Saturday, June 2, 2012

John A. Logan Statue--Grant Park, Chicago


General John A. Logan Statue, Grant Park (JWB, 2012)

In the last blog I shared the Memorial Day re-dedication of the General John A. Logan State at Ninth Street and Michigan Avenue in Chicago’s Grant Park.  General Logan, a Civil War hero as well as a United States Senator, Vice-Presidential candidate, and creator of the Memorial Day holiday, is fittingly honored in the equestrian statue, designed by Augustus Saint-Gaudens and dedicated in 1897.

Plans for the statue began in 1891 when The Chicago Tribune announced that Congress had approved an appropriation of $50,000 for statues of the great man in Washington, D. C. and Chicago, where the city had received a similar amount from the Illinois legislature for the monument.

Chicago therefore had at least $75,000 to spend on the statue, and Mrs. Logan began conferring with sculptors with the only limitation being the statue must be of an equestrian design.

The sculptor's name on the statue's base (JWB, 2012)
Augustus Saint-Gaudens promised that the work would be completed in time for the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition.  The sculptor kept his word because in one sentence The Tribune reported on June 23, 1893, “The statue of Gen. John A. Logan, which is to be in Jackson Park and for which the Illinois General Assembly has appropriated $50,000, has been finished by St. Gaudens.”  It was decided not to rush things, apparently, as it became impossible to erect the statue amid the teeming crowds of the World’s Fair, and there was an increased sentiment against erecting the memorial for so beloved a hero at such a distance from the center of the city.

On September 30 of 1893 Mrs. Logan selected a site “at a point opposite Hubbard court, and midway between the avenue and the Illinois Central railway” at a meeting of the Monument Commission and the South Park Board of Commissioners.

At the meeting, which both Mrs. Logan and Mr. St. Gaudens attended, it was announced that the original proposal for the location of the statue in Jackson Park was unsuitable “on account of contemplated plans of Frederick Law Olmstead, who has been designing the landscape features of the park.”

At that same meeting the monument itself was also approved.  There would be a base for the sculpture of granite that would rise 20 feet high, the base resting on a mound that would be 30 or 40 feet high with a diameter of 200 feet. 

Mr. Gaudens announced that the model was ready and that he expected “to turn it over to a casting company within a month or so” with the expectation that the dedication would take place during the following summer.  On October 10 Mr. Logan travelled to New York to inspect the model “upon which St. Gaudens has been at work for several years.”


The view from Ninth Street &
Michigan Avenue (JWB, 2012)
Time went by and it wasn't until December 17 of 1896 Judge Tuthill, head of the Chicago Monument Commission appeared before the South Park Commissioners and formally on behalf of Mrs. Logan to accept the site for the statue “at the foot of Peck Court, about 100 feet east of Michigan Avenue.”  (Apparently, Peck Court, Hubbard Court and Eldridge Court were all names used for what is today Ninth Street.)

At that meeting the Commission set aside $15,000  “to the construction of the foundation of the statue, the plans for which, it was decided, should be drawn by St. Gaudens.”  It was hoped that the statue would be ready for a July 22, 1897 unveiling, “the anniversary of the battle of Atlanta, in which Gen. Logan participated, and in which took place the incident which commemorated by the statue.”

Then, on January 10, 1897 a Tribune reporter visited the studio of August St. Gaudens In New York City and, for the first time, saw the model of “an unusually attractive piece of work upon which the skill and concentration of thought of the famous sculptor have been expended for the last six years.”

The paper described the work as “beyond all question the most thrilling, heroically dramatic episode in Gen. Logan’s dashing career as a soldier and a leader of men.”

One of six ornamental pieces commemorating the major
battles in which General Logan fought (JWB, 2012)
The Tribune continued, “It is just at the moment of Gen. McPherson’s death, when the disheartened, defeated troops turned in retreat before the Siege of Atlanta.  Inflamed with the hero’s courage that overrides all obstacles, Gen. Logan, with that impulsive personality that shows indefinable majestic power which infused itself through the rank and file of the retreating soldiers, has seized the battle flag.  With the work of unconquerable triumph he has flung it out to the breeze with his strong right arm as cheering his men he dashes on his magnificent coal black charger to Atlanta—and victory.  His head is bared, his hair tossed back, the silken folds of the heavy flag seem almost to rustle into actual sound and the snorting of the responsive steed to echo in your ears as you look upon the statue.”

