“I entered the field to die, if need be, for this government and never expect to return to peaceful pursuits until the object of this war of preservation has become a fact established.” Thus spoke John A. Logan in 1862, when asked to return home from the field and become a candidate for Congress.
General Logan was born February 9th, 1826, in Murphysboro, Illinois, and was the eldest of eleven children. He received his education in the common schools and in Shiloh Academy.
The Mexican war broke out when young Logan was but twenty years of age, and he at once enlisted and was made a lieutenant in one of the Illinois regiments. He returned home in 1848 with an excellent military record, and commenced the study of law in the office of his uncle, Alexander M. Jenkins, who had formerly been lieutenant-governor of the State.
In 1844, before he had completed his law course, he was elected clerk of Jackson county, and at the expiration of his term of office went to Louisville, Kentucky, where he attended law lectures, and was admitted to the bar in the spring of 1851. In the fall of the same year he was elected to represent Jackson and Franklin counties in the legislature, and from that time has been almost uninterruptedly in the public service, either civil or military.
He was twice elected to the legislature, and in 1854 was a Democratic presidential elector, and cast his vote for James Buchanan.
The year of 1860—the year of the great Lincoln campaign—saw Logan serving his second term in Congress as the representative of the Ninth Illinois Congressional District. Mr. Logan was then a Democrat and an ardent supporter of Stephen A. Douglas, Mr. Lincoln’s opponent. On the floor of Congress he several times in 1860 and 1861 attacked the course of the Southern members.
The war came at last, and Logan was one of the first to enter the Union army. He resigned his seat in Congress in July, 1861, for that purpose, and took a brave part in the first battle of Bull Run. He personally raised the Thirty-first Illinois Regiment of Infantry, and was elected its colonel. The regiment was mustered into service on September 13th, 1861, was attached to General M’Clernand’s brigade, and seven weeks later was under a hot fire at Belmont. During this fight Logan had a horse shot from under him, and was conspicuous in his gallantry in a fierce bayonet charge which he personally led. The Thirty-first, under Logan, quickly became known as a fighting regiment, and distinguished itself at the capture of Forts Henry and Donelson. In this last engagement Logan was severely wounded, and for many weeks unfitted for duty. During his confinement in the hospital his brave wife, with great tact and energy, got through the lines to his bedside, and nursed him until he was able to take the field once more.
“Logan was promoted to the rank of Brigadier-General of Volunteers soon after reporting for duty. This was in March, 1862, and he was soon after hotly engaged in Grant’s Mississippi campaign. In the following year he was asked to return home and go to congress again, but declined with an emphatic statement that he was in the war to stay until he was either disabled or peace was established. Eight months after his promotion to the rank of Brigadier-General he was made a Major-General for exceptional bravery and skill, and was put in command of the Third Division of the Seventeenth Army Corps, under General M’Pherson. After passing through the hot fights of Raymond and Port Gibson, he led the center of General M’Pherson’s command at the siege of Vicksburg, and his column was the first to enter the city after the surrender. He was made the Military Governor of the captured city, and his popularity with the Seventeenth Corps was so great that a gold medal was given to him as a testimonial of the attachment felt for him by the men he led.
“In the following year he led the Army of the Tennessee on the right of Sherman’s great march to the sea. He was in the battles of Resaca and the Little Kenesaw Mountain, and in the desperate engagement of Peach Tree Creek where General M’Pherson fell. The death of M’Pherson threw the command upon Logan, and the close of the bitter engagement which ensued saw 8,000 dead Confederates on the field, while the havoc in the Union lines had been correspondingly great.
“After the fall of Atlanta, which occurred on the 2nd of September, General Logan returned to the North, and took a vigorous part in the Western States in the campaign which resulted in the election of Abraham Lincoln for the second time to the presidency. He rejoined his command at Savannah, and was with it until the surrender of Johnson, after which he went with the army to Washington.
“His military career ended with his nomination in 1866 by the Republicans of Illinois to represent the State as Congressman at-large in the Fortieth Congress. He was elected by 60,000 majority. He was one of the managers on the part of the House of Representatives in the impeachment proceedings which were instituted against Johnson. In 1868 and 1870 he was re-elected to the House, but before he had finished his term under the last election he was elected to the United States Senate to succeed Senator Yates. The last term for which he was elected expires in 1891.
“He took an active part in the last presidential campaign, when he and Mr. Blaine were the candidates on the presidential ticket, and had a strong influence in holding the soldier vote fast in the Republican ranks.”
Mr. Logan’s views in regard to the immortality of the soul was clearly expressed in a speech delivered at the tomb of General Grant on Memorial Day, 1886:
“Was any American soldier immolated upon a blind law of his country? Not one! Every soldier in the Union ranks, whether in the regular army or not, was in the fullest sense a member of the great, the imperishable, the immortal army of American volunteers. These gallant spirits now lie in untimely sepulcher. No more will they respond to the fierce blast of the bugle or the call to arms. But let us believe that they are not dead, but sleeping! Look at the patient caterpillar as he crawls on the ground, liable to be crushed by every careless foot that passes. He heeds no menace, and turns from no dangers. Regardless of circumstances, he treads his daily round, avoided by the little child sporting upon the sward. He has work, earnest work, to perform, from which he will not be turned, even at the forfeit of his life. Reaching his appointed place, he ceases even to eat, and begins to spin those delicate fibres which, woven into fabrics of beauty and utility, contribute to the comfort and adornment of a superior race. His work done, he lies down to the sleep from which he never wakes in the old form. But that silent, motionless body is not dead; an astonishing metamorphosis is taking place. The gross digestive apparatus dwindles away; the three pairs of legs, which served the creature to crawl upon the ground, are exchanged for six pairs suited to a different purpose; the skin is cast; the form is changed; a pair of wings, painted like the morning flowers, spring out, and presently the ugly worm that trailed its slow length through the dust is transformed into the beautiful butterfly, basking in the bright sunshine, the envy of the child and the admiration of the man. Is there no appeal in this wonderful and enchanting fact to man’s highest reason? Does it contain no suggestion that man, representing the highest pinnacle of created life upon the globe, must undergo a final metamorphosis, as supremely more marvelous and more spiritual, as man is greater in physical conformation, and far removed in mental construction from the humble worm that at the call of nature straightway leaves the ground, and soars upon the gleeful air? Is the fact not a thousand-fold more convincing than the assurance of the poet:
“It must be so; Plato, thou reasonest well;
Else whence this pleasing hope, this fond desire,
This longing after immortality?
Or whence this dread secret and inward horror
Of falling into naught? Why shrinks the soul
Back on herself, and startles at destruction?
‘Tis the divinity that stirs within us;
‘Tis heaven itself that points out an hereafter,
And intimates eternity to man,
Eternity! thou pleasing, dreadful thought.”
“On December 26th, 1886, the strong man succumbed to rheumatism. His death was a great shock to his numerous friends throughout the Union, and he was mourned by a great and mighty nation. From the lowly ranks to whom he belonged by birth, to the most exalted circles, the sympathy for the bereaved was genuine.”