Gordon, or "Whipped Peter", was an enslaved African American who escaped from a Louisiana plantation in March 1863, gaining freedom when he reached the Union camp near Baton Rouge. He became known as the subject of photographs documenting the extensive scarring of his back from whippings received in slavery. Abolitionists distributed these carte de visite photographs of Gordon throughout the United States and internationally to show the abuses of slavery.
In July 1863 these images appeared in an article about Gordon published in Harper's Weekly, the most widely read journal during the Civil War. The pictures of Gordon's scourged back provided Northerners with visual evidence of brutal treatment of slaves and inspired many free blacks to enlist in the Union Army. Gordon joined the United States Colored Troops soon after their founding, and served as a soldier in the war.