|Who is it?||British soldier and Administrator|
|Birth Day||January 28, 1833|
|Birth Place||London, British|
|Age||186 YEARS OLD|
|Died On||26 January 1885(1885-01-26) (aged 51)\nKhartoum, Sudan|
|Nickname(s)||Chinese Gordon, Gordon Pasha, Gordon of Khartoum|
|Service/branch||British Army Ever Victorious Army|
|Years of service||1852–1885|
|Commands held||Ever Victorious Army Governor-General of the Sudan|
|Battles/wars||Crimean War Siege of Sevastopol Battle of Kinburn Second Opium War Taiping Rebellion Battle of Cixi Battle of Changzhou Mahdist War Siege of Khartoum|
|Awards||Companion of the Order of the Bath Order of the Osmanieh, Fourth Class (Ottoman Empire) Order of the Medjidie, Fourth Class (Ottoman Empire) Chevalier of the Legion of Honour (France) Order of the Double Dragon (China) Imperial yellow jacket (China)|
It is a direct blessing from Heaven, the coming of this British Gordon. ... He is superior in manner and bearing to any of the foreigners whom I have come into contact with, and does not show outwardly that conceit which makes most of them repugnant in my sight...What an elixir for a heavy heart-to see this splendid Englishman fight! ... If there is anything that I admire nearly as much as the superb scholarship of Zeng Guofan, it is the military qualities of this fine officer. He is a glorious fellow!...With his many faults, his pride, his temper, and his never-ending demand for money – but he is a noble man, and in spite of all I have said to him or about him, I will ever think most highly of him. ... He is an honest man, but difficult to get on with.
Gordon was born in Woolwich, London, a son of Major General Henry william Gordon (1786–1865) and Elizabeth (Enderby) Gordon (1792–1873). The men of the Gordon family had served as officers in the British Army for four generations, and as a son of a general, Gordon was brought up to be the fifth generation; the possibility that Gordon would pursue anything other than a military career seems never to have been considered by his parents. All of Gordon's brothers also became Army officers.
The Egyptian authorities had been extending their control southwards since the 1820s. Right up to 1914, Egypt was officially a vilayet (province) of the Ottoman Empire, but after Mohammed Ali become the vali (governor) of Egypt in 1805, Egypt was a de facto independent state where the authority of the Ottoman Sultan was more nominal than real. An expedition was sent up the White Nile, under Sir Samuel Baker, which reached Khartoum in February 1870 and Gondokoro in June 1871. Baker met with great difficulties and managed little beyond establishing a few posts along the Nile.
Gordon compared his plans for rural reform in Ireland to ending slavery in the British Empire in 1833, and ended his letter with the claim that if this was done, the unity of the United Kingdom would be preserved as the Irish would appreciate this great act of justice and the Irish independence movement would cease to exist as "they would have nothing more to seek from agitation". Somewhat tactlessly, Gordon reminded Gladstone that his father had owned a slave plantation in Jamaica and had been one of those slave-owners compensated by the Crown in 1833 for the freeing of his slaves, a bit of Gladstone family history that the Prime Minister did not like to have discussed. Besides championing land reform in Ireland, Gordon spent the winter of 1880–81 in London socialising with his family and his few friends such as Florence Nightingale and Alfred Tennyson.
In the People's Republic of China, the entire period between 1839 and 1949 is depicted as the "Century of Humiliation" – a time when racist, greedy and evil foreigners humiliated and rapaciously exploited the Chinese people. Because many aspects of the Taiping ideology resembled Communism, the Taipings are treated sympathetically by Chinese historians who portrayed as them as prototypical Communists with Hong Xiuquan being depicted as anticipating Mao. In this context, Gordon is vilified in China today as just another foreigner oppressing the Chinese people by crushing the Taiping rebellion. Furthermore, Gordon worked for the Qing dynasty, who were Manchus, which has led many Han to see the entire Qing period between 1644 and 1912 as a long foreign occupation of China.
In 1843, Gordon was devastated when his favourite sibling, his sister Emily died of tuberculosis, writing years later "humanly speaking it changed my life, it was never the same since." After her death, her place as Gordon's favourite sibling was taken by his very religious older sister Augusta, who nudged her brother toward religion.
