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Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Charles George Gordon, British General

b. 28 January 1833
d. 26 January 1885

Major-General Charles George Gordon, CB (28 January 1833 – 26 January 1885), known as Chinese Gordon, Gordon Pasha, and Gordon of Khartoum, was a British army officer, of the Corps of Royal Engineers and administrator. He is remembered for his campaigns in China and northern Africa.

In 1852 he entered the engineer corps and took part in the Cri­mean War and then in the war against China. After peace was concluded he trav­eled in China and in 1863 entered Chinese service to suppress the Taiping rebellion. In February 1874 the Viceroy of Egypt summoned him to continue the campaign to subdue the upper Nile as far as the equatorial lakes. After his success, in 1877 he was named Pasha and Governor Gen­eral of the Sudan. Resigning this post in 1879, he was for a brief time Military Secretary of the Viceroy of India and then adviser to the Chinese government. In January 1884 he was dispatched to Khar­toum by the British government to assert Egyptian rule in the Sudan against the Mahdi. Furnished as he was with insuffi­cient means, he took up a military posi­tion in the city and w«ts vigorous in pursu­ing his assignment; but as the Mahdi's supporters grew in number, while the Gladstone cabinet failed to send relief forces, after a ten-month siege Khartoum was captured and Gordon himself was transfixed by a spear (January 26,1885). He was immediately recognized and honored as a national hero whose legend remains to this day.

The homosexual aspect of Gordon's personality remains obscure, and disputed. From his early twenties, when he left to fight in the Crimean War, he was possessed by a longing for martyrdom, and his actions fully confirmed the desire which he repeatedly expressed in words to those closest to him. On Russian soil and in the savage hand-to-hand fighting against the Taiping rebels in China, he iuvited death at every step, exposing himself to wholly needless risks and unarmed except for a rattan cane. Again in the Sudan, whether tracking down slavers or suppressing a tribal rebellion, he would delight in out­pacing his military escort in order to arrive alone in the enemy's lair. And in the final year of his life, in complete disregard of official instructions, he courted and met death at the hands of the Mahdi's warriors. Gordon never married and his relation­ships with women seem all to have been platonic. While living at Gravesend in the mid-1860s, he took a remarkable interest in the ragged urchins of the neighborhood, "scuttlers" or "kings," as he called them. He fed them and taught them, and when they were filthy, he would wash them himself in the horse trough. He preached to them, though not very well, gave them talks of current affairs, and most impor­tant, he found them jobs - in the army, in barges and warehouses, and at sea.

It seems probable that coming from a strict military family he was tor­mented with guilt over his homosexual impulses, and that repressing his urges was so painful to him that he sought death as a release from unbearable inner an­guish. In his personality he was both con­formist and rebel, one who could never reconcile his inner nature with the obligations that tradition and discipline imposed upon him. His life was one continuous conflict, and he resolved it only by service to the point of self-sacrifice and a hero's death at Khartoum.

Warren Johansson, in "Encyclopedia of Homosexuality" (Wayne R. Dynes, ed)

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