John Alexander Logan was born in 1826 near what is now Murphysboro, Jackson County, Illinois. Logan was the son of Dr. and Mrs. John Logan, a prominent family in the area.
He had no schooling until age 14; he then studied for three years at Shiloh College.
Logan was 35 years old when the Civil War began.
|John Logan with his wife, Mary Simmerson Cunningham Logan, son Manning and daughter Mary Elizabeth "Dollie", about 1870|
Logan served in the Mexican-American War as a second lieutenant in the 1st Illinois Infantry, studied law in the office of an uncle, graduated from the Law Department of the University of Louisville in 1851, and practiced law with success. He entered politics as a Douglas Democrat, was elected county clerk in 1849, served in the State House of Representatives from 1853 to 1854 and in 1857; and for a time, during the interval, was prosecuting attorney of the Third Judicial District of Illinois. In 1858 and 1860, he was elected as a Democrat to the U.S. House of Representatives.
Logan fought at Bull Run as an unattached volunteer to a Michigan regiment, and then returned to Washington, resigned his congressional seat, and entered the Union army as Colonel of the 31st Illinois Volunteers, which he organized. He was known by his soldiers with the nickname "Black Jack" because of his black eyes and hair and swarthy complexion, and was regarded as one of the most able officers to enter the army from civilian life. He served in the army of Ulysses S. Grant in the Western Theater and was present at the Battle of Belmont, where his horse was killed, and at Fort Donelson, where he was wounded. Soon after the victory at Donelson, he was promoted to brigadier general, as of March 21, 1862. Major John Hotaling served as his chief of staff. During the Siege of Corinth, Logan commanded first a brigade and then the 1st Division of the Army of the Tennessee. In the spring of 1863, he was promoted to major general to rank from November 29, 1862.
In Grant's Vicksburg Campaign, Logan commanded the 3rd Division of James B. McPherson's XVII Corps, which was the first to enter the city of Vicksburg in 1863, and after its capture, Logan served as its military governor. In November 1863 he succeeded William Tecumseh Sherman in command of the XV Corps; and after the death of McPherson he commanded the Army of the Tennessee at the Battle of Atlanta (July 22, 1864) until relieved by Oliver O. Howard. He returned to Illinois for the 1864 elections but rejoined the army afterward and commanded his XV corps in the Carolinas Campaign.
In December 1864, Grant became impatient with George H. Thomas's performance at Nashville and sent Logan to relieve him. Logan was stopped in Louisville when news came that Thomas had completely smashed John Bell Hood's Confederate army in the Battle of Nashville.
After the war, Logan resumed his political career, now as a Republican, and was a member of the United States House of Representatives from 1867 to 1871, and of the United States Senate from 1871 until 1877 and again from 1879 until his death in 1886. After the war, Logan, who had always been a staunch partisan, was identified with the radical wing of the Republican Party. His forceful, passionate speaking, popular on the platform, was less effective in the halls of legislation. In 1868, he was one of the managers in the impeachment of President Andrew Johnson.
He was active in veterans' affairs and helped lead the call for creation of Memorial Day as a national public holiday. His war record and his great personal following, especially in the Grand Army of the Republic, contributed to his nomination for Vice President in 1884 on the ticket with James G. Blaine, but they were not elected.
His likeness appears on a statue at the center of Logan Circle, Washington, D.C. He is also honored with a statue in Grant Park in Chicago, Illinois. Logan is one of only three people mentioned by name in the Illinois state song. Upon his death, he lay in state in the United States Capitol rotunda.