Re: [civilwarwest] Re: One of my favorite Army of "THE" Tennessee personalities.
- Just something else that I wrote a couple of years ago to go along with that
On July 26, 1864, four days after Major General James B. McPherson was
killed, William Tecumseh Sherman wrote his wife, "I lost my right bower in
McPherson." Three days later, he wrote another letter home in which he
stated, "McPherson's death was a great loss to me. I depended much on him."
James Birdseye McPherson was born November 14, 1828 near Clyde, Ohio and
entered West Point in 1849. He graduated in 1853 first in his class from West
Point along with his roommate, John Bell Hood, who took command of the
Confederate forces he was opposing five days before the time of his death.
McPherson was stationed in San Francisco at the outbreak of the war. He felt
that he would have more opportunity to rise in the military in the East than
in California and requested an appointment in the Corps of Engineers. He left
San Francisco on August 1, 1861, bound for Washington. He arrived in New York
and was notified to report to Boston with a commission as Captain in the
Corps of Engineers. In November of 1861, he wrote Halleck in St Louis
requesting to be transferred to his command and exchange places with one of
Halleck's staff members, a Captain Blunt. Halleck requested that McPherson be
allowed to join his staff as aide-de-camp and assistant chief engineer, and
ordered McPherson to report at once.
This was the beginning of McPherson's career rise in the Union Army. When
reporting to St Louis, he was appointed a commission of Lt. Colonel. He was
the Chief Engineer to Grant and was responsible for selecting the deployment
positions for Grant's troops for their attacks on Ft Donelson and Ft Henry.
Following the Battle of Shiloh, in May of 1862 he was appointed Brigadier
General of Volunteers. On the 8th of October, 1862 he was promoted to Major
General of the Volunteers. In December 1862, the Army of the Tennessee was
divided into five corps; 13th Corps under McClernand, 14th Corps under
Thomas, the 15th Corps under Sherman, the 16th Corps under Hurlburt, and the
17th Corps was to be commanded by McPherson. On March 12, 1864, he was given
the command of the Army of the Tennessee replacing Sherman as its leader.
On May 5, 1864, Sherman began his march to Atlanta with McPherson's Army of
the Tennessee to be the right wing of his army. McPherson from his
engineering studies of the area, knew that North Georgia would be rough
country for the movement of troops. Here and there one found bare,
perpendicular surfaces, such as Rocky Face Ridge, though more generally, the
mountain sides were more sloping, with considerable amount of dense woods and
undergrowth as well (see North Georgia, Naturally for a complete description
of North Georgia land). Artillery and supply wagons would be able to move
only through passes and gaps in the mountains. Roads were few and most of the
countryside was an undeveloped frontier. Local residents referred to the
northern third of the state as "Cherokee Georgia" for thirty years prior to
the war, the Cherokees were the primary residents of the area.
Thomas with his Army of the Cumberland and Schofield with his Army of the
Ohio were to advance to Dalton and McPherson was to proceed to Resaca via
Snake Creek Gap. Sherman's plan was to force Confederate General Joe Johnston
out of his stronghold at Dalton while McPherson was to move south on his west
flank and attack the railroad in Johnston's rear. Johnston then would move
south to avoid this danger and thus be caught between McPherson's forces in
the south, and Thomas and Schofield's forces to the north. Thomas knew
McPherson's 24,000 men were to few for him to successfully carry out
Sherman's plan and asked to advance on Resaca to give McPherson a larger
force, but was not given permission to do so.
At Resaca, McPherson learned that Johnston had cut a road through the woods
and was marching his 60,000 troops down upon McPherson's 24,000 men. Mac knew
that the success in his mission was in the speed with which his movements
could be made. He ordered Maj. Gen. Dodge to attack Resaca at once; while
with the 15th Army Corps, guard the column against Johnston's threatening
attack. Brig. Gen. Thomas Sweeny commanded Dodge's advance, however was
extremely slow in getting his troops to move, and Dodge's forces finally
moved forward "with little spirit, making but a weak attack" as one staff
officer reported the movement. Dodge then reported to Mac that the enemy had
more troops outside of their defensive works than he had in his division. For
this failure to try to trap Johnston, Sherman blamed McPherson for being a
little too cautious. The initial fault of the movement was not McPherson's
caution but in Sherman's decision to use the bulk of his army in a feint
movement at Dalton and committing McPherson's small army to bear the burden
of Johnston's attack. Sherman would never admit to nor acknowledge this error
in his planning.
