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Forrest, Nathan Bedford (13 July 1821–29 October 1877), Confederate general, was born in Marshall County, Tennessee, the son of William Forrest, a blacksmith, and Mariam Beck. When Forrest was sixteen, his father died, and Forrest supported his mother and five younger brothers by raising stock and crops until his mother remarried. No record or evidence indicates that he ever attended school. In 1841 Forrest volunteered to serve in Texas, but on arriving there he found that the Texas Republic was not recruiting. He earned his fare back to Tennessee by splitting rails. In 1845 he married Mary Montgomery, and they had one child who survived childhood....

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Gholson, Samuel Jameson (19 May 1808–16 October 1883), jurist and general, was born in Madison County, Kentucky. Little is known of his parents, but it is certain that the family moved to Russellville in northern Alabama in 1817. There Gholson studied law with Judge Peter Martin and gained admission to the bar in 1829. A year later, the young lawyer crossed the border into northeastern Mississippi, where he settled in Athens in Monroe County and established a law practice....

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Gordon, John Brown (06 February 1832–09 January 1904), soldier and politician, was born in Upson County, Georgia, the son of Zachariah Herndon Gordon, a minister, and Malinda Cox. After studies at a private school established by his father, John attended Pleasant Green Academy for a year before entering the University of Georgia in 1850. He did well at Georgia but did not graduate. In 1854 he moved to Atlanta to pursue a legal career. His practice, however, was not as successful as he had hoped, and he decided to explore other fields of employment. After a brief stint as a journalist covering the Georgia General Assembly, he joined his father in a coal-mining venture that quickly prospered. In 1854 he married Fanny Rebecca Haralson, with whom he had six children....

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John B. Gordon. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-B8172-2059).