James McPherson was born in Ohio in 1828. He joined the US Army and taught engineering at West Point Military Academy. He was later involved in improving seacoast fortifications.
On the outbreak of the American Civil War he joined the Union Army. Promoted to the rank of lieutenant colonel, he was Aide de Camp to General Henry Halleck in the Department of Missouri. In February, 1862, McPherson he became chief engineer under Ulysses Grant. He played an important role in the capture of Fort Henry, Fort Donelson and Corinth.
Appointed major general in October, 1862, McPherson commanded the 2nd division of the Army of Tennessee during the Vicksburg Campaign. James McPherson was killed in the Battle of Atlanta on 22nd July, 1864.