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Civil War Soldiers - Garfield

Garfield, James A., major-general, U.S. Army, was born in a one-room log house in Orange township, Cuyahoga county, Ohio, Nov. 19, 1831. His father's death occurring when Garfield was only two years old, the boy spent his youth in alternate periods of study and hard manual labor on the farm. Obtaining money for his higher education by teaching school, he attended Geauga seminary at Chester, Ohio, and the Western Reserve eclectic institute (now Hiram college) at Hiram, Ohio, entered Williams college, Mass., in 1854, and was graduated with distinguished honor in 1856. He was also, before entering college, a preacher in the Disciples church, though never ordained to preach. He was for a time instructor in ancient languages and literature in the Western Reserve eclectic institute, was its president from 1857-61 and studied law at Hiram, although he entered his name as a law student with a firm of lawyers in Cleveland. He joined the new Republican party and spoke for Fremont and Dayton in 1856, and was from 1860-62 member of the Ohio legislature. At the outbreak of the Civil war he gave up the practice of law, which he had but just begun, and in Aug., 1861, was commissioned by Gov. Dennison lieutenant-colonel of the 42nd Ohio volunteers, a regiment which Garfield had enlisted at Hiram from the alumni of the institution. Col. Garfield brought his regiment to a state of discipline, was elected its colonel and led it to the front in December, reporting to Gen. Buell at Louisville, Ky. He was at once assigned by Gen. Buell to command a brigade of 2,500 men, and was commissioned to drive Gen. Humphrey Marshall from the state. In this he had to attack, in a region where a majority of the people were hostile, a general with a force twice outnumbering his own and strongly entrenched in a mountainous country. Garfield concentrated his force, confused Marshall by sudden, rapid moves, and by false information skilfully prepared for him, so that the Confederate general abandoned his large store of supplies at Paintville and allowed himself to be caught in retreat by Garfield, who charged the full force of the enemy and maintained a hand-to-hand fight with it for five hours. He was then reinforced by Gens. Granger and Sheldon, and Marshall was forced to give way, leaving Col. Garfield victor at Middle creek, Jan. 10, 1862, one of the most important of the minor battles of the war. In recognition of these services President Lincoln made him brigadier-general, dating his commission from the battle of Middle creek. He was assigned to the command of the 20th brigade and ordered to join Gen. Grant, who was opposing Gen. A. S. Johnston. Reaching the battle-field of Shiloh on the second day of the fight, April 7, 1862, he aided in repulsing the enemy and then joined Gen. Sherman in his attack on the rear guard of the Confederate army. After rebuilding the bridges on the Memphis & Charleston railroad, and repairing the fortifications at Hartsville, Tenn., Gen. Garfield was forced to return home on sick leave, July 30, 1862. He remained at Hiram until Sept. 25, when he was ordered on court-martial duty at Washington, where he so displayed his ability that on Nov. 25 he was assigned to the case of Gen. Fitz-John Porter. Returning to the Army of the Cumberland in Feb., 1863, he was made chief-of-staff to Gen. Rosecrans, and so won that general's confidence and respect that when, on June 24, every one of the seventeen general officers except Garfield advised against an advance, Rosecrans disregarded their opinions and ordered the advance. Gen. Garfield wrote out all the orders for the battle of Chickamauga except the fatal one which lost the day, and, after the defeat of the right of the army, carried the news of the defeat, though exposed to constant fire, to Gen. Thomas on the extreme left, thus enabling that general to save the Army of the Cumberland. For this action Garfield won promotion to the rank of major-general of volunteers, Sept. 19, 1863, which rank was conferred upon him "for gallantry on a field that was lost." He then declined command of a division urged upon him by Gen. Thomas and, at the urgent request of President Lincoln, gave up ambitions for a military career and took his seat in Congress, Dec. 7, 1863, to which he had been elected in Oct., 1862, serving until the end of the war as a member of the military committee, and winning respect as an expert, experienced and careful authority on military affairs. While on the military committee he opposed the bill that increased bounty paid for raw recruits, favored the draft and favored liberal bounties to veterans who re-enlisted. Gen. Garfield's career from this point, although always illustrious, is not concerned with the history of the Union army and will be but briefly sketched. He continued to sit in Congress, term after term, until 1880, being one of the leaders of his party, for several terms its candidate for speaker when the party was in the minority, taking particular interest in bills relating to the currency, and on Jan. 13, 1880, was chosen United States senator from Ohio. At the Republican national convention, held in Chicago in 1880, Garfield supported John Sherman of Ohio against Grant, Blaine and others. Although not himself a candidate at first, he so won the admiration of the delegates from all sections that, after thirty ballots had been cast without a choice, he was elected on the thirty-sixth ballot. He took the stump in his own behalf and was elected in November, receiving the electoral votes of all but three of the northern states. President Garfield, early in his administration, incurred the enmity of Senator Conkling of New York who had secured New York to the Republican column by nominating W. H. Robertson for collector of the port of New York in direct opposition to the senators from that state. Both Senators Conkling and Platt resigned their seats in the senate and failed at re-election, and the senate confirmed the president's nomination. President Garfield was shot by Charles Jules Guiteau, a disappointed office seeker, in the station of the Baltimore & Potomac railroad, July 2, 1881, while on his way to attend the commencement exercises at Williams college. The president lingered between life and death at the White House, and subsequently at Elberon, N. J., and died at Elberon, Sept. 19, 1881. He was buried at Cleveland, Ohio, and over the spot where his remains lie an imposing monument was erected by popular subscription at a cost of over $155,000.

Source: The Union Army: A History of Military Affairs in the Loyal States 1861-1865, Volume 8 Biographical, 1908

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