Gordon, Charles George (DNB00)
|←Gordon, Charles (1756-1835)||Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 22
Gordon, Charles George
GORDON, CHARLES GEORGE, known as Chinese Gordon (1833–1885), major-general, C.B., royal engineers, fourth son of Lieutenant-general Henry William Gordon, royal artillery, and Elizabeth, daughter of Samuel Enderby of Croom's Hill, Blackheath, was born at Woolwich on 28 Jan. 1833. He was sent to school at Taunton in 1843, and entered the Royal Military Academy at Woolwich in 1848. He obtained a commission in the royal engineers on 23 June 1852, and, after the usual course of study at Chatham, was quartered for a short time at Pembroke Dock. In December 1854 he received his orders for the Crimea, and reached Balaklava on 1 Jan. 1855. As a young engineer subaltern serving in the trenches, his daring was conspicuous, while his special aptitude for obtaining a personal knowledge of the movements of the enemy was a matter of common observation among his brother officers. He was wounded on 6 June 1855, and was present at the attack of the Redan on 18 June. On the surrender of Sebastopol Gordon accompanied the expedition to Kinburn, and on his return was employed on the demolition of the Sebastopol docks. For his services in the Crimea Gordon received the British war medal and clasp, the Turkish war medal, and the French Legion of Honour.
In May 1856, in company with Lieutenant (now Major-general) E. R. James, R.E., he joined Colonel (now General Sir) E. Stanton, R.E., in Bessarabia, as assistant commissioner for the delimitation of the new frontier line. This duty was completed in April 1857, and he was then sent with Lieutenant James in a similar capacity to Erzeroum, where Colonel (now General Sir) Lintorn Simmons was the English commissioner for the Asiatic frontier boundary. The work was accomplished by the following October, when Gordon returned to England.
In the spring of 1858 he and Lieutenant James were sent as commissioners to the Armenian frontier to superintend the erection of the boundary posts of the line they had previously surveyed. This was finished in November, and Gordon returned home, having acquired an intimate knowledge of the people of the districts visited.
On 1 April 1859 Gordon was promoted captain, and about the same time appointed second adjutant of the corps at Chatham, a post he held for little more than a year, for, in the summer of 1860, he joined the forces of Sir James Hope Grant operating with the French against China. He overtook the allied army at Tientsin, and was present in October at the capture of Pekin and the pillage and destruction of the emperor's summer palace. For his services in this campaign he received the British war medal with clasp for Pekin and a brevet majority in December 1862. Gordon commanded the royal engineers at Tientsin, when the British forces remained there under Sir Charles Staveley, and, while thus employed, made several expeditions into the interior, in one of which he explored a considerable section of the great wall of China. In April 1862 he was summoned to Shanghai to assist in the operations consequent upon the determination of Sir Charles Staveley to keep a radius of thirty miles round the city clear of the rebel Taipings. Gordon took part as commanding royal engineer in the storming of Sing-poo and several other fortified towns, and in clearing the rebels out of Kah-ding. He was afterwards employed in surveying the country round Shanghai.
The Taiping rebellion was of so barbarous a nature that its suppression had become necessary in the interests of civilisation. A force raised at the expense of the Shanghai merchants, and supported by the Chinese government, had been for some years struggling against its progress. This force, known as the ‘Ever Victorious Army,’ was commanded at first by Ward, an American, and, on his death, by Burgevine, also an American, who was summarily dismissed; for a short time the command was held by Holland, an English marine officer, but he was defeated at Taitsan 22 Feb. 1863.
