Grand Army of the Republic
John Alexander Logan was born February 9, 1826 in what is now Murphysboro, Illinois. Raised in a home that was a center of political activity, he came to love politics at an early age. In 1840 his father, Dr. John Logan, sent him to Shiloh Acadame at Shiloh Hill, Illinois to complete his education.
Logan volunteered for the Mexican War in 1846. He saw no combat, but did travel to Santa Fe, where he served as post quartermaster and learned Spanish. After the war. he attended law school at Louisville University; married Mary S. Cunningham at Shawneetown; and began a political career that led from county clerk to U.S. Congressman.
At the onset of the Civil War, he fought at Bull Run as a civilian. Logan volunteered for the war and rose from colonel to major general. Fighting in eight major campaigns he distinguised himself at Vicksburg and commanded the entire Union forces at the Battle of Atlanta. At the war's end, he saved Raleigh, North Carolina from being burned by angry Union troops. Many historians consider him the premier volunteer general of the Civil War.
After the Civil War, General Logan returned to Congress. His concern for veterans led him to take part in Illinois' first veterans memorial services at Woodlawn Cemetery in Carbondale in 1866. In 1868, he he was elected as Commander-in-Chief of the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR). He was reelected to the same position in 1869 and 1870. On May 5, 1868, GAR Commander-in-Chief Logan issued General Order Number 11 which established Memorial Day.
In 1871 and again in 1874, Logan was elected to the U.S. Senate. Throughout his political career, he was a strong advocate for veterans rights and public education. In 1884, he was James G. Blaines' vice-presidental running mate. During the campaign, Logan commissioned the painting that became the center for Atlanta's famed Cyclorama.
John A. Logan died December 26, 1886 in Washington D.C. and is buried at Soldier Cemetery.