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James B. McPherson

James Birdseye McPherson
General James B. McPherson, photographed by Mathew Brady
Born (1828-11-14)November 14, 1828
Clyde, Ohio, U.S.
Died July 22, 1864(1864-07-22) (aged 35)
Georgia, U.S
Place of burial McPherson Cemetery
Clyde, Ohio, U.S.
Allegiance

 United States of America

Service/branch  U.S. Army (Union Army)
Years of service 1853–1864
Rank Major general
Unit Corps of Engineers
Commands held XVII Corps
Army of the Tennessee
Battles/wars

American Civil War

James Birdseye McPherson (November 14, 1828 – July 22, 1864) was a career United States Army officer who served as a general in the Union Army during the American Civil War. He was killed at the Battle of Atlanta, facing the army of his old West Point classmate John Bell Hood, who paid a warm tribute to his character. He was the second highest ranking Union officer killed during the war.[1]

Contents

  • Early life and career 1
  • Civil War 2
  • Legacy 3
  • In popular media 4
  • See also 5
  • Notes 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8

Early life and career

McPherson's house in Clyde

McPherson was born near present-day Clyde, Ohio.[2] He attended Norwalk Academy in Ohio,[3] and graduated from the United States Military Academy in 1853, first in his class, which included Philip H. Sheridan, John M. Schofield, and John Bell Hood; Hood would oppose him later in the Western Theater. McPherson was appointed to the Corps of Engineers with the rank of brevet second lieutenant. For a year after his graduation he was assistant instructor of practical engineering at the Military Academy, and was next engaged from 1854 to 1857 as assistant engineer upon the defenses of the harbor of New York and the improvement of Hudson River. In 1857 he superintended the building of Fort Delaware, and in 1857–61 was superintending engineer of the construction of the defenses of Alcatraz Island, at San Francisco, Cal.[4]

Civil War

At the start of the Civil War, McPherson was stationed in San Francisco, California, but requested a transfer to the Corps of Engineers, rightly thinking that a transfer to the East would further his career. He departed California on August 1, 1861, and arrived soon after in New York. He requested a position on the staff of Maj. Gen. Henry W. Halleck, one of the senior Western commanders. He received this (while a captain in the Corps of Engineers), and was sent to St. Louis, Missouri.

McPherson's career began rising after this assignment. He was a lieutenant colonel and the Chief Engineer in Brig. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant's army during the capture of Forts Henry and Donelson. Following the Battle of Shiloh, he was promoted to brigadier general. On October 8, 1862, he was promoted to major general, and was soon after given command of the XVII Corps in Grant's Army of the Tennessee. On March 12, 1864, he was given command of the Army of the Tennessee, after its former commander, Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman, was promoted to command of all armies in the West. His army was the Right Wing of Sherman's army, alongside the Army of the Cumberland and the Army of the Ohio. On May 5, 1864, Sherman began his Atlanta Campaign.

Lithograph of McPherson

Sherman planned to have the bulk of his forces feint toward Battle of Kennesaw Mountain. McPherson then tried a flanking maneuver at the Battle of Marietta, but that failed as well.

On July 17, William J. Hardee flanked Union Maj. Gen. Grenville Dodge's XVI Corps. While McPherson was riding his horse toward his old XVII Corps, a line of Confederate skirmishers appeared, yelling "Halt!". McPherson raised his hand to his head as if to remove his hat, but suddenly wheeled his horse, attempting to escape. The Confederates opened fire and mortally wounded McPherson. This was early in the one-day Battle of Atlanta, part of the Atlanta Campaign that led to the surrender of Atlanta a month later.

His adversary, John Bell Hood, wrote,

I will record the death of my classmate and boyhood friend, General James B. McPherson, the announcement of which caused me sincere sorrow. Since we had graduated in 1853, and had each been ordered off on duty in different directions, it has not been our fortune to meet. Neither the years nor the difference of sentiment that had led us to range ourselves on opposite sides in the war had lessened my friendship; indeed the attachment formed in early youth was strengthened by my admiration and gratitude for his conduct toward our people in the vicinity of Vicksburg. His considerate and kind treatment of them stood in bright contrast to the course pursued by many Federal officers.[5]

Legacy

Sculpture in McPherson, Kansas

McPherson Square in Washington, D.C., and its Metro rail station are named in the general's honor. At the center of the square is a statue of McPherson on horseback.