Li Hung Chang, governor-general of the Kiang provinces, then applied to the British commander-in-chief for the services of an English officer, and Gordon was authorised to accept the command. He arrived at Sung-Kiong and entered on his new duties as a mandarin and lieutenant-colonel in the Chinese service on 24 March 1863. His force was composed of some three to four thousand Chinese officered by 150 Europeans of almost every nationality and often of doubtful character. By the indomitable will of its commander this heterogeneous body was moulded into a little army whose high-sounding title of ‘ever victorious’ became a reality, and in less than two years, after thirty-three engagements, the power of the Taipings was completely broken and the rebellion stamped out. The theatre of operations was the district of Kiangsoo, lying between the Yang-tze-Kiang river in the north and the bay of Hang-chow in the south. When Gordon assumed command the rebels were besieging Chanzu. He at once advanced on Fushan, and after bombardment carried the town by assault, creating a panic among the rebels which led them to abandon the siege of Chanzu. He next captured Taitsan on 1 May, garrisoned by ten thousand men, after a severe fight of two days. He replenished his army by enlisting the captured rebels, and to fill the vacancies caused by the dismissal of some of his officers for misconduct he was able to secure the services of some non-commissioned officers of the British force quartered at Shanghai. At the end of May he attacked Quinsan, the Taiping arsenal, and, by a bold strategic movement, cut the line of its communication with the great city of Soo-chow, and captured it, taking eight hundred prisoners. A large number of rebels were killed, and many fugitives were slain by the exasperated country people. Gordon then established his headquarters at Quinsan, as being further away from the demoralising influences of Shanghai. The maintenance of discipline was a perpetual struggle, and the change of headquarters caused a mutiny which was only quelled by shooting the ringleader on the spot. Before the summer of 1863 was over, Gordon captured Kahpoo, Wokong, and Patachiaow, on the south of Soo-chow, and, sweeping round to the north, secured Leeku, Wanti, and Fusaiqwan, so that by October Soo-chow was completely invested. On 29 Nov. the outworks were captured by assault, and the city surrendered on 6 Dec. Gordon was always in front in all these storming parties, carrying no other weapon than a little cane. His men called it his ‘magic wand,’ regarding it as a charm that protected his life and led them on to victory.
When Soo-chow fell Gordon had stipulated with the Governor-general Li for the lives of the Wangs (rebel leaders). They were treacherously murdered by Li's orders. Indignant at this perfidy, Gordon refused to serve any longer with Governor Li, and when on 1 Jan. 1864 money and rewards were heaped upon him by the emperor declined them all, saying that he received the approbation of the emperor with every gratification, but regretted most sincerely that, ‘owing to the circumstances which occurred since the capture of Soo-chow, he was unable to receive any mark of his majesty the emperor's recognition.’ The imperial decree conferring on Gordon an order of the first rank and a gift of 10,000 taels of silver in consideration of his services at Soo-chow was presented to the British Museum in 1886 by Gordon's brother, Sir Henry William Gordon, and is now on exhibition in the manuscript department, together with a map of the districts round Soo-chow, drawn by Gordon, and marked with the dates of his successful engagements.
After some months of inaction it became evident that if Gordon did not again take the field the Taipings would regain the rescued country. On the urgent representations of the British envoy at Pekin, Governor Li was compelled to issue a proclamation exonerating Gordon from all complicity in the murder of the Wangs. Gordon then reluctantly consented to continue his services, on the distinct understanding that in any future capitulation he should not be interfered with. In December 1863 a fresh campaign was commenced, and during the following months no fewer than seven towns were captured or surrendered. In February 1864 Yesing and Liyang were taken, but at Kintang Gordon met with a reverse and was himself wounded for the first time. He nevertheless continued to give his orders until he had to be carried to his boat. After some other mishaps he carried Chan-chu-fu by assault on 27 April. The garrison consisted of twenty thousand men, of whom fifteen hundred were killed. This victory not only ended the campaign but completely destroyed the rebellion, and the Chinese regular forces were enabled to occupy Nankin in the July following. The large money present offered to Gordon by the emperor was again declined, although he had spent his pay in promoting the efficiency of his force, so that he wrote home: ‘I shall leave China as poor as when I entered it.’ The emperor, however, bestowed upon him the yellow jacket and peacock's feather of a mandarin of the first class, with the title of Ti-Tu, the highest military rank in China, and a gold medal of distinction of the first class. The merchants of Shanghai presented him with an address expressing their admiration of his conduct of the war.
On his return home in the beginning of 1865 he was made a C.B., having previously received his brevet as lieutenant-colonel in February 1864. In September 1865 he was appointed commanding royal engineer at Gravesend, and for the next six years carried out the ordinary duties of the corps, superintending the construction of the forts for the defence of the Thames. During this quiet and uneventful period of routine work he devoted his spare time to the poor and sick of the neighbourhood, stinting himself that he might have larger means wherewith to relieve others. He took special interest in the infirmary and the ragged schools. He took many of the boys from the schools into his own house, starting them in life by sending them to sea, and he continued to watch the future progress of his ‘kings,’ as he called them, with never-failing sympathy.
