John Logan Memorial
Backstory and Context
John Alexander Logan was born in what is now the town of Murphysboro in Jackson County, Illinois on February 9, 1826. His father was a physician and farmer who also made a successful foray into politics, occupying a seat in the Illinois state legislature for almost a decade. After attending Shiloh College, Logan served in the Mexican War as a second lieutenant, but did not see combat. He then studied law at the University of Louisville, graduating in 1851, and was admitted to the bar the following year. Between 1853 and 1857, Logan served in the Illinois state legislature and as prosecuting attorney for the Third Judicial District of Illinois. In 1858, running as a Democrat, he won a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. Two years later, Logan won reelection.
Despite being a proslavery Democrat who strongly supported fugitive slave laws and vehemently opposed abolitionism, Logan possessed a deep attachment to the Union and refused to stand idly by as some southerners attempted to dissolve it. In the summer of 1861, he accompanied a Michigan regiment to northern Virginia and participated in the First Battle of Bull Run. After the engagement, Logan resigned his seat in Congress and returned to Illinois. There, he raised the Thirty-First Illinois Infantry and became its colonel. Affectionately known to his men as “Black Jack” because of his dark hair and complexion, Logan led the Illinois regiment during the Battles of Belmont, Fort Henry, and Fort Donelson. During the last engagement, he was severely wounded. While recovering from his injury, Logan received a promotion to the rank of brigadier general. When he returned to the front he did so as a brigade commander in VII Corps of the Army of the Tennessee. By March 1863, Logan had received a promotion to the rank of major general and was given command of a division. With his division, he participated in the Vicksburg campaign. That October, Logan took command of XV Corps, which he led during the Atlanta campaign in the spring and summer of 1864. In the fall of 1864, he returned to his home state to campaign for President Lincoln’s reelection bid. That December, Logan resumed command of XV Corps, and led it for the remainder of the war.
After the war, Logan reentered the political arena. Running as a Republican, he won a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives in 1866. Logan served in the House until 1871, when the Illinois legislature selected him to be one of the state’s two U.S. senators. In 1876, the state legislature did not reelect him. Three years later, however, Logan secured another term in the Senate, serving until his death on December 26, 1886. Two years prior, in 1884, he was the Republican nominee for vice president of the United States. Logan’s running mate, James Blaine, lost the presidential election that year to the Democratic nominee and governor of New York, Grover Cleveland.
In addition to resuming his career in politics after the war, Logan became an unflinching advocate for Union war veterans. In 1866, he helped establish the Grand Army of the Republic. While serving as the organization’s first commander in chief, Logan issued General Order No. 11 in 1868, which designated May 30 as a day to decorate the graves of Union soldiers. Known as Decoration Day, it was renamed Memorial Day in 1882. Memorial Day became an official federal holiday in 1971 and observance was moved to the last Monday in May.
Shortly after Logan’s death in 1886, the Society of the Army of the Tennessee, in cooperation with the Grand Army of the Republic and Logan’s widow, began raising funds for the erection of a statue in his honor in the nation’s capital. Congress then authorized the project and appropriated funds for its completion. Designed by sculptor Franklin Simmons and dedicated in Iowa Circle (renamed Logan Circle in the early 1930s) on April 9, 1901, the bronze equestrian statue depicts Logan in full military uniform, sitting confidently upright on his horse. Looking at the horizon, he holds an unsheathed sword in his right hand, while his left clutches the reigns. The statue rests on a tall, elaborate bronze pedestal. Adorning it are two allegorical figures presenting “War” and “Peace,” in addition to two high-relief panels, which feature renderings of Logan plotting strategy during the war and being sworn into the U.S. Senate in 1879. In attendance at the dedication ceremony were President William McKinley, members of Congress and the Cabinet, officers of the Grand Army of the Republic and the Society of the Army of the Tennessee, and Logan’s family.
Jacob, Kathryn Allamong. Testament to Union: Civil War Monuments in Washington, D.C. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1998.
"John A. Logan." American Battlefield Trust. Web. 8 May 2021 <https://www.battlefields.org/learn/biographies/john-logan>.
"Logan, John Alexander." Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, 1774-Present. United States Congress. Web. 8 May 2021 <https://bioguideretro.congress.gov/Home/MemberDetails?memIndex=l000403>.
Wright, John D. The Routledge Encyclopedia of Civil War Era Biographies. New York, Taylor & Francis, 2013.