Following the successes in the 1850s in the provinces of Guangxi, Hunan and Hubei, and the capture of Nanjing in 1853 the rebel advance had slowed. For some years, the Taipings gradually advanced eastwards, but eventually they came close enough to Shanghai to alarm the European inhabitants. A militia of Europeans and Asians was raised for the defence of the city and placed under the command of an American, Frederick Townsend Ward, and occupied the country to the west of Shanghai. The British arrived at a crucial time. Staveley decided to clear the rebels within 30 miles (48 km) of Shanghai in co-operation with Ward and a small French force. Gordon was attached to his staff as Engineer officer. Jiading, North West suburb of present Shanghai, Qingpu and other towns were occupied, and the area was fairly cleared of rebels by the end of 1862.
As a cadet, Gordon showed exceptional talents at map-making and in designing fortifications, which led to his choosing to become a Royal Engineer or a "sapper". He was commissioned a second lieutenant in the Royal Engineers on 23 June 1852, completing his training at Chatham, and he was promoted to full lieutenant on 17 February 1854. The sappers were an elite who performed the "reconnaissance work, led storming parties, demolished obstacles in assaults, carried out rear-guard actions in retreats and other Hazardous tasks."
On 18 June 1855, the besieging British and French armies began what was intended to be the final assault that would take Sevastopol, which began with a huge bombardment. As a sapper, Gordon was in a front line trench where he was under intense fire, men fell all around him and he was forced to take cover so often that he was covered literally from head to toe with mud and blood. Despite the best efforts of the Allies, the French failed to take the Malakhov fortress while the British failed to take the Redan fortress on 18 June. The casualties on the Allied side were quite high that day.
For his services in the Crimea, he received the Crimean war medal and clasp. For the same services he was appointed a Chevalier of the Legion of Honour by the Government of France on 16 July 1856.
Afterwards, Gordon was sent to delineate the frontier between Ottoman Armenia and Russian Armenia, the highlight of which was tobogganing down Mount Ararat. Gordon continued surveying, marking off the boundary into Asia Minor. During his time in Armenia, Gordon embraced the new Technology of the camera to take what the Canadian Historian C. Brad Faught called a series of "evocative photographs" of the people and landscape of Armenia. Throughout his life, Gordon was always a keen amateur Photographer and was elected a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society to honour him for his Armenian photographs. Gordon returned to Britain in late 1858, and was appointed as an instructor at Chatham. He was promoted to captain on 1 April 1859.
After stopping in Shanghai, Gordon visited the Chinese countryside and was appalled at the atrocities committed by the Taipings against the local peasants, writing to his family he would love to smash this "cruel" army with its "desolating presence" that killed without mercy. He arrived at Tianjin in September 1860. He was present at the occupation of Beijing and at the destruction of the Summer Palace. Gordon agreed with Lord Elgin that after the Chinese had killed a group of British and French officers travelling under a white flag to parley that a reprisal was in order, but called the burning of the beautiful Summer Palace "vandal-like" and told his sister in a letter "it made one's heart sore" to incinerate it. The British forces occupied northern China until April 1862, then under General Charles william Dunbar Staveley, withdrew to Shanghai to protect the European settlement from the rebel Taiping army.
Ward was killed in the Battle of Cixi and his successor H. A. Burgevine, an American was disliked by the Imperial Chinese authorities. Burgevine was an unsavory character known for his greed and alcoholism. Moreover, Burgevine made little effort to hide his racism, and his relations with the Chinese were very difficult at the best of times. Li Hongzhang, the governor of the Jiangsu province, requested Staveley to appoint a British officer to command the contingent. Staveley selected Gordon, who had been made a brevet major in December 1862 and the nomination was approved by the British government. Given Burgevine's alcoholism, open corruption, and tendency to engage in acts of mindless violence when drunk, the Chinese wanted "a man of good temper, of clean hands and a steady economist" as his replacement. These requirements led Staveley to choose Gordon. Li was impressed with Gordon, writing:
At the beginning of his reign in 1863, Egypt's debt had been 3 million Egyptian pounds. When Isma'il's reign ended in 1879, Egypt's debt had risen to 93 million pounds. During the American Civil War, when the Union blockade had cut off the American South from the world economy, the price of Egyptian cotton, known as "white gold" had skyrocketed as British textile mills turned to Egypt as an alternative source of cotton, causing an economic blossoming of Egypt that ended abruptly in 1865. As the attempts of his grandfather, Muhammad Ali the Great to depose the ruling Ottoman family in favour of his own family had failed due to the opposition of Russia and Britain, the imperialistic Ismai'il had turned his attention southwards and was determined to build an Egyptian empire in Africa, planning on subjecting the Great Lakes region and the Horn of Africa. As part of his Westernisation programme, Isma'il often hired Westerners to work in his government both in Egypt and in the Sudan. Ismai'il's Chief of General Staff was the American general Charles Pomeroy Stone, and a number of other veterans of the American Civil War were commanding Egyptian troops. Urban wrote that most of the Westerners in Egyptian pay were "misfits" who took up Egyptian Service because they were unable to get ahead in their own nations.