In October 1871 Gordon was appointed British member of the international commission at Galatz for the improvement of the navigation of the Sulina mouth of the Danube in accordance with the treaty of Paris. During his tenure of this office he accompanied General Sir John Adye to the Crimea to report on the British cemeteries there. On his way back to Galatz in November 1872 he met Nubar Pasha at Constantinople, who sounded him as to his succeeding Sir Samuel Baker in the Soudan. The following year Gordon visited Cairo on his way home, and on the resignation of Sir Samuel Baker was appointed governor of the equatorial provinces of Central Africa, with a salary of 10,000l. a year. He declined to receive more than 2,000l.
Gordon went to Egypt in the beginning of 1874, and left Cairo in February for Gondokoro, the seat of his government, travelling by the Suez-Suakin-Berber route. He reached Khartoum on 13 March, stopped only a few days to issue a proclamation and make arrangements for men and supplies, then, continuing his journey, arrived at Gondokoro on 16 April. The garrison of Gondokoro at this time did not dare to move out of the place except in armed bands; but, in the course of a year, the confidence of the natives had been gained, the country made safe, eight stations formed and garrisoned, the government monopoly of ivory enforced, and sufficient money sent to Cairo to pay all the expenses of the expedition. At the close of the year, having already lost by sickness eight members of his small European staff, Gordon transferred the seat of government from the unhealthy station, Gondokoro, to Laido. By the end of 1875 Gondokoro and Duffli had been joined by a chain of fortified posts, a day's journey apart, the slave dealers had been dispersed, and a letter post organised to travel regularly between Cairo and the verge of the Albert Nyanza, over two thousand miles as the crow flies.
Gordon had also visited Magungo, Murchison Falls, and Chibero, with a view to a further line of fortified posts, and he established, for the first time, by personal observation the course of the Victoria Nile into Lake Albert. Although he had accomplished a great work since his arrival, his efforts to put down the slave trade were thwarted by Ismail Pasha Yacoub, governor-general of the Soudan, and were likely to prove abortive so long as the Soudan remained a distinct government from that of the equatorial provinces. He therefore at the end of 1876 resigned his appointment and returned to England. Strong pressure was put upon him by the khedive to return, and on 31 Jan. 1877 he left for Cairo, where he received the combined appointment of governor-general of the Soudan, Darfour, the equatorial provinces, and the Red Sea littoral, on the understanding that his efforts were to be directed to the improvement of the means of communication, and the absolute suppression of the slave trade. Gordon first visited Abyssinia, where Walad el Michael was giving a great deal of trouble on the Egyptian frontier. He settled the difficulty for a time, and travelled across country to Khartoum, where he was installed as governor-general 5 May. After a short stay there he hastened to Darfour, which was in revolt; with a small force and rapid movements he quelled the rising, and, by the humane consideration he showed for the suffering people, won their confidence and pacified the province. Before this work was completely accomplished his attention was called away by the slave dealers, who, headed by Suleiman, son of the notorious Zebehr, with six thousand armed men, had moved on Dara from their stronghold Shaka. Gordon left Fascher on 31 Aug. 1877 with a small escort, which he soon outstripped, and in a day and a half, having covered eighty-five miles on a camel, entered Dara alone, to the surprise of its small garrison. The following morning, attended by a small escort, he rode into the rebel camp, upbraided Suleiman with his disloyalty, and announced his intention to disarm the band and break them up. Gordon's fearless bearing and strong will secured his object, and Suleiman returned with his men to Shaka. The rapidity of Gordon's movements, together with the extraordinary energy which he displayed in this sultry climate, had a most beneficial effect upon the local chiefs of the vast territory over which he reigned, and the laziest officials were stirred to action when they heard the ‘pasha was coming.’
