Barlow And Gordon — Friendly Enemies

Article By Herbert L. Grimm, Paul L. Roy and George Rose   The story of Brigadier General Francis C. Barlow of New York, and of Brigadier General John B.Gordon of Georgia is as remarkable a picture of true patriotism and humanity, despite adverse conditions, as emerged from the great Civil War. When recounted it commanded the respect of sympathizers of both sides.

Coincidence, neither Gordon nor Barlow were professional soldiers before the war but had risen in the ranks by true merit for their military achievements. At the time of Battle of Gettysburg, Barlow commanded a division in the Union Eleventh Corps and Gordon commanded a brigade in Early’s Division of Ewell’s Corps. On the afternoon of July 1, 1863 the commands of hese two men became engaged in a brief but bloody conflict on a small knoll or hill north of the town, west of the Harrisburg Road, now called Barlow Knoll in honor of the man and his division.

Barlow’s command became out-flanked on its right by the arrival of Gordon’s Confederate Brigade of Georgians, and Barlow himself fell with a ghastly and bloody wound as his forces attempted to extricate Themselves from the trap. The dangerous nature of his wound made it impossible for Barlow’s men to carry him off with them in the haste of their retreat, and he was left on the field to fall into the hands of the victorious Confederates.

Vhen General Gordon rode by he dismounted and inquired if there was anything he could do for this Union officer who was apparently dying. Barlow gave Gordon some personal papers and mementoes and asked that his wife, a nurse with the Union Army, be sent for. Barlow’s request was honored by the Georgia lawyer-general, and high officers of both sides arranged for the safe transport of Mrs. Barlow through the lines to her husband’s side. Under the gentle and constant care of his wife, General Barlow survived and went to other battles of the war. The following year he learned of the death of a General Gordon and silently mourned the death of the one who had shown him kindness in his time of need on another battlefield.

Yet it was not John Gordon who had fallen in 1864, and at the close of the war he would rise to prominence as both Senator from and Governor of Georgia. Barlow became New York’s attorney general. By coincidence, both were invited to a political dinner in our nation’s capital and their introduction to each other after the span of years and a fratricidal war evoked a curious and happy reunion. Both had believed the other dead on the bloody battlefields of years past, and the bonds that had connected them during their first meeting at Gettysblirg were renewed and strengthened after their Washington reunion.

My Source: Human Interest Stories of the Battle At Gettysburg