Author: John A. Logan

John A. Logan, c. 1886-7, photo by Dewitt C. Pratt

Born in Murphysboro, Illinois, John Alexander Logan (1826–86) lived a life divided between politics and military service. After volunteering as a soldier in the Mexican War in 1846, Logan studied law at the University of Louisville. He was elected to the US House of Representatives in 1859, retiring in 1862 to join the Union Army. During the Civil War, Logan became a major general, leading the Union forces at the Battle of Atlanta. After the war, he returned to his political career, serving as a US Representative from 1867–71 and as a US Senator from 1871–77 and 1879–86. In 1884, he was nominated by the Republican Party as its candidate for the vice presidency of the United States; he and his running mate—James G. Blaine—lost in the general election to Grover Cleveland and Thomas A. Hendricks. Logan also helped found the Grand Army of the Republic, a Union veterans’ association. While serving as the organization’s commander in chief in 1868, he issued a proclamation designating May 30 as “Decoration Day,” a day to remember and honor those who died serving our country by placing flowers and other decorations upon their graves. This day later became known as Memorial Day.

General Orders No. 11

John A. Logan

Our current holiday of Memorial Day traces its origins to this document. John A. Logan (1826–86) was a Mexican War veteran and congressman from Illinois when, in 1862, he resigned his seat to join the Union Army. After the war, he resumed his political career, first as senator and later as an (unsuccessful) candidate for vice president, and also helped found the Grand Army of the Republic, a Union veteran’s organization, leading the effort to establish a holiday in memory of the soldiers who died in defense of the Union.