Returning to Khartoum in October, he left almost immediately for Berber and Dongola, but at the latter place, hearing of an expected Abyssinian invasion, he at once rode back to Khartoum in five and a half days, and started viâ Kasala, for Senheit, where an interview with Walad el Michael was so unsatisfactory that he went on to Massowah and endeavoured to communicate with King John, who was then campaigning against Menelek, king of Shoa. Having waited at Massowah some time in vain, Gordon left in June 1878 for Khartoum, viâ Suakin and Berber, but was stopped on the way by a telegram from the khedive summoning him to Cairo to take part in a financial enquiry. He reached Cairo in a fortnight, and was received with every mark of honour by the khedive, who, however, soon discovered that Gordon was not the man to further his financial projects. A fortnight afterwards Gordon was on his way back to his government by way of the Red Sea. At Zeila he made an eight days journey on horseback inland to Harrar, where he dismissed the governor Raouf Pasha (who afterwards succeeded Gordon as governor-general of the Soudan!) for tyranny, and made Yuseuf Ahmed governor in his stead. Returning after another ‘terrible march of eight days,’ he reached Zeila on 9 May, and at once pushed on by Massowah,Suakin, and Berber to Khartoum. Here his first trouble was the refusal of Osman Pasha, his second in command, to go to Darfour, so he was sent off to Cairo to be dealt with by the authorities there. Then, in July, came news of a renewed revolt of Suleiman and the slavers in the south, and of the seizure by them of the country of the Bahr Gazelle. Gordon despatched his trusty captain, the Italian, Romulus Gessi, with a force to the south to put down the revolt, while he proceeded himself to suppress risings in the western parts of Darfour, dealing out destruction to the slave traffic, and releasing thousands of slaves. Gessi, after a year's marching and fighting, succeeded in capturing Suleiman and some of the chief slave dealers with him. They were tried as rebels and shot. The suppression of the slave trade had thus been practically accomplished when on 1 July news arrived of the deposition of Ismail and the succession of Tewfik, which determined Gordon to resign his appointment. On arriving at Cairo the khedive induced him first to undertake a mission to Abyssinia to prevent, if possible, an impending war with that country. Gordon went, saw King John at Debra Tabor, but could arrive at no satisfactory understanding with him, and was abruptly dismissed. On his way to Kassala he was made prisoner by King John's men and carried to Gamimudhiri, where he was left to find his way with his little party over the snowy mountains to the Red Sea. He reached Massowah on 8 Dec. 1879, and on his return to Cairo the khedive accepted his resignation. He arrived in England early in January 1880. During his service under the khedive Gordon received both the second and first class of the order of the Medjidieh.
His constitution was so much impaired by his sojournings in so deadly a climate that his medical advisers sent him to Switzerland to recruit. While there the Cape government offered him the post of commandant of the colonial forces, at a salary of 1,500l. a year; but he at once declined it. He returned to England in April 1880, and the following month accompanied the Marquis of Ripon, the new viceroy of India, to that country as his private secretary. The world had hardly ceased wondering at the incongruity of the appointment when it was startled by Gordon's sudden resignation of it. He had accepted it with some misgiving, and finding himself unsuited to it and likely to do harm to the viceroy by retaining it he at once resigned, maintaining nevertheless his friendly relations with Lord Ripon intact.
Two days after his resignation he received a telegram from Sir Robert Hart, commissioner of customs at Pekin, inviting him to China to advise the Chinese government in connection with their then strained relations with Russia. Gordon accepted at once, and although difficulties were raised by the home authorities he reached Hongkong on 2 July, and went on by Shanghai and Chefoo to Tientsin to meet his old friend, Li Hung Chang, who, with Prince Kung, headed the peace party, while Tso and Prince Chun led the warlike majority. From Tientsin Gordon went to Pekin, and his wise and disinterested counsels in favour of peace at length carried the day. His mission satisfactorily accomplished he returned to England in October 1880, and went to Ireland during the winter months to ascertain for himself the merits of the Irish question. ‘Tired of doing nothing’ and observing the difficulties that had arisen in Basutoland, Gordon telegraphed on 7 April 1881 to offer his services to the Cape government for two years at 700l. a year, ‘to assist in terminating war and in administering Basutoland.’ To this offer he received no reply. About this time Gordon volunteered to go as commanding royal engineer to Mauritius in order to prevent the retirement of Colonel Sir Howard Elphinstone, who had been ordered thither, and was unable for private reasons to go. Gordon would accept no pecuniary consideration for the exchange. He reached Mauritius in July 1881, and paid a short visit to the Seychelles to report on their defence in connection with that of Mauritius and the general scheme for the coaling stations. On 2 Jan. 1882, on the departure of Major-general Murray from Mauritius, Gordon, as senior officer, assumed the command of the troops, and was promoted major-general on 24 March.
