Book Reviews

The Hanging of Captain Gordon

by Ron Soodalter

Review by Richard Sheppard


Little-known Civil War-era story about ship Captain Nathaniel Gordon, who in 1862 became the only American to be executed for slave-trading. Excellent authorial research especially relating to New York City, where the trial and hanging occurred. Informative about the nature and misery of human bondage, and the greed which animated the practitioners. Good story pacing, and minimal moralizing about a well-deserved hanging and sorrowful period of American history.

It was a pity Captain Gordon went to his death without naming his financial backers, who doubtless included many of New York's leading figures and families. Possibly Gordon's exposure of theses slave-trade financiers would have repercussions down through today's New York society.

While his unfortunate and sympathetic wife tried to gain Captain Gordon clemency, Abraham Lincoln -- not an unmerciful man -- could not justify sparing Gordon's life at a time when thousands of Union soldiers were dying to end the slavery which so corruptly profited Gordon.