Blue and Gray Trail
Civil War Encyclopedia
Civil War in Georgia
On the Blue and Gray Trail
Civil War by state
Today in the Civil War
This year in the Civil War
James Birdseye McPherson
On the first day of the battle of Shiloh Ulysses S. Grant ordered Chief Engineer James McPherson to find Lew Wallace's lost division and move him into battle to the William Tecumseh Sherman's right. The 33 year-old lieutenant colonel found Wallace, who would later write Ben-Hur, trying to countermarch his division to get to the battle rather than simply turning it around. As Wallace waited for his division to regroup, young McPherson fumed from his saddle.
Born and raised near Clyde, Ohio, (between Toledo and Cleveland, not very far south of the Lake Erie shore) on November 14, 1828, 20 years later James McPherson attended West Point. He spent much of his free time tutoring roommate John Bell Hood so that he too would make it through the academy. For almost all of his final year, Robert E. Lee was the superintendent of the United States Military Academy and McPherson was first in his class. Graduating with McPherson were John Schofield, Phil Sheridan and Hood. McPherson returned to West Point the following year as an assistant instructor in engineering.
In 1854 James McPherson was reassigned to New York where he worked on the defensive perimeter of the harbor before moving to Fort Delaware. Late in 1858, following his promotion to first lieutenant, McPherson went west to build a series of defensive fortifications on Alcatraz Island. Completing the fort was a hated task for the engineer, and when he turned the post over to his replacement to be garrisoned in 1859, McPherson was ordered to remain in San Francisco to oversee the remaining work on the fortifications. It was during this time that McPherson first met a future commander, "Cump" Sherman, also from Ohio.
Clouds of war were growing in the east, and as the southern states seceded James McPherson showed he understood war better than most when he wrote a friend, Lt. E. P. Alexander,
This war is not going to be the ninety days affair that papers and politicians are predicting. Both sides are in deadly earnest, and it is going to be fought out to the bitter end.
Links appearing on this page:
James McPherson was last changed on - May 26, 2007
Battles | Places | Events by year | Events by date | Feature Stories |
Bookstore | Links | Who We Are |