The sculptor followed a deliberate process in moving toward the finished project.  First, he gathered as many photographs as possible of General Logan, “taken at the time of life depicted in the present equestrian statue, when he was a young man glowing with military ardor and enthusiasm.”  He then read “every available bit of history of that period.”  Finally, St. Gaudens looked over much of Logan’s correspondence “in order to more thoroughly harmonize himself with the project in hand and put his feelings in touch with those inciting the soldier who before Atlanta in the face of defeat like a whirlwind rallied his troops and led them onto to victory.”

General Logan's mount (JWB, 2012)
So painstaking was St. Gaudens’s work that he shipped a stallion from the farm of John A. Logan, Jr. in Youngstown, Ohio to New York City and “for three or four months [the stallion] occupied sumptuous equine quarters while St. Gaudens molded his duplicate in plaster.”

On May 17, 1897 the ground was staked out at the foot of Eldridge Court for the statue.  It was also learned that Mr. St. Gaudens had given the design of the pedestal for the statue to New York architect Sanford White, who visited Chicago several times and committed the details, in turn, to Daniel Burnham.  It was Burnham, himself, who oversaw the staking out the area on which the mound would rise for the equestrian statue.

Then . . . they lost the statue.  Shipped in three immense pieces on three cars over the Michigan Central Railroad, officials expected the statue to arrive in Chicago on July 13, 1897, but it didn’t show up at the scheduled time.  For five or six hours no railroad official could be found who knew where the statue was.  Finally, a telegram from Buffalo, New York was received stating that the cars containing the statue had passed through that city early in the afternoon and would arrive in Chicago on July 14.  This was a v-e-r-y tight fit since the dedication ceremony, at which thousands would be present, was scheduled for July 22.

Finally, on July 15 three boxcars stood on the side track of the Illinois Central Railroad just east of the statue’s final site.  Work began immediately.  First the three legs of the great horse were placed on the pedestal, hard work that took until noon of that day to complete.  After lunch “began the most difficult part of the work, that of putting the great bronze figure of the horse upon the upright legs.”  Weighing around three tons, it took precision work with a block and tackle to get the body of the steed to fit exactly on the three legs.

All the while spectators watched from Michigan Avenue as well as “points of vantage in the park and windows of nearby buildings.”  By 6:00 the body of General Logan, his face covered with a cloth, had been lifted atop the horse.  The placement of the flag would wait until the next day, “not because of its weight but because of the delicate and precise character of the work to be done.”

The base of the Logan statue with wreaths remaining from
Memorial Day, which General Logan initiated (JWB, 2012)
Even as this work was going on, final preparations for the dedication of the statue were being made at the Union League Club.  General R. N. Pearson, the last Colonel of the Thirty-First Volunteers, General Logan’s regiment at the Battle of Fort Donelson, was named to lead the parade and over one hundred members of the original company were to be present, guests of J. Irving Pearce and the Sherman House.

General Pearson was to carry the regimental battle flag with him in the parade.  It had “158 rents, where rebel bullets found their way, while two larger holes tell where shells sped on their mission of destruction.”  The flag was so tattered that the decision was made to keep it folded during the parade.

On July 21 Mrs. Logan and her family arrived by special train over the New York and Erie railroad.  She was escorted to her suite on the third floor of the Auditorium Annex by 52 members of the Knights Templar.

Detail of the saddle reveals how meticulously Augustus
St. Gaudens worked on the project (JWB, 2012)
In a prepared statement Mrs. Logan sent her greetings to the people of Chicago, As I look upon the inspired representation of General Logan in perhaps the supreme moment of his life I feel it can only have been achieved by one in possession of the highest order of that power called genius.  No language can convey my gratitude to the people of Illinois and to their representatives, the incomparable committee, who have expressed in so magnificent a manner the love they bear General Logan . . . I can only say to Chicago, to the Governor, and to the people of this State which General Logan loved, that while life lasts I shall recall this occasion as the most gratifying of my life.”

Finally, the time had come for the unveiling of St. Gaudens’s great work and all of the civic pomp that was to precede it.  We’ll be getting to that in the next post.

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