Saturday, December 14, 2013

Photo of the Day: General Logan Statue, DC

I took the photo accompanying this post in the third week of November, when I was on a short vacation in Washington, DC.  Looking to take in the sights within a relatively short walk from my bed and breakfast in the Adams-Morgan district, I stumbled, by accident, upon Logan Circle. Many of the residences in the eight-block historic district surrounding this circle (part of Major Pierre L’Enfant’s original plan for the capital) were built from 1875 to 1900—which, as it happened, turned out to be the period when the move to honor the soldier at the center of this circle gathered momentum.

I wonder how many of the drivers and pedestrians in this bustling, high-demand neighborhood who have ever come within sight of the bronze equestrian statue from which the circle takes its name have any idea of the man it celebrates. For anyone who ever wondered: General John Logan was actually one of the Union Army’s better “political generals,” or high-level appointees meant to placate an important constituency. Elected to the House of Representatives as a Democrat from Illinois, he immediately resigned his seat when war broke out the following year, despite the southern sympathies he had displayed before Fort Sumter.

Logan rose from volunteer to major general, commanding the Army of the Tennessee. A veteran of eight major campaigns, wounded in one (Fort Donelson), he is considered among the greatest volunteer generals of the war. Over the course of the war, as he became increasingly exposed to the plight of the freedmen, he became increasingly abolitionist in sympathy, to the point that Abraham Lincoln's secretary John Hay noted in an 1863 diary entry that the President now found his fellow resident of Illinois so "splendid" that he had "absolved him in his mind of all the wrong he ever did."

Logan may be best known for his major postwar act: his 1868 issuance of an order, as commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, calling for what eventually became Memorial Day. But he also returned to Capitol Hill, this time as a Republican Senator from Illinois, and in 1884 ran unsuccessfully for Vice-President.

The 1901 ceremony marking the dedication of the Logan statue by Franklin Simmons (who made something of a specialty of historical figures) was attended by President William McKinley, the last Civil War veteran to serve in the White House. So beloved was Logan by the men he commanded that in 1939, when one of the them, 95-year-old Alexander H. Roberts, lay dying, he comforted his family by saying, "Don't worry about me. I'm going to be with Logan."

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