EDITORIAL: The loneliest Chicagoan
May 21, 2012 (Menafn - Chicago Tribune - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --Forty-four years ago, as the battles of the 1968 Democratic National Convention swirled around him, no combatant saw more action than Gen. John Alexander Logan. From atop the man-made hill built for his statue just east of Michigan Avenue in Grant Park, the bronze Logan and his bronze horse stood poised to charge straight westward on Ninth Street.
Logan has been poised there, actually, since 1897. The bronze likeness is flattering, although it doesn't do justice to the searing black eyes and waving black hair that his soldiers parlayed into the nickname Black Jack. Born in Murphysboro, in southern Illinois, in 1826, Logan first fought in theMexican-American Warof the late 1840s; later his long roster of Civil War battles included Bull Run, Fort Donelson, Corinth, Vicksburg and Atlanta. But for many Chicagoans, he's best remembered for the symbolic role he played in another war, the one that raged in Vietnam but loudly echoed here.
On Aug. 27, 1968, antiwar protesters marching north along Michigan Avenue broke toward the Logan statue chanting, "Take the hill!" The website of the South Loop Historical Society, linked at chicagotribune.com/logan, archives video footage of protesters climbing atop Logan's steed, their North Vietnamese flags flanking the bronze Civil War flag gripped in his upraised fist. Chicago police moved up the hill, warned the demonstrators to dismount the statue, and herded them north and east into Grant Park. Many of the most iconic photo images from 1968 focus on the brief capture of Logan's hill by the anti-warriors in Chicago's streets.
Over the weekend of the NATO summit, we looked in on Gen. Logan several times to see whether crowds protesting the war in Afghanistan would again make him a focal point. We only visited Logan intermittently; we didn't bivouac with him. But evidently he wasn't even an afterthought. Sunday morning, Logan was flanked by soccer players on a lawn to his south and, to his north, by a playful golden retriever dancing in circles. The nearest protesters were farther up Michigan Avenue, fully clothed but taking impromptu showers in the cool spray from the water walls of Millennium Park's Crown Fountain.
As the NATO summit concludes, Logan faces resolutely west, away from McCormick Place and Afghanistan. This just isn't his war. He would, though, likely have reveled in the policy debate: The Democrat-turned-Republican served in the Illinois House, U.S. House,U.S. Senate and, in 1884, as an unsuccessful candidate for the vice presidency on the ticket of James G. Blaine of Maine.
This weekend, though, Logan may have been the loneliest Chicagoan. We did meet a smattering of tourists, come to honor the man who made his most enduring mark on the American consciousness not in 1968, but a century earlier. As commander in chief of the Grand Army of the Republic, an organization of Union veterans of the Civil War, Logan proclaimed May 30 of 1868 as Decoration Day.
Owing to acts of Congress, Decoration Day is now Memorial Day. Next Monday, as the nation honors its deceased military men and women, give a thought -- if not a visit -- to Black Jack Logan. He played key roles in many wars. Even if he's sitting out Afghanistan.
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