In a leader (editorial) in August 1864, The Times wrote about Gordon: "the part of the soldier of fortune is in these days very difficult to play with honour...but if ever the actions of a soldier fighting in foreign Service ought to be viewed with indulgence, and even with admiration, this exceptional tribute is due to Colonel Gordon". The Savage Taiping Rebellion – which was the bloodiest war of the entire 19th century taking somewhere between 20 and 30 million lives – is largely forgotten in the West today, but at the time the civil war in China attracted much media attention in the West, and Gordon's command of the Ever Victorious Army received much coverage from British newspapers. Gordon also gained the popular nickname "Chinese" Gordon.
During the 1870s, European initiatives against the Arab slave trade caused an economic crisis in northern Sudan, precipitating increasing unrest. Relations between Egypt and Abyssinia (later renamed Ethiopia) had become strained due to a dispute over the district of Bogos, and war broke out in 1875. An Egyptian expedition was completely defeated near Gundet. A second and larger expedition under Prince Hassan was sent the following year and was routed at Gura. Matters then remained quiet until March 1877, when Gordon proceeded to Massawa, hoping to make peace with the Abyssinians. He went up to Bogos and wrote to the king proposing terms. He received no reply as the king had gone southwards to fight with the Shoa. Gordon, seeing that the Abyssinian difficulty could wait, proceeded to Khartoum.
In October 1871, he was appointed British representative on the international commission to maintain the navigation of the mouth of the River Danube, with headquarters at Galatz. Gordon was bored with the work of the Danube commission, and spent as much time as possible exploring the Romanian countryside whose beauty enchanted Gordon when he was not making visits to Bucharest to meet up with his old friend Romolo Gessi who was living there at the time. During his second trip to Romania, Gordon insisted on living with ordinary people as he travelled over the countryside, commenting that Romanian peasants "live like animals with no fuel, but reeds", and spent one night at the home of a poor Jewish craftsman whom Gordon praised for his kindness sharing the single bedroom with his host, his wife and their seven children. Gordon seemed pleased by his simple lifestyle, writing in a letter that: "One night, I slept better than I have for a long time, by a fire in a fisherman's hut".
Gordon was promoted to colonel on 16 February 1872. In 1872, Gordon was sent to inspect the British military cemeteries in the Crimea, and when passing through Constantinople he made the acquaintance of the Prime Minister of Egypt, Raghib Pasha. The Egyptian Prime Minister opened negotiations for Gordon to serve under the Ottoman Khedive, Isma'il Pasha, who was popularly called "Isma'il the Magnificent" on the account of his lavish spending. In 1869, Isma'il spent 2 million Egyptian pounds (the equivalent to $300 million U.S dollars in today's money) just on the party to celebrate the opening of the Suez Canal, in what was described as the party of the century. In 1873, Gordon received a definite offer from the Khedive, which he accepted with the consent of the British government, and proceeded to Egypt early in 1874. After meeting Gordon in 1874, the Khedive Isma'il had said: "What an extraordinary Englishman! He doesn't want money!".
Gordon had succeeded in establishing a line of way stations from the Sobat confluence on the White Nile to the frontier of Uganda, where he proposed to open a route from Mombasa. In 1874 he built the station at Dufile on the Albert Nile to reassemble steamers carried there past rapids for the exploration of Lake Albert. Gordon personally explored Lake Albert and the Victorian Nile, pushing on through the thick, humid jungle and steep ravines of Uganda amid heavy rains and vast hordes of insects in the summer of 1876 with an average daily temperature of 95 °F (35 °C), down to Lake Kyoga. Gordon wrote in his diary: "It is terrible walking...it is simply killing...I am nearly dead".
