McPherson and Monument Avenues: Spot where Federal Major General James B. McPherson, commander of the Army of the Tennessee, was killed by Confederate infantry early in the Battle of Atlanta.
What to See: Major General James B. McPherson, commander of the Army of the Tennessee, was the highest ranking Union general killed in combat during the Civil War. McPherson, like Confederate Major General William H. T. Walker, was mortally wounded while conducting reconnaissance. McPherson's death, at age 35, was deeply mourned by Sherman and Grant, both of whom considered him a protégé. In 1877, a group of US Army officers stationed in Atlanta erected the upright cannon monument to memorialize McPherson at the spot where he had been killed.
McPherson's fears of the impending attack by the Confederate Army of Tennessee on his vulnerable left flank were realized shortly after noon on July 22, 1864, when he heard the opening shots of the Battle of Atlanta over a mile away. He galloped to the sound of the gunfire and watched Federal 16th Corps infantry and artillery units fend off the initial Confederate assaults.
McPherson then turned his attention to a gap in the Federal line between the right of 16th Corps and the left of the 17th Corps, which was at Flat Shoals Road, near Leggett's Hill. The two Confederate divisions on Hardee's left were poised for attack. Major General Patrick R. Cleburne's Division struck first, hitting the seam between the two Union corps. McPherson rode toward this engagement, accompanied by a lone aide, and soon encountered Cleburne's advancing infantry. When McPherson refused to surrender and turned his horse to escape, he was shot from his saddle.
The McPherson Monument, like other outdoor memorials erected throughout the post-war era, served as a focal point for public remembrance of the Civil War. Speakers at commemorative events typically honored the valor of individual warriors, their military units, or even the entire cohort that fought in the war. Sectional differences over slavery often were overlooked.
When veterans from both sides met in Atlanta for a national Blue-Gray reunion in July 1900, a visit to the McPherson monument was a highlight of the three-day event. The Atlanta Constitution, paraphrasing a Union veteran who spoke at the monument, noted, "There were neither rebels nor traitors in a cause where all answered the call of constituted authority." The Constitution encouraged readers to leave the "argument as to causes to the historians."