Black Jack Logan and Memorial Day

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Freedom is not only a gift, but also a summons to personal responsibility. Americans know this from experience — almost every town in this country has its monuments honoring those who sacrificed their lives in defense of freedom, both at home and abroad.

Pope Benedict, April 16, 2008

John A. Logan is the father of Memorial Day.  Today he is largely forgotten except to Civil War buffs and that is a shame.  He was a fascinating man and he is largely responsible for establishing the tradition of putting aside a day in the calendar to our nation’s war dead.

Logan began the Civil War as a Democrat congressman from southern Illinois.  He was ardently anti-War even after the firing on Fort Sumter, denouncing the Lincoln administration and calling for peace and compromise.  He was attacked as being disloyal to the Union and an almost advocate of the Confederacy.

This perception changed in the twinkling of an eye at the battle of Bull Run.  Like many another congressman he went out to view the Union army launch an attack on the Confederates.  Unlike the other congressmen, Logan picked up a musket and, attaching himself to a Michigan regiment, blazed away at the Confederates with that musket.  This experience transformed Logan into an ardent advocate of the War.

He returned to southern Illinois and gave a fiery speech in Marion, Illinois for the Union that helped swing that section of the state in support of the War.  Resigning from Congress, he helped raise an infantry regiment from southern Illinois, and was made colonel of the regiment, the 31rst Illinois.

Logan quickly made a name for himself as a fighter.  At the battle of Belmont he led his regiment in a successful charge, and was noted for his exceptional courage.  He would eventually be promoted to major general and was one of the best corp commanders in the Union army, briefly commanding the Army of the Tennessee.  He was wounded three times in the War, one of the wounds being serious enough that he was erroneously reported as killed, a report that might have been proven to be accurate if he had not been nursed back  to health by his wife.

Logan was never beaten in any engagement that he fought in during the War.  He was popular with his men who affectionately called him “Black Jack”, and would often chant his name on the battlefield as he led them from the front.  On May 24th 1865, as a tribute to his brilliant war record, he commanded the Army of the Tennessee during the victory Grand Review of the Union armies in Washington.

After the War, Logan began his political career anew, serving as a congressman from Illinois and a senator.  He was now a radical Republican and fought ardently for civil rights for blacks.  He ran for Vice President in 1884 on the Republican ticket that was defeated by Grover Cleveland.  He was considered the leading candidate for the Republican nomination in 1888, and might well have been elected President that year, but for his untimely death in 1886 at the age of sixty.

From 1868 to 1871, Logan served three consecutive terms as commander in chief of the Grand Army of the Republic, the Union veteran’s association.  He started the custom of remembering the Union war dead on May 30th when he issued General Order Eleven on May 5, 1868:

Headquarters, Grand Army of the Republic
Washington, D.C., May 5, 1868

I. The 30th day of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village, and hamlet churchyard in the land. In this observance no form or ceremony is prescribed, but posts and comrades will in their own way arrange such fitting services and testimonials of respect as circumstances may permit.

We are organized, comrades, as our regulations tell us, for the purpose, among other things, “of preserving and strengthening those kind and fraternal feelings which have bound together the soldiers, sailors, and marines who united to suppress the late rebellion.” What can aid more to assure this result than by cherishing tenderly the memory of our heroic dead, who made their breasts a barricade between our country and its foe? Their soldier lives were the reveille of freedom to a race in chains, and their death a tattoo of rebellious tyranny in arms. We should guard their graves with sacred vigilance. All that the consecrated wealth and taste of the Nation can add to their adornment and security is but a fitting tribute to the memory of her slain defenders. Let no wanton foot tread rudely on such hallowed grounds. Let pleasant paths invite the coming and going of reverent visitors and found mourners. Let no vandalism of avarice or neglect, no ravages of time, testify to the present or to the coming generations that we have forgotten, as a people, the cost of free and undivided republic.

If other eyes grow dull and other hands slack, and other hearts cold in the solemn trust, ours shall keep it well as long as the light and warmth of life remain in us.

Let us, then, at the time appointed, gather around their sacred remains and garland the passionless mounds above them with choicest flowers of springtime; let us raise above them the dear old flag they saved from dishonor; let us in this solemn presence renew our pledges to aid and assist those whom they have left among us as sacred charges upon the Nation’s gratitude,–the soldier’s and sailor’s widow and orphan.

