Nov 20 • 42M

McPherson's Last Ride, Narrated by ATLsherpa

Sherpa Cafe, Episode #17

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In this episode…

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  • Personal Note: Why I became enamored with McPherson [04:00]

  • McPherson Monument in Washington, D.C. [19:12]

  • PAST: McPherson’s Last Ride, Audio Edition [26:10]

  • PRESENT: MLR + 158 [30:45]

  • FUTURE: Road Trip! [37:45]

McPherson Square in Washington, D.C. Photo by ATLsherpa (2021)


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Personal Note: Why I became enamored with McPherson [04:00]

Of all the things I have learned about Atlanta since I started doing tours in 2014, the story of General McPherson — his life, his military career, what happened to him in Atlanta on July 22, 1864, and how it happened — has captured my imagination more than most. Something about McPherson’s story struck a chord with me. I’m sure it has something to do with the man, himself, and specifically his character. Everything that was said or written about him, by friend and foe, was done so in glowing terms. It seems that people revered this man, and among his greatest fans was General William T. Sherman.

"McPherson, a youth, grew from a lieutenant of engineers to be a corps commander, an army commander, promotion as rapid as ever marked the progress of the mighty men in the days of Napoleon, but, like a brilliant meteor, 'Loved of the Gods,' his young life went out before we had achieved the full measure of the work demanded of us by the times."

~ General William T. Sherman ~

I became even more impressed with General McPherson when I read his biography, Forgotten Hero, which was written by Elizabeth J. Whaley in 1955. It seems that this former school teacher from McPherson’s hometown of Clyde, Ohio, became enamored with the general (her word) as she got to know him better. While conducting her research for the book, a process that would have made Sherlock Holmes proud, she made it her life mission to promote McPherson’s status in the dense fog of Civil War history from “forgotten hero” to one who was, at least, “known and appreciated.”

Forgotten Hero: General James B. McPherson, the Biography of a Civil War General by Elizabeth J. Whaley (1955)

I will close this personal note by saying that, like Ms. Whaley, I feel “called” to do whatever I can to help people learn about General McPherson — especially those who live in or are interested in Atlanta, the city where his short but storied life and career came to an abrupt and tragic end. That is why I am sharing this information. It is also why I created the website I hope you will join me in this effort by sharing this podcast and website with your friends and family.

Steve Saenz, Atlanta — November 18, 2022

ATLsherpa leading his last public tour on 11.19.22. I took everyone to a super secret spot, so they could see the “steep hill” McPherson stopped at after crossing Sugar Creek in the modern-day Atlanta neighborhood of Edgewood. In his 1930 essay, McPherson’s Last Ride, historian Wilbur Kurtz described it this way: “In 1864, the road continued across the valley of the east and west branches of the stream, climbing the steep hill to Fair Street.” Photo by Stacy Fox.


About the photo above: Statue of McPherson [19:12]

Erected in 1876, this equestrian statue of Major General James B. McPherson serves as the centerpiece of McPherson Square along Vermont Avenue between K and I Streets N.W. The statue was sculpted by the Italian-born artist, Louis Rebisso and paid for by the Society of the Army of the Tennessee at a cost of $32,000. It is also notable for the fact that it was cast from bronze Confederate cannons captured during the Battle of Atlanta: the same conflict at which McPherson was killed. The General is depicted atop his horse, surveying a battlefield with field glasses in hand. His uniform is wrinkled, with his coat and trousers blown back by the wind.

Congress contributed $25,000 for the granite base and pedestal. The statue was dedicated on October 18, 1876, in a ceremony attended by President Rutherford B. Hayes and presided over by General William Tecumseh Sherman and General John A. Logan – both of whom are also commemorated with statues in Washington, D.C.

Source: D.C. Preservation League

PAST: McPherson’s Last Ride, narrated by ATLsherpa [26:10]

  • McPherson’s Last Ride: The Route Taken by the Commander of the Army of the Tennessee, When He Kept His Rendezvous With Death; July 22, 1864 — By Wilbur G. Kurtz

  • Atlanta Constitution Magazine — Sunday, June 29, 1930

  • — new website created to honor and raise awareness about General McPherson

  • I lightly edited the Kurtz article and created a PDF that you can download

  • BTW, the Kurtz article is 5,200 words long, not 52,000!

  • Narrated the entire article; five separate audio clips

  • Listen to it here

Download Kurtz Article (PDF)

Listen to McPherson's Last Ride

Route taken by General McPherson when he kept his rendezvous with death in East Atlanta. Map by Wilbur Kurtz (1930)

PRESENT: MLR + 158 years [30:45]

  • Battle took place 158 years ago (57,670 days)

  • Kurtz wrote his article 92 years ago (33,580 days)

  • Elizabeth Whaley wrote her book 67 years ago (24,455 days)

  • I did my last tour one day ago

  • Kurtz notes that the landscape had changed dramatically

  • Today, there are just a few traces left

  • I created and the companion interactive map in an effort to keep McPherson’s flame alive

  • We need new torch-bearers!

Recorded history often ignores that which is regarded as trivial detail. It is only the curious camp-followers in the march of events, who garner facts often referred to as, “the dross of history.” But, to these “trifling chroniclers,” as John Hay kindly calls them, we owe much that makes history interesting and entertaining. So, in the published narrative of the July days of 1864, when two mighty armies battled for the possession of Atlanta, the reader is told that when General McPherson heard the firing on the left of his line, he mounted his horse and rode from Sherman’s headquarters to see for himself what was going on. Not a line in the official records tells us what route he took in making this ride. This is not unusual. Front line activities are more important. Assaults, withdrawals, and shifts are carefully reported, but rear-line movements among field and staff officers are individual matters, and only occasionally mentioned.

But in this case, the ground covered is no longer an area of farmsteads or a wooded wilderness, as it was then. Atlanta has spread out and covered nearly every square foot of terrain in question. Paved streets, shaded avenues, business districts and all manner of residences, from the stately domicile to the negro cottage occupy the once war-torn plantations, the occasional dusty highway, and the crisscrossing of field roads."

Wilbur G. Kurtz (1930)

FUTURE: Road Trip! [37:45]

  • Spring road trip to Clyde, Ohio to see birth and resting place of General McPherson

  • See Points of Interest

  • Dates TBA, but probably in May

  • Let me know if you’re interested in making the trip

  • In the meantime, please share the website and map links

  • Grab some friends and explore the “battlefield” for yourself

  • Encourage other to do the same


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