Scars of Gordon, a whipped Louisiana slave, 1863

The famous "Whipped Slave" photograph depicts fugitive slave Gordon by two traveling photographers, William D. McPherson and his accomplice, Mr. Oliver, are severely beaten in front of the camera.

Gordon suffered a severe whiplash for unknown reasons in the fall of 1862. The beating had left horrific wounds on most of the surface of his back.

The unusual, but normal, way these scars grow out of the skin is a certain type of scar tissue called a "keloid." This is due to excessive protein called collagen within the healing tissue and lifts the tissue up. People of color are more likely to develop keloid scars.

Gordon fled the 3,000-acre (12 km) plantation of John and Bridget Lyon in March 1863, which had held him and about 40 others into slavery at the time of the 1860 census.

Upon learning of his flight, his master recruited several neighbors and together they followed him with a pack of blood. Gordon anticipated that he would be chased and carried with him from the plantation to onions, which he rubbed all over his body to ward off the dogs.

Such tact worked, and Gordon—his clothes were torn and his body covered in mud and dirt—was delivered ten days later to the safety of Union soldiers stationed at Baton Rouge. He had traveled about eighty miles.

Ferson and his partner, Mr Oliver, who was in the camp at the time, produced photographs of the carte de visit showing Gordon's back. During the ordeal, Gordon is quoted as saying: "Ten days from today I left the plantation.

Overseer Artyou Carrier whipped me. I was in bed pain for two months from the whipping. After I was whipped, my master came; He discharged the overseer. My guru was not present. I don't remember the whip. I was in bed for two months with the whipping and I was beginning to understand - I had gone mad. I tried to shoot everyone.

He said like this, I don't know. I didn't know I tried to shoot everyone; He told me so. I burnt all my clothes; But I don't remember it. I was never like this (crazy) before. I don't know what to do to make me come off like this (crazy). After I was whipped, my master came; saw me on the bed; He discharged the overseer.

The picture of the whipped Gordon's back became one of the most widely circulated images of slavery of its time, prompting public opinion and serving as a wordless indictment of the institution of slavery.

Gordon's distorted back helped bring the Civil War stakes to life, refuting Southerners' insistence that their slavery was a matter of economic survival, not racism.

Gordon joined the Union Army as a guide three months after the Emancipation Proclamation allowed for the enrollment of freed slaves in the military.

On a campaign, he was taken prisoner by the Confederates; They tied him up, beat him up, and left him as dead. He survived and once again ran across Union lines.

Gordon soon after. The Colored Troops joined the Civil War unit. He is said 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 that African-American troops had taken a leading role in the attack.

There are no further records indicating what happened to Gordon. Nevertheless, this famous image of his whip back lives on in this dark period of American history as a powerful testament to the brutality of slavery and the bravery displayed by so many African Americans.

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