II. It is the purpose of the Commander-in-Chief to inaugurate this observance with the hope it will be kept up from year to year, while a survivor of the war remains to honor the memory of his departed comrades. He earnestly desires the public press to call attention to this Order, and lend its friendly aid in bringing it to the notice of comrades in all parts of the country in time for simultaneous compliance therewith.

III. Department commanders will use every effort to make this order effective.

By command of:
JOHN A. LOGAN,
Commander-in-Chief.

N. P. CHIPMAN,
Adjutant-General.

The May 30 Decoration Day events became a fixture of life in the Northern states.  The states of the old Confederacy had similar events to honor their Civil War dead but on different dates, varying from state to state. The term Memorial Day was first used in 1882, but the name Decoration Day remained for the holiday until after World War II.  As Civil War veterans aged and passed from the scene, the day was broadened to remember all of America’s war dead.  The Uniform Monday Holiday Act in 1968 moved Memorial Day to the fourth Monday in May.

And so today we remember those we owe a debt to that can never be repaid.  We put up monuments to them that they cannot, in the flesh, see, give speeches that they cannot hear and write blog posts that they cannot read.   What they accomplished is far beyond “our poor power to add or detract” to, but it is very important that we never forget “what they did”.  Their sacrifices are why we enjoy this day in freedom, and that is worthy of remembrance not just on this day but every day.

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23 Responses to Black Jack Logan and Memorial Day

  • Bye Steve. My tolerance for neo-Confederate rubbish is zero on Memorial Day.

  • As a Virginian I am proud of our Confederate heritage; however, Memorial Day is a day to remember all those who fought and died for the cause of freedom exemplified by America.

    I also like that you call us to recognize our responsibility. In these days, as our military is being abused and deployed for un-American foreign adventures, we must remember that those who serve are responsible for serving, it is the idiots in Washington that misuse their mission. Our military is the finest the world has ever seen and most of them serve with honor. We are also each responsible for doing our part to honor the war dead by fighting for the cause of freedom, which is the exception, not the rule of human history.

    To all the war dead, Requiescat in Pace.

  • Disagree with you AK that our troops are engaged in any “un-American foreign adventures”. However this is a day to honor them and not to engage in debate.

  • Agreed. That was my point, drawing from your post. I just wanted to highlight that no matter how we may feel or think about what are military is doing – the men and women doing it are honorable and deserve our gratitude.

  • Interesting to note that he was a “convert” of sorts to the Union cause, with his “Damascus” moment occurring at Bull Run/First Manassas.

  • In the twinkling of an eye in relative terms Elaine. Like all true converts he was then willing to put his own life on the line.

  • neo-Confederate rubbish

    A jaw-dropping amount of this stuff going around. Including apologias for slavery that could have come from the quill of Calhoun.

    Honoring of the brave soldiers of the Confederacy is mandatory, as are efforts to make sure they aren’t maligned with analogies to 20th Century totalitarianism. But I do not–and will not–understand trying to paint a benevolent face on the peculiar institution.

    Joe Wheeler proudly wore the blue uniform 33 years after Appomattox. Too many of his descendants are trying to figure out how to mass-produce the butternut.

  • Precisely Dale. I honor Lee, Jackson and many another commander of the Confederacy, along with those ragged heroes in the rank who fought bravely against overwhelming odds and, incredibly, came close to winning their lopsided war. However, those who pretend that slavery really wasn’t that bad, that blacks then were better off as slaves, and that secession did not occur in order to safeguard slavery, are simply at war with history.

  • I suppose that the Memorial Day truce is off. ;)

    I think we view this conflict too blindly and with an either or one-sideness. Was it about slavery? In some sense, yes. But it was not ONLY about slavery and evidence indicates that for the powers behind the war, slavery was merely to provide moral cover and not the primary aim. That does not mean we should tolerate or explain away slavery – it is an evil institution especially in its contemporary forms.

    History teaches that many brave men fought for their Southern homeland and most of her values while being vehemently against slavery. Let us also not forget that many in the North profited, even during the war, from the slave trade. Man and his nations are a messy creature.

    Nevertheless, despite lamenting that we lost the war, one very good thing that came out of it was the abolition of African slavery in the USA. Unfortunately the price was very high in lives and damage to the nation, it could have been different, but it wasn’t. Thanks be to God for the brave men who fought, on both sides, and for bringing the good out of our evils once again.

