Quick Facts

Significance:
Union general in the Western Theater and the only Union army commander killed in battle
Place Of Birth:
Clyde, OH
Date Of Birth:
November 14, 1828
Place Of Death:
Atlanta, GA
Date Of Death:
July 22, 1864
Place Of Burial:
Clyde, OH
Cemetery Name:
McPherson Cemetery

James Birdseye McPherson was a career U.S. Army officer and West Point alumnus who placed first in the graduating class of 1853. After a short stint as Assistant Instructor of Practical Engineering at West Point, he was assigned to various harbor defense projects in New York and Delaware. McPherson was overseeing the design and construction of fortifications on Alcatraz Island at San Francisco when the Civil War erupted in 1861.

Requesting a transfer to the east, McPherson was initially assigned to serve as aide-de-camp to General Henry Halleck in the Department of Missouri, but by February 1862, he was a lieutenant colonel and chief engineer on the staff of Ulysses S. Grant. McPherson's siege works played an important role in Grant's capture of Fort Henry, Fort Donelson and Corinth in Tennessee. In October 1862, he was promoted to major general and given command of the 2nd division of the Army of Tennessee and served in this capacity through the Vicksburg Campaign. He was killed at the Battle of Atlanta on July 22, 1864, the second highest ranking Union officer to be killed in the war and the only commander of a Union army to die in the field.

Last updated: June 17, 2015