Friday, February 1, 2008

General James B. McPherson Monument at Clyde, Ohio

General James B. McPherson Monument

On August 22nd, 1881, 10,000 individuals - Civil War veterans, U.S. congressmen, military officers, area residents and even an ex-president - joined family members in Clyde, Ohio, to honor General James B. McPherson. A bronze statue, at long last, would mark his gravesite.

The story of Clyde's McPherson monument started years earlier. Civil War veterans and Clyde citizens had struggled unsuccessfully for more than a decade to raise funds for a memorial worthy of General McPherson, the highest-ranking Union officer killed in the Civil War. The catalyst for reaching their goal finally came in the spring of 1876.

The incident involved the unexpected arrival in Clyde of strangers from Washington, D.C., who had come to remove McPherson's body for re-burial in the capital. Clyde residents exploded in anger. Tempers flared and accusations of grave robbing flew as inaccurate newspaper reports fanned the flames. Councilman A. B. French recalled, "Our people did not take kindly to the idea of having our dead hero removed. A secret committee of citizens was formed to guard the grave. If those fellows from Washington had come back to get McPherson's body, powder would have been used!"

Only gradually, did the full truth come out. In fact, it was McPherson's fiancee, Emily Hoffman of Baltimore, still in mourning, who wished to have the remains of her gallant soldier nearby. As years passed and no Clyde monument materialized, Emily called on two of McPherson's closest friends for help - then President Ulysses S. Grant and General William T. Sherman. Her brother-in-law, one of the founders of Wells Fargo, offered to pay for the completion of an equestrian statue of McPherson if Grant and Sherman could convince Congress to provide a location and a granite base. When arrangements were complete, Grant himself contacted Cynthia McPherson. She agreed to the reburial of her son's remains beneath the statue in Washington, D.C. And, rather than an insensitive "lowly government official," as local residents claimed, it was General George Elliot who came to take the body of his dear friend to the capital. Elliot, a fellow West Point engineer, had been McPherson's assistant in San Francisco before the war.

Elliot left Clyde empty handed. Despite the setback, President Grant, General Sherman and thousands of veterans met that fall for the unveiling of the magnificent bronze statue at McPherson Square, just blocks from the White House.

Although Sandusky Countians had prevented the removal of McPherson's remains, they still felt betrayed - the monument intended for Clyde was in Washington, D.C. In time, anger and disappointment gave way to a determined effort to raise the funds for a statue in Clyde. Five years later, on the seventeenth anniversary of General McPherson's death, the statue that stands today over the fallen warrior's gravesite was dedicated.

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