Scope and Contents
The most notable materials from this collection are the four notes written in Arabic by Gordon while besieged in Khartoum and a contemporary map of the Sudan by the Illustrated London News. Also included are several photographs of Gordon, and material dating to the fiftieth anniversary of his death; reflections on his life, and the order of the memorial service.
Conditions Governing Access
The collection is open for consultation by researchers using Churchill Archives Centre, Churchill College, Cambridge. Churchill Archives Centre is open from Monday to Friday, 9am-5pm. A prior appointment and two forms of identification are required.
Biographical / Historical
Charles George Gordon was born on 28 January 1833 in Woolwich, the fourth son and ninth child of Lieutenant-General Henry William Gordon and his wife, Elizabeth Enderby. In 1848 he entered the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich. He had been intended to follow his father as an artilleryman, but came to prefer the engineers, and was commissioned second lieutenant, Royal Engineers on 23 June 1852. He fought in the Crimean War, participating as a subaltern in the assault on the Redan and in the siege of Sevastopol.
From boyhood Gordon had shown a special proficiency in map making. In 1856, at the end of the Crimean War, he was transferred to the international commission surveying and delineating the new Danubian frontiers between the Russian and Ottoman empires and, in 1857, the new Russo-Turkish frontier in Armenia. For his work in Armenia in 1858 he was elected fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, but resigned in 1866.
Gordon arrived in China at the close of the Second Opium War (1860). He stayed on, however, and devoted his efforts to crushing the Taiping Rebels, rising to prominence through a series of dramatic victories commanding the grandiloquently named "Ever Victorious Army".
In 1873 he was offered service under the Khedive of Egypt as Governor-General of the province of Equatoria, in the south of Egyptian-occupied Sudan. Here he undertook the tasks of suppressing the flourishing slave trade and mapping the Upper Nile and lakes. In 1877 he was appointed Governor-General of the Sudan, resigning in 1880.
In January 1884 he consented to a renewed request from Leopold II of Belgium to assume command in his Congo territory. He intended to resign his British army commission and leave for the Congo in February, but the Mahdist uprising in Sudan supervened. Sent to oversee the evacuation of Egyptian forces from Khartoum, Gordon instead determined to stay and defend the city. In January 1885 Khartoum was captured after a siege lasting several months and Gordon was killed by the Mahdist forces.