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James Birdseye McPherson, 1861

"James Birdseye McPherson, 1861"

This image, created in Fremont, Ohio, shows McPherson as he appeared on his return from San Francisco in 1861. Cultured, educated, and hard working, McPherson received the U.S. Army's choice engineering assignments. His intelligence, cooperative efforts, and superior work led to posts rarely offered to officers of his rank and experience.

At the outbreak of the Civil War, McPherson begged for transfer to active service. He wrote from San Francisco, I am ready and anxious to go where I can be of the most service. In August of 1861, he sailed east on the steamer Golden Gate with the future General James H. Wilson who described him as having a mind illumined by learning, and manners made charming by a sunny and hopeful temperament, he was the joy of our party and favorite of everybody on the ship.

McPherson recruited an engineering regiment in Boston, and in December joined General Henry Halleck in St. Louis as his aide-de-camp. A short time later, Halleck sent McPherson to serve as General Ulysses S. Grant's chief engineer, who was then planning the destruction of Forts Henry and Donelson. In secrecy, Halleck ordered McPherson to report to him regarding Grant's drinking habits. McPherson soon became devoted to Grant.
Credit: [From a private collection]

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