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Black Jack Logan: An Extraordinary Life in Peace and War
     

Black Jack Logan: An Extraordinary Life in Peace and War

by Gary Ecelbarger
 
His legacy was Memorial Day. He was a dominant player in the politics of the Gilded Age, a three-term senator who was as popular as he was partisan. He was the vice-presidential candidate in the losing race in 1884. Had he not died unexpectedly at the age of sixty, he may likely have become president in 1888. He entered the political scene in 1859 with controversy, a

Overview

His legacy was Memorial Day. He was a dominant player in the politics of the Gilded Age, a three-term senator who was as popular as he was partisan. He was the vice-presidential candidate in the losing race in 1884. Had he not died unexpectedly at the age of sixty, he may likely have become president in 1888. He entered the political scene in 1859 with controversy, a Northern (Illinois) congressman so committed to enforcing the Fugitive Slave laws that abolitionists dubbed him "Dirty Work" Logan.
The Civil War made him a star. But more than that, it was the epiphany that changed his political and social values. He changed his philosophy, changed political parties, and fought for the rights of African Americans and for women's suffrage. He witnessed his first battle as a United States congressman, but became so impassioned with the fury of the fight that he picked up a discarded rifle and battled alongside the foot soldiers. Officially entering the war as a colonel, he served under such legends as Ulysses S.
Grant and William Tecumsah Sherman, and his ostentatious nature and solid leadership on the battlefield earned him rapid promotions and dominant roles in the decisive campaigns of the war. By 1865 he was a major general leading an army, and was considered the best volunteer soldier that the war produced.
He may be the most noteworthy nineteenth-century American to escape notice in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. His name is John Alexander Logan, known in his time as Black Jack Logan, and this, finally, is the book he deserves.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781592285662
Publisher:
Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
Publication date:
07/01/2005
Pages:
400
Product dimensions:
6.28(w) x 9.24(h) x 1.48(d)

Read an Excerpt

On June 19, while on the streets of Springfield, Logan and McClernand met a previous acquaintance walking with an officer whom neither had seen before. The man was a newly appointed colonel, placed in command of the 21st Illinois. Though born in Ohio, he was considered one of Illinois' own, spending the past two years of his life in Galena near the northwest corner of the state. He was far from commanding by his presence, average looking, and perhaps a bit disheveled, with a slight 135-pound build covering a five-foot-eight-inch frame. The acquaintance introduced him to the congressmen and, for the first time, Logan shook hands with Colonel Ulysses S. Grant.

Grant's pressing problem in June of 1861 was his new regiment. The 21st Illinois was transitioning from three months' state service to a three-year volunteer United States service. Colonel Grant was concerned that grumbling members of the unit would walk away from their duty; he would know in just a few days, as this was the time to muster the men into protracted service. They were already down to 600 members, and Grant feared that he would not be able to retain half of them in the coming week.

The friend who introduced Grant to the politicians asked Grant if Logan and McClernand could help him by speaking to his disaffected troops. Grant hesitated a moment. He had never met the congressmen before. He had heard much about Logan, but his opinion formed on him was based primarily on negative reports from Illinois' partisan newspapers. Grant admitted that his impressions of Logan "were those formed from reading denunciations of him."...Grant fretted about Logan breaking his silence with an address to his men."I had some doubt as to the effect a speech by Logan might have," remembered Grant about the moment; "but as he was with McClernand, whose sentiments on the all-absorbing questions of the day were well know, I gave my consent."

With that, Logan and McClernand followed Grant to Camp Yates in the Springfield fairgrounds to address his regiment. Officers and men gathered in front of the grandstand at Camp Yates to take in the addresses. McClernand spoke first and, after a fairly short performance, introduced Logan to the troops. Grant paid very close attention to Logan's 0words. No one could fault the colonel if he bit his lip when Logan stepped forward to speak. He was still concerned that Logan would demagogue by haranguing the North in his first public address since February.

Logan rendered Grant's trepidation unnecessary. He began by light-heartedly teasing the men about returning home without fighting a battle, done so in a way to capture their attention rather than alienate them. From there, Logan seized the moment with a forceful and eloquent speech. His words exuded pure patriotism as he spilled his passion about preserving the Union to Grant's unruly regiment. Logan's appeal penetrated the souls of the three-month troops; almost to a man they mustered in as three-year soldiers. An officer of the regiment rated it "a ringingly loyal speech." The most affected member of Grant's regiment was Grant himself. He credited Logan's mesmerizing address as the impetus for near-unanimous enlistmment. "It breathed a loyalty and devotion to the Union," wrote Grant, "which inspired my men to such a point that they would have volunteered to remain in the army as long as an enemy of the country continued to bear arms against it."

Logan did not realize that he had wiped away a poor first impression from one of the most influential people on his subsequent career. No doubt Colonel Ulysses S. Grant offered his most sincere thanks to Logan as the two clasped hands that June afternoon at Camp Yates. Logan left a new admirer at the campsite on the 21st Illinois to oversee an invigorated regiment, neither realizing that this was the first union of a powerful American friendship that would span nearly a quarter of a century.

Meet the Author

Gary Ecelbarger is the author of “You’re in for it!”: The First Battle of Kernstown,
March 23, 1862, an editors’ choice of the History Book Club; and Frederick W. Lander: The Great Natural American Soldier. He lives in Virginia.

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