Picture courtesy of wikipedia
Did you know that this man was a famous Civil War General and hero whose order led to the holiday JUNETEENTH which is the oldest known celebration of slavery’s demise in the country? This holiday is now celebrated in many places around the United States. Oh yeah…he was born and grew up in Joy, New York.
Read all about this fascinating man in the link below:
Recently, his original General Order #3 was uncovered. Read about it here: https://www.cnn.com/2020/06/19/us/national-archives-finds-juneteenth-order/index.html
Here is one personal account found in the archives of the Wayne County Historian’s office. On May 23, 1967, Martha C. White presented a paper to the Wayne County Museum. In the paper was a sketch of his early civilian life (from Gamaliel Case that was written in the Phelps Citizen newspaper) and later military career (from the Launcelot Granger Genealogy, by James M. Granger). Use the + and – keys to zoom in and out as you read this amazing account here: Life of Gordon Granger
It is clear from this account that Gordon Granger was a man who overcame great adversity in his life which reads like a combination Shakespearean romance and tragedy.
Gordon Granger was born in November, 1821 in Joy, NY. As a small child, his mother died giving birth to his sister and he was raised by his grandfather Elihu Granger in Phelps, New York.
From the book “Landmarks of Wayne County 1895”, edited by George Cowles, we know that in 1840 he was the first teacher at Sodus District #16 school located at 5119 Preemption Road in North Rose.
Photo of District #16 school courtesy of Ellis Briggs
The following year (1841), Gordon Granger went to West Point and began his military career. Sometime after graduation from West Point (1845) and the beginning of the Mexican War, he met the “love of his life” in the form of a French Lady from an aristocratic family. They became betrothed but the family would never allow them to marry because Gordon Granger was not rich. His fiance would later become insane apparently because of it. After the Civil War, he finally married and he died at his post of duty at Santa Fe, New Mexico on January 2, 1876.
Update: June 17 2021
Juneteenth has now become both a New York State and Federal Holiday.
Here is an interview I did on WXXI celebrating the life of General Gordon Granger and his contribution to history:
Update as of July 5, 2021:
After reading the well-researched biography of Gordon Grangers (which included information from our own Bette Bugni) entitled “General Gordon Granger The Savior of Chickamaugua and the Man Behind “Juneteenth” “ by Robert C. Conner, here are some additional facts:
Gordon Granger was the eldest child of Gaius Granger and Catherine Taylor Granger.
According to his application letter to West Point , Census and Army data, he was born on November 6, 1821.
He had 2 younger sisters, Emeline and Catherine who would outlive him and remained unmarried and stayed in the Joy area.
His mother died on April 17, 1825 at age 25 less than a month after the birth of her youngest child. She was buried at the Johnson Burial Grounds south of Sodus on Rt.88. Gordon was about 3 ½ years old at the time.
His father remarried 18 year old Sara (Sally) Emery on November 19, 1826 just after Gordon’s fifth birthday and the remarriage produced 10 additional children. His father was initially a farmer and later ran a saw mill. Gordon would live with his paternal grandparents in Phelps as a teenager.
Personality: While it is true that several people talked of Gordon Granger’s acts of kindness, most people described him as gruff. Gordon was often blunt and diplomacy was not his strong suit. If you said something to him which he believed was untrue, he would tell you so. This was true in military life to both subordinates and superiors. This did not endear him to General Grant which would prove important to him soon after his Juneteenth proclamation.
Health: Gordon suffered poor health during most of life. It is believed he suffered severe bronchitis. He had to take extended sick leave several times during his military career.
Juneteenth proclamation: One of the questions often asked is why Gordon Granger made the proclamation and was he an abolitionist? The short answer is that he was ordered to make the proclamation by his immediate superior: General Sheridan. Sheridan crafted most of the content of the General Order #3 but Granger softened the tone somewhat and extended some additional freedoms for the newly freed slaves.
Relieved of Command of Texas: Another common question is why was Gordon Granger relieved of command of Texas only 1 month after the Juneteenth proclamation? Granger’s immediate commander was General Sheridan who liked him and even respected his Civil War leadership and the administrative job he was doing in Texas. Unfortunately, General Sheridan’s superior officer was General Grant. General Grant did not like Granger and wanted him gone from the important position that Texas was becoming to the Union. General Sheridan acceded to Grant’s wish.
Marriage and children: On July 14, 1869, Gordon Granger (age 47) married Maria Letcher from Lexington, Kentucky. They had a son (Gordon Granger II) born on October 22, 1870. They also had a daughter who only lived 10 months.
New Mexico and death: In December 1870, Granger was given command of the New Mexico Territory. Here he suffered additional bouts of sickness, 2 strokes and finally passed away on January 10, 1876 at age 54. He was buried in Lexington, Kentucky.