In 1876, Egypt went bankrupt. A group of European financial commissioners led by Evelyn Baring took charge of the Egyptian finances in an attempt to pay off the European banks who had lent so much money to Egypt. With Egypt bankrupt, the money to carry out the reforms Gordon wanted was not there. With over half of Egypt's income going to pay the 7% interest on the debt worth 81 million Egyptian pounds that Isma'il had run up, the khedive was supportive of Gordon's plans for reform, but unable to do very much as he lacked the money to pay his civil servants and Soldiers in Egypt, much less in the Sudan.
The intensely religious Gordon had been born into the Church of England, but he never quite trusted the Anglian Church, instead preferring his own personal brand of Protestantism. In his worn out state, Gordon had some sort of religious rebirth, leading him to write to his sister Augusta: "Through the workings of Christ in my body by His Body and Blood, the Medicine worked. Ever since the realisation of the sacrament, I have been turned upside down". The eccentric Gordon was very religious, but he departed from Christian orthodoxy on a number of points. Gordon believed in reincarnation. In 1877, he wrote in a letter: "This life is only one of a series of lives which our incarnated part has lived. I have little doubt of our having pre-existed; and that also in the time of our pre-existence we were actively employed. So, therefore, I believe in our active employment in a Future life, and I like the thought." Gordon was an ardent Christian cosmologist, who also believed that the Garden of Eden was on the island of Praslin in the Seychelles. Gordon believed that God's throne from which He governed the universe rested upon the earth, which was further surrounded by the firmament.
Gordon returned south and proceeded to Harrar, south of Abyssinia, and, finding the administration in poor standing, dismissed the governor. In 1878, Gordon fired the governor of Equatoria for corruption and replaced him with his former chief medical officer from his time in Equatoria, Dr. Emin Pasha, who had earned Gordon's respect. Gordon then returned to Khartoum, and went again into Darfur to suppress the slave traders. His subordinate, Gessi Pasha, fought with great success in the Bahr-el-Ghazal district in putting an end to the revolt there. In July 1878, Suleiman Zobeir had rebelled again, leading Gordon and his close friend Gessi to take to the field.
In March 1879, Gessi had inflicted a sharp defeat on Zobeir even before Gordon had joined him to pursue their old enemy. After several months of chasing Zobeir, Gessi and Gordon met at the village of Shaka in June 1879 when it was agreed that Gessi would continue the hunt while Gordon would return to Khartoum. On 15 July 1879, Gessi finally captured Zobeir together with 250 of his men. As Zobeir had broken his oath to the khedive by rebelling, Gordon had given Gessi orders to execute Zobeir, and so later that day Gessi had Zobeir and his men publicity beheaded as an Example of what happened to those who broke their oaths.
In 1880, the Liberals had won the general election on a platform of imperial retrenchment, and Gladstone had put his principles into practice by withdrawing from the Transvaal and Afghanistan in 1881. There was an imperialist "ultra" faction in the War Office led by Wolseley that felt that the Liberal government were too inclined to withdraw from various places all over the globe at the first sign of trouble, and who were determined to sabotage the withdrawal from the Sudan. Gordon and Wolseley were good friends (Wolseley was one of the people Gordon prayed for every night), and after a meeting with Wolseley at the War Office to discuss the crisis in the Sudan, Gordon left convinced that he had to go to the Sudan to "carry out the work of God".
Gordon had a strong death wish, and clearly wanted to die fighting at Khartoum, writing in a letter to his sister: "I feel so very much inclined to wish it His will might be my release. Earth's joys grow very dim, its glories have faded". In his biography of Gordon, Anthony Nutting wrote Gordon was obsessed with "the ever-present, constantly repeated Desire for martyrdom and for that glorious immortality in union with God and away from the wretchedness of life on this earth". Because his Turkish, Egyptian and many of his Sudanese troops were Muslim, Gordon refrained in public from describing his battle with the Mahdi as a religious war, but Gordon's diary showed he viewed himself as a Christian champion fighting against the Mahdi just as much for God as for Queen and country. The Mahdi and his followers had been fighting a jihad since 1881 and looked forward to taking on the famous General Gordon as a chance to win glory for Allah.
