What of John A. Logan?

John_Alexander_Logan_cropBut what of JOHN A. LOGAN? I will tell you. If there is any statesman on this continent, now in public life, to whose courage, justice and fidelity, I would more fully and unreservedly trust the cause of the colored people of this country, or the cause of any other people, I do not know him. Since [Charles] Sumner and [Oliver. P.] Morton, no man has been bolder and truer to the cause of the colored man and to the country, than has JOHN A. LOGAN. There is no nonsense about him. I endorse him to you with all my might, mind, and strength, and without a single shadow of doubt.

— Frederick Douglass endorsement of John Logan during the 1884 presidential election

Logan began his political career as a “Stephen Douglas Democrat” from southern Illinois. He did much as a state legislator to advocate for strong “Black Codes,” then went on to serve in Congress from 1859-1862. He resigned to take up the colonelcy of the 31st Illinois volunteers, and through his political influence as a War Democrat as well as through actual talent on the battlefield, he eventually worked his way to command of the Union XV Corps.

During his service, Logan experienced a profound conversion in his attitudes about race. His service in Tennessee, said a newspaper article in the summer of ’62, showed him first hand that slavery was a “cursed institution, and hoped never to sheathe the sword until it was thoroughly wiped out.”

After the war, Logan returned to Congress in 1866 as a Republican. He served two terms as a U.S. Congressman and three terms as a U.S. Senator. During that time, he strongly advocated for the 14th and 15th Amendments to the Constitution. He also served as the second president of the Grand Army of the Republic, the Union veterans organization, and in that capacity is often credited as being a founder of what has become known as Memorial Day.

In 1884, Logan ran for vice president on the ticket with James G. Blaine of Maine; they lost to Grover Cleveland and Thomas Hendricks. Logan would not have the opportunity to make a second run. He died on December 26, 1886.

Learn more about Logan at the John A. Logan Museum in his hometown of Murphysboro, Illinois.

9 Responses to What of John A. Logan?

  1. John Logan. His contribution was important at Fort Donelson, vital at Vicksburg, and reckless yet successful during the Atlanta Campaign (where he commanded the Union Army of the Tennessee after the death of General McPherson.) As a “political General” John Logan was tapped on several occasions to Campaign for Lincoln and his policies. But perhaps his most under-appreciated contribution involved something he was authorized to do, but did not: during the Nashville operation late in 1864, John Logan did not relieve George Thomas as commander. (And Mother Mary Bickerdyke ranked John Logan among her three favorite Union officers.) As for John Logan eventually standing against slavery, best to let Frederick Douglass speak on that topic.

    1. The dynamics of that situation with Grant/Thomas/Logan were interesting, indeed. I think Logan would’ve done fine as an army commander, and he hindered his own professional advancement by not relieving Thomas (because no other opportunity for advancement would open), but I agree it was the right call at the time.

  2. Yes, Logan was a superb general, but, according to Sherman, first and foremost a “political” general. That’s why, contrary to the above, he was not given command of the Army of the Tennessee after McPherson’s death — Sherman instead chose O.O. Howard. Logan was, to say the least, bitter, and he got his revenge while in Congress, doing everything he could to frustrate Sherman’s requests for larger budgets for the military.

    1. Sherman, like most other West Pointers, was suspicious of any officer who wasn’t part of their club. While enough political generals performed badly enough to be noteworthy, those who performed well, like Logan, were stereotyped with the same brush as the poor ones, unfortunately.

  3. What is the source of Logan’s “cursed institution” quote above? I can use that in my manuscript.



    1. Tom Mack
      The Bloomington Illinois “Pantagraph” of July 1862 is said to have reported General Logan’s remarks IRT the “cursed institution.” (Unless you can track it down otherwise, you may have to try newspapers.com). Or perhaps try sending an email to the “John A. Logan Museum.” The curator there has helped me in the past.
      Mike Maxwell

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