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James Abram Garfield 
pages 281-285
Portrait ( From "The Ohio Hundred Year Book")

JAMES ABRAM GARFTELD, twentieth President ofthe United States, was born November 11, 1831 in the wilds of Orange Township, Cuyahoga County, Ohio. Paternally he descended from a Puritan family, his ancestors coming from Chester, England, to the colony of Massachusetts Bay as early as 1630. Maternally he was from a French Huguenot family. His parents were Abram and Eliza (Ballou) Garfield, who were married in 1820, he aged twenty, she eighteen years. The father was a native of Worcester, Otsego County, New York, and the mother of New Hampshire and a relative of Hosea Ballou, the celebrated preacher and author. Abram and Eliza Garfield had four children, Mehetable, Thomas, Mary, and James A. In May, 1833, the father died, and upon his deathbed he said to his wife, "Eliza, I have planted four saplings in these woods; I leave them to your care."
James was less than two years old when his father died, and from the outset his life was one of toil. Born and fostered in a log cabin, his childhood was as humble and rude as backwoods life could make it. The opening of his life was most unpromising, and adds another example to the thousands in the lives of the great men of America, showing that poverty and want in childhood need not prevent growth in goodness or achievements in greatness. By force of circumstances he was compelled to work in early childhood and youth, and thus was developed that habit of industry and that physical strength which made this after success possible. During his youthful days he was not distinguished above other boys, either for his genius as a farmer, woodsman or herdsman, or for his accomplishments as a debater in the country lyceum or as a scholar in the schools. He was regarded as being neither precocious nor dull as a boy but as having good, common sense and doing his work well. Until he was about sixteen years of age he had an intense longing to lead the life of a sailor, but failing to secure a position, he became a driver on the Ohio and Pennsylvania Canal, as an employe of his cousin, Amos Letcher. For a short time only he held this position, for, having sickened of fever, he returned home. About this time his attention seems to have been toward literary attainments and the higher ambitions of life. Hitherto he had given little attention to books, and now he firmly and irrevocably resolved that at whatever sacrifice he would obtain a collegiate education. By day he worked upon the farm or at the carpenter's trade and at night studied his books. By this means he was soon enabled to enter the seminary at the adjoining town of Chester. With the earnings of his vacations, together with the heroic self- sacrifice of his mother and elder brother, he was enabled to secure the advantages of several terms at that seminary. From Chester he went to Hiram College, an institution established in 1850 by the Disciples of Christ, to which church he, as well as nearly all of the Garfield family, belonged. In order to pay his way at Hiram he assumed the duties of janitor, and at times taught school. At Hiram he continued his studies till sufficiently advanced in the classics and mathematics to be qualified to enter Williams College, Massachusetts, two years in advance. September, 1854, he entered that college and graduated with honors in 1856. Returning to Ohio he became a teacher at Hiram, where he was also pressed into the additional work of preaching the gospel. He soon became popular both as a teacher and preacher, and within less than one year he was promoted to the presidency of Hiram College, where he was the loved and honored friend of rich and poor, great and small. While a student at Hiram he met in one of its classes Lucretia Rudolph and in the autumn of 1858 married her, in her father's house at Hiram and began a home life of his own. She ever afterward proved a worthy consort in all the stages of her husband's career. They had seven children.
After his marriage he began the study of law, and giving to it his extra hours he was able, in 1860, to pass the necessary exam- ination and was admitted to the bar. He was a man of strong moral and religious convictions and as soon as he began to look into politics he saw innumerable points that could be improved. He was attracted to legal studies by his active and patriotic interest in public affairs. He was an abolitionist, Free-soiler, and Republican, and always open and bold in the declaration of his political principles, whether in college, church or caucus. In 1859 he made his first political speeches and in the fall of that year he was elected to the Ohio State senate by a sweeping ma- jority, and when he took his seat, in January, 1860, he was the youngest member of that body, being but twenty-eight years of age.
During the trying years of 1860 and 1861 he was a very useful and eloquent member of the State senate, and on the breaking out of the Civil War, in 1861, Mr. Garfield resolved to fight as he had talked. He was appointed a member of Governor Dennison's staff to assist in organizing troops for the war. August 14, 1861, he was commissioned as lieutenant-colonel of the Forty-second Regiment of Ohio Volunteer Infantry, composed largely of his classmates and students at Hiram College. Colonel Garfield's regiment was immediately thrown into active service, and before he had ever seen a gun fired in action he was placed in command of four regiments of infantry and eight companies of cavalry, charged with the work of driving the Confederates, headed by Humphrey Marshall, from his native State, Kentucky. This task was speedily accomplished, although against great odds. On account of his success, President Lincoln commissioned him brigadier-general January 11, 1862, and as he had been the youngest man in the Ohio senate two years before, so now he was the youngest general in the army. He was with General Buell's army at Shiloh, also in its operations around Corinth and its march through Alabama. June 15, 1862, General Garfield was detailed to sit in a trial by court martial of a lieutenant of the Fifty-eighth Indiana Volunteers. In this case, his skill, combined with his memory of judicial decisions, elicited from officers sitting with him in the court commendation of his signal ability in such matters. On account of fever and ague, he obtained a leave of absence July 30, and during the summer months he was at Hiram.
