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    Atlanta’s Fort McPherson Named for a Union Civil War General

    Fort McPherson Named for a General Who Served Sherman

    During the last NFL season, I rode the MARTA train from the Atlanta-Green Bay game to where I parked my car. When we passed the Fort McPherson stop near Lakewood, a Southern man struck up a conversation with me about the military post, its importance to Atlanta, and why he was sorry to see it being closed down.

    "Did you know it was named for a Northern general who died trying to capture the city?" I replied. The Southerner gaped, eyes bulging. He couldn't believe it was true. Others on the train turned to gasp at my words. They aren't the only locals who have been caught off-guard by that bit of Civil War trivia centered around the famous Atlanta landmark.

    Fort McPherson closed down in 2011, though historic buildings on the base are sure to remain as part of the National Park Service, most likely Staff Row and the Old Post Area. The location will be used for a special science and technology center.

    The landmark, however, will always bear the name of Gen. James Birdseye McPherson of the Union, who served Gen. William T. Sherman, the man who burned down Atlanta during the Civil War.

    McPherson served with Gens. Ulysses S. Grant and Sherman in the Western battles of Fort Donelson (1862) and Vicksburg (1863). As a reward, he was named to lead the Army of the Tennessee, Grant's and Sherman's old post, in 1864, even though McPherson was only 36.

    In the Battle of Atlanta on July 22, 1864, McPherson was killed by rebel fire as he was trying to reach Sherman's headquarters. His death saddened many on both sides, including his West Point classmate John Bell Hood, the overall leader of the Confederate forces defending Atlanta.

    McPherson was the only leader of the Union army to be killed during the fighting at Atlanta, and one of the highest ranking officers to perish in the Civil War. Fort McPherson, created in 1885, sits on the site of the old Georgia militia drilling grounds, created 50 years earlier and undoubtedly used by Confederates during the war.

    Fort McPherson served the U.S. in several conflicts in several ways, from being a general hospital during the Spanish-American War to a P.O.W. camp in World War I, to even being the headquarters of the Third Army.

    Now, as Fort McPherson becomes little more than a historical relic, a landmark sign remains to tell the tale of the fort and its namesake. You can find it on Hardee Avenue.

    John A. Tures is an associate professor of political science at LaGrange College in LaGrange, Georgia.

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    33 comments

    • Lover    1 mth 20 days ago
      I live less than 1/2 mile from the fort.

      Im invested in the area BECAUSE the grounds are being development into a living, working and park area. The surrounding homes are being bought up by suburban whites and gentrification is in the beginning stage.

      Im optimistic that my property would appreciate in 20 years or so as a NYC transplant Ive seen similar improvements in the Flatbush/Atlantic Ave area.
    • jd 1    2 mths ago
      Ft Mac had more generals then the pentagon stationed there, True statement. Golf, good weather, and a great place to retire. Also the war games that were planned there
    • The Bean    2 mths ago
      My late wife was born 3 months premature at Ft Mac and that in the mid 50s !
      Mother in Law said the care she received there was outstanding.
      GrandPa was there WWII, A lot of history going away.
    • Rob    2 mths ago
      Sad that too many people feel that Atlanta history only began with Civil Rights and the 1960’s. Georgia and the Atlanta area have a very long history going back the Creeks and Cherokee Indians. I would be amazed how many children living around Fort McPherson know nothing about its history. My grandparents built their first home from left-over barracks from WW I. Thank you for the article.
    • Joseph    1 mth 21 days ago
      Yep...and one the future sites of the beginning of guerilla warfare as the American populace is attempted to be disarmed.....I enjoy historical aspects of the times catching up with todays transgressions of forbidding the Second amendment......a little revolution is good from time to time....dont you think? Dear God...the estimated 650,000 dead from 1861 to 1865 will be surpassed expotentionally until we rid ourselves of you anti-freedom self defense is a God given right despots.
    • PoleCatMtn    2 mths ago
      I worked there for over 22 years. Sad to see it go. Great memories and a beautiful place to work in just like a park.
    • David    2 mths ago
      ...and the point of this story is, "Lord, arent those Southerners stupid"! I was born in Atlanta (1953), and raised in her suburbs. The vast majority of us knew that Ft. Mac was named after a Northern General. My Father mustered out of the Army there after his service in WWII in Europe. "Hardee Ave" that is mentioned here, is named after Southern General William Hardee, who was part of the US Military prior to the war. Gen. McPherson had accidentally ridden outside of the Union lines, came upon a group of Southern Soldiers (part of Hardees Corp) and was shot while attempting to escape. Of course, that was when public schools actually taught American History. Georgians were always proud to have Ft Mac in Atlanta.
    • Bob    1 mth 15 days ago
      My dad retired while based at Ft. McPherson as a Lt. Col. in the early 60s. I remember as a kid going the commissary and PX.
    • Anon    1 mth 20 days ago
      Black girls in camoflage used to catch the MARTA near there.
    • Scott    2 mths ago
      History is written by the victors.
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