General John A. Logan's Memorial Day Order

General Order No. 11
Headquarters, Grand Army of the Republic

Washington, D.C., May 5, 1868

Gen. John A. Logan

General John A. Logan
[Photo courtesy Tom Bell, Director of
Media Services & Telecommunications,
John A. Logan College,
Carterville, Illinois]

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 foe? 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 found mourners. Let no vandalism of avarice of 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 order of


Adjutant General


A Brief Biography of John A. Logan

Courtesy of John A. Logan College

Carterville, Illinois

John A. Logan, the man after whom John A. Logan College is named, was born February 9, 1826 in what is now Murphysboro, Illinois. Raised in a home that was a center of political activity, he came to love politics at an early age.

In 1840 his father, Dr. John Logan, sent him to Shiloh Acadame at Shiloh Hill, Illinois to complete his education. Here Logan excelled in oratory.

Logan volunteered for the Mexican War in 1846. He saw no combat, but did travel to Santa Fe, where he served as post quartermaster and learned Spanish.

The 1850's brought may changes in Logan's life -- law school at Louisville University; marriage to Mary S. Cunningham at Shawneetown; a move to Benton; and a political career that led from county clerk to U.S. Congressman. In Southern Illinois, he was "Egypt's Spokesman."

At the onset of the Civil War, the pro-Southern Logan decided that "the union must prevail." He fought at Bull Run as a civilian. He then returned home where his spech at Marion ended Egypt's talk of secession and put Southern Illinois during the Civil War strongly in the Union camp.

Logan volunteered for the war and rose from colonel to major general. Fighting in eight major campaigns he distinguised himself at Vicksburg and commanded the entire Union forces at the Battle of Atlanta. At the war's end, he saved Raleigh, North Carolina from being burned by angry Union troops. Many historians consider him the premier volunteer general of the Civl War.

General John A. Logan

General John A. Logan
[Photo courtesy Tom Bell, Director of
Media Services & Telecommunications,
John A. Logan College,
Carterville, Illinois]

After the war, Logan returned to Congress. His concern for veterans led him to take part in Illinois' first veterans memorial services at Woodlawn Cemetery in Carbondale in 1866. In 1868, he became founder of Memorial Day as a national holiday.

In 1871 and again in 1874, Logan was elected to the U.S. Senate. Throughout his political career, he was a strong advocate for public education. In 1884, he was James G. Blaines' vice-presidentail running mate. During the campaign, Logan commissioned the painting that became the center for Atlanta's famed Cyclorama.

John A. Logan died December 26, 1886 in Washington D.C. Here he lies buried at Soldier Cemetery.

Logan's fame did not die with him as the towns and counties named for him show. Fine equestrian statues were erected in Chicago and Washington in his honor. Bronze plaques from Arlington Cemetery to Denver attest his creation of Memorial Day. Yet the turmoil of the mid-twentieth century saw Logan's fame fade. In May, 1986, the Washington Post wrote that this was "pretty shoddy treatment" for the man who founded Memorial Day.