There have been a pair of Black Jacks in the Army. The latest was John J. Pershing. There used to be a statue of him shaking hands with Pancho Villa in a little plaza in Palomas, but I haven’t been down there in years and can’t guess if it’s still there.
The first was John A. Logan, a Civil War general known to his troops as Black Jack for his “swarthy” good looks. (Can you still use that word or is it now considered pejorative? Looking at his picture I would have called him “Black Irish,” although I know nothing of his heritage but his name.)
His equestrian statue stands in Chicago but may be riding off into the sunset in the near future, depending on how quickly the wheels of Social Justice grind. Logan’s is one of more than 40 works of public art the Chicago Monuments Project finds worthy of discussion.
Black Jack Logan was a hero. As a sitting Congressman, he might have watched First Bull Run with the other feckless picnickers on the heights above the battlefield. Instead he joined the fight as an “unattached volunteer” with a Michigan militia regiment. From Virginia he rode west to campaign under U.S.Grant, where he had his horse shot from underneath him at the Battle of Belmont and was wounded himself at the taking of Fort Donelson. While recuperating he resigned his Congressional seat and returned to Illinois to raise a regiment for the Union.
He commanded a division at Vicksburg and a corps at Atlanta. In the final months of the war, Logan led the XV Corps on Sherman’s destructive march through the Carolinas, a campaign which freed tens of thousands of jubilant slaves.
Unfortunately, “recent scholarship” has unearthed evidence that despite shedding blood for the Union and personally freeing thousands of slaves, Black Jack was a pre-War Democrat and political supporter of Illinois Senator Stephen A. Douglas and so was “insensitive to the moral repugnance of slavery” or even “proslavery.”
It’s true that Douglas, the northern Democrat who ran against Lincoln in 1860, was opposed to abolition on the grounds that it would ruin the Southern economy and very probably lead to secession and bloodshed. Logan had grave forebodings that a sudden influx of uneducated and impoverished former slaves into Northern cities would foster not integration but generations of racial friction.
As it turns out, they were both right.
Ronald Reagan warned of the consequences of not educating Americans in their history:
“If we forget what we did, we won’t know who we are. I am warning of an eradication of the American memory that could result, ultimately, in an erosion of the American spirit. Let’s start with some basics: more attention to American history and a greater emphasis on civic ritual.”