The year was 1863 and the Civil War was in full swing.
While everyone knew about slavery in the South, many people up North had little idea about the terrible things that happened on the plantations.
The picture of Gordon the Slave changed that as the marks on his back were ample proof of what life was like for the black people.
Gordon’s Daring Escape
When Gordon made it across the picket lines of the Union Army’s XIXth Corps in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, he was a wild apparition.
The soldiers were used to terrible things by that time, but they were still shocked to see the exhausted man stumble into their camp.
He was barefoot, his clothes were torn and dirty after the long trek, but he was happy. He was safe, he was free.
The man had a frightening story. He had just escaped from a plantation in St. Landry Parish.
His owners John and Bridget Lyons kept around 40 slaves at the time.
In the fall of 1862, he had been viciously beaten by an overseer who then put brine over his wounds.
He was left half dead and it took him two months to be able to leave his bed.
By that time, his owners had fired the overseer responsible, but the slave who went by the name of Gordon had made up his mind.
He was going to run away as soon as possible and join the liberators, the Union Army.
It took him ten days to cover the 80 miles to the battle lines, making his way carefully across the muddy fields of rural Louisiana.
His main concern was not to get caught and he rubbed himself with onions he’d stuffed in his bag to throw off the hounds. It worked.
“The overseer… whipped me. My master was not present. I don’t remember the whipping. I was two months in bed sore from the whipping and salt brine Overseer put on my back. By and by my senses began to come – they said I was sort of crazy. I tried to shoot everybody,” Gordon said according to a story ran by the “New York Daily Tribune.”
Gordon did not have to join the army, but he wanted to. He wanted to help his people gain their freedom, too and this was the only way.