The U.S. Volunteers, the Regular Army, and “Black Jack” Logan’s Revenge

Following up my earlier post noting that 98% of the Union army was NOT in the United States army, but rather in Winfield Scott’s ill-advised product, the U.S. Volunteers, one correspondent noted that in fact the volunteers received pensions after the war and were core members of veterans organizations.  Point taken.

However, the Volunteer Generals were never given major commands, which were always given to West Pointers.  Perhaps the  most egregious example was when, during the Atlanta campaign, Sherman denied John “Black Jack” Logan the command of the Army of the Tennessee after General James McPherson was killed.  Sherman wrote later that he saw Logan as a volunteer who “looked to personal fame and glory as auxiliary and secondary to political ambition, and not as professional soldiers.” An angry Logan wrote to his wife, “West Point must have all under Sherman, who is an infernal brute.” 

Logan was eventually given command of that army, but only days before the Grand Review in May, 1865, and only because O.O. Howard had become head of the Freedman’s Bureau.  Clearly Logan wasn’t satisfied.  In subsequent years as a member of both the House of Representatives and Senate he consistently acted to reduce both Sherman’s authority as army chief and his budgets.

Logan also became the first commander of the most important veterans’ group, the Grand Army of the Republic, and he is credited by some with the creation of the Memorial Day celebrations.  He also wrote a book, “The Volunteer Soldier in America,” which not only extolled the efforts of volunteers in every American war, but also downplayed the role of “regulars.”

Interestingly, in a “confidential” letter to Jacob Cox in 1882, Sherman wrote that he in fact wanted to name Logan as commander.  But he claimed that General George Thomas, commander of the Army of the Cumberland on the Atlanta campaign, “was unusually emphatic that he never could or would act in UNISON with Logan as an equal.”   Having tried to deflect blame, Sherman nevertheless admitted, “I had to stand the brunt of Logan’s anger and hatred” thereafter.

Below are images of the Grand Army of the Republic, Logan’s statue on Logan Circle in Washington, DC (the only one not dedicated to a West Point grad), and Logan’s book.

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Author: geneofva

Author of "Citizen-General: Jacob Dolson Cox and the Civil War Era," and of the upcoming "Lincoln, Antietam, and a Northern Lost Cause."

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