  • As I have said before: Yankee propagandists want to talk ONLY about slavery, even though that wasn’t the justification for making war against the population of the South; Neo-Confederate propagandists want to talk about EVERYTHING BUT slavery, even though the preservation of that institution was the primary justification for secession.

    I know I’m a minority among my American Catholic friends for my “pox on both your houses” view of the War Between the States, but BOTH sides are wrong. NEITHER side can be justified.

    Slavery and secession were unjustifiable blights upon the South’s history. (And Lee was actually opposed to both). But neither will I buy into some Manifest Destiny view of the United States of America One and Undivided in Perpetuity, World Without End, Amen that would justify making war on the populations of the Southern states who no longer wished to be associated with their estranged brethren in the North (regardless of the unjustified reasons for seeking such separation).

  • AK, we have the statements made by virtually all the Confederate leadership at the beginning of the War and the declarations of the causes of secession issued by most of the states indicating that secession was undertaken in defense of slavery. That is a fact beyond question or argument. Now, a different question is whether some ragged private in the ranks was fighting with slavery uppermost in his mind as he risked his life, since he had, in all likelihood, as much chance of purchasing a slave at $800.00 Federal as he did of being elected to the Confederate Congress some day? Probably not. He was fighting to drive out what he perceived as the Union invaders and to allow his people the right to rule themselves, including in regard to the question of slavery. So I can see how the cause of the war and what motivated the average soldier to fight might well have not coincided.

  • Jay, I am a subscriber in regard to the Civil War of what I think the late great Shelby Foote called the Great Truce:

    1. Southerners concede that it was a good thing that as a result of the Civil War that slavery was ended and the Union preserved.

    2. Northerners concede that Southerners in the Civil War fought with great determination and courage for a cause they believed right.

    I would add to this my own observation:

    3. If the Civil War taught us nothing else it taught us that we are one people: Union, Confederate, black and white.

  • Right, but the issue is not really the immorality of slavery, is it? Just because one state or a combination of states permit a morally offensive practice, does not justify an armed invasion of those states by some combination of other states.

    Slavery was, as a result of compromises at the time of the founding, constitutional. Hence, no matter what the feelings of moral superiority were that festered in the North, no legal or moral sanction existed to invade the South.

    Lincoln of course recognized this, famously stating that if he could keep the union without freeing a single slave he would do it: maintenance of the union was the sole war aim when the fighting began. Only later did Lincoln opportunistically seize on abolition as a war aim.

    I suppose some might hold that the constitution can be thrown overboard and ignored when we don’t like the outcomes it permits, but that’s a pretty dangerous road to travel.

    In sum, it’s a moral good that slavery was abolished, but it was a constitutional disaster, the effects of which we still suffer today as we watch the constitution routinely ignored or violated in the name of some supposed greater good.

    Maybe Mark Shea could chime in about constitutional “consequentialism”?

  • Please Tom do not invoke His Sheaness! :)

    Lincoln was clear in the campaign of 1860 that he had no intention of trying to free the slaves in the South, a theme he echoed throughout his career. He also was quite clear that slavery was a vast moral evil and that preventing it spreading into new territories was his goal, in hopes that without new areas to expand to slavery would eventually die out. Considering the devastating impact of long term plantation cultivation on the productivity of soil in a time before modern fertilizers, Lincoln may have been right about that long term, since the opening of new land for plantation cultivation was a key element in the economics of slavery in the South.

    If the pro-slavery forces in the South had taken him at his word, Lincoln would doubtless have spent a frustrating one term as President, with there being more than enough Democrat votes in the Senate to block almost all of his initiatives. Instead, by seceding, the pro-slavery forces in the South signed the death knell of the Peculiar Institution since it was only through War that slavery was going to be ended anytime soon, and War would follow secession as night would follow day, something two previous Southern Presidents, Andrew Jackson and Zachary Taylor, well understood.

  • Donald,

    If slavery is the backbone of your economic system and the sovereignty of your state secures it, then a threat to the slave economy is a threat to the states’ sovereignty. The issue could have been something else and sovereignty would still be the primary reason. Is it right to end slavery? Without a doubt. Is that what Lincoln intended? Not initially and neither did the Founders. Some were slave owners, others were not, yet slavery, immoral as it is, was codified in the US Constitution. Lincoln had no right to invade the South in order to end it and it could have been done for less cost in blood and treasure.