Recovering his health, he reported to the War Department at Washington, according to order from the Secretary of War. This was about September 25, 1862. He was ordered to sit in the court of inquiry in the case of General McDowell, and November 25, 1862, he was made a member of the court in the celebrated trial of General Fitz John Porter for the failure to co6perate with General Pope at the Battle of Bull Run. In January, 1863, he was ordered into the field, being directed to report to General Rosecrans at Murfreesborough. He became chief of staff to General Rosecrans, then commanding the Army of the Cumberland. His military history closed with his brilliant service at Chicka- mauga, where he won the stars of major-general. In the fall 1862, without any effort on his part, he was elected as a representative in Congress from the Nineteenth Congressional District of Ohio, which had been represented for sixty years mainly by two men—Elisha Whittlesey and the renowned anti-slavery champion, Joshua R. Giddings. He resigned his commission on the fifth of December, 1863, having served in the army more than a year after his election to Congress, and took his seat on the same day in the House of Representatives, where he served until elected to the United States Senate in 1880, just before his nomination to the Presidency. His election to the Senate by the Ohio legislature was a just and reasonable compliment to him for his eminent services through sixteen years of a most active legislative life. During his life in Congress he compiled and published, by his speeches there and elsewhere, more information on the issues of the day, especially on one side, than any other member. Upon entering Congress he was the youngest member, but for this work he was well endowed by nature and education. He was a ready speaker, apt, eloquent, pointed, vehement. He was possessed of all the physical characteristics of dignity—strength, countenance and voice, which are so useful in the public forum. Thus he was well equipped for a place in a deliberative body.
General Garfield was appointed on many important special as well as other committees by Congress. He was sent by the President to Louisiana to report on the political condition of the people with reference to reconstruction, and was chosen one of the High Commission to which was referred the contested Presidential election in 1876 and which gave Rutherford B. Hayes the seat. In June, 1880, at the National Republican Convention, held in Chicago, General Garfield was nominated for the Presidency both to the surprise of himself and the country. He was a delegate to the convention and was an open advocate of the nomination of Hon. John Sherman, of Ohio. The party was in danger of a most serious division in which the adherents of Gen. U. S. Grant and of Hon. James G. Blaine were the contestants. The only safe measure to adopt was found in the nomination of an unobjectionable man who was allied with neither faction, and hence with great enthusiasm they turned to General Garfield; and although many of the Republican party felt sore over the failure of their respective heroes to obtain the nomination, Gen-eral Garfield was elected by a strong majority, both of the people and of the Electoral College and was inaugurated at Washington March 4, 1881, amid great rejoicing.
Even as the office was higher than any other which he had held, and as the honor was the greatest the world could bestow, so the annoyances which accompanied him into office were more discouraging than he had ever experienced and most appalling dangers surrounded him. Even before his inauguration he was besieged by office seekers at Mentor, his home in Lake County, Ohio. On every hand and in every way did seekers after national honors and pay intrude recklessly and remorselessly upon his time and attention. Among these thousands of office seekers was one, Charles J. Guiteau, a native of Illinois, but who at the time claimed to be a resident of New York. Guiteau had unsuc-cessfully practiced law at Chicago and New York. His had been an erratic life and his ambition most unbounded. He had pro-fessed many kinds of religious beliefs and had attempted to lec-ture on religious and social themes. He had the appearance of a gentleman, and in the political campaign of 1880 he ingratiated himself into the good will of some members of the Republican Committee of New York and made a few unsuccessful speeches. On the fact that he had taken part in the contest he based his claims for a consulship at Marseilles, France, and importuned President Garfield for the appointment. The appointment was refused and Guiteau boldy threatened vengeance and was forcibly ejected from the White House. He then firmly resolved to assas-sinate the President at the first opportunity. Soon after, there arose a political difference between the President and Senator Conkling, of New York, concerning the appointment of a collector for the port of New York. This dispute was merely an outburst of the smothered feeling lingering after the defeat of a favored candidate in the Republican Convention, and may have been less remotely connected with the fact that the President had placed in his Cabinet with William Windom, Wayne MacVeagh, Robert T. Lincoln, William H. Hunt, Samuel J. Kirkwood and Thomas L. James, Senator James G. Blaine, who had been one of the candidates opposed in that convention by Senator Conkling. Both Senators from New York failed in their efforts to prevent the Senate from confirming certain appointments of the President, and after the President had threateningly, though temporarily, withdrawn the unconfirmed nominations from before the Senate of some of Senator Conkling's friends, both of the New York Senators resigned and went back to their State legislature, expecting a triumphant re-election as a rebuke to the President. They failed of election, and in their stead men favoring the President were chosen.
This contest occasioned great excitement and aroused much bitter feeling in the nation. Guiteau, blinded by his desire to kill the President, drew much encouragement from the quarrel and expected that in his deed he would find much support and defense from the defeated party. However, he did not consult any of them, or apprise any man of his intentions. On the morning of July 2, 1881, while the President was in the Baltimore & Ohio Railway station at Washington, accompanied by Secretary Blaine, Guiteau embraced his first opportunity to assassinate the President. Guiteau, stepping behind his victim, fired two shots into the President's back, one shot taking fatal effect. For the awful crime Guiteau was hanged.
On Monday night, September 19, after eighty days of suffering the martyred President peacefully drew his last breath. Mid- night bells all the land tolled in gloomy concert. The next day messages of condolence, sympathy, and grief came to the heart-broken widow from all parts of the world.
The President died at Long Branch, whence his remains were removed to Washington. The body was placed in the center of the hall of the Capitol at Washington, under the great central dome, and there for three days lay in state. Once during those sad days the multitude was shut out and for an hour the stricken widow was left alone with her dead—one of the saddest, sweetest pictures in our nation's history. The funeral services at the Capitol were very brief and unceremonious, in accordance with the usual customs of the Disciples' Church, of which the President had been a member. The remains were borne to Cleveland, and there, on the twenty-sixth of September, the last funeral rites were held in the open air of the public square, and then the remains were reposed in a tomb in the beautiful Lake View Cemetery of Cleveland, where to his memory was subsequently erected one of the handsomest, largest, and most fitting monuments of the nation.


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Representative Citizens of Ohio; Memorial--Biographical (Cleveland 1917)

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