It was a precarious time for the nation, where a strategic piece of territory could have easily fallen into Confederate hands, possibly altering the course of the war.
At the outbreak of hostilities, historians at the John A. Logan Museum say Union commanders rushed troops from Chicago to guard crucial railroad bridges in Southern Illinois. At the confluence of the Mississippi and Ohio rivers, the bustling town of Cairo stood at the very edge of rebel territory. With Kentucky and Missouri across the water, there was considerable Confederate sympathy in much of far Southern Illinois.
One man played a major role in keeping Cairo and the rest of Southern Illinois on the Union side. General John A. Logan is credited by many (including U.S. Grant) with turning the tide for the Union, in the battle to hold the strategically important transportation crossroad of Southern Illinois.