Thursday, May 17, 2018

Black Jack: John A. Logan and Southern Illinois in the Civil War Era (Shawnee Classics) Hardcover – July 1, 1995 by Professor James Pickett Jones PhD (Author), John Y Simon (Foreword) (Southern Illinois University Press)

John Logan was considered one of the best "political generals" in the Union Army, rising in rank from a private at First Bull Run to general only a few months later while under U.S. Grant's command. Before the war he was a US Congressman representing southern Illinois (called "Egypt"); he was a Democrat and a major critic of Lincoln. By the end of the war Logan had switched parties and had won a surprising victory to Congress as a Republican. Although not a full biography (it ends with his return to Congress in 1867), Jones has written a workmanlike account of Logan's early life and political career, and especially his role in the army during the war.

Logan was born in Illinois in 1826, fought in the Mexican War, and began practicing law by 1851. A staunch Democrat (southern Illinois, his district, was rural, Democratic, and Southern in sympathy), he was elected to the Illinois legislature in 1852. He served a number of terms before being elected to Congress in 1858. An anti-abolitionist, he felt much of the troubles facing the nation in 1860 was caused by "the impertinent spirit of the anti-slavery party of the North." But he believed in the preservation of the Union above all things, and when war broke out he was among the first to heed the call to arms.

He was with Grant at Belmont, MO, and Fort Donelson, distinguishing himself at both places. He took part in the Vicksburg campaign and served under McPherson during the Atlanta campaign, taking over command of the XVII Corps upon McPherson's death in July 1864. Sherman relieved him, however, only days later, a move that drew Logan's wrath. Logan continued to serve, though, participating in the famous march to the sea and once again commanding the Army of the Tennessee from May to August 1865. After the war Logan returned to Illinois and ran for Congress again, this time as a Republican - a Radical one to boot. Jones's biography ends with Logan's election, though Logan served many years in Congress and the Senate, helped form the Grand Army of the Republic and establish Decoration Day, and was on the Presidential ticket as VP with James G. Blaine in 1884. He died in 1886.

Jones's biography is quite good: it is serviceable and measures the man well. There is not a lot of analysis or behind-the-scenes conjecturing, just good, solid factual information presented in an efficient manner. One wonders if Jones ever contemplated a complete biography of Logan, seeing how prominent his post-Civil War life was.

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