Forgotten Hero: General James B. McPherson

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First published in 1955, this is a fascinating biography of General James Birdseye McPherson (1828-1864), a career United States Army officer who served as a general in the Union Army during the American Civil War.

The story carries McPherson from his birth near Clyde, Ohio in 1828 to his sudden death during the Battle for Atlanta in 1864. Son of pioneer parents who migrated to northern Ohio from upstate New York in the 1820’s, McPherson, showing promise in school and at his store job, won an appointment to West Point, where he graduated top of the class of 1853. There followed a year of teaching mathematics at the military academy and then assignments with the corps of engineers, first at New York, where he served with William T. Sherman, then at San Francisco, where his task was strengthening the Alcatraz Island fortifications.

Shortly after the onset of the Civil War, McPherson requested a transfer to the Corps of Engineers to further his career and, departing California in August 1861, he requested a position on the staff of Maj.-Gen. Halleck. McPherson’s career began to flourish after this assignment, rising through the ranks and battles to become Major-General and given command of Grant’s Army of Tennessee in March 1864. Sherman began his Atlanta Campaign in May 1864, with McPherson and his army constituting the right flank, and it was during the Battle of Atlanta in July 1864 that McPherson left his permanent mark on the history of his country when he lost his life as the second highest-ranking Union officer killed during the war.

“In presenting this story of his life, I have tried to bring out an officer whose dynamic personality was reflected in the results of many engagements on the battlefield; a gentleman whose talent for friendship and love for people endeared him to thousands; a leader whose quick decisions and wise, cool judgments were needed after the noise of battle had subsided.”—Elizabeth J. Whaley

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