veneration. To understand him and his career, it
Y^ must be remembered that he came of a gallant race, withji^quick sens_e
of honour, seeing clearly the obvious course of duty, ariH never hesitating
inits fultilment. These qualities ""were not peculiar to the man, but
inheritcTlrom his race, and as they had never been contaminated by
the pursuit of wealth in any form, they retained the pristine vigour and
fire of a chivalrous and noble age. What was personal and peculiar to
Charles Gordon had to be evolved by circumstance and the important
occurrences with which it was his lot to be associated throughout his-
military and public career, but his soldierly talent and virtue must be
mainly assigned to the traditions and practice of his ancestors.

Of the five sons of General William Henry Gordon and Elizabeth
Enderby, Charles George Gordon was the fourth. His eldest brother^
Henry William Gordon, born in 1818, had entered the army, first in
the 8th Regiment, and transferred in a short time to the 59th, when, at
the early age of ten, Charles Gordon was sent off to school at Taunton.
The selection of this school in the western country was due to the
head-master, Mr Rogers, being a brother of a governess in the Gordon
family. Little is known of his early childhood beyond the fact that
he had lived, before he was ten, at Corfu, where his father held a
command for some years. The Duke of Cambridge has publicly
stated that he recollects, when quartered at Corfu at this period, having
seen a bright and intelligent boy who occupied the room next to his
own, and who subsequently became General Gordon. At Taunton
Gordon remained during the greater part of five years, enjoying.
the advantages of one of the most excellent grammar schools in the
West of England, and although he failed to make any special mark
as a scholar, I find that, whether on account of his later fame or for
some special characteristic that marked him out from the general run
of boys, his name is still remembered there by something more than
the initials cut upon his desk. If he distinguished himself in any-
thing it was in map-making and drawing, and he exhibited the
same qualifications to the end of his career. How careful and
excellent the grounding at Taunton school must have been was shown
by the fact that, after one year's special coaching at Mr Jefferies*^
school at Shooter's Hill, Gordon passed direct into the Royal Military

Birth and Early Life. 5

Academy at Woolwich. It is noteworthy that during the whole of
4he period we are now approaching, he never showed the least
tendency to extravagance, and his main anxiety seems to have been
to save his parents all possible expense, more especially because they
had a large family of daughters. To the end of his life, and in each
successive post, Gordon was the slave of duty. At this time, and
during the years that follow, down to the Chinese campaigns, his
guiding thought was how to save his family the smallest expense on
his account, and yet at the same time to hold his head high, and to
show himself worthy of his race.

Gordon entered the Royal Military Academy at Woolwich in 1848,
■when he had not completed his sixteenth year, and during the four
years he remained there he gave some evidence of the qualities that
subsequently distinguished him, at the same time that he showed a light-
ness of disposition which many will think at strange variance with
the gravity and even solemnity of his later years. Among his fellow-
students he was not distinguished by any special or exclusive devotion
to study. He was certainly no bookworm, and he was known rather for
his love of sport and boisterous high spirits than for attention to his
lessons or for a high place in his class. More than once he was
involved in affairs that, if excusable and natural on the score of youth,
trenched beyond the borders of discipline, and the stories of life at
the Academy that he recited for many years after he left were not
■exactly in harmony with the popular idea of the ascetic of Mount

As the reader treasures up the boyish escapades of Nelson and Clive,
so will enduring interest be felt in those outbreaks of the boy Gordon,
which made him the terror of his superiors. They are recorded on the
•unimpeachable evidence of his elder brother, and some of them were
even narrated by Gordon himself to his niece nearly thirty years after
they happened. Sir Henry is the writer.

" Charles Gordon with a brother (William Augustus) more unruly
than himself, finding the time hang heavily upon their hands during the
vacation, employed themselves in various ways. Their father's house (at
Woolwich) was opposite to that of the Commandant of the Garrison, and
was overrun with mice. These were caught, the Commandant's door
quietly opened, and the mice were transferred to new quarters. In
after hfe (that is in 1879, when in the Soudan) Charles Gordon wrote
to one of his nieces : 'I am glad to hear the race of true Gordons is
not extinct. Do you not regret the Arsenal and its dehghts? You
never, any of you, made a proper use of the Arsenal workmen as we
did. They used to neglect their work for our orders, and turned out

6 The Life of Gordon.

some splendid squirts — articles that would wet you through in a minute.
As tor the crossbows we had made, they were grand with screws. One
Sunday afternoon twenty-seven panes of glass were broken in the large
storehouses. They were found to have been perforated with a small
hole (ventilation), and Captain Soady nearly escaped a premature
death ; a screw passed his head, and was as if it had been screwed into-
the wall which it had entered. Servants were kept at the door with
continual bell-ringings. Your uncle Freddy (a younger brother) w-as
pushed into houses, the bell rung, and the door held to prevent escape.
Those were the days of the Arsenal.' "

Sir Henry continues :

"But what Charles Gordon considered as his greatest achievement
was one that he in after years often alluded to. At this time (1S48) the
senior class of Cadets, then called the Practical Class, were located in
the Royal Arsenal, and in front of their halls of study there were earth-
works upon which they were practised from time to time in profiling.
and other matters. The ins and outs of these works were thoroughly
well known to Charles Gordon and his brother, who stole out at night —

but we will leave him to tell his own story. He says : ' I forgot to tell

of how when Colonel John Travers of the Hill Folk (he lived on Shooter's-
Hill) was lecturing to the Arsenal Cadets in the evening, a crash was
heard, and every one thought every pane of glass was broken ; small
shot had been thrown. However, it was a very serious affair, for like the
upsetting of a hive, the Cadets came out, and only darkness, speed, and
knowledge of the fieldworks thrown up near the lecture-room enabled
us to escape. That was before I entered the curriculum. The culprits
were known afterwards, and for some time avoided the vicinity of the
Cadets. I remember it with horror to this day, for no mercy would
have been shown by the Pussies, as the Cadets were called.'"

After he entered the Academy the same love of fun and practical
joking characterised him. Sir Henry writes : " After he had been
some time at the Academy and earned many good-conduct badges, an
occasion arose when it became necessary to restrain the Cadets in
leaving the dining-hall, the approach to which was by a narrow stair-
case. At the top of this staircase stood the senior corporal, with out-
stretched arms, facing the body of Cadets. This was too much for
Charlie Gordon, who, putting his head down, butted with it, and catch-
ing the officer in the pit of the stomach not only sent him down the
stairs, but through the glass door beyond. The officer jumped up
unhurt, and Gordon was placed in confinement and nearly dismissed.

" Upon another occasion, when he was near his commission, a great
deal of bullying was going on, and in order to repress it a number of the

Birth mid Early Life. 7

last comers were questioned, when one of them said that Charlie
Gordon had on one occasion hit him on the head with a clothes-

Online LibraryDemetrius Charles de Kavanagh BoulgerThe life of Gordon, major-general, R. E. C. B.; Turkish field-marshal, Grand cordon Medjidieh, and pasha; Chinese titv (field-marshal) yellow jacket order → online text (page 1 of 40)