    All of the above can be discussed and debated; however, the principal cause of war, as always, is the lust for power and money. European powers, driven by transnational financial interests, agitated for and were prepared to enter war in order to divide the Union and weaken an emergent USA. In winning the war the way the war was won and with the evil military occupation following, the character of this Union was so dramatically changed that we are seeing the fruits of it today as we lose our liberties and tilt toward being absorbed by a regional politco-economic entity or worse a global one. Each and every state and commonwealth in this Union is sovereign with a voluntary transfer of some of that power to the Federal Branch. Thanks to Lincoln’s war, that concept is almost forgotten and the Union will die by the same sword it raised against the South.

  • . Lincoln had no right to invade the South in order to end it and it could have been done for less cost in blood and treasure.

    He didn’t “invade” the South to end slavery. Lincoln engaged in war because several states illegally seceded.

    the principal cause of war, as always, is the lust for power and money

    Yes, the slaveholders who agitated for rebellion indeed lusted for power and money.

    European powers, driven by transnational financial interests, agitated for and were prepared to enter war in order to divide the Union and weaken an emergent USA.

    This is a non sequiter, and also historically dubious. Sure the European powers delighted in the prospect of an America divided, and initially some of them thought of intervening on the Confederacy’s behalf both to preserve their vital supply of cotton and to weaken the United States as a whole. But they remained neutral throughout the conflict.

    . In winning the war the way the war was won and with the evil military occupation following, the character of this Union was so dramatically changed that we are seeing the fruits of it today as we lose our liberties and tilt toward being absorbed by a regional politco-economic entity or worse a global one.

    A cursory glance at the history of this country in the immediate aftermath of the Civil War shows this statement to be false. Neo-Confederates often trot out this argument without demonstrating an ample connection between the Civil War and the growth of the federal government. But little changed in terms of federalism and the reach of the government until the Progressive era, particularly the New Deal. It was the post New Deal Court that did much of the damage to our original constitutional constraints, not the Civil War.

  • The Federal government shrank back to where it was approximately before the Civil War after the Civil War. For example, the US Army in 1875 consisted of some 25,000 troops, an insignificant increase from the 16,000 in 1860. Paul is correct that the permanent growth in the size and scope of the Federal government was a 20th Century phenomenon.

    “and it could have been done for less cost in blood and treasure.”

    Lincoln was in favor of compensated emancipation both prior to the War and during the War. The slaveholders of the South had zero interest in surrendering their slaves for compensation.

    “neither did the Founders”

    Actually the Founders, including the slave holding Founding Fathers, thought that slavery was wrong and that it soon would die out. That is why they took such anti-slavery initiatives as banning slavery in the NorthWest Territory and banning the international slave trade as of 1808 in the Constitution. Many of the Founding Fathers took the lead in their states of efforts to ban slavery. Many of the slave owning Founding Fathers emancipated some of their slaves with Washington freeing all of his slaves in his will and providing them legacies in his will to train them in trades so they could support themselves and their families. The Founding Fathers did not envisage slavery as a permanent institution which is how it was regarded by most slave holders by 1860.

  • Author: Paul Zummo
    Comment: “He didn’t “invade” the South to end slavery. Lincoln engaged in war because several states illegally seceded.”

    AK: How is it illegal to withdraw the powers that states freely granted their creature the General government? The states were merely reclaiming that which they had agreed to part ways with so long as that power was not abused. It was not illegal because the creature cannot be the master of its creators. The states didn’t build Skynet, they created a general government to protect them, not attack them.

    “Yes, the slaveholders who agitated for rebellion indeed lusted for power and money.”

    AK: Sure, the slaveholders were the elite and the wealthy, but rubes compared to the Yankee bankers from New York. The lust for power has always been the motive of men with no God, no country and only the desire for more. As bad as the small percentage of Southerners who owned slaves may have been, they are minor players compared to the WASP Yankee-British New York/New England elite.

    “This is a non sequiter, and also historically dubious. Sure the European powers delighted in the prospect of an America divided, and initially some of them thought of intervening on the Confederacy’s behalf both to preserve their vital supply of cotton and to weaken the United States as a whole. But they remained neutral throughout the conflict.”

    AK: None of them expected Lee to win as often and for as long as he did. First Manassas was supposed to have been the whole war. In any event, if they couldn’t divide the USA, they would take us apart more slowly.