Egypt had been in the French sphere of influence until 1882 when the British had occupied Egypt. In March 1896 a French force under the command of Jean-Baptiste Marchand left Dakar with the intention of marching across the Sahara with the aim of destroying the Mahdiyah state. The French hoped that conquering the Sudan would allow them to lever the British out of Egypt, and thus restore Egypt to the French sphere of influence.
The only other place to hold out for a time was mostly Christian Equatoria under Emin Pasha. Following the destruction of Hicks's army, the Liberal Prime Minister william Ewart Gladstone decided that the Sudan was not worth the trouble it would take to hang onto, and as such, the Sudan was to be abandoned to the Mahdi. In December 1883, the British government ordered Egypt to abandon the Sudan, but that was difficult to carry out, as it involved the withdrawal of thousands of Egyptian Soldiers, civilian employees, and their families.
At another point, a death-obsessed Gordon wrote in his diary: "Better a bullet to the brain than to flicker out unheeded". In a letter that reached Cairo in December, Gordon wrote: "Farewell. You will never hear from me again. I fear that there will be treachery in the garrison, and all will be over by Christmas." On 14 December 1884, Gordon wrote the last entry in his diary, which read: "Now MARK THIS, if the Expeditionary Force and I ask for no more than two hundred men, does not come in ten days, the town may fall; and I have done my best for the honour of our country. Goodbye, C. G. Gordon". A chain-smoking Gordon constantly paced the roof of his palace during the day, looking vainly for smoke on the Nile indicating that the steamers were coming, while spending much of the rest of his time in prayer.
In the Presidential Palace in Khartoum (built in 1899), in the west wing on the ground floor, there is (or once was) a stone slab against the wall on the left side of the main corridor when coming from the main entrance with the text: "Charles George Gordon died—26 Jan 1885," on the spot where Gordon was killed, at the foot of the stairs in the old Governor-General's Palace (built around 1850).
Reference is made to an 1889 account of the General surrendering his sword to a senior Mahdist officer, then being struck and subsequently speared in the side as he rolled down the staircase. Rudolf Slatin, the Austrian governor of Darfur who had been taken prisoner by the Ansar wrote that three Soldiers showed him Gordon's head at his tent before delivering it to the Mahdi. When Gordon's head was unwrapped at the Mahdi's feet, he ordered the head transfixed between the branches of a tree ". . . where all who passed it could look in disdain, children could throw stones at it and the hawks of the desert could sweep and circle above." His body was desecrated and thrown down a well.
The Corps of Royal Engineers, Gordon's own Corps, commissioned a statue of Gordon on a camel. It was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1890 and then erected in Brompton Barracks, Chatham, the home of the Royal School of Military Engineering, where it still stands. Much later a second casting was made. In 1902 it was placed at the junction of St Martin's Lane and Charing Cross Road in London. In 1904 it was moved to Khartoum, where it stood at the intersection of Gordon Avenue and Victoria Avenue, 200 metres south of the new palace that had been built in 1899. It was removed in 1958, shortly after the Sudan became independent. This is the figure which, since April 1959, stands at the Gordon's School in Woking.
Many biographies have been written of Gordon, most of them of a highly hagiographic nature. The British Sinologist Demetrius Charles Boulger published a biography of Gordon in 1896 which depicted him as a staunch patriot and a Christian of immense virtue who displayed superhuman courage in the face of danger. By contrast, Gordon is one of the four subjects discussed critically in Eminent Victorians by Lytton Strachey, one of the first texts about Gordon that portrays some of his characteristics which Strachey regards as weaknesses. Notably, Strachey emphasises the claims of Charles Chaillé-Long that Gordon was an alcoholic, an accusation dismissed by later Writers like Alan Moorehead and Charles Chenevix Trench.
As a young man, Winston Churchill shared in the national consensus that Gordon was one of Britain's greatest heroes. During a meeting in 1898 in Cairo where Churchill interviewed Baring to gather material for his 1899 book The River War, Baring challenged Churchill about his belief that Gordon was a hero. After his conversation with Baring, Churchill wrote: "Of course there is no doubt that Gordon as a political figure was absolutely hopeless. He was so erratic, capricious, utterly unreliable, his mood changed so often, his temper was abominable, he was frequently drunk, and yet with all that he had a tremendous sense of honour and great abilities".
