Presidents: James A. Garfield

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After the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln, his successors seemed to think it was a fluke due to the Civil War. That is until President James A. Garfield, the

James A. Garfield

20th President, was assassinated a few short months after he took office. He lingered longer than any of the other presidents to have been assassinated.

James Abram Garfield was born on November 19, 1831 in Moreland Hills, Ohio. He was the youngest of five children born to Abram and Eliza Ballou.

Abra Garfield died in 1833 and James was raised by his mother and is said to be her favorite child. His mother would remarry, but go through a scandalous divorce as he reached his teenage years.

James Garfield escaped through his love of books.

After a short time working in the canals, Garfield went to Geauga Academy for two years. While there he met a fellow student, Lucretia Rudolph. They would later marry.

He later attended and graduated from Williams College in Massachusetts. He worked a variety of jobs to put himself through school and began to feed a growing interest in politics.

In 1858, he married Lucretia Rudolph. The could would go on to have seven children together {two died in infancy}.

In 1861, Garfield was admitted to the bar. He was also appointed to a local state senate seat around this time.

James A. Garfield

He received a commission of colonel in August 1861, when he joined the 42nd Ohio Infantry regiment. By early 1862, he was promoted to command his own brigade. He and his troops joined Major General Ulysses S. Grant and his forces as they advanced in Mississippi. He was also approached to run for Congress in 1862.

By 1863, he’d worked up to Chief of Staff to Major General William S. Rosecrans. By the time he left his military career, he’d worked up to the title and duties of a major general. He eventually resigned for his political career and to serve in Washington, D.C.

Garfield continued to serve in Congress, while working as a lawyer. He repeatedly won re-election for 18 years, and became the leading Republican in the House. He even argued a case before the Supreme Court in 1866.

James Garfield denied any interest to being nominated for president in 1880. However, he become the Republican nominee. He ended up winning the election.

James Garfield was sworn in as president on March 4, 1881.

On July 2, 1881 while at the Baltimore and Potomac Railroad Station in Washington, D.C. waiting to board a train he was shot by a

James A. Garfield

disgruntled office seeker, Charles J. Guiteau.

Garfield was taken to a nearby office, where doctor probed his wounds with unwashed hands. He seemed to improve for a while, before his health again took a turn for the worse.

On September 6, Garfield was taken to the New Jersey seaside. On September 19, 1881, after lingering for over two months from his injury he told a friend “My work is done”. James Garfield died later that evening.

He was buried in Cleveland, Ohio and a memorial was built in his honor.

Many modern historians believe that if better medical care had been provided, President Garfield may have survived the assassination attempt.

Historians claim his presidency showed a promising start. His few months in office lead one to wonder what he may have accomplished during his presidency.


20th President of the United States
(March 4, 1881 to September 19, 1881) 

Born: November 19, 1831, in Orange, Ohio
Died: September 19, 1881, in Elberon, New Jersey

Father: Abram Garfield
Mother: Eliza Ballou Garfield
Married:Lucretia Rudolph (1832-1918), on November 11, 1858
Children: Eliza A. Garfield (1860-63); Harry A. Garfield (1863-1942) James R. Garfield (1865-1950); Mary Garfield (1867-1947); Irvin M. Garfield (1870-1951); Abram Garfield (1872-1958); Edward Garfield (1874-76)

Religion: Disciples of Christ
Education: Attended Western Reserve Eclectic Institute (now Hiram College); Graduated from Williams College (1856)
Occupation: Teacher, public official
Political Party: Republican

  • Member of Ohio State Senate, 1859-61
  • Member of U.S. House of Representatives, 1863-80
  • Elected to United States Senate, 1880

Presidential Salary: $50,000/year


Points of Interest:

  • Garfield was the first left-handed president of the United States.
  • James Garfield could write Latin with one hand and Greek with the other, at the same time.
  • The last of seven presidents born in a log cabin, Garfield weighed 10 pounds at birth.
  • He was the first president to campaign in two languages — English and German.
  • On election day, November 2, 1880, he was at the same time a member of the House, Senator-elect and President-elect.
  • His mother was the first president’s mother to attend her son’s inauguration.
  • At the age of twenty-six, Garfield became president of Hiram College. At the time the school only had five faculty memebers.
  • After Garfield’s shooting, repeated probing for the bullet with non-sterile instruments resulted in blood poisoning which eventually killed him.


1831 James Garfield was born on November 19, 1831, in Orange, Ohio

1846 Mexican-American War begins.

1858 James Garfield was married on November 11, 1858 to Lucretia Rudolph Garfield. They had 7 Children

1859 Oregon admission to the US
Harper’s Ferry Raid

1860 Pony Express begins

1861 The American Civil War, also called the War between the States, was waged from April 1861 until April 1865. The 4 year war was between the federal government of the United States and 11 Southern states that asserted their right to secede (withdraw) from the Union. Abraham Lincoln was the central figure of the American Civil War. James Garfield served as an officer in the Civil War

1859-61 Member of Ohio State Senate, 1859-61

1863-80 Member of U.S. House of Representatives, 1863-80

1863 Battle of Gettysburg

1864 Sand Creek Massacre

1865 Abraham Lincoln assassinated
United States Civil War ends

1866 Civil Rights Act of 1866
Ku Klux Klan founded

1867 Alaska Purchase from Russia

1872 1872 Scandal – He was implicated in the Credit Mobilier scandal in which congressmen were accused of turning a blind eye to corruption in the company

1880 Elected to United States Senate, 1880

1881 1881 James Garfield became the President of the United States of America but only lasted for from 100 days. James Garfield advocated hard money policies backed by gold.

1881 His term of office lasted for just 100 days in 1881 from March 4th until his death on September 19th 1881. James Garfield was shot by Charles J. Guiteau, a disgruntled Republican.




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