Academic journal article Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society

Black Jack Logan: An Extraordinary Life in Peace and War

Academic journal article Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society

Black Jack Logan: An Extraordinary Life in Peace and War

Article excerpt

Black Jack Logan: An Extraordinary Life in Peace and War. By Gary Ecelbarger (Guilford CT: The Lyons Press, 2005. Pp.viii, 391. Illus. Notes, bib., index. Cloth, $22.95).

John Alexander Logan's impact on history as a politician and military man is undeniable and well documented. His passions for gambling, love, loyalty, and sectional societal beliefs are also recreated in this tome by Gary Ecelbarger. Ecelbarger is a writer and lecturer of eighteenth and nineteenth-century historical events. He has penned several other works and currently resides in Annandale, Virginia.

As an historian, I do not automatically approve of every work that I sit down to read. I am attracted to the writing style of Gary Ecelbarger and think that other readers will find many positive attributes in Black Jack Logan. Ecelbarger begins this biography with an interesting insight to Logan's relationship with the dying Ulysses S. Grant. Logan, a newly reelected Senator, travels to New York to see his old friend one last time. At the end of a long day's visit, Logan contemplated the possible length or lack of length in his own life. These thoughts attributed to Logan are dispersed throughout the book and add a personal flavor to which the reader may relate. It would be quite natural and certainly probable for an individual to question his own mortality after such a visit with a close friend. Ecelbarger's stylistic writing immediately brings Logan, the historical figure, to a level that is personal. The subject is no longer on a pedestal, but is touchable.

Immigrants from Northern Ireland, the Logans found themselves near the nation's capitol in 1793. Through a series of moves that included Ohio, Missouri, and finally Illinois, the Logan family landed in the southern county of Jackson. Here Logan's father established himself as a physician. And this is where Ecelbarger's story unfolds.

On 9 February 1826 John Alexander Logan's life began. Somewhat independent, Logan had no interest in following his father's footsteps into the medical profession. At an early age his mind was set on politics. No doubt Logan was influenced by his politically active father and uncle. Ecelbarger reveals the strongly partisan ideals that emanated from both relatives, shaping the younger Logan's political philosophy, which included popular sovereignty and an anti-abolitionist stance.

A second interest that turned out to be quite passionate was horses and, in particular, horse racing and betting. …

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