If I am allowed favorites, John A. Logan is certainly one of that number. On this day (February 12, 1862) 150 years ago, Logan offered this address to his division – that would be Third Division, Seventeenth Corps:
My fellow soldiers: Debility from recent illness has prevented, and still prevents, me from appearing amongst you, as has been my custom, and is my desire. It is for this cause I deem it my duty to communicate with you now, and give you the assurance that your general still maintains unshaken confidence in your patriotism and devotion, and in the ultimate success of our glorious cause.
I am aware that influences of the most discouraging and treasonable character, well calculated and designed to render you dissatisfied, have recently been brought to bear upon some of you by professed friends. Newspapers, containing treasonable articles, artfully falsifying the public sentiment at your homes, have been circulated in your camps. Intriguing political tricksters, demagogues, and time-servers, whose corrupt deeds are but a faint reflex of their more corrupt hearts, seem determined to drive our people on to anarchy and destruction. They have hoped, by magnifying the reverses of our arms, basely misrepresenting the conduct and slandering the character of our soldiers in the field, and boldly denouncing the acts of the constituted authorities of the Government as unconstitutional usurpations, to produce general demoralization in the army, and thereby reap their political reward, weaken the cause we have espoused, and aid those arch traitors of the South to dismember our mighty republic and trail in the dust the emblem of our national unity, greatness, and glory.
Let me remind my countrymen, that we are soldiers of the Federal Union, armed for the preservation of the Federal Constitution and the maintenance of its laws and authority. Upon your faithfulness and devotion, heroism and gallantry, depend its perpetuity. To us has been committed this sacred inheritance, baptized in the blood of our fathers. We are soldiers of a Government that has always blessed us with prosperity and happiness. It has given to every American citizen the largest freedom and the most perfect equality of rights and privileges; it has afforded us security in person and property, and blessed us until, under its beneficent influence, we were the proudest nation on earth.
We should be united in our efforts to put down a rebellion that now, like an earthquake, rocks the nation from State to State and from center to circumference, and threatens to engulf us all in one common ruin, the horrors of which no pen can portray. We have solemnly sworn to bear true faith to this Government, preserve its Constitution, and de-feud its glorious flag against all its enemies and opposers. To our hands has been committed the liberties, the prosperity, and happiness of future generations. Shall we betray such a trust? Shall the brilliancy of your past achievements be dimmed and tarnished by hesitation, discord, and dissension, whilst armed traitors menace you in front and unarmed traitors intrigue against you in the rear? We are in no way responsible for any action of the civil authorities. We constitute the military arm of the Government. That the civil power is threatened and attempted to be paralyzed is the reason for resort to the military power. To aid the civil authorities (not to oppose or obstruct.) in the exercise of their authority is our office, and shall we forget this duty, and stop to wrangle and dispute over this or that political act or measure whilst the country is bleeding at every pore; whilst a fearful wail of anguish, wrung from the heart of a distracted people, is borne upon every breeze, and widows and orphans are appealing to us to avenge the loss of their loved ones who have fallen by our side in defense of the old blood-stained banner, and whilst the temple of liberty itself is being shaken to its very center by the ruthless blows of traitors, who have desecrated our flag, obstructed our national highways, destroyed our peace, desolated our firesides, and draped thousands of homes in mourning?
Let us stand firm at our posts of duty and of honor, yielding a cheerful obedience to all orders from our superiors, until, by our united efforts, the Stars and Stripes shall be planted in every city, town, and hamlet of the rebellious States. We can then return to our homes, and through the ballot-box peacefully redress all our wrongs, if any we have.
Whilst I rely upon you with confidence and pride, I blush to confess that recently some of those who were once our comrades in arms have so far forgotten their honor, their oaths, and their country as to shamefully desert us, and skulkingly make their way to their homes, where, like culprits, they dare not look an honest man in the face. Disgrace and ignominy (if they escape the penalty of the law) will not only follow them to their dishonored graves, but will stamp their names and lineage with infamy to the latest generation. The scorn and contempt of every true man will ever follow those base men, who, forgetful of their oaths, have, like cowardly spaniels, deserted their comrades in arms in the face of the foe and their country in the hour of its greatest peril. Every true-hearted mother or father, brother, sister, or wife, will spurn the coward who could thus not only disgrace himself, but his name and his kindred. An indelible stamp of infamy should be branded upon his check, that all who look upon his vile countenance may feel for him the contempt his cowardice merits. Could I believe that such conduct found either justification or excuse in your hearts, or that you would for a moment falter in our glorious purpose of saving the nation from threatened wreck and hopeless ruin, I would invoke from Deity, as the greatest boon, a common grave to save us from such infamy and disgrace.
The day is not far distant when traitors and cowards, North and South, will cower before the indignation of an outraged people. March bravely onward! Nerve your strong arms to the task of overthrowing every obstacle in the pathway of victory until with shouts of triumph the last gun is fired that proclaims us a united people under the old flag and one government! Patriot soldiers! This great work accomplished, the reward for such service as yours will be realized; the blessings and honors of a grateful people will be yours.
Forget about steel for cannons, Logan’s words were made of a steel resolve. If you were a soldier campaigning on the Mississippi 150 years ago, this was what you needed to hear.
(OR, Series I, Volume 24, Part III, Serial 38, pages 47-9.)