American Civil War: Major General John A. Logan

Major General John A. Logan. Public Domain

John A. Logan - Early Life & Career:

Born near Murphysboro, IL on February 9, 1826, John Alexander Logan was the son of a successful farmer and doctor who later served in the state legislature.  Receiving a mix of formal and informal education, he attended Shiloh College between the ages of fourteen and seventeen.  With the outbreak of the Mexican-American War, Logan sought to join the military.  Though he obtained a commission as a second lieutenant, he was mustered out in 1848 without seeing combat.

  Returning home, Logan attended law school at Louisville University before accepting as position as a prosecuting attorney.  Holding this job briefly, he decided to enter politics and won his father's former seat in the Illinois House of Representatives in 1852.

A Democrat, Logan held similar views to many in southern Illinois which included an aversion to abolition and strict enforcement of fugitive slave laws.  Arriving in Springfield, he proved a gifted and fiery orator and quickly gained a position of prominence within the party.  In 1858, Logan supported and spoke on behalf of Senator Stephen A. Douglas who was engaged in a race with Abraham Lincoln.  Elected to the US House of Representatives that year, he endorsed the concept of popular sovereignty in regard to the expansion of slavery but personally believed that it would not expand into the West.  With the election of Lincoln in 1860, Logan began to distance himself from his party as he ardently felt that the Union should be preserved.

John Logan - The Civil War Begins:

With the Confederate attack on Fort Sumter and beginning of the Civil War in April 1861, Logan continued to hold his seat in Congress.  That July, he attached himself as a volunteer to the 2nd Michigan Volunteers and fought at the First Battle of Bull Run.  Returning home, Logan worked to raise the 31st Illinois Volunteers and was appointed the regiment's colonel.

  Assigned to Brigadier General John A. McClernand's brigade, the regiment first saw combat that November when Brigadier General Ulysses S. Grant advanced on Belmont, MO.  In the resulting battle, Logan's men aided in driving Brigadier General Gideon Pillow's men from their camp.  Earning the nickname "Black Jack" from his men for his dark hair and complexion, Logan's performance was singled out by McClernand.

In February, Logan and his men moved south as Grant captured Fort Henry and moved against Fort Donelson.  Holding the extreme Union right along the Cumberland River near Fort Donelson, the 31st Illinois came under heavy attack on February 15.  Attempting to hold the line, Logan was wounded twice and his men forced to fall back.  Recognizing his strong performance during the fighting, Grant personally recommended him for promotion to brigadier general after the battle.  Taking a brief leave to recover, Logan formally received his promotion on March 21 and resigned from Congress on April 2.  Returning to the army after the Battle of Shiloh, he took command of a brigade which included his old regiment.

John Logan - Rise to Prominence:

Serving in the Army of the Tennessee, Logan later rose to division command as Union forces operated in northern Mississippi.

  When Grant reorganized the army in late 1862, Logan assumed command of a division in Major General James B. McPherson's newly-created XVII Corps.  In early 1863, he received a promotion to major general to be dated from November 29, 1862.  Through the winter and spring, Logan's men took part in Grant's operations against Vicksburg on the Mississippi River.  Moving south of Vicksburg on the west bank, Grant's army crossed the river at the end of April and began advancing east towards Jackson.  On May 12, Logan's division played a key role in defeating Confederate forces at the Battle of Raymond.  Four days later, his men contributed to the victory at Champion Hill which forced Lieutenant General John C. Pemberton's Confederate troops to begin retreating to the Vicksburg defenses. 

Advancing to Vicksburg, Logan's men took part in the failed Union assaults on May 19 and 22.

  Unable to break through, Grant commenced a siege of the city.  As the siege progressed, troops from Logan's division built a mine under the Confederate lines.  Detonated on July 25, the follow on assault failed to penetrate into the city.  When the city finally surrendered on July 4, Grant designated Logan's division to be the first to enter Vicksburg.  After overseeing the initial rebuilding of the city, he took leave from the army and traveled home where he spoke in favor of the war.  

