Greater Greater Washington

McPherson Square's namesake died 150 years ago today

Washington has many squares and circles named after generals in the Civil War. McPherson Square is no exception, named after General James B. McPherson, who died 150 years ago today at the Battle of Atlanta.


Photo by Wally Gobetz on Flickr.

McPherson was the second-highest ranking Union officer killed during the Civil War. At the time of his death, he commanded the Army of the Tennessee, and his death elevated General John A. Logan to command.

Logan would later lend his name to Logan Circle.

McPherson was killed in what is now the Inman Park neighborhood east of downtown Atlanta. The Battle of Atlanta, fought July 22, 1864, was largely a stalemate and led to a 6-week siege of Atlanta, which finally fell on September 2. The city was later burned by order of General William Sherman on November 14, 1864.

Interestingly, the statue of James McPherson in McPherson Square was cast in 1876 using the metal of Confederate cannons captured in Atlanta. They were melted down and recast into his statue.

A 360-degree painting and diorama of the Battle of Atlanta is on display at the Atlanta Cyclorama in Grant Park (not named after Ulysses S. Grant), and prominently includes General Logan riding to the front. He commissioned the painting to bolster his vice presidential campaign in 1884, though he died in 1886 without ever seeing the completed work.

The Battle of Atlanta was part of the Atlanta Campaign, and led to Sherman's March to the Sea, which split the Confederacy in two along a line from Chattanooga to Atlanta and on to Savannah.

Matt Johnson has lived in the Washington area since 2007. He has a Master's in Planning from the University of Maryland and a BS in Public Policy from Georgia Tech. He lives in Greenbelt. Hes a member of the American Institute of Certified Planners. He is a contract employee of the Montgomery County Planning Department. His views are his own and do not represent the opinion of his employer. 

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I think you mean General John A. Logan. John B. Logan was a poet.

by David on Jul 22, 2014 1:19 pm • linkreport

@David:
Thanks. Fixed.

by Matt' Johnson on Jul 22, 2014 1:25 pm • linkreport

Wasn't his name also pronounced mc-FAR-son for some bizarre reason?

by iaom on Jul 22, 2014 1:26 pm • linkreport

The irony of the burning of Atlanta is that little beyond its interwar housing and downtown development has survived. One history of Atlanta noted that the city had been leveled before and after the Battle by fires and various sorts of redevelopment. Having lived in Atlanta, not far from the main battle site, I often thought burning it again would be the only way to deal with the sprawl although a lot of classic craftsman bungalows would be sacrificed along with the McMansions and strip malls, not to mention the many dead or dying enclosed malls.

by Rich on Jul 22, 2014 2:48 pm • linkreport

@iaom:
I believe it's Mc-FUR-son (http://wamu.org/news/12/01/31/staying_true_to_gen_mcphersons_good_name)

by 7r3y3r on Jul 22, 2014 3:04 pm • linkreport

And James McPherson wrote an amazingly good and readable history of the Civil War and its historical era.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_Cry_of_Freedom_%28book%29

by DavidDuck on Jul 22, 2014 9:33 pm • linkreport

I found it fascinatingly ironic that I learned of this notable, historically monumental figure on a day like this-- 150 years to the day proceeding his death! I've gained so much enrichment today on the pivotal influence and impact my ancestor (TBD.. lol) had on this country and the livelihoods of all other African-Americans such as myself. Salute to the General!

by T.D. McPherson on Jul 22, 2014 11:44 pm • linkreport

@DavidDuck,

Just to be clear, James M. McPherson, author of "Battle Cry of Freedom" and many other books on the Civil War, is a modern, still-living historian; and as far as I know, is of no relation to the general killed at the Battle of Atlanta.

by Nick on Jul 23, 2014 8:59 am • linkreport

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