WASHINGTON – The man dressed as a Union soldier seemed a bit out of place amidst the blare of car horns in downtown Washington. But Lee Stone proudly held the U.S. flag during a wreath-laying ceremony to honor Civil War Gen. James B. McPherson who sits on horseback in McPherson Square.
“I do this because I believe that we should honor our Civil War ancestors and through people like General McPherson,I also honor my own ancestors,” Stone said. The retired federal government information security worker from Purcellville,Va.,has three relatives who fought in the war.
Tim McCoy,a member of the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War,organized the event to pay tribute to the Union general on the 150th anniversary of his death. McCoy’s organization and the D.C. Commandery of the Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States,groups whose members are descended from Civil War veterans,sponsored the event.
McPherson was 35 years old when he died during the Battle of Atlanta. His good friends Gen. Ulysses S. Grant and Gen. William T. Sherman both mourned his death.
“He was a true officer and a gentleman,respected by friend and foe alike,” McCoy said.
McCoy often walks through McPherson Square on his way to work. A few months ago,he noticed the inscription on the statue,erected by the veterans of the Army of the Tennessee in October 1876,and remembered the approaching anniversary. McCoy,whose two great-great-grandfathers fought in the Atlanta campaign,organized the ceremony once he realized there wasn’t one in the works.
Through the planning process,McCoy learned more about McPherson,an intelligent man from Clyde,Ohio,who was first in his class at West Point. McCoy said that McPherson was on his way to get married when he was called back to fight in Atlanta.
“It’s that kind of personal story that goes behind the name,so when I see McPherson Square Metro station,McPherson means something orders of magnitude more than what it did this time last year,” McCoy said.
McCoy placed the white-and-red flowered wreath at the foot of the statue as the mournful notes of taps played following Civil War Trust digital producer Douglas Ullman Jr.’s keynote address. Ullman encouraged those gathered to appreciate the significance of the statue’s placement two blocks from the White House,where Grant served two terms as president.
“Next time you take the Metro or walk past this statue,remember that Grant was visibly affected. Remember how Sherman wept. And,most of all,remember McPherson,” Ullman said.
Reach Reporter Kate Winkle at [email protected] or 202-326-9865. SHFWire stories are free to any news organization that gives the reporter a byline and credits the SHFWire.