John Logan - XV Corps:

Returning to Mississippi in September, Logan resumed command of his division which was tasked with eliminating Confederate raiders in that state and across the river in Louisiana.  In the spring of 1864, Grant shifted east to take overall command of Union armies and Major General William T. Sherman assumed his position in the west.  Reorganizing his troops for the campaign against Atlanta, he promoted Logan to lead XV Corps in McPherson's Army of the Tennessee.  Leading the army's advance into Georgia, Logan's men took part in the Battle of Resaca in mid-May as Sherman clashed with General Joseph E. Johnston.  Continuing to maneuver against Johnston through May, Union forces fought several minor engagements as they worked their way south.  During the course of these, Logan sustained a light wound at Dallas on May 28.

A month later, on June 27, XV Corps attacked Confederate forces at the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain and was repelled with heavy losses.  Nearing Atlanta in July, Sherman ordered McPherson's army to the left of the Union advance.

  This saw Logan and his men attack the Georgia Railroad on July 18.  As McPherson moved east of the city, Confederate troops, now led by General John Bell Hood, attacked Major General George Thomas' Army of the Cumberland at Peachtree Creek on July 20.  Though bloodily repulsed, Hood moved to attack McPherson two days later at the Battle of Atlanta.  Exploiting a gap between XVI and XVII Corps, Confederate forces initially gained ground in fighting that saw McPherson killed. 

Tapped to lead the army, Logan succeeded holding his own lines to the north while organizing a defense that halted the enemy to the south.  In the wake of the fighting, Sherman, ever distrustful of political generals, elected to appoint Major General Oliver O. Howard, a West Pointer, to lead the Army of Tennessee rather than allow Logan to remain in the post.  Though he viewed this as a personal slight and considered resigning, Logan continued to perform well leading XV Corps and played a key role in turning the Confederates back at Ezra Church on July 28.  At the end of August, XV Corps aided in the victory at Jonesborough which compelled Hood to abandon Atlanta. 

John Logan - Later War:

On September 21, at the request of Congressman Elihu Washburne and Secretary of War Edwin Stanton, Logan took leave from his corps to return to Illinois.  There he actively campaigned for Lincoln's reelection.  In early December, Logan traveled to City Point, VA to meet with Grant.  Increasingly frustrated with Thomas' apparent reluctance to attack Hood near Nashville, Grant dispatched Logan to Tennessee with orders to relieve Thomas if he had not attacked before his arrival.

  Reaching Louisville, he learned that Thomas had destroyed Hood's army at the Battle of Nashville.  Alerting Grant of this development, Logan asked to return to XV Corps. 

This was approved and Logan rejoined his men during Sherman's Carolinas Campaign.  Taking part in the Battle of Bentonville, he stayed with XV Corps until Johnston's surrender at Bennett Place on April 26.  On May 19, Logan was finally appointed commander of the Army of the Tennessee and led it during the Grand Review of the Army of the West in Washington, DC.  Leaving the army in late July, he quickly moved to resume his political career. 

John Logan - Postwar:

Elected to Congress in 1867, Logan served as one of the managers for the impeachment of President Andrew Johnson.  Serving as a Republican, he was also the second Commander-in-Chief of the Grand Army of the Republic (1868-1871) and an early advocate for the creation of Memorial Day.  Moving to the Senate in 1871, Logan served as James G. Blaine's running mate in the 1884 presidential election.  Losing to Grover Cleveland and Thomas A. Hendricks, he returned the Senate.  Two years later, Logan fell ill in December as the 49th US Congress began its session.  Suffering through the month, he died in Washington, DC on December 26, 1886.  His remains were interred in what is now the United States Soldiers' and Airmen's Home National Cemetery. 

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Hickman, Kennedy. "American Civil War: Major General John A. Logan." ThoughtCo, Aug. 12, 2015, thoughtco.com/major-general-john-a-logan-3571804. Hickman, Kennedy. (2015, August 12). American Civil War: Major General John A. Logan. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/major-general-john-a-logan-3571804 Hickman, Kennedy. "American Civil War: Major General John A. Logan." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/major-general-john-a-logan-3571804 (accessed November 22, 2017).