2nd Manassas - Aug. 1862
The Battle of Gettysburg - Wednesday, July 1, 1863
The Gordon / Barlow Incident
"Are you related to the Gordon who killed me?"

Gordon Barlow Incident Diorama
Years after the war's end, both in his memoirs and when speaking to others, John Brown Gordon, the former Confederate General, would relay an incident from the first day of the Battle of Gettysburg.

"In the midst of the wild disorder in his ranks, and through a storm of bullets, a Union officer was seeking to rally his men for a final stand. He, too, went down, pierced by a Miniť ball. Riding forward with my rapidly advancing lines, I discovered that brave officer lying upon his back, with the July sun pouring its rays into his pale face. He was surrounded by the Union dead, and his own life seemed to be rapidly ebbing out. Quickly dismounting and lifting his head, I gave him water from my canteen, asked his name and the character of his wounds. He was Major-General Francis C. Barlow, of New York, and of Howard's corps. The ball had entered his body in front and passed out near the spinal cord, paralyzing him in legs and arms. Neither of us had the remotest thought that he could possibly survive many hours. I summoned several soldiers who were looking after the wounded, and directed them to place him upon a litter and carry him to the shade in the rear. Before parting, he asked me to take from his pocket a package of letters and destroy them. They were from his wife. He had but one request to make of me. That request was that if I should live to the end of the war and should ever meet Mrs. Barlow, I would tell her of our meeting on the field of Gettysburg and of his thoughts of her in his last moments. He wished me to assure her that he died doing his duty at the front, that he was willing to give his life for his country, and that his deepest regret was that he must die without looking upon her face again.

Barlow's Knoll Gettysburg Pennsylvania

Barlows KnollI learned that Mrs. Barlow was with the Union army, and near the battlefield. When it is remembered how closely Mrs. Gordon followed me, it will not be difficult to realize that my sympathies were especially stirred by the announcement that his wife was so near him. Passing through the day's battle unhurt, I dispatched at its close, under flag of truce, the promised message to Mrs. Barlow. I assured her that if she wished to come through the lines she should have safe escort to her husband's side. In the desperate encounters of the two succeeding days, and the retreat of Lee's army, I thought no more of Barlow, except to number him with the noble dead of the two armies who had so gloriously met their fate. The ball, however, had struck no vital point, and Barlow slowly recovered, though this fact was wholly unknown to me.

General Francis Channing BarlowThe following summer, in battle near Richmond, my kinsman with the same initials, General J. B. Gordon of North Carolina, was killed. Barlow, who had recovered, saw the announcement of his death, and entertained no doubt that he was the Gordon whom he had met on the field of Gettysburg. To me, therefore, Barlow was dead; to Barlow, I was dead. Nearly fifteen years passed before either of us was undeceived. During my second term in the United States Senate, the Hon. Clarkson Potter, of New York, was a member of the House of Representatives. He invited me to dinner in Washington to meet a General Barlow who had served in the Union army. Potter knew nothing of the Gettysburg incident. I had heard that there was another Barlow in the Union army, and supposed, of course, that it was this Barlow with whom I was to dine. Barlow had a similar reflection as to the Gordon he was to meet. Seated at Clarkson Potter's table, I asked Barlow: "General, are you related to the Barlow who was killed at Gettysburg?" He replied: "Why, I am the man, sir. Are you related to the Gordon who killed me?" "I am the man, sir," I responded. No words of mine can convey any conception of the emotions awakened by those startling announcements. Nothing short of an actual resurrection from the dead could have amazed either of us more. Thenceforward, until his untimely death in 1896, the friendship between us which was born amidst the thunders of Gettysburg was greatly cherished by both."

"Reminiscences Of The Civil War"    
Major-General John B. Gordon, CSA

Some have suggested that, to varying degrees, Major General Gordon may have embellished somewhat when relaying this story. In his official report written August 10, 1863, General Gordon discussed the movement of his men towards that of General Barlow's stating, "An effort was here made by the enemy to change his front and check our advance, but the effort failed, and this line, too, was driven back in the greatest confusion, and with immense loss in killed, wounded, and prisoners. Among the latter was a division commander (General [F. C.] Barlow), who was severely wounded." [9]

General John Brown GordonIn a letter to his mother on July 7, 1863, General Barlow stated, "A force came up against our front in line of battle with supports in the rear. We ought to have held the place easily, for I had my entire force at the very point where the attack was made. But the enemies skirmishers had hardly attacked us before my men began to run. No fight at all was made. Finding that they were going I started to get a head of them to try to rally them and form another line in the rear. Before I could turn my horse I was shot in the left side about half way between the arm pit and the head of the thigh bone. I dismounted and tried to walk off the field. Everybody was then running to the rear and the enemy were approaching rapidly. One man took hold of one shoulder and another of the other side to help me. One of them was soon shot and fell. I then got a spent ball in my back which has made quite a bruise. Soon I got too faint to go any further and lay down. I lay in the midst of the fire some five minutes as the enemy were firing at our running men. I did not expect to get out alive. A ball went through my hat as I lay on the ground and another just grazed the forefinger of my right hand.
 
...Finally the enemy came up and were very kind. Major Pitzer, a Staff officer of Gen. Early had me carried into the woods and placed on a bed of leaves. They put some water by me and then went on to the front again." [2]

 
The National Park Service, on their web site, adds the following:
 
The Josiah Benner Farm"Luckily for Barlow, a Confederate officer chanced upon the wounded general. General John B. Gordon, whose brigade had just destroyed Barlow's position on the knoll, found the wounded officer, pale and weak. Gordon dismounted and gave Barlow water and a sip of spirits to revive him. Barlow was almost delirious with pain and exhaustion, but asked Gordon to destroy a packet of letters for him and get word of his fate through the lines to his wife who accompanied the Union army. Gordon ordered that Barlow be carried to a nearby farm for shelter. This remarkable act of compassion probably saved Barlow's life. Confederate surgeons treated the wounded officer, who appeared to be close to death. A message was passed between the lines to General Barlow's wife and she made her way through the picket lines the following day to find her wounded husband. With her help, the general slowly recovered from his wounds, returned to the army the following year, and led a division of the Second Corps in the Wilderness Campaign." [22]

 
Without question, the care provided by Confederate medical staff and those who assisted General Barlow on the field likely saved his life.
 
Also, consistent with this tone of gallantry is a statement made by then Brigadier General Gordon as his men moved through Pennsylvania. When civilians expressed fear and concern with the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia moving through their town, General Gordon responded,
 
Remains of the Wrightsville Bridge. "Our Southern homes have been pillaged, sacked, and burned; our mothers, wives, and little ones, driven forth amid the brutal insults of your soldiers. Is it any wonder that we fight with such desperation? A natural revenge would prompt us to retaliate in kind, but we scorn to war on women and children. We are fighting for the God-given rights of liberty and independence, as handed down to us in the Constitution of our fathers. So fear not: if a torch is applied to a single dwelling, or an insult offered to a female of your town by a soldier of this command, point me out the man, and you shall have his life." [F]

In his official report, as General Gordon moved towards York Pennsylvania just prior to the battle, he also relayed these events.

"It may not be improper in this connection, as evidence of the base ingratitude of our enemies, to state that the Yankee press has attributed to my brigade the burning of the town of Wrightsville. In his retreat across the bridge, the enemy fired it about midway with the most inflammable materials. Every effort was made to extinguish this fire and save the bridge, but it was impossible. From this the town was fired, and, notwithstanding the excessive fatigue of the men from the march of 20 miles and the skirmish with the enemy, I formed my brigade in line around the burning buildings, and resisted the progress of the flames until they were checked." [9]