top of page

General John A. Logan: The Father of Memorial Day

Memorial Day, once known as Decoration Day, stands as a solemn tribute to the courageous soldiers who sacrificed their lives in defense of our nation.  Originally, Americans took time to decorate the graves of soldiers who gave their lives in the Civil War.  Today, this national holiday is used to honor all American soldiers who died in defense of the nation.  While many communities lay claim to the origins of this national holiday, the pivotal role played by General John A. Logan cannot be overstated.

Born in Jackson County, Illinois on February 9, 1826, John A. Logan’s journey to prominence began with service in the 1st Illinois Volunteer Infantry during the Mexican War.  Despite not facing combat, his passion for service led him into state politics, culminating in his election to the U.S. House of Representatives in November 1858.

When the Civil War broke out in 1861, Logan volunteered his services as a soldier and served with a Michigan regiment at the Battle of First Bull Run on July 21, 1861.  After the battle, he returned home to Illinois to recruit a regiment, the 31st Illinois, and was named the regiment’s colonel.  He served at Fort Donelson, Corinth, and Vicksburg, rising to the rank of major general of volunteers.  During the Atlanta campaign, he was wounded.  He then served under Sherman for the rest of the war until the surrender of Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston in April 1865 in North Carolina.

In the aftermath of the conflict, General Logan played a pivotal role in establishing the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR), an organization dedicated to supporting Union veterans.  But perhaps his most enduring legacy came on March 3, 1868, when he issued General Order No. 11.  This order called for a national day of remembrance for the fallen soldiers of the Civil War, laying the foundation for what we now know as Memorial Day.

Recently, the Historical Society had the honor of hosting General Logan and his wife, portrayed by Don and Rebecca Becker, who shared the poignant history of Memorial Day.  Mrs. Logan provided insight into the origins of this solemn occasion, while General Logan himself recited his immortal General Order No. 11.  You can catch this remarkable presentation on our YouTube channel.

As we approach Memorial Day weekend, we invite you to join us for our upcoming events.  On Sunday, May 26, we’ll be hosting a Concert in Memorial Park in conjunction with NAFF and the American Legion.  This will be followed by the American Legion’s annual Memorial Day program on Monday, May 27.  Let us come together to honor the memory of those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our nation, guided by the legacy of General John A. Logan.

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page