★★ McPherson, James B.

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gentlemanrob

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James Birdseye McPherson

McPherson 1.jpg


James Birdseye McPherson
was an Ohio born, 1st in his class, West Point Graduate in 1853, U.S. Army officer. McPherson served on Gen. Henry Halleck's staff and later, was part of Ulysses S. Grant's staff and was with Grant at the Battle of Shiloh. At the Battle of Atlanta, while facing the army of his old classmate John Bell Hood from West Point, McPherson's military career was cut short. He was shot attempting to escape a line of confederate skirmishers he'd accidentally rode into. He was the second-highest-ranking Union officer killed in action during the war.

Born: November 14, 1828

Birthplace: Clyde, Ohio

Father: William R. McPherson 1796 – 1847
(Buried: McPherson Cemetery, Clyde, Ohio)​

Mother: Cynthia Russell 1805 – 1883
(Buried: McPherson Cemetery, Clyde, Ohio)​

Fiancée: Emily Hoffman - 1891

Education:
1853: Graduated from West Point Military Academy – (1st​ in class)​

Occupation before War:
1853 – 1854: Brevet 2nd​ Lt. United States Army Engineers​
1853 – 1854: Assistant Instructor at West Point Military Academy​
1854 – 1858: 2nd​ Lt. United States Army Engineers​
1854 – 1857: Assistant Engineer for Defenses of New York Harbor​
1857: Superintendent Engineer of the building of Fort Delaware​
1857 – 1861: Superintendent Engineer Defenses of Alcatraz Island​
1858 – 1861: 1st​ Lt. United States Army Engineers​

Civil War Career:
1861: Declined Captain of United States Army 19th​ Infantry Regt.
McPherson.jpg
1861: Captain of United States Army Engineers​
1861 – 1862: Aide to Major General Henry W. Halleck​
1861 – 1862: Lt. Colonel and Aide de camp United States Army​
1862: Chief Engineer on General Grant’s Staff in Tennessee​
1862: Colonel and Aide in the Union Army​
1862: Assistant Engineer for Siege of Corinth, Mississippi​
1862: Brigadier General of Union Army Volunteers​
1862: Superintendent of Railroads in Western Tennessee​
1862: Chief Engineer to General Grant at Battle of Iuka​
1862 – 1864: Major General of Union Army Volunteers​
1862: Commander of Bolivar, Tennessee​
1862: Commander 2nd​ Division Department of Tennessee​
1862: Commander of 2nd​ Division Thirteenth Army Corps​
1862 – 1863: Served in the Vicksburg Mississippi Campaign​
1863 – 1864: Brigadier General of United States Army​
1863: Engaged in surprise of Confederates at Canton, Mississippi​
1863: Served in General Sherman’s raid on Meridian​
1864: Commander of Union Army of the Tennessee​
1864: Requested leave to visit his fiancé in Baltimore, Maryland​
1864: General Sherman revoked his leave to visit in Baltimore​
1864: Participated in the Battle of Resaca, Georgia​
1864: Participated in the Battle of Dallas, Georgia​
1864: Participated in the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain, Georgia​
1864: Killed during the Battle of Atlanta, Georgia​

Died: July 22, 1864

Place of Death: Atlanta, Georgia

Cause of Death: Killed in Battle

Age at time of Death: 35 years old

Burial Place: McPherson Cemetery, Clyde, Ohio
 
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I think it's debatable, Sedgwick ranked McPherson in the volunteer ranks but I don't believe Sedgwick had gotten a regular army star so McPherson ranked him in that service as well as in holding a full army command (even if subordinated to Sherman within a quasi-army group command arrangement)- my understanding (which very well maybe wrong) is that if they ever happened to be on the same battlefield Sedgwick would be expected to defer to McPherson but would not be required to do so.

In short-
Sedgwick- Senior officer in volunteer ranks to be kia
McPherson- Senior officer in regular army rank and in level of authority to be kia
 
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Polloco

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He was commander of Departments, Corps, Wings, etc. But I can't seem to find where he ever got higher than major general of Volunteers and only a brigadier general in the regular army. Surely He had to be at least a Major General to command some of these posts.
 

MikeyB

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I think it's debatable, Sedgwick ranked McPherson in the volunteer ranks but I don't believe Sedgwick had gotten a regular army star so McPherson ranked him in that service as well as in holding a full army command (even if subordinated to Sherman within a quasi-army group command arrangement)- my understanding (which very well maybe wrong) is that if they ever happened to be on the same battlefield Sedgwick would be expected to defer to McPherson but would not be required to do so.

In short-
Sedgwick- Senior officer in volunteer ranks to be kia
McPherson- Senior officer in regular army rank and in level of authority to be kia
Interesting post. What about Reynolds and Mansfield? Weren't they corps commanders before Sedgwick (at least Mansfield was, not 100% on JFR), so if you take the view that Sedgwick was most senior to be KIA, would you not have to consider them?
 

NH Civil War Gal

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I knew his gg-grandson or grandnephew, who also went to Westpoint, but first he had to go to high school in Atlanta. When the teacher there found out he was a Birdseye (and yes it is the same Birdseye frozen food people), she wasn't nice to him one bit!
 
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MikeyB

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I knew his gg-grandson or grandnephew, who also went to Westpoint, but first he had to go to high school in Atlanta. When the teacher there found out he was a Birdseye (and yes it is the same Birdseye frozen food people), she wasn't nice to him one bit!
That's also very interesting - Birdseye food company are descendants of McPherson? I always assumed Birdseye was his middle name, was this not the case?
 
