SUBMITTED BY: Phyllis Gordon Womble
In June 1861, Alson Gordon of Haywood county left his wife and three children behind to join Company F of the 25th NC Infantry Regiment: a company that enlisted three of my other ancestors on the same day. Gordon’s time in the 25th Regiment is recounted by Reverend Albert Franklin Gordon Jr, who wrote and published Gordons of the Carolinas, tracing the descendants of Alexander Gordon of Scotland. In the chapter dedicated to this family’s contribution to Civil War History, we are made aware of unique details regarding the appointment of officers, as well as particular battles that made up Alson Gordon’s experience. His ultimate return to duty after fulfilling his obligation to the Confederacy is a focal point, though it is up to readers to infer his motivation for doing so. That which draws men to war is not so readily decipherable. While glory and triumph are always thought to be over the next hill, one cannot ignore how steep and treacherous that climb can be.
In August of 1861, Gordon’s Company F, under the command of Captain Thomas Lenoir, made their way to Camp Patton in Asheville, NC. A total of 10 companies of the 25th NC Infantry Regiment was stationed in Wilmington, NC at Camp Davis before being ordered to South Carolina in November 1861. Gordon’s regiment was tasked with forming a picket, or taking position ahead of the others, to provide warning of an enemy advance to New Bern, NC. By the time they had arrived, Union soldiers had already captured the town, and the 25th Regiment was forced to retreat to Kinston, NC. Reverend Albert Gordon describes the election of officers through distributed ballots within the regiment before the 25th was assigned to General Robert Ransom’s Brigade. Interestingly, on occasions when a popularly elected leader would defeat an already professional soldier, the winner would resign in order to avoid angering previously installed officers.
Gordon saw action at the Battle of Seven Pines in June and the Battle of Malvern Hill in July. The 25th Regiment saw only two killed and forty wounded at Seven Pines but suffered 90 killed or wounded at Malvern Hill. Author Reverend Albert Gordon notes that “an out-break of measles proved to be a more formidable enemy” because 81 soldiers fell to the illness. Two weeks later, on July 16, 1862, Alson Gordon filed discharge papers and returned to Haywood County. The Conscript Act did not apply to Alson as he was over the age of 36, and he returned home before winter to his farm and family. The author Reverend Albert Gordon ponders in jest whether it was poor crop yield or Alson Gordon’s patriotism that urged his decision to re-join his regiment, but he did just that nearly a year later in October 1863.
Deserters from both the Union and Confederate armies would band together, referred to as “bushwhackers,” were neutralized by a detachment of the 25th Regiment under the command of Lieutenant Bryson. Alson Gordon was contacted by Lieutenant Hyatt of Haywood county to assist in this effort, and Gordon re-enlisted October 15th. It was in Hot Springs, NC that Gordon’s regiment finally engaged a group of bushwhackers. The 25th Regiment was handedly defeated and lost the greater part of their men including Lieutenant Hyatt of Company F. Gordon and his regiment was reorganized into General Brogue’s Division and saw action at the battle of Drewery’s Bluff and the Petersburg Siege’s Battle of the Crater. The latter is notorious for the Union Army’s plan to detonate underground explosives burrowed under Confederate lines. Alson Gordon survived the Battle of the Crater without injury; although a month later, in August of 1864, he suffered a devastating wound from Union canon fire. The family story claims that Alson’s leg was almost severed by a half-horseshoe, and later amputated by surgeons in a Petersburg VA hospital. When the supply of regular ammunition was short, any metallic alternatives that could be found were used. Though Alson did not survive to receive his pension, he did live into his late 70s. His widow, Sarah Gordon, successfully applied for and received a pension for over twenty years for Alson Gordon’s military service.