    “A cursory glance at the history of this country in the immediate aftermath of the Civil War shows this statement to be false. Neo-Confederates often trot out this argument without demonstrating an ample connection between the Civil War and the growth of the federal government. But little changed in terms of federalism and the reach of the government until the Progressive era, particularly the New Deal. It was the post New Deal Court that did much of the damage to our original constitutional constraints, not the Civil War.”

    How do we think we ‘progressed’ into the progressive era? The example of Washington actually forcing its demands on sovereign states served as an even more powerful threat than the initial invasion of the Confederacy. How do you think they got Congress to authorize the several trillion dollars used in the bailouts, TARP, etc. beginning late 2008? They threatened martial law, which is essentially war on the American people, just like the War for Southern Independence/of Northern Aggression. I think it is naive of you to dismiss this and I would suggest instead of always attacking me as Neo-Confederate, perhaps you should check your own paradigm. After all, as Catholics we should be seeking the truth and we know that we are flawed, yet we cannot pretend the principalities and powers of this present darkness do not exist. They most certainly do and they usually operate unseen and most of them are invisible.

  • In regard to the expansion of the Federal government in the 20th century AK, the White Democrats who had a monopoly on political power there until the Sixties were nomally cheering it on. The only problem they had with the expansion of the power and scope of the Feds tended to be when the Feds began enforcing civil rights for blacks. The idea that but for the Civil War there would have been no expansion in the power of the Federal government is simply a myth. The Confederate government during the Civil War, as a war measure, took on supervision of the economy of the South to an extent not reached by the Federal government until World War II. The thing that distinguished North and South was not a different view of the role of the Federal government, but a different view of slavery. The Civil War of the 19th century has nothing to do with the expansion of the Federal government in the 20th century.

  • European powers, driven by transnational financial interests, agitated for and were prepared to enter war in order to divide the Union and weaken an emergent USA.

    During the Civil War, the only European power that mattered was Britain, given both her matchless fleet and proximity to the conflict. The closest the Union came to war with Britain was over the Trent Affair, and that was smoothed over by the good offices of the Prince Consort, Albert, who talked the British government away from the war drums. There were segments of British elite opinion that were pro-Confederacy, but they were more than counterbalanced by pro-Union sentiment both in the elites and amongst the working class. The latter of which were pro-Union almost to a man, even in the mills of Lancashire. The issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation shifted sentiments in an even more pro-Union sentiment in Britain, and pretty well ended talk of intervention.

    Yes, Napoleon III’s France was, if anything, more pro-Confederate, but lacked the military wherewithal to do anything decisive without British acquiescence.

    Imperial Russia made pro-Union noises, and even a couple of highly publicized naval visits to Union ports, but this was likely motivated more by interests in pulling Britain’s nose than anything else. Still, Tsar Alexander II, the liberator of the serfs, stated his approval of emancipation, and his opinion counted more than anyone else’s in Russia.

  • In regard to the expansion of the Federal government in the 20th century AK, the White Democrats who had a monopoly on political power there until the Sixties were nomally cheering it on.

    Especially white *southern* Democrats, who were, racial issues aside, quite progressive. Huey Long didn’t emerge like Athena from the brow of Zeus–he was the culmination of a long line of populist white Democrats (James Vardaman, Theodore Bilbo) who were quite in favor of governmental solutions.

  • Er, yeah–“monopoly on political power there” would pretty much mean the South, making my initial clause rather…repetitive. Sorry for the reading incomprehension.

  • “He didn’t “invade” the South to end slavery. Lincoln engaged in war because several states illegally seceded.”

    Secession may not have been morally justifiable under those particular circumstances, but “illegal” is quite a stretch. In fact, it’s nothing more than an ex post facto appraisal by the victorious side. Had the South won the war, the “legality” of secession would have been rendered in the other direction. The only thing that made the American Revolution “legal”, for example, was its success; had the venture turned out differently, history would have recorded it as an illegal insurrection in which all the treasonous ring leaders were hanged.

    But even apart from whether it was “legal” or morally justifiable for the South to secede, that is a different question from whether it was morally justifiable for Lincoln to make war against the populations of those Southern states out of some Manifest Destiny notion of the The United States of America One and Indivisible in Perpetuity, World Without End, Amen. I conclude that it was not, and that Lincoln’s decision to wage war actually expanded the secession crisis by pushing states like Virginia into the arms of the secessionists.

    Of course, my friend Paul and I have had this debate before, and neither of us is ever going to change the other’s mind.

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