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Interesting post. What about Reynolds and Mansfield? Weren't they corps commanders before Sedgwick (at least Mansfield was, not 100% on JFR), so if you take the view that Sedgwick was most senior to be KIA, would you not have to consider them?
I believe Mansfield never wore a second star, his promotion to Major General was posthumous and backdated so he never actually held the rank. McPherson ranked Reynolds, he was promoted in October 1862 and Reynolds in November.

As far as I can tell at the moment Kearny is the only possible officer who was KIA before McPherson who might have held a senior commision at the time of his death having been promoted to MG of volunteers the same date as Sedgwick- I'm not sure if that promotion had been confirmed yet at the time of his death.
 
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He was commander of Departments, Corps, Wings, etc. But I can't seem to find where he ever got higher than major general of Volunteers and only a brigadier general in the regular army. Surely He had to be at least a Major General to command some of these posts.
His volunteer commision as Major General was sufficient for those commands, my understanding is the regular army ranks were largely ceremonial during the war and only mattered as far as setting the post war hierarchy. Despite his youth McPherson was a fairly senior Major General once a lot of the early war lot got fazed out late 1862/early 1863.
 

RochesterBill

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I believe Mansfield never wore a second star, his promotion to Major General was posthumous and backdated so he never actually held the rank. McPherson ranked Reynolds, he was promoted in October 1862 and Reynolds in November.

As far as I can tell at the moment Kearny is the only possible officer who was KIA before McPherson who might have held a senior commision at the time of his death having been promoted to MG of volunteers the same date as Sedgwick- I'm not sure if that promotion had been confirmed yet at the time of his death.
What about Bull Sumner? He held high rank pre-war (He commanded the 1st Cavalry and AS Johnston commanded the second, both as full colonels) and was a corps commander under McClellan.
 

Cavalry Charger

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I find it interesting that he declined a commission to Captain of the 19th Infantry Regt. in 1861, but subsequently took up another commission as Captain of United States Army Engineers. I guess officers were able to pick and choose in the circumstances. Just curious why he would choose one over the other, but he seems to have found a 'home' in the engineer corps.

Hating on Sherman right now for revoking his leave!

The date of his death is one that continues to stick in my mind because it's the same date as my son's birthday. Apparently McPherson's death brought quite an outpouring of grief from those who knew him, not unlike John Sedgwick whose men adored him.

"Ulysses S. Grant memorialized McPherson one of the army's "ablest, purest, and best generals." Sherman called him "a man who was...qualified to heal national strife." Even John Bell Hood marked his passing with friendship, admiration, and gratitude."

 
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NH Civil War Gal

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That's also very interesting - Birdseye food company are descendants of McPherson? I always assumed Birdseye was his middle name, was this not the case?
Likewise, I assumed "Birdseye" was His Mothers maiden name but I see by the bio that she was a Russell. What was the connection?
I don't remember the whole connection because I haven't seen my friend in a long time. However, Clarence Birdseye invented how to do quick freeze methods of frozen food. There were the typical family fights even before Clarence struck it rich (and after) so the money did NOT flow down the family tree to my friend's branch of the family. There was some shady family stuff going on while Clarence was in college (not that Clarence was involved in it) that caused Clarence to drop out of college at the time. However, Clarence was able to persevere and was brilliant.
 

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Here's another good article on the death of McPherson from the Battlefield Trust:

 
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What about Bull Sumner? He held high rank pre-war (He commanded the 1st Cavalry and AS Johnston commanded the second, both as full colonels) and was a corps commander under McClellan.
Sumner died of illness, he wasn't KIA- he does count as the senior officer to die during the war by any account as he a) ranked McPherson as both Major General of Volunteers and as a Regular Army Brigadier and b) held a Department level command when he died. Again though, the catch is killed in action. I assume officers mortally wounded also don't count for this anecdote as Israel Richardson and Jesse Reno would also count as senior to McPherson going strictly by date of rank as Major General of Volunteers
 

MikeyB

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I find it interesting that he declined a commission to Captain of the 19th Infantry Regt. in 1861, but subsequently took up another commission as Captain of United States Army Engineers. I guess officers were able to pick and choose in the circumstances. Just curious why he would choose one over the other, but he seems to have found a 'home' in the engineer corps.

Hating on Sherman right now for revoking his leave!

The date of his death is one that continues to stick in my mind because it's the same date as my son's birthday. Apparently McPherson's death brought quite an outpouring of grief from those who knew him, not unlike John Sedgwick whose men adored him.

"Ulysses S. Grant memorialized McPherson one of the army's "ablest, purest, and best generals." Sherman called him "a man who was...qualified to heal national strife." Even John Bell Hood marked his passing with friendship, admiration, and gratitude."

Anyone have any examples of what McPherson did to prompt the Sherman and Hood comments? I just don't know much about him
 
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Anyone have any examples of what McPherson did to prompt the Sherman and Hood comments? I just don't know much about him
He seems to have been a genuinely good person in an field where there weren't many. Grant and Sherman looked at McPherson as a protege who far surpassed them in terms of smarts and he had been a classmate of Hood at West Point where the later was infamously near the bottom of the class McPherson topped. I don't think there is anything he ever did on the field to really mark him for greatness, he was just a highly intelligent young-ish general who did what he was told as best he could and never raised a fuss.
 
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ErnieMac

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Mansfield was promoted to Brigadier General, Regular Army on May 14, 1861 and Major General, U.S. Volunteers on July 18, 1862. Senior to McPherson on both counts.
 
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