In the previous month the Cape government had applied to the colonial office for Gordon's services in almost the identical terms of his unanswered telegram of the year before, viz. ‘to assist in terminating the war and in administering Basutoland.’ The government telegraphed to Gordon permission to accept. On 2 April the Cape government telegraphed to him to come at once, as the position of matters in Basutoland was grave. On arriving at Cape Town on 3 May 1882 the only post offered to him was that of commandant of the colonial forces, which he had unhesitatingly declined two years before. A reluctance to take the unpopular step of removing Mr. Orpen, administrator of Basutoland, in whom they had no confidence, prevented the Cape government from utilising Gordon's services as had been intended. Gordon put on one side his own inclinations, accepted the appointment of commandant of the colonial forces, took pains to make himself acquainted with the native question, made various reports, upon which no action, however, was taken, and eventually, at the request of Mr. Sauer, the secretary for native affairs, accompanied that minister to Basutoland. In September Gordon had an interview with the chief Letsea, who was friendly to the government and antagonistic to the chief Masupha, and then, at Mr. Sauer's request, he went to see and negotiate with Masupha. He went unarmed, and was completely in the chiefs power. While engaged in discussing matters with Gordon, Masupha was attacked by Letsea at the direct instigation of Mr. Sauer. Fortunately Gordon had so far managed to win the confidence of Masupha that the chief acquitted him of complicity in the perfidy, and allowed him to depart without molestation. Burning with indignation, Gordon hurried to King William's Town, and telegraphed his resignation to the Cape government. It was formally accepted by the premier, who seized the opportunity to record his conviction that Gordon's continuance in the post he occupied would not be conducive to the public interest! Gordon left the Cape on 14 Oct. 1882, and on his arrival in England the following month found himself a major-general unemployed.
The king of the Belgians, who was anxious to secure Gordon's services for the new Congo state, now wrote to him on the subject, and Gordon at once expressed his readiness to enter his majesty's service whenever the king might require him. As this was not likely to be immediately, he carried out in the meantime a long-cherished desire to visit Palestine. He arrived at Jaffa on 16 Jan. 1883 on his way to Jerusalem, and spent the greater part of a year in the Holy Land, investigating and theorising on the biblical sites and holy places. In October he was summoned to fulfil his promise to the king of the Belgians, and reached Brussels on 1 Jan. 1884, only to learn that the war department refused to sanction his employment. He was arranging to renounce his well-earned pension and to resign his commission, trusting to the generosity of the king of the Belgians, when he was summoned to the war office on 15 Jan. by Lord Wolseley. The success of the Mahdi in the Soudan and the catastrophe to Hicks Pasha in November 1883 had induced the British government not only to decline any military assistance to enable the Egyptian government to hold the Soudan, but to insist upon its abandonment by the Khedive. To do this it was necessary to bring away the garrisons scattered all over the country, and such of the Egyptian population as might object to remain. At the interview with Lord Wolseley the subject of Gordon's going to Khartoum to carry out this policy was discussed, but with no definite result, and Gordon left next morning (16th) for Brussels, en route for the Congo. On the 17th he was summoned to London by telegram. The king of the Belgians, to whom he had imparted the proposals of the government, while expressing great disappointment at the loss of his services, gave him permission to go. On the 18th Gordon saw the British cabinet, and the same evening left with Colonel Stewart for the Soudan.
Gordon's mission was to effect the withdrawal of the garrisons and to evacuate the Soudan. At Cairo his functions were considerably extended. He was appointed, with the consent of the British government, governor-general of the Soudan, and was instructed, not only to effect the evacuation of the country, but to take steps to leave behind an organised independent government. At Khartoum, where he arrived on 18 Feb. 1884, Gordon was received with a perfect ovation. He now kept his mind directed to the accomplishment of his one object, the execution of his instructions. Some things that he proposed and some that he did evoked at the time a hostile criticism, which they would not have done had they been regarded solely with reference to this object. He proclaimed the independence of the Soudan; he allowed the retention of slaves; he asked that Zebehr might be sent to him from Cairo as the only influence that could compete with that of the Mahdi; he demanded that Turkish troops should be despatched to his assistance; he represented the necessity of keeping open the communication between Suakin and Berber; he suggested that Indian Moslem troops should be sent to Wady Halfa; he asked permission to confer personally with the Mahdi, and he desired to be allowed, in case he thought it necessary, to take action south of Khartoum. None of these requests were granted, and when Sir Gerald Graham, after the victories of the first Suakin expedition, proposed to reach a hand to Gordon viâ Berber this also was refused.
