The square and memorial are dedicated to General James B McPherson, Union commander during the first year of the American Civil War. The sculpture is made from a cannon captured in the Battle of Atlanta where McPherson was mortally wounded and rests on a granite pedestal. It was made by Louise Rebisso and was dedicated on October 18, 1876.
Backstory and Context
McPherson square is bounded by K Street NW to the north, Vermont Avenue NW on the East, I Street NW on the south, and 15th Street NW on the West. It is just two blocks north of the White House and one block north of Lafayette Park. The monument shows General McPherson sitting upon a horse, turned slightly as if surveying a battlefield. He is holding the horse’s reins in his left hand and a pair of field glasses in his right hand. The base of the statue is adorned with a ring of small wreaths around the top and a ring of stars around the bottom, along with a ring of cannonballs. The west side of the base of the statue is inscribed with:
JULY 22, 1864
The east side of the base is inscribed with:
ERECTED BY HIS
OF THE SOCIETY OF
THE ARMY OF THE TENNESSEE
James Birdseye McPherson was a career officer in the United States Army and served as a General in the Union Army during the Civil War. He was killed in the Battle of Atlanta, the second highest ranking officer killed during the war. He was born in Clyde, Ohio, a small town located in north central Ohio between the cities of Cleveland and Toledo in Sandusky County. He graduated from the United States Military Academy in 1853, first in his class, which also included the soon-to-be Civil War officers Philip H. Sheridan, John M. Schofield, and John Bell Hood – who would oppose McPherson later in the Western Theater. McPherson was appointed to the Corps of Engineers and was an assistant engineer on various government projects until he was transferred, at his request, to the Western Theater to serve under Major General Henry W. Halleck. McPherson became a lieutenant colonel and Chief Engineer under Brigadier General Ulysses S/ Grant’s army during the capture of Forts Henry and Donelson in western Tennessee.
ON March 12, 1864 he was given the command of the Army of Tennessee. His Army was the Right Wing of Sherman’s army, alongside the Army of the Cumberland and the Army of the Ohio. On May 5, 1964, Sherman began his Atlanta campaign. As the Union armies were closing in on Atlanta, Confederate General Hood attacked Union General George Henry Thomas’s Army of the Cumberland north of the city on July 20 at Peachtree Creek, hoping to drive Thomas back before other forces came to his aid. The attack failed. Hood’s cavalry reported that the left flank of McPherson’s Army of the Tennessee, east of Atlanta, was unprotected. But McPherson had advanced his troops into Decatur, Georgia, and from there, they moved on to the high ground on Bald hill, overlooking Atlanta. General Sherman believed that the Confederates had been defeated and were evacuating. But McPherson rightly believed that the Confederate troops were moving to attack the Union left and rear. While the troops were studying this new development, McPherson was riding his horse toward his old XVII Corps when a line of Confederate skirmishers appeared, yelling “Halt!” McPherson raised his hand to his head, as if to remove his hat, but then wheeled his horse around to escape. The Confederates opened fire and mortally wounded McPherson. He died at the age of 35.