The Church Missionary Society (CMS) work in Sudan was undertaken under the name of the Gordon Memorial Mission. This was a very evangelical branch of CMS and was able to start work in Sudan in 1900 as soon as the Anglo-Egyptian Condominium took control after the fall of Khartoum in 1899. In 1885 at a meeting in London, £3,000 were allocated to a Gordon Memorial Mission in Sudan.
Such was the popularity of Gordon that the first critical book by a British author was not published until 1908, when Baring – by this time raised to the peerage as Viscount Cromer – published his autobiography, which was notable as the first British book to portray Gordon in an unflattering manner, though Lord Cromer also tried to be fair and emphasised what he felt were Gordon's positive, as well as his negative, traits. About the charge that if only Gladstone had listened to Gordon the disaster would have been avoided, Cromer wrote that in the course of one month, he received five telegrams from Gordon offering his advice, each one of which completely contradicted the previous telegram, leading Cromer to charge that Gordon was too mercurial a figure to hold command.
Gordon's breakthrough caught the rebel army off guard and caused thousands of the enemy to panic and flee. Gordon disembarked the 4th Regiment with orders to take Quinsan while he sailed up and down the main canal in the Hyson, using the 32-pounder gun to blast apart the Taiping positions on the canal. At times, Gordon feared that assaults by the Taiping would take the Hyson, but all the attacks were repulsed. The next day, Quinsan fell to the 4th Regiment, which led a proud Gordon to write: "The rebels did not know its importance until they lost it".
Long after his death and despite the popularity of Strachey's essay in Eminent Victorians, the appeal of the Gordon legend lived on. As late as 1933, the French Historian Pierre Crabitès wrote in his book Gordon, le Soudan et l'esclavage (Gordon, the Sudan and Slavery) that as a Frenchman the Gordon legend had meant nothing to him when he began researching his book, but after examining all of the historical evidence, he could not help but admire Gordon who "died as he lived, a Christian, a gentleman and a soldier".
In the hours following Gordon's death an estimated 10,000 civilians and members of the garrison were killed in Khartoum. The massacre was finally halted by orders of the Mahdi. Many of Gordon's papers were saved and collected by two of his sisters, Helen Clark Gordon, who married Gordon's medical colleague in China, Dr. Moffit, and Mary, who married Gerald Henry Blunt. Gordon's papers, as well as some of his grandfather's (Samuel Enderby III), were accepted by the British Library around 1937.
In 1888 a statue of Gordon by Hamo Thornycroft was erected in Trafalgar Square, London, exactly halfway between the two fountains. It was removed in 1943. In a House of Commons speech on 5 May 1948, then opposition leader Winston Churchill spoke out in favour of the statue's return to its original location: "Is the right honorable Gentleman [the Minister of Works] aware that General Gordon was not only a military commander, who gave his life for his country, but, in addition, was considered very widely throughout this country as a model of a Christian hero, and that very many cherished ideals are associated with his name? Would not the right honorable Gentleman consider whether this statue [...] might not receive special consideration [...]? General Gordon was a figure outside and above the ranks of military and naval commanders." However, in 1953 the statue minus a large slice of its pedestal was reinstalled on the Victoria Embankment, in front of the newly built Ministry of Defence main buildings.
In the 20th century, many British military Leaders came to have a critical view of Gordon with Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery writing that Gordon was "unfit for independent command, mentally unbalanced, a fanatic, self-imposed martyr", adding that he should never been sent to the Sudan and the Gladstone-Gordon relationship was a case study in dysfunctional civil-military relations. In 1953, the British Novelist Charles Beatty published a Gordon biography His Country was the World, A Study of Gordon of Khartoum, which focused on Gordon's religious faith, but for the first time noted what a tormented figure Gordon was; a man of deeply felt Christian convictions, full of guilt and self-loathing over his own sinfulness and inability to live up to his own impossibly high standards over what a Christian should be and desperately longing to do something to expiate his sinfulness. Like Strachey, Beatty found Gordon a ridiculous figure, but unlike Strachey who had nothing but contempt for Gordon, Beatty's approach was a compassionate one, arguing that Gordon's many acts of charity and self-sacrifice were attempts to love others since he was unable to love himself.
