Charles George Gordon

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Gordon Pasha or Gordon of Khartoum was an English army soldier and administrator best known for his operations in China and northern Africa. He served in the Crimean War as a general in the British army and took part in the expedition to Kinburn, for which the British government awarded him the Crimean War medal and clasp, and the French government made him a Chevalier of the Legion of Honor. However, it was after his appointment as leader of the 3,500 Chinese soldiers known as the ‘Ever Victorious Army,’ that he was able to quell the Taiping Rebellion and seize Changzhou Fu, the Taiping Rebellion’s main military base. Apart from the epithet ‘Chinese Gordon,’ he received praise from both the British and Chinese governments for his bravery. Under the command of Khedive Ismail Pasha, he joined the Egyptian army and served in Khartoum and Gondokoro, constructing outposts along the Nile and attempting to abolish the slave trade. Due to the insurrection of Sudanese rebels led by Muhammad Ahmad, who called himself Mahdi, against Anglo-Egyptian control, his appointment as Governor-General of Sudan drove him to Khartoum to free British and Egyptian forces, where he was arrested and hanged.

Childhood and Adolescence

Major-General Henry William Gordon and Elizabeth Gordon had Charles George Gordon on January 28, 1833 in Woolwich Arsenal, London.
Before enrolling at the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich, he attended Fullands School and Taunton School in Taunton.

He graduated in 1852 and was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Royal Engineers. He was promoted to full lieutenant in 1854.

After finishing his military training at Chatham, he was dispatched to Milford Haven, Wales, to supervise the construction of fortifications.

Career of Charles George Gordon

He was stationed in the Russian Empire’s Balaklava at the commencement of the Crimean War in 1855, where he took part in the Siege of Sevastopol and the expedition to Kinburn before returning to Sevastopol.

In 1856, he was a member of an international commission sent to Bessarabia to draw the Russian Empire’s and Ottoman Empire’s borders.

When he returned to the United Kingdom in 1858, he went to Chatham to resume his responsibilities as an instructor, and in 1859, he was promoted to captain.

In 1860, he joined the British forces fighting China in the second Opium War, witnessing the capture of Beijing and the destruction of the Summer Palace.

When he returned to England in 1865, he continued his responsibilities as a commander of the Royal Engineers in Gravesend, Kent, for the following five years, overseeing the construction of the Thames forts.

In 1871, he established an international commission to establish limits at the Danube’s mouth. While entering Constantinople a year later, the Egyptian Prime Minister offered him service under Khedive Ismail Pasha.

In 1874, he accepted the offer and became a colonel in the Egyptian Army, where he was dispatched on his first mission to Khartoum, followed by Gondokoro in southern Sudan.

In 1874, he was appointed governor of the province of Equatoria, and he spent the following two years constructing stations along the Nile River, going south as far as present-day Uganda, in order to establish a route from Mombasa.

His views on abolishing the slave trade clashed with those of the Egyptian ruler of Sudan, forcing him to flee to London in 1876, only to return in 1877 as Sudan’s Governor-General.

In 1880, he returned to Europe and served in the Congo Free State, the Cape Colony (South Africa), India, China, Mauritius, and Palestine before being reappointed as Governor-General of Sudan in 1884.

Due to the insurrection of Sudanese rebels led by Muhammad Ahmad, who called himself Mahdi, against Anglo-Egyptian control, he was compelled to withdraw British and Egyptian forces from Khartoum as a British representative.

When he arrived in Khartoum in February 1884, he was successful in transporting women, children, and the sick to Egypt. Khartoum was raided by Mahdist forces a month later, cutting off all communications by April.

The British government attempted to launch a relief expedition in August 1884, dubbed the Nile Expedition, Khartoum Expedition, or Gordon Relief Expedition, which was ready by November; unfortunately, it was too late.

After spotting the Nile Expedition approaching Khartoum in January 1885, the Mahdists attacked and massacred the whole garrison, killing an estimated 10,000 people until being stopped by Mahdi’s orders.

Major Projects of Charles George Gordon

He was given command of the 3,500-strong Chinese force known as the ‘Ever Victorious Army’ in Songjiang in 1863 to put down the Taiping Rebellion. Changzhou Fu, the country’s main military facility, took him 18 months to conquer.

He fought tirelessly in Darfur to bring peace to the Abyssinians and to stop slave traders, but he was arrested and deported to Massawa. After Khedive was ousted, he retired in 1879 owing of ill health.

Achievements & Awards

For his actions in the Crimean War, he was awarded the Crimea war medal and clasp in 1855.

In 1856, the French government awarded him the title of Chevalier of the Legion of Honor.

In 1864, the Chinese Emperor gave him the imperial golden jacket and promoted him to Viscount first class.

The British Army elevated him to Lieutenant-Colonel and appointed him a Companion of the Bath in 1864, gaining him the nickname “Chinese Gordon.”

Personal History and Legacy

On January 26, 1885, two days before the British rescue forces arrived in Khartoum, he was kidnapped and executed by Mahdist forces near the governor’s palace, reportedly against Mahdi’s instructions.

In February 1885, England was told of his death, and March 13 was declared a national day of mourning, with a memorial ceremony held the next day at St. Paul’s Cathedral.

Hamo Thornycroft erected his statue in Trafalgar Square, London, in 1888, and a similar one in Melbourne’s Gordon Reserve park near Parliament House in 1889.

His camel-mounted statue was unveiled at the Royal Academy in 1890, following which it was moved to Brompton Barracks in Chatham.

In 1902, a second statue was erected at the London junction of St. Martin’s Lane and Charing Cross Road. It was later re-erected at Woking’s Gordon School in 1960 after being re-located to Khartoum in 1904.

Gordon Memorial College in Khartoum is named for him, as is an elementary school in Vancouver, British Columbia.

‘Gordon, Martyr & Misfit’ (1966), ‘Gordon – the Man Behind the Legend’ (1988), and ‘The Triumph of the Sun’ have all been written about his life during the siege of Khartoum (2005).

Estimated Net Worth

The Estimated net worth of Charles George Gordon is unknown.