Who Is Generally Considered The Founder of Memorial Day? The Story of Gen. John A. Logan

Published on:

May 18, 2021


Generally regarded as the founder of Memorial Day, John Alexander Logan (February 9, 1826 – December 26, 1886), known as “Black Jack” because of his sallow look and jet-black hair and mustache, was an American General in the Union Army and politician who served in the United States House of Representatives and Senate and was a nominee for vice president.

Facts About John Alexander Logan

  • He was a general of the Union Army during the American Civil War and participated in the Mexican–American War.
  • He was a State Senator, a Congressman, and a United States Senator for the state of Illinois, and he ran for Vice President of the United States with James G. Blaine in the 1884 election.
  • Originally known as Decoration Day, He is considered the most prominent figure in the campaign to recognize Memorial Day.
  • Logan commemorated Memorial Day on May 30, 1868, to honor the contributions and sacrificed of Civil War soldiers as the 3rd Commander-in-Chief of the Grand Army of the Republic.
  • Logan’s interest in commemorating fallen soldiers originated after his wife, Mary Simmerson Cunningham Logan. Mrs. Logan joined General William Tecumseh Sherman on a tour of southern battlefields in the spring of 1868. She observed that she had seen Confederate graves adorned with roses and remarked to her husband that “Union soldiers who had won the war deserved no less.”
  • General Logan issued GAR General Order No. 11, which proclaimed May 30 as Decoration Day for “the intent of strewing with flowers or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country.”
  • He almost became the President. Before succumbing to the symptoms of rheumatism in 1886, Logan was generally considered the front-runner to become the 23rd President of the United States.
  • He was the father of Medal of Honor recipient and U.S. Army officer John Alexander Logan Jr. (1865–1899).

Logan Memorialized

Logan was memorialized for his contribution both during the war and politically. Logan is also one of only three people named in the state song of Illinois. His likeness can be seen on a monument in Washington, D.C.’s Logan Circle. In Grant Park in Chicago, Illinois, he is commemorated with a monument. Logan County, Kansas, Logan County, Oklahoma, Logan County, Colorado, Logan County, North Dakota, and Logan Square, Chicago, were selected to commemorate Illinois’ centennial. 

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