On July 1, 1863 at around 3:00 p.m., Brigadier General John
B. Gordon’s Georgians attacked General Francis Barlow’s
First Division, which was located on a small knoll north and
slightly east of town. This knoll, or small hill, at the right
flank of the Union line was later known as Barlow’s Knoll.
Gordon’s assault was a success, and as the men of the First
Division were retreating, one soldier’s courage and devotion
caught Gordon’s eye.
This soldier was General Francis Barlow, who was trying to
rally his troops – to get them to stop retreating and make one
final, honorable stand. Suddenly, a minie bullet pierced him
through the trunk, paralyzing his arms and legs as it passed
near his spine (Civil War Chronicle, 321).
John B. Gordon found the officer, lying pale on the ground,
and he was struck with pity. He dismounted his horse and
gave him water from his canteen. They exchanged names.
Both soldiers thought that Barlow was about to die. Gordon
and several soldiers carried Barlow to the rear. His last request was for Gordon to carry a
message to his wife. He wanted to make sure Mrs. Barlow knew that his last thoughts were of
her, and he wanted her to know the name of the kind soldier who helped him as he lay dying.
Gordon promised to take the message to her. He
found Mrs. Barlow with the Union army and
delivered the message under flag of truce.
Convinced that Barlow was dead, Gordon thought
no more of the incident. After all, thousands died
at Gettysburg. What he didn’t know was that the
minie ball did NOT kill Barlow. He survived!
Next summer, Francis Barlow saw a newspaper
article that said General J.B. Gordon of North
Carolina had died. Barlow thought that this was
the same general who had helped him at
Gettysburg. What he didn’t know was that J.B.Gordon was his friend’s relative – not the man who helped him. For fifteen years, each general thought the other was dead. John B. Gordon went on to become a United States Senator. One day, U.S. Representative Clarkson Potter, of New York, invited Gordon to dinner with someone named Francis Barlow. This Barlow had been a General in the Union Army (Potter didn't know about anything that had happened at Gettysburg, and Gordon thought this was a different General Barlow. And Francis Barlow though there must be a different General Gordon. Suddenly, the two men found themselves sitting across from each other at dinner. Gordon said "General, are you related to the Barlow that was killed at Gettysburg"? Barlow answered Why, I am the man, sir. Are you related to Gordon who killed me? Gordon replied I am the man, sir Both men were stunned! They went on to be good friends until Barlow died in 1896