By the month of March, having succeeded in sending some two thousand five hundred people down the Nile into safety, Gordon found himself getting hemmed in by the Mahdi and no assistance coming from without. On 16 April 1884 his last telegram before the wires were cut complained bitterly of the neglect of the government. The attack of Khartoum began on 12 March, and from that time to its fall Gordon carried on the defence with consummate skill. His resources were small, his troops few, and his European assistants could be counted on the fingers of one hand, yet he managed to convert his river steamers into ironclads, to build new ones, to make and lay down land mines, to place wire entanglements, and to execute frequent sorties, while he kept up the spirits and courage of his followers by striking medals in honour of their bravery, and baffled a fanatic and determined foe for over ten months, during the latter part of which the people who trusted him were perishing from disease and famine, and the grip of the enemy was tightening.
In April the necessity of a relief expedition was pressed upon the government at home, but without avail. In May popular feeling found vent not only in public meetings but in the House of Commons, where a vote of censure on the government was lost by only twenty-eight votes. Eventually proposals were made to send a relief expedition from Cairo in the autumn, and on 5 Aug. a vote of credit for 300,000l. was taken for ‘operations for the relief of General Gordon should it become necessary, and to make certain preparations in respect thereof.’ Even when it was decided that Lord Wolseley should take command of a relief expedition up the Nile, hesitation continued to mark the proceedings of the government, and time, so valuable on account of the rising of the Nile, was lost. It was 1 Sept. before Lord Wolseley was able to leave England. Then everything was done that could be done, but the delay had been fatal.
In September 1884, having driven the rebels out of Berber, Gordon authorised his companions, Colonel Stewart and Frank Power (‘Times’ correspondent), to go down the river in the steamer Abbas to open communication with Dongola. The steamer struck on a rock, and they were both treacherously murdered. Gordon was now the only Englishman in Khartoum. On 30 Dec. Lord Wolseley launched Sir Herbert Stewart's expedition from Korti across the desert to Metemmeh, where, after two severe engagements, it arrived on 20 Jan. 1885 under command of Sir Charles Wilson, Stewart having been mortally wounded. In order to succour the advancing force, Gordon had deprived himself for three months of five out of his seven steamers. These five steamers, fully armed, equipped, and provisioned, were in waiting, and in them were his diaries and letters up to 14 Dec. On that date he wrote to Major Watson, R.E., at Cairo, that he thought the game was up, and a catastrophe might be expected in ten days' time, and sent his adieux to all. On the same day he wrote to his sister: ‘I am quite happy, thank God, and, like Lawrence, I have tried to do my duty.’ His diary ended on the same day with: ‘I have done the best for the honour of my country. Good-bye.’ It was necessary for the safety of his troops that Wilson should first make a reconnaissance down the river towards Berber before going to Khartoum, and when he started up the river on the 24th the difficulties of navigation were so great that it was midday on the 28th before the goal was reached, and then only to find it in the hands of the Mahdi, Khartoum having fallen early on the 26th, after a siege of 317 days.
From the most accurate information since obtained it appears that the garrison early in January had been reduced to great straits for want of food, and great numbers of the inhabitants had availed themselves of Gordon's permission to join the Mahdi. Omdurman, opposite to Khartoum on the west bank of the river, fell about 13 Jan., and about the 18th a sortie was made, in which some serious fighting took place. The state of the garrison then grew desperate. Gordon continually visited the posts by night as well as day, and encouraged the famished garrison. The news of Sir Herbert Stewart's expedition, and the successful engagements it had fought on the way to Metemmeh, determined the Mahdi to storm Khartoum before reinforcements could arrive for its relief. The attack was made on the south front at 3.30 a.m. on Monday 26 Jan. 1885. The defence was half-hearted, treachery was at work, and Gordon received no tidings of the assault. The rebels made good their entrance, and then a general massacre ensued. The accounts of Gordon's death are confused and conflicting, but they all agree in stating that he was killed near the gate of the palace, and his head carried to the Mahdi's camp.
