I’m not sure if its vanity or just a curiosity, but I have always been interested in things named McPherson. My family name was actually spelled that way when they first emigrated to the US in 1845 at the beginning of the potato famine. The family came from northern Ireland on a ship called the Susan B. Howell with a lot of other bedraggled Scots Irish who found a need to seek a new life in America.
They landed in Philadelphia and moved from one immigrant neighborhood to another until they finally headed west to the hills of Allegheny county where they found work in the mills and mines. When the Civil War broke out, Great Grandfather was only 14 but he wanted to join so desperately, he developed a plan that would help him bypass his strict Scotch Irish prohibition on lying. He slipped a piece of paper in his shoe with the number “18” in it and when the recruiting officer asked him if he was over 18, he could honestly say yes.
Great Grandfather served in the Pennsylvania 5th Heavy Artillery and at the end of the war was a lifelong member of the GAR (Grand Army of the Republic). I never met him but I am told he was able to wear his uniform for all of the parades until he could no longer march. I have his Spencer Rolling Block Repeater and some pictures of him in that uniform but not much else.
Another McPherson who was a bit more well known was James Birdseye McPherson who was born in Clyde Ohio
James was a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy (class of 1853) where he graduated first in his class and had an adventurous career. Robert E. Lee was the Superintendent at the Academy and the Secretary of War Jefferson Davis was the commencement speaker at his graduation.
He was stationed in California at the beginning of the war and rightly believed he needed to be assigned to the east if he were to succeed in advancing his career. His rising star was meteoric and his skills as a General were key in the success of many battles including Sherman’s march through Georgia.
General Sherman once said of him, “if he lives, he’ll outdistance Grant and myself.” He was described as “handsome, warmhearted, intelligent.”
McPherson never married (his fiancée Emily mourned his loss deeply. During the Vicksburg Campaign, McPherson requested a leave of absence from his military post in order to marry his fiancée, Emily Hoffman. Sherman denied the request. Obviously, the Union Army felt McPherson was too valuable to lose, even for a short time.
His final battle in Atlanta pitted him against his old classmate John Bell Hood and placed him in a fatal confrontation with a line of Reb skirmishers. He was killed at the age of 35 in 1864 in the Battle for Atlanta as he tried to escape. His death sent shock waves through the Union ranks and created a huge sense of loss throughout the leadership.
Major General Oliver Howard, wrote in his report, “We were all made sad yesterday by the death of General McPherson – so young, so noble, so promising, already commanding a department! His death occasioned a profound sense of loss, a feeling that his place can never be completely filled. How valuable, how precious the country to us all, who have paid for its preservation such a price.”
Sherman was quoted as saying he had lost his right arm. In fact, upon receiving the news, he wept openly until tears streamed through his beard. He forever felt guilty about denying James the chance to go home and marry his beloved Emily. In Sherman’s official war report he stated, “The country generally will realize that we have lost not only an able military leader, but a man who, had he survived, was qualified to heal the national strife which has been raised by designing and ambitious men.” In a letter to his wife, the bereaved Sherman wrote, “McPherson’s death was a great loss to me. I depended much on him.”
Grant and others were deeply saddened at the loss of this brilliant young General who many felt would be a candidate for President later in his life. He was the Senior most Ranking Officer on the union side killed during the entire war.
Wars end, but the memories that are born from them don’t among those that survive.
The men who served under him collected funds after the war and a park in Washington DC was designated in his memory. On the Square was located one of the many statues and monuments built in his memory. This particular statue was made from captured Confederate cannons that had been melted down for the purpose. Among his friends and influential people who made the park possible were Rutherford B. Hayes, James Garfield, William T. Sherman and Ulysses S. Grant, all of them Ohioans who became Union Generals. Three became president.
What was his legacy? He never had children but his name was remembered in many ways:
Fort McPherson in the Atlanta, Georgia, area was named in Gen. McPherson’s honor on February 20, 1866.
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 Major General James B. McPherson, a statue of McPherson on horseback.
McPherson County, Kansas, and the town of McPherson, Kansas, are named in his honor. 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.
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. 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.
When we lived in McPherson, Kansas, occasionally some rubes that share his last name would often come to town for a picture with the General’s statue. More times than the locals can probably remember, these posers would claim to be the long lost grandson or granddaughter of the General. It is quite the local joke since everybody in town knows that even if he had consummated his relationship with Emily, she never bore a child to him.
I guess as time passes, people forget even those who were an important part of our countries development
General McPherson probably falls into that category as much as anyone since he neither had offspring, nor did he finish his rise to what may have been an even bigger role in American history. Although his primary statue has been a stones throw from the White House for many years, apparently its existence now is a footnote to history or a trivia question on a Tourism Pamphlet.
But even with that, I find no excuse in the world to allow selfish usurpers foul the land set aside in his honor. Apparently the Mayor of DC is ready to agree with me. Sort of.
After finally growing tired of the antics of the Occupy DC group, the Mayor is growing a set and asking the Feds to get rid of the health hazard known as Occupy. I find it sweetly ironic that their little occupation is finally being recognized as the rat infested place that it is.
I have to tell you it aggravated me to no end to have some highly placed officials in the United States Government actually encourage these modern-day class warfare mongers.
It was bad enough seeing and smelling them in Baltimore and in other places around the country, but McPherson Square should be sacred. (Note, I am not speaking of the pictures above…it is a well-known fact than none of the people pictured would actually tolerate smelly people and are known by their associates to be renowned for their personal grooming standards)
These offensive cretins and those who support them with their words, inaction and frankly financially should be gathered up and sent to the middle of the Mojave desert. The Mojave National Preserve is Federal Land, it’s apparently not being used that much anyway, and we could arrange for all of the Occupiers to go there in a heartbeat.
I will even volunteer to drive the bus (provided I can keep the drivers window open to avoid the smell.)
The second most ironic thing about the president supporting the desecration of the primary tribute to a true American hero is that his family and many of his closest friends are the recipients of the freedom ensured by the General’s sacrifice.
You might even say that if General McPherson had not been as successful as he was, we may not have the current leadership at all. I think that alone should be enough reason for the president to use all of this power he wants to accumulate to throw the bums out.