James Byron Gordon, Confederate brigadier general, was born in Wilkesboro on November 22, 1822, the son of Nathaniel and Sarah Gwyn Gordon. He attended several private schools before entering Emory and Henry College. Although he remained at the school for nearly three years, he did not graduate and instead returned to Wilkesboro, representing Wilkes County in the General Assembly of 1850.
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A staunch secessionist, Gordon enlisted on May 9, 1861 in the Wilkes Valley Guards upon the outbreak of the Civil War. The Guards became Company B, 1st North Carolina State Troops. However, seven days after his enlistment, Gordon was appointed major of the 1st North Carolina Cavalry Regiment under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Laurence S. Baker and Colonel Robert Ransom.
Gordon’s regiment trained at Camp Beauregard in Warren County until ordered to Virginia in October 1861. In the spring of 1862, Col. Ransom transferred to the infantry and was succeeded at his rank by Baker with Gordon in turn being promoted to lieutenant colonel. In that position Gordon served with his regiment during the Sharpsburg, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, and Gettysburg campaigns.
When Baker was promoted to brigadier general on July 22, 1863, Gordon became the new colonel of the 1st North Carolina Cavalry. He held the position until September 28, 1863, when he was promoted to brigadier general. Gordon took command of the North Carolina cavalry brigade in the Army of Northern Virginia as Brigadier General Baker was recuperating from wounds.
Despite being slightly wounded in skirmishing during October 1863, Brown continued to serve with his brigade into the spring 1864 campaigns of the Army of Northern Virginia. On May 12, 1864, while his men were skirmishing with Union cavalry near Brook Church, Gordon was stuck in the arm by a bullet. Although the wound at first did not appear fatal, Gordon died six days later in Richmond. His remains were taken back to North Carolina and buried in the Episcopal Church in Wilkesboro.
William S. Powell, ed., Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, II, 318-319—sketch by Paul Branch
Ezra S. Warner, Generals in Gray (1956)
William H. Cowles, Memorial Address on the Life of General James B. Gordon (1887)
Louis H. Manarin, ed., North Carolina Troops, 1861-1865: A Roster, II (1968)