General John A. Logan

General John A. Logan (Photo courtesy  John A. Logan College, Carterville, IL)

General John A. Logan

John A. Logan (February 9, 1826 – December 26, 1886) was an American soldier and political leader.  He was born near what is now Murphysboro, Jackson County, IL. He was raised in a home that was well versed in politics, and he came to love politics at an early age.  Logan studied with his father who was a physician, and in 1840 his father, Dr. John Logan, sent him to Shiloh College at Shiloh Hill, IL to complete his education.

Logan volunteered for the Mexican War in 1846. He saw no combat, but did travel to Santa Fe, where he served as post quartermaster and learned Spanish.

Logan with his wife Mary Simmerson Cunningham Logan, son Manning Alexander Logan and daughter Mary Elizabeth “Dollie” Logan in about 1870

The 1850’s brought may changes in Logan’s life – he attended law school at Louisville University; married Mary S. Cunningham; and  began a political career that led from county clerk to U.S. Congressman.

At the onset of the Civil War Logan fought at Bull Run as a civilian. Logan later volunteered for the war and rose from colonel to major general. Fighting in eight major campaigns he distinguished himself at Vicksburg and commanded the entire Union forces at the Battle of Atlanta. At the war’s end, he saved Raleigh, NC from being burned by angry Union troops. Many historians consider him the premier volunteer general of the Civil War.

Logan at the Battle of Dallas, GA on May 28, 1864

After the war, Logan returned to Congress. His concern for veterans led him to take part in Illinois’ first veterans memorial services at Woodlawn Cemetery in Carbondale in 1866. In 1868, he became founder of Memorial Day as a national holiday.

Blaine/Logan campaign poster. Logan was nominated for Vice President in 1884 on the ticket with James G. Blaine, but they were not elected

In 1871 and again in 1874, Logan was elected to the U.S. Senate. Throughout his political career, he was a strong advocate for public education. In 1884, he was James G. Blaines’ vice-presidential running mate. During the campaign, Logan commissioned the painting that became the center for Atlanta’s famed Cyclorama.

John A. Logan died December 26, 1886 in Washington D.C. He is buried at Soldier Cemetery.

Logan’s fame did not die with him as the many towns and counties named for him show. Fine equestrian statues were erected in Chicago and Washington in his honor. Bronze plaques from Arlington Cemetery to Denver attest his creation of Memorial Day.

Much like the observance he created, his fame faded through the years. In May, 1986, the Washington Post wrote that this was “pretty shoddy treatment” for the man who founded Memorial Day.

We remember …


General John A. Logan in the staff of General William T. Sherman