As the Confederate forces moved southward, McPherson's troops followed
vigorously, attacking them at Calhoun and repeatedly attacking them until he
reached Kingston, were he was forced to halt due to lack of supplies. He
resumed his march upon being resupplied, turning westward to avoid Allatoona
Pass, drawing near Pumpkinvine Creek, where once again he attacked the enemy.
Sherman sent orders for McPherson to attack the enemy at Dallas, but by the
time the courier arrived with this order, Mac had already attacked the enemy,
and had driven him through Dallas and a mile beyond.
Every time Sherman moved, Joe Johnston met him with checking movements.
Johnston faced Sherman step by step until they confronted each other at
Kennesaw Mountain. The battle there lasted for a month with disastrous
results for the Union Army. On the 27th of June, Sherman made a massive
attack on Kennesaw with all his army. McPherson's troops went directly up the
mountain and were met with tremendous fire from the Rebel breastworks. The
assault failed. On July 2nd, McPherson tried a flanking movement on
Johnston's right, but Johnston discovered the movement and fell back,
allowing McPherson to occupy Marietta. From the beginning of the campaign,
Johnston and McPherson had anticipated each other's movements and craftily
circumventing them, each playing the part of a cunning adversary.
On the seventeenth of July, Jeff Davis replaced Joe Johnston with McPherson's
old West Point roommate, John Bell Hood. Hood's first engagement against
Union troops as commander, was north of Atlanta at Peachtree Creek. On the
twentieth, Hood was defeated and moved his forces into Atlanta. Meanwhile,
McPherson advanced from Decatur meeting little opposition so that in the
afternoon of the twenty-first of July, he had captured the outer earthworks
guarding Atlanta and held the high ground on Bald Hill overlooking Atlanta.
That night, Hood sent Hardee with four divisions south and then to circumvent
around McPherson's forces. On the twenty-second, Sherman felt due to the lack
of enemy in front of him, that Hood had evacuated Atlanta, and ordered an
advance. But McPherson knew his old roommate and knew he wouldn't give up
Atlanta without a strong fight. If Atlanta was void of large concentrations
of enemy troops, McPherson believed, and rightly so, that Hood planned to
attack the Union rear and side.
McPherson was discussing this possibility with Sherman at Sherman's
headquarters. Suddenly they heard a large concentration of gunfire from the
direction of Decatur. Hardee had begun his attack. McPherson jumped on his
horse and sped towards his troops. He found Grenville Dodge's corps
struggling against a fierce assault. After giving orders to Dodge, he
followed a line of the 16th Corps towards the 17th Corps, traveling only with
his orderly. Entering the woods that separated the two corps, he had traveled
only about one hundred fifty yards when a cry of "Halt!" rang out. He stopped
for an instant and saw a line of gray skirmishers, wheeled his horse, raised
his hat, and made a quick dash to his right. The skirmishers let go with a
volley. McPherson staggered in the saddle for a short distance and then fell
to the ground.
Like Confederate General Leonidas Polk who was killed by Union cannon fire on
June 14th, McPherson was loved by his troops, his commander, and by those who
knew him. He was planning to get married to his fiancée Emily Hoffman when he
could get a furlough. John Bell Hood wrote:
I will record the death of my classmate and boyhood friend, General James B.
McPherson, the announcement of which caused me sincere sorrow. Since we had
graduated in 1853, and had each been ordered off on duty in different
directions, it has not been our fortune to meet. Neither the years nor the
difference of sentiment that had led us to range ourselves on opposite sides
in the war had lessened my friendship; indeed the attachment formed in early
youth was strengthened by my admiration and gratitude for his conduct toward
our people in the vicinity of Vicksburg. His considerate and kind treatment
of them stood in bright contrast to the course pursued by many Federal
Sherman in his official report of the death of McPherson, said in part:
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."
Sherman had lost his Right Bower.