General John A Logan: 'Father of Memorial Day'

Published: May. 26, 2015 at 2:47 AM CDT|Updated: May. 26, 2015 at 4:40 AM CDT
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MURPHYSBORO, IL (KFVS) - General John A Logan is namesake for many things throughout the Heartland, and here's a fact; He's also referred to by many as “the Father of Memorial Day.”

The holiday dates back to the Civil War, which is ironic from the view of local historian Michael Jones, because it was a time when American lives were taken by American lives.

Logan was born in Murphysboro in 1826 in a home that has since been converted to a museum bearing the general's name. That's where Jones devotes much of his time to study of Logan, and other prominent figures of the Civil War era.

He says Logan is an unsung historical figure due to his level of political activity throughout his life, but especially considering his involvement in the founding of Memorial day.

“[Logan] came to feel it was his most lasting legacy.” Jones said, “the best thing he did.”

After growing up in the Heartland, he would go on to sign General Order #11 in 1868 which established Memorial Day as a National Holiday. The full text of that order can be found below this story.

“He was sorely afraid that what these men had done would be forgotten. And I mean, it was a horrible war,” Jones explained

It was originally founded as “decoration day” in 1866 when family and loved ones of Confederate soldiers would lay flowers and flags on soldiers graves.

“I think we need to take time out from our picnics and our sales, and the other things we do to enjoy the day, and attend these memorial day services and think about these men and women who sacrificed so much for us.” Jones said.

General Logan was the keynote speaker 149 years ago at the first annual Memorial Day service at the Woodlawn Cemetery in Carbondale. That service is considered one of the very first Memorial Day ceremonies in the country.

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General Order No. 11

Headquarters, Grand Army of the Republic

Washington, D.C., May 5, 1868

I. The 30th day of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village, and hamlet churchyard in the land. In this observance no form or ceremony is prescribed, but posts and comrades will in their own way arrange such fitting services and testimonials of respect as circumstances may permit.

We are organized, comrades, as our regulations tell us, for the purpose, among other things, "of preserving and strengthening those kind and fraternal feelings which have bound together the soldiers, sailors, and marines who united to suppress the late rebellion." What can aid more to assure this result than by cherishing tenderly the memory of our heroic dead, who made their breasts a barricade between our country and its foes? Their soldier lives were the reveille of freedom to a race in chains, and their death a tattoo of rebellious tyranny in arms. We should guard their graves with sacred vigilance. All that the consecrated wealth and taste of the Nation can add to their adornment and security is but a fitting tribute to the memory of her slain defenders. Let no wanton foot tread rudely on such hallowed grounds. Let pleasant paths invite the coming and going of reverent visitors and fond mourners. Let no vandalism of avarice or neglect, no ravages of time, testify to the present or to the coming generations that we have forgotten, as a people, the cost of free and undivided republic.

If other eyes grow dull and other hands slack, and other hearts cold in the solemn trust, ours shall keep it well as long as the light and warmth of life remain in us.

Let us, then, at the time appointed, gather around their sacred remains and garland the passionless mounds above them with choicest flowers of springtime; let us raise above them the dear old flag they saved from dishonor; let us in this solemn presence renew our pledges to aid and assist those whom they have left among us as sacred charges upon the Nation's gratitude,--the soldier's and sailor's widow and orphan.

II. It is the purpose of the Commander-in-Chief to inaugurate this observance with the hope it will be kept up from year to year, while a survivor of the war remains to honor the memory of his departed comrades. He earnestly desires the public press to call attention to this Order, and lend its friendly aid in bringing it to the notice of comrades in all parts of the country in time for simultaneous compliance therewith.

III. Department commanders will use every effort to make this order effective.

By command of: