McPherson takes over the Army of the Tennessee - HISTORY
Year
1864

McPherson takes over the Army of the Tennessee

On this day in 1864, General James B. McPherson assumes command of the Union Army of the Tennessee after William T. Sherman is elevated to commander of the Division of the Mississippi, the overall leader in the West.

McPherson was born in Ohio in 1828 andgraduated first in his class from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 1853.He joined the Army’s engineering corps as a second lieutenant, and spent the prewar years in New York City and Alcatraz Island in California. When the Civil War began, McPherson was transferred to the East and promoted to captain. Yearning for combat, he was disappointed when he was assigned to command the forts of Boston Harbor.McPherson contacted General Henry Halleck, commander of the Department of the Missouri and a former acquaintance in California, who summoned him to St. Louis. In Missouri,McPherson helped set up recruiting stations and inspected defenses.

McPherson was transferred to General Ulysses S. Grant’s command on February 1, 1862, just as Grant was launching an expedition against forts Henry and Donelson in Tennessee. McPherson’s work in analyzing the defenses of Fort Donelson earned him the respect of Grant, and McPherson’s star rose rapidly after the Battle of Shiloh in Tennessee in April 1862. McPherson fought with distinction, andwas promoted to colonel. Two weeks later, he became a brigadier general. After his actions at the Battle of Corinth, Mississippi, in October 1862, McPherson was again promoted, this time to major general. In December, he capped a successful year by taking command of the XVII Corps in Grant’s Army of the Tennessee.

McPherson served as corps commander throughout 1863, ably leading his men at Vicksburg, Mississippi,and Chattanooga, Tennessee. Grant’s promotion to general-in-chief of all Union forces created a chain reaction of promotions. Grant left for Washington, D.C.,and Sherman assumed command in the West, while McPherson inherited the Army of the Tennessee. This force was not an independent command, as it was one of three armies under Sherman’sleadership during the Atlanta campaign of 1864. When the campaign reached Atlanta in July 1864 after three hard months of fighting, McPherson was charged with attacking Confederate forces on the northeast side of the city. At the Battle of Peachtree Creek on July 22, McPherson was directing operations when he and his staff emerged from a grove of trees directly in front of the Confederate line. They were ordered to surrender but McPherson turned his horse and attempted to escape. He was mortally wounded, becoming the highest-ranking Union general killed in the war.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

Salk announces polio vaccine

On March 26, 1953, American medical researcher Dr. Jonas Salk announces on a national radio show that he has successfully tested a vaccine against poliomyelitis, the virus that causes the crippling disease of polio. In 1952–an epidemic year for polio–there were 58,000 new cases ...read more

Israel-Egyptian peace agreement signed

In a ceremony at the White House, Egyptian President Anwar el-Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin sign a historic peace agreement, ending three decades of hostilities between Egypt and Israel and establishing diplomatic and commercial ties.Less than two years earlier, ...read more

Naval warfare gets new weapon

On this day, Italy attacks the British fleet at Suda Bay, Crete, using detachable warheads to sink a British cruiser. This was the first time manned torpedoes had been employed in naval warfare, adding a new weapon to the world’s navies’ arsenals.The manned torpedo, also known as ...read more

First Battle of Gaza

The first of three battles fought in the Allied attempt to defeat Turkish forces in and around the Palestinian city of Gaza takes place on this day in 1917.By January 1917, the Allies had managed to force the Turkish army completely out of the Sinai Peninsula in northeastern ...read more

Hue falls to the communists

The city of Hue, in northernmost South Vietnam, falls to the North Vietnamese. Hue was the most recent major city in South Vietnam to fall to the communists during their new offensive. The offensive had started in December 1974, when the North Vietnamese had launched a major ...read more

Antiwar demonstration in Washington

A group called Women Strike for Peace demonstrate in Washington, D.C., in the first large antiwar demonstration since President Richard Nixon’s inauguration in January. The antiwar movement had initially given Nixon a chance to make good on his campaign promises to end the war in ...read more

F. Scott Fitzgerald’s first novel published

This Side of Paradise is published, immediately launching 23-year-old F. Scott Fitzgerald to fame and fortune.Fitzgerald, named for his ancestor Francis Scott Key, author of “The Star Spangled Banner,” was born in St. Paul, Minnesota, to a once well-to-do family that had ...read more

American Beauty tops Academy Awards

On this day in 2000, Billy Crystal hosts the 72nd annual Academy Awards ceremony at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles.An Oscar crisis had been narrowly averted a week earlier, when Willie Fulgear, a man who made his living recovering and selling discarded objects, found 10 ...read more

Deadly earthquake hits California

An earthquake felt from Mexico to Oregon rocks the Owens Valley in California on this day in 1872, killing 30 people.California, with the large San Andreas Fault running through the entire state, is a prime area for earthquakes. At 2:30 a.m. on March 26, a large quake hit Inyo ...read more

Torture chamber uncovered in Philadelphia

Responding to a 911 call, police raid the Philadelphia home of Gary Heidnik and find an appalling crime scene. In the basement of Heidnik’s dilapidated house is a veritable torture chamber wherethree naked women were found chained toa sewer pipe. A fourth woman, Josefina Rivera, ...read more