Battle of June 9, 1864
Ladies' Memorial Association
Grand Army of the Republic
Mrs. Logan Inspired by Memorial Observances in Petersburg
General Order Number 11
GRAND ARMY OF THE REPUBLIC
The Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) is the Union Army veterans' organization. It was founded April 6, 1866 by Chaplain William J. Rutledge and Colonel B. F. Stephenson, Surgeon, of the 14th Illinois Infantry Regiment. They had thought of the idea while camped in February 1864 during the Civil War (extracted from Washington's The Evening Star, September 12, 1892, summarizing the GAR convention that year, in the Logan Family Papers, Library of Congress). General John Alexander Logan helped organize the GAR and provided much of the inspiration, leadership and guidance for the GAR.
General Logan became the first Commander in Chief of the GAR. He was the son of Dr. John Logan. Logan County in Illinois is named for Dr. Logan. John Alexander Logan was born in Jackson County, Illinois, in 1826. He was raised in a strict, partriotic, Scots-Irish family and educated in both public and private schools. He volunteered for and served in the Army during the Mexican War, then went to Louisville University for a degree in law. After service in the Illinois House of Representatives, he was elected in 1858 to the U.S. House of Representatives. His wife was the former Mary Simmerson Cunningham of Missouri. When the Civil War began, Logan volunteered for service and was given command of the 31st Illinois Volunteer Infantry. He was seriously wounded in the battle of Fort Donelson, his unit having lost half its number in the battle. General Grant gave him a battlefield promotion to Brigadier General. Later, as a Major General, Logan led the Army of the Tennessee during General Sherman's operations in the South. After the war, Logan returned to the Congress as a Representative later Senator from Illinois.
On May 30, 1870, Logan gave an Oration "Delivered upon the occasion of the Decoration of Union Soldiers' Graves at the National Cemetery, Arlington, Va." (Logan Family Papers) In his oration, Logan reminds the attendees that the Grand Army of the Republic began the National Memorial Day. He gives the background of memorial days:
Homage to fallen heroes is not an invention of our days. History beams with examples how various nations in various ages have honored their patriot dead. It was a custom established by the laws of Athens that the obsequies of those who had fallen for their country in battle should be performed in the most public and solemn manner. The bones of the slain were gathered on the plains or mountains, and were brought in solemn procession to the city. There, in tents, they were guarded in state, and received the votive offerings of friends and relatives, such as flowers, weapons, and precious ornaments, which were brought as tributes of affection and evidence of the proper appreciation of their services. ... Where such a custom existed, it is not to be marveled at that patriotism and love of country burned in every Grecian breast with a flame which a thousand years of oppression and tyranny were unable to crush out. ... Can we be surprised that in such hearts the memory of Thermopylae and Marathon was always fresh? And shall we, the freest of all nations, in our paradise of liberty feel less patriotic fire in our breasts ... ? Shall we neglect the graves of those who sacrificed their lives to defend the palladium of our liberty, to perpetuate our national unity, and shield our rights forever? ... This Memorial Day, on which we decorate their graves with the tokens of love and affection, is no idle ceremony with us, to pass away an hour; but it brings back to our minds in all their vividness the fearful conflicts of that terrible war in which they fell as victims. ... Let us , then, all unite in the solemn feelings of the hour, and tender with our flowers the warmest sympathies of our souls! Let us revive our patriotism and love of country by this act, and strengthen our loyalty by the example of the noble dead around us....
As we can see from this short extract from his oration, it was General Logan who gave impetus and meaning to the mission of the Grand Army of the Republic in its early days of observance of the National Memorial Day.
General, then Senator, Logan ran for Vice President on the ticket with Presidential aspirant James G. Blaine in 1884. Logan died in Washington of complications from his war wounds in 1886. (Web pages of the General John A. Logan Museum.)