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Fri, 03.22.1850

Gordon ‘Whipped Peter’, Slave, and Soldier born

Gordon 'Whipped Peter'

*The birth of Gordon "Whipped Peter" is celebrated on this date in c 1850. He was a Black slave in America who escaped and became the subject of photographs documenting the extensive scarring of his back from his overseers’ whippings.

Gordon was born in Louisiana on a plantation owned by John and Bridget Lyons. He escaped in March 1863 from the 3,000-acre plantation that held him and nearly 40 other people in slavery at the time of the 1860 census. The Lyons plantation was located along the west bank of the Atchafalaya River in St. Landry Parish, between present-day Melville and Krotz Springs, Louisiana.

To cover his scent from the bloodhounds chasing him, Gordon took onions from his plantation, which he carried in his pockets. After crossing each creek or swamp, he rubbed his body with the onions to throw the dogs off his scent. He fled over 40 miles over the course of 10 days before reaching Union soldiers of the XIX Corps stationed in Baton Rouge. He told examiners that he had left the plantation ten days ago and that the man who whipped him was the plantation’s overseer, Artayou Carrier.

Gordon joined the Union Army as a guide three months after the Emancipation Proclamation allowed for the enrollment of freed slaves into the military forces. On one expedition, he was taken prisoner by the Confederates; they tied him up, beat him, and left him for dead. He survived and once more escaped to the Union lines. Soon afterward, he enlisted in a U.S. Colored Troops Civil War unit. He was said by The Liberator to have fought bravely as a sergeant in the Corps d'Afrique during the Siege of Port Hudson in May 1863. It was the first time black soldiers played a leading role in an assault. Gordon "Whipped Peter" died on July 20, 1907.

In the 2012 film Lincoln, Abraham Lincoln's son Tad views a glass plate of Gordon's medical examination photo by candlelight.  Emancipation, a film based on Gordon's escape, starring Will Smith and directed by Antoine Fuqua, was produced in 2021.

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