Intelligence of the catastrophe reached England on Thursday, 5 Feb. The outburst of popular grief, not only in this country and her colonies, but also among foreign nations, has hardly been paralleled. It was universally acknowledged that the world had lost a hero. Friday, 13 March, was observed as a day of national mourning, and special services were held in the cathedrals and in many churches of the land, those at Westminster Abbey and St. Paul's being attended by the royal family, members of both houses of parliament, and representatives of the naval and military services. Parliament voted a national monument to be placed in Trafalgar Square (executed by Mr. Hamo Thornycroft, R.A., and unveiled 15 Oct. 1888) and a sum of 20,000l. to his relatives. A recumbent effigy of Gordon in bronze by Mr. Boehm, R.A., has been placed by the family in St. Paul's Cathedral. The corps of royal engineers erected a bronze statue of him mounted on a camel, by Mr. Onslow Ford, A.R.A., in their barrack square at Chatham, and a portrait by Mr. Val Prinsep is in the Chatham mess. Memorials are also projected in Westminster Abbey and Rochester Cathedral. More general expression was given to the people's admiration of Gordon's character by the institution of the ‘Gordon Boys' Home’ for homeless and destitute boys. Gordon's sister presented to the town of Southampton her brother's library in March 1889.
Gordon's character was unique. Simple-minded, modest, and almost morbidly retiring, he was fearless and outspoken when occasion required. Strong in will and prompt in action, with a naturally hot temper, he was yet forgiving to a fault. Somewhat brusque in manner, his disposition was singularly sympathetic and attractive, winning all hearts. Weakness and suffering at once enlisted his interest. Caring nothing for what was said of him, he was indifferent to praise or reward, and had a supreme contempt for money. His whole being was dominated by a Christian faith at once so real and so earnest that, although his religious views were tinged with mysticism, the object of his life was the entire surrender of himself to work out whatever he believed to be the will of God.
The following epitaph has been written by Lord Tennyson:
Warrior of God, man's friend, not here below,
But somewhere dead far in the waste Soudan,
Thou livest in all hearts, for all men know
This earth hath borne no simpler, nobler man.
The following letters and journals of Gordon have been published: 1. ‘Publications of the Egyptian General Staff. Provinces of the Equator. Summary of letters and reports from the governor-general,’ Cairo, 1877. 2. ‘Reflections in Palestine,’ 1883. 3. ‘Letters from the Crimea, the Danube, and Armenia … 1854 to … 1858,’ ed. D. C. Boulger, 1884. 4. ‘General Gordon's Private Diary of his Exploits in China.’ amplified by S. Mossman, 1885. 5. ‘Gordon, a woman's memories of him, and his letters to her from the Holy Land,’ 1885. 6. ‘Letters to his Sister, M.A. Gordon,’ 1885. 7. ‘Letters to the Rev. R.H. Barnes,’ 1885. 8. ‘The Journals of … Gordon at Kartoum,’ ed. A.E. Hake, 1885. 9. ‘General Gordon's last Journal. A facsimile of the last of the six volumes of journals despatched by General Gordon, before the fall of Kartoum,’ 1885. 10. Gordon's ‘Diary of the Taiping Rebellion,’ ed. A. E. Hake, 1890.[Corps Records; Gordon's own letters and journals as above; A. Wilson's ‘Ever Victorious Army,’ 1868; Dr. Birkbeck Hill's Colonel Gordon in Central Africa, 1881; Hake's Story of Chinese Gordon; Col. Sir W.F. Butler's Memoir of Gordon in Men of Action Series, 1889; C. C. Chesney's Essays in Modern Military Biography, 1874; Archibald Forbes's Chinese Gordon, 1884; Colonel Sir Charles Wilson's From Korti to Khartoum; Rev. R.H. Barnes's Charles George Gordon: a Sketch, 1885; Boulger's Hist. of China, vol. iii. 1881, &c.; Lieutenant-general Sir G. Graham's Last Words with Gordon, 1887; H. W. Gordon's Events in the Life of Charles George Gordon, 1886.]