Another attempt to debunk Gordon was Anthony Nutting's Gordon, Martyr & Misfit (1966). Nutting's book was noteworthy as the first book to argue that Gordon had a death wish. Nutting noted that Gordon had often recklessly exposed himself to Russian fire while fighting in the Crimea and stated he hoped to die in battle against the Russians before leaving for the Crimea. On the basis of such statements and actions, Nutting argued that Gordon's suicidal courage of going into battle armed only with his rattan cane, which so impressed the Victorian public reflected darker desires. Nutting made the controversial claim that the basis of Gordon's death wish was that he was gay, noting that Gordon never married, is not known to had a relationship with any women, and often wished that he been born a eunuch, which strongly suggested that Gordon wished to have no sexual desires at all.
In Sudan, it is the Mahdi who is the hero and Gordon who is the villain. The Canadian Historian C. Brad Faught wrote it was "no coincidence" that the Sudan, a place known as a hotbed of fundamentalist Islam produced both the Mahdi and the current regime of General Omar al-Bashir, which venerates the memory of the Mahdi and which for a time in the 1990s sheltered Osama bin Laden.
The Ansar began their final attack by storming the city via the gap in the defence caused by the low Nile and after an hour's fighting, the starving defenders had abandoned the fight and the city was theirs. The Ansar took no prisoners and all of the approximately 7,000 defenders were killed. On arriving at Khartoum on 28 January, the relief force found that the city had been captured and Gordon had been killed just two days before, coincidentally, two days before his 52nd birthday. Under heavy fire from Ansar warriors on the bank, the two steamers turned back up river.
No monuments to Gordon exist in China today, through the British Journalist Rob Stallard noted that the modest Gordon would have no doubt wanted it that way. Stallard in a 2008 article argued that Gordon deserves a better reputation in China, arguing that he was largely immune to the racist views so Common to Westerners in the 19th century and he always treated the Chinese with respect, maintaining that the memory of "Chinese Gordon" could be a bridge to better Anglo-Chinese understanding.
Baring – who deeply disliked Gordon – wrote that because of the "national hysteria" caused by Gordon's death, that saying anything critical about him at present would be equal to questioning Christianity. Stones were thrown at the windows at 10 Downing Street as Gladstone was denounced as the "Murderer of Gordon", the Judas figure who betrayed the Christ figure Gordon. The wave of mourning was not just confined to Britain. In New York, Paris and Berlin, pictures of Gordon appeared in shop windows with black Li Ning as all over the West the fallen general was seen as a Christ-like man who sacrificed himself resisting the advance of Islam.
More balanced biographies are Charley Gordon—An Eminent Victorian Reassessed (1978) by Charles Chenevix Trench and Gordon—the Man Behind the Legend (1988) by John Pollock. Urban argued that Gordon's final stand was "significant" because it was "...a perversion of the democratic process" as he "managed to subvert government policy", making the beginning of a new era where decision-makers had to consider the power of media. In Khartoum—The Ultimate Imperial Adventure (2005), Michael Asher puts Gordon's works in the Sudan in a broad context. Asher concludes: "He did not save the country from invasion or disaster, but among the British heroes of all ages, there is perhaps no other who stands out so prominently as an individualist, a man ready to die for his principles. Here was one man among men who did not do what he was told, but what he believed to be right. In a world moving inexorably towards conformity, it would be well to remember Gordon of Khartoum."
In the 19th century Russia was Britain's archenemy, with many people in both nations seeing an ideological conflict between Russian autocracy vs. British democracy, and Gordon was anxious to fight in the Crimea. He was put to work in the Siege of Sevastopol and took part in the assault of the Redan from 18 June to 8 September. As a sapper, Gordon had to map out the Russian fortifications at the city-fortress of Sevastopol designed by the famous Russian military Engineer Eduard Totleben, a highly dangerous job that frequently put him under enemy fire, and led him to being wounded for the first time when a Russian sniper put a bullet into him. Gordon spent much time in "the Quarries", as the British called their section of the trenches facing Sevastopol.