McPherson County, Kansas, and the town of McPherson, Kansas, are named in his honor.[6] There is also an equestrian statue of him in the park across from the McPherson County Courthouse.

McPherson County, South Dakota, founded in 1873, and organized in 1885, was also named in his honor.

McPherson County, Nebraska, and Fort McPherson National Cemetery, located near Maxwell, Nebraska, were named in his honor, and the National Cemetery was established on March 3, 1873. This 20-acre (81,000 m2) cemetery is located two miles (3 km) south of Interstate 80, near Exit 190.[7]

A monument marking the death of McPherson was established at the location of his death in East Atlanta, at the intersection of McPherson Avenue and Monument Avenue.[8] McPherson Avenue in Atlanta was named for him. The spot is marked by a Union cannon once placed at Glenwood Road and Flat Shoals Road to protect the flank of the front line and return fire against the defensive positions built by Lemuel P. Grant.[9]

Memorialized on the 1891 $2 Treasury Note, and one of 53 people depicted on United States banknotes.

A distinctive engraved portrait of McPherson appeared on U.S. paper money in 1890 and 1891. The bills are called "treasury notes" or "coin notes" and are widely collected today because of their fine, detailed engraving. The $2 McPherson "fancyback" note of 1890, with an estimated 600-900 in existence relative to the 4.9 million printed, ranks as number 15 in the "100 Greatest American Currency Notes" compiled by Bowers and Sundman (2006).[10]

The James B. McPherson Elementary School in the Ravenswood area of Chicago, Illinois, was named for McPherson.[11]

In his home town of Clyde, Ohio, James B. McPherson Highway (US-20), McPherson Middle School and McPherson Cemetery are named for him.

In popular media

The alternate history novel Never Call Retreat: Lee and Grant: The Final Victory, by Newt Gingrich, and William R. Forstchen, includes McPherson as a major character.

Mcpherson and his hat also feature prominently in the book Map of Thieves, by Michael Karpovage.

See also

Notes

  1. ^ Woodworth, p. 167. Eicher, pp. 383–84, 477–78: John Sedgwick, a Union officer who was also killed in battle, was promoted to major general of volunteers on July 4, 1862, almost three months before McPherson, therefore technically had a higher rank. However, unlike McPherson, Sedgwick never commanded an army.
  2. ^ Woodworth, p. 153.
  3. ^ Eicher, pp. 383–84.
  4. ^ Woodworth, p. 154.
  5. ^ About North Georgia website
  6. ^ Gannett, Henry (1905). The Origin of Certain Place Names in the United States. U.S. Government Printing Office. p. 195. 
  7. ^ Fort McPherson National Cemetery
  8. ^ http://content.sos.state.ga.us/u?/postcard,351
  9. ^ http://www.eastatlantavillage.net/about.phtml
  10. ^ Bowers, Q.D., and D.M. Sundman, 100 Greatest American Currency Notes, Atlanta: Whitman Publishing, 2006.
  11. ^ School website.

References

  • Eicher, John H., and David J. Eicher. Civil War High Commands. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2001. ISBN 0-8047-3641-3.
  • Warner, Ezra J. Generals in Blue: Lives of the Union Commanders. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1964. ISBN 0-8071-0822-7.
  • Woodworth, Steven E., ed. Grant's Lieutenants: From Cairo to Vicksburg. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2001. ISBN 0-7006-1127-4.
  • Northern Georgia - James B. McPherson
  • James McPherson Biography

External links

  • Pictures of U.S. Treasury Notes featuring James B. McPherson, provided by the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.
  • Orders issued by General William T. Sherman to James B. McPherson on the day of McPherson's death, July 22, 1864. From the collection of the Georgia Archives.
  • James Birdseye McPherson at Find a Grave
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