Posts Tagged ‘Mexican-American War’

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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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[Click on the thumbnails above to view the full size photos]

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General Winfield Scott Hancock Memorial

General Winfield Scott Hancock Memorial

This bike ride took me to the General Winfield Scott Hancock Memorial, which is located at 7th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue (MAP) in the Penn Quarter neighborhood of northwest D.C. The equestrian statue was created by American sculptor Henry Jackson Ellicott together with architect Paul J. Pelz. It was commissioned on March 2, 1889, and dedicated on May 12, 1896, by President Grover Cleveland. The memorial 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. They are listed as a group on the National Register of Historic Places.

Winfield Scott Hancock and his identical twin brother Hilary Baker Hancock were born on February 14, 1824. The twins were the sons of Benjamin Franklin Hancock and Elizabeth Hoxworth Hancock. Indications of Winfield’s future military career started early. He was named after Winfield Scott, a prominent general in the War of 1812. He also attended the United States Military Academy at West Point.

Winfield Scott Hancock was a career U.S. Army officer and was known to his Army colleagues as “Hancock the Superb”. He served with distinction in the Army for four decades, including service in the Mexican-American War and as a Union general in the Civil War. He was noted in particular for his personal leadership at the Battle of Gettysburg. He was also wounded twice.

Hancock was the Democratic nominee for President of the United States in 1880. Although he ran a strong campaign, Hancock was narrowly defeated by Republican James A. Garfield. Of almost nine million votes cast, Hancock lost by only thirty-nine thousand votes. Hancock took his electoral defeat in stride, however, and actually attended Garfield’s inauguration.

Some other interesting facts about Hancock include that at the close of the Civil War, he was assigned to supervise the execution of the Lincoln assassination conspirators, including Mary Surratt. Also, he was elected president of the National Rifle Association in 1881. Hancock’s last major public appearance was to preside over the funeral of President Ulysesses S. Grant in 1885.  And Hancock’s portrait adorns U.S. currency on the $2 Silver Certificate series of 1886.  It was also in 1886, in a manner that seems incongruous with the successful life he had led, Hancock died, the victim of an infected carbuncle.
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The George Gordon Meade Memorial

The George Gordon Meade Memorial

The George Gordon Meade Memorial is a public artwork by American artist Charles Grafly, and is located at 3rd Street and Pennsylvania Avenue  (MAP) in northwest D.C. Residents of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania commissioned the sculpture to commemorate the man who is best known as the Union General who defeated Confederate General Robert E. Lee at the Battle of Gettysburg, which not only involved the largest number of casualties of the Civil War, but is considered a major turning point of war. 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. They are listed as a group on the National Register of Historic Places.

Born the eighth of eleven children, George Gordon Meade was born in Cadiz, Spain, where his father worked as a U.S. naval officer.  Following his father’s death when he was only 13 years old, Meade’s family found itself on the brink of financial bankruptcy and returned to the United States in 1828 to settle in Pennsylvania.  In 1831, at the age of 16, Meade received an appointment to the United State Military Academy at West Point, where he graduated in 1835. He then served in the U.S. Army briefly during the Seminole War before retiring. He worked in the private sector as a civil engineer until 1842, when he asked to be reinstated to the Army. He was appointed a second lieutenant in the Corps of Topographical Engineers, and served constructing lighthouses and breakwaters in New Jersey and Florida. Four years later during the Mexican-American War, he was present but saw no major combat at several major battles. He returned to topographical work after the war in near the Great Lakes until his services were again called upon at the outbreak of the Civil War.

Despite being one of the few Union generals who began his life and career in a foreign country, Meade quickly rose through the ranks. Meade was promoted from captain to brigadier general, and helped work on the defenses of Washington before joining the army of the Potomac under General George B. McClellan. He was involved in the Seven Days battles at Mechanicsville, Gaines’ Mill, and Glendale, where he received several serious wounds. After recuperating, he went on to fight at the battle of Second Manassas, the battle of South Mountain, Antietam, the battle of Fredericksburg, and the battle of Chancellorsville. By 1863, Meade was given command of the Army of the Potomac, succeeding General Joseph Hooker just one month before meeting and defeating General Lee at the Battle of Gettysburg. Subsequent to his victory at the Battle of Gettysburg, Meade was promoted to brigadier general in the regular army, and went on to be involved in the Bristoe Station and Mine Run campaigns, and the battles of the Wilderness, Spotsylvania, Cold Harbor, and Petersburg. General-in-Chief of Union Forces Ulysses S. Grant requested that Meade be promoted to major general, which was approved by President Abraham Lincoln. Meade served under General Grant for the last year of the war, but was not present at the surrender of Lee’s army in Appomattox, and was largely overshadowed by Grant.

After the war, Meade returned to Pennsylvania and held several military commands. While still on active duty, he died in1872 in Philadelphia, from complications of his old wounds combined with pneumonia.

The D.C. memorial to Meade consists of a cylinder shaped statue featuring a figure of the General on the front. Meade stands in front of six allegorical figures standing side by side. They represent Loyalty, Chivalry, Fame, Progress, Military Courage and Energy, and were thought by the artist as the traits needed to make a “great” general. Loyalty and Chivalry are shown removing Meade’s cloak, which symbolizes the “cloak of battle.” Loyalty also holds a wreath and garlands above Meade’s head, representing the Meade’s deeds. There is also a figure representing War featured on the back of the memorial. Atop the monument is a gold finial with the state seal of Pennsylvania, and an inscription at the base of the monument reads, “The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to Major General George Gordon Meade, who commanded the Union forces at Gettysburg.”

The memorial was originally installed in 1922 at Union Square near the Ulysses S. Grant Memorial, but was moved into National Park Service storage in 1966 due to construction. In 1983 it was finally installed at its current location.

 

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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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