Posts Tagged ‘James G. Blaine’

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Major General John A. Logan

Major General John A. Logan is a public artwork by American artist Franklin Simmons, who also sculpted The Peace Monument located on the grounds of the U.S. Capitol Building.  It is located in Logan Circle at the intersection of 13th Street, P Street, Rhode Island Avenue, and Vermont Avenue (MAP) in northwest D.C.  An equestrian statue, it is mounted on a bronze base and depicts Logan wearing a long coat, boots, gloves and a hat, with long hair and a drooping mustache. He is mounted on his horse, holding onto the reins with his left hand and holding a downward-pointed sword in his right.  The statue is part of a group of statues entitled “The Civil War Monuments in Washington, D.C.” which are spread out through much of the central and northwest areas of the city, and are listed as a group on the National Register of Historic Places.

John Alexander “Black Jack” Logan was an American soldier and political leader.  He served in the Mexican-American War and was a General in the Union Army during the Civil War, during which the men under his command gave him his nickname based on his dark eyes, his black hair and mustache, and swarthy complexion.

Logan later entered politics as a Douglas Democrat, so named after fellow Illinois politician Stephen A. Douglas.  He was initially elected and served as a State Senator in Illinois, during which time he helped pass a law to prohibit all African Americans, including freedmen, from settling in the state.  Logan subsequently went on to be elected as a U.S. Congressman, but resigned after three years to join the Union Army.  After the war, Logan resumed his political career, now as a Republican, and was again elected to Congress.  During this time he was selected as one of the managers to conduct the impeachment proceedings against President Andrew Johnson.  Later, he was elected to the U.S. Senate, but after failing to win reelection returned to Illinois to practice law.  He later ran for and regained his seat in the U.S. Senate.  He also ran but was an unsuccessful candidate for Vice President on the ticket with James G. Blaine in the election of 1884.  After the unsuccessful run for national office, he was reelected to the U.S. Senate, where he continued to serve until his death.

Despite his success in a variety of professional and personal endeavors over the course of his lifetime, he had no schooling until age 14.  It was then that he studied for three years at Shiloh College.  After leaving to serve in the Mexican-American War, he came back to study law in the office of an uncle, and then went on to graduate from the Law Department of the University of Louisville, after which he also practiced law with success intermittently throughout his lifetime.

However, despite his very successful military, political and legal careers, Logan is perhaps remembered as the founder of Memorial Day and the driving force behind it being designated as an official Federal holiday every year on the last Monday of May.  Originally known as Decoration Day, it was intended to commemorate the Union and Confederate soldiers who died in the Civil War.  It took years, however, until the Federal holiday, which extended to only Federal employees and D.C., was adopted nationally and by the states.  New York was the first state to designate Memorial Day a legal holiday, and most other Northern states soon followed suit.  However, the states of the former Confederacy were unenthusiastic about a holiday founded by a former Union General and memorialized those who, in Logan’s own words, “united to suppress the late rebellion.”  Much of the South did not adopt the Memorial Day holiday until after World War I, by which time its purpose had been extended to honor all Americans who died while in the military service.  Several Southern states continue to also set aside a day for specifically honoring the Confederate dead, which is usually called Confederate Memorial Day.  It is also observed on the last Monday in May in Virginia, but the date varies in other states.

Upon his death, Logan’s body lay in state in the rotunda of the U.S. Capitol Building before being laid to rest at the U.S. Soldiers’ and Airmen’s Home National Cemetery, the forerunner of Arlington National Cemetery.  There he is entombed in a mausoleum along with his wife and other family members.

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The Tomb of John Alexander Logan

On this Memorial Day, I am writing about my bike ride to the final resting place of the founder of the Memorial Day holiday.

Located within the United States Soldiers’ and Airmen’s Home National Cemetery, the forerunner of Arlington National Cemetery and is located on Rock Creek Church Road in northwest D.C. (MAP), is the tomb of John Alexander Logan.

An American soldier and political leader, Logan served in the Mexican-American War and was a General in the Union Army during the Civil War.  He later entered politics and was elected and served as a State Senator in Illinois, and subsequently a U.S. Congressman and Senator.  He also ran but was an unsuccessful candidate for Vice President on the ticket with James G. Blaine in the election of 1884.

More than any of his other achievements, he is probably best known as the founder of Memorial Day.  As the Commander-in-Chief of The Grand Army of the Republic from 1868 to 1871, he is regarded as the most important figure in the movement to create and recognize Memorial Day as an officially recognized national public holiday.

Memorial Day is a Federal holiday wherein the men and women who died while serving in the United States Armed Forces are remembered.  Celebrated annually on the final Monday of May, the holiday originated after the Civil War to commemorate the Union and Confederate soldiers who died in the Civil War, and was called Decoration Day.  Over time, the holiday has been extended to honor all Americans who have died while in the military service and was renamed Memorial Day.  It also typically marks the start of the summer vacation season, while Labor Day marks its end.

So today as you pause to honor those service members who paid the ultimate price while serving their country, you might also want to remember John Alexander Logan.   He may not be the reason for the holiday, but there might not be a holiday without him.

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