John Alexander Logan

John Alexander Logan, perhaps the Union's premier civilian combat general, was born February 9, 1826, paradoxically enough on a farm in Jackson County in the "Little Egypt" area of southern Illinois. Many of the inhabitants of this area came from the slave states, and it was a Democratic stronghold which largely supported disunion during the 1860's. Logan's early education was fragmentary, but included the study of law; he served in the Mexican War as a second lieutenant of Illinois volunteers, was elected to the Illinois legislature, was a presidential elector for James Buchanan in 1856, and in 1858 went to Congress as a Free-Soil Democrat. In 1860 he attended the Democratic National Convention in Charleston as a Stephen A. Douglas supporter and was reelected to Congress that fall. During the winter 1860-61 Logan repeatedly manifested his support for the Union, declaiming his sentiments far and wide. He combined a talent for bombastic oratory, a large store of self-interest, a genuine love of the Union, and inherent abilities as a leader to produce a record hardly surpassed in the era for its versatility. After the special session of Congress in 1861, Logan, who had fought at Bull Run as a volunteer in a Michigan regiment, returned to southern Illinois and recruited the 31st Illinois, of which he was commissioned colonel in September. "Black Jack," as he was known because of his black eyes and hair and swarthy complexion, became an instant success as a field commander in the western armies. He was present at Belmont, where his horse was killed, and at Fort Donelson, where he was wounded. Shortly after he was made a brigadier to rank from March 21, 1862. During Henry W. Halleck's "siege" of Corinth, following the battle of Shiloh, Logan commanded a brigade and division of U. S. Grant's Army of the Tennessee. During the winter campaign in northern Mississippi which preceded the final operations against Vicksburg, Logan, who was made a major general on March 13, 1863, to rank from the preceding November 29, directed the 3rd Division of McPherson's XVII Corps; and for his services during the siege of the town, where his troops made the desperate assault on the Confederate works which followed the mine explosion, he was awarded the Congressional Medal. During the Atlanta campaign Logan commanded with great distinction the XV Corps and was wounded at Dallas, Georgia. When James B. McPherson was killed in front of Atlanta on July 22, 1864, the command of the Army of the Tennessee devolved temporarily upon Logan. It was subsequently determined between W. T. Sherman and G. H. Thomas, who was then commanding the Army of the Cumberland, that a West Pointer Oliver O. Howard should succeed to the permanent command of the XV Corps—this move caused Logan to hate West Point from the bottom of his heart. Actually Sherman's distrust for political generals "off the field," even though he considered Logan "perfect in combat," determined the appointment. After aiding to carry Illinois for the Republican party in 1864 Logan returned to his corps, which he led from the Savannah campaign until the surrender of General Joseph E. Johnston in North Carolina. After the close of the war he served either as a Congressman or a Senator from Illinois almost uninterruptedly until his death. Meanwhile, he was instrumental in the organization of various veterans' societies, untiring in the movement to award pensions to Union veterans, and a dedicated disciple of the "bloody shirt" society at every election. His usefulness on the national scene waned as he grew older, however, and in 1884 he was the unsuccessful Republican nominee for vice-president. He died in Washington while a member of the Senate on December 26, 1886, and is buried in Soldiers Home National Cemetery.

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Reference: Generals in Blue. Lives of the Union Commanders by Ezra J. Warner. Louisiana State University Press. Baton Rouge.