Education Congressman, Education President (Part II)

Congressman Garfield’s interest in education was not confined to the common schools.  In 1868 he drafted a bill supporting military instruction in colleges, similar to today’s ROTC. It did not pass.  But two years earlier Garfield had added a provision for schools on military posts to the annual budget for the army.  That provision remained in the army appropriation each year, without much action until 1878.  Then “measures were taken at nearly all the permanent military posts toward the establishment of schools for promoting the intelligence of soldiers and affording education to their children, as well as to those of officers and civilians at the remote frontier posts.”

Garfield was ambivalent on the idea of land grant colleges. “I do not believe in a college to educate men for the profession of farming.  A liberal education almost always draws men away from farming.  But schools of science in general technology are valuable.”  As a trustee of Hampton Institute, a new school for the education of freedmen in Norfolk, Virginia, Garfield recognized the need for industrial and agricultural training to promote self-sufficiency in a previously dependent population. He hoped, however, that the curriculum at Hampton would quickly evolve past an emphasis on manual labor and subsistence farming, and strongly encouraged the normal school, which trained teachers.   In 1870 he supported an appropriation for the School for the Deaf and Dumb (now Gallaudet College) in the District of Columbia, which, he argued, was essentially a normal school for teachers of the disabled.

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James A. Garfield served as a trustee of the Hampton Institute (now Hampton University), a school for freedmen in Virginia.  (Image courtesy of the University of North Carolina)

From 1865 to 1873, and again from 1877 to 1880, Garfield served as a Regent of the Smithsonian Institution, “the most pleasant duty of my official life.”  In Congress he reminded his colleagues that the Smithsonian “is not a mere statistical establishment…supporting a corps of men whose only duty is the exhibition of the articles of a show museum; but a living, active organization that has, by its publications, researches, [and] explorations…vindicated the intelligence and good faith of the government in administrating a fund intended for the good of the whole community of civilized men.”  Two notes from his diary show the ways that the Garfield family enjoyed the museum.  Saturday, November 13, 1875: “…I took Crete, Mother and the children to the Smithsonian to examine the 16 birds I had read about from Audubon…”  Saturday, April 1, 1876: “…At half-past eight Crete and I attended the meeting of the Literary Club at the Smithsonian Institution.  A paper was read on art by Mr. Clarke, followed by a lecture on sound by Prof. Henry.  A large number of interesting people were present.”

Smithsonian

Congressman James A. Garfield spent many years as a Regent of the Smithsonian Institution, seen here in its early days. Garfield said this one of his most enjoyable public duties. (Smithsonian Institution)

Congressman Garfield was also an enthusiastic supporter of the US Geological Survey and the Naval Observatory.

We don’t know, of course, what kind of education President Garfield might have been, but we do have two hints, the first from his letter of acceptance of the Republican presidential nomination:

“Next in importance to freedom and justice is popular education, without which neither freedom nor justice can be permanently maintained.  Its interests are entrusted to the States, and to the voluntary action of the people.  Whatever help the nation can justly afford should be generously given to aid the States in supporting common schools.”

He was more eloquent and more inspiring in his Inaugural Address.

“It is the high privilege and sacred duty of those now living to educate their successors, and fit them, by intelligence and virtue for the inheritance which awaits them.”

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James A. Garfield is inaugurated as President of the United States on March 4, 1881.  He referenced the importance of education in his inaugural address.  (Architect of the Capitol)

These statements, while forceful and inspiring, do not explain why Garfield was so committed to the education of every American.  For that, we need to look back at a speech before the National Education Association in February, 1879. In concluding his remarks to the nation’s school superintendents, Garfield offered a warning.

“…[British historian Thomas B.]  Macaulay said that a government like ours must inevitably lead to anarchy; and I believe there is no answer to his prophecy unless the schoolhouse can give it.  If we can fill the minds of all our children who are to be voters with intelligence which will fit them wisely to vote, and fill them with the spirit of liberty, then we will have averted the fatal prophesy.  But if, on the other hand, we allow our youth to grow up in ignorance, this Republic will end in disastrous failure.  All the encouragement that the National Government can give, everything that States can do, all that good citizens everywhere can do, and most of all what the teacher himself can do, ought to be hailed as the deliverance of our country from the saddest distress.”

-Joan Kapsch, Park Guide

 

Education Congressman, Education President (Part I)

In his Inaugural Address James Garfield said, “It is the high privilege and sacred duty of those now living to educate their successors, and fit them, by intelligence and virtue for the inheritance which awaits them.”

James Garfield thought about education all his life—as a student, a teacher, a father, and public official.  He used his positions of public trust to encourage and promote education for as many people, and in as many ways as he was able.

At age twenty-six, Garfield earned his degree from Williams College and returned to Ohio to teach at Western Reserve Eclectic Institute, where his higher education began. He was soon named Principal.  “Chapel lectures” or morning lectures were a well-established part of the school curriculum, and Garfield presented hundreds of them on a variety of topics, including education and teaching, books, methods of study and reading, physical geography, geology, history, the Bible, morals, current topics and life questions.  In a letter to a friend, Garfield described the ways he reorganized the school, “We have remodeled the government, published rules, published a new catalogue, and have…250 students (no primary), as orderly as clock-work, and all hard at work.”  Garfield was listed in the catalog of Western Reserve Eclectic Institute as “Professor and Principal and Lecturer” from 1856 to 1866.

WREI - Wikipedia Hiram College Archives

An early look at the Western Reserve Eclectic Institute (now Hiram College).  James Garfield was a student here and later a teacher and the school’s principal.  (Hiram College Archives)

During the years Garfield’s name appeared at the top of the Eclectic’s catalog, he also married Lucretia Rudolph and started a family, served in the Ohio legislature, passed the state bar, and, when the Civil War began in 1861, raised the 42nd Ohio Infantry.  He served in the Union army until late 1863, when he took a seat in the U.S. House, representing Ohio’s 19th Congressional District.

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James Garfield and Lucretia Rudolph around the time of their engagement.  Lucretia’s father, Zeb, was one of the founders of the Western Reserve Eclectic Institute, where the couple became close.  They married on November 11, 1858.  (Western Reserve Historical Society)

Garfield’s goal in leading the Eclectic Institute was to expand its offerings and elevate its standards, laying the foundations for it to become a fully accredited college.  That objective was achieved in 1867, when the school was chartered by the state as Hiram College.  Speaking to the last group of graduates of the Eclectic, Garfield identified five kinds of knowledge that he believed every student needed, and every college should help them master.

In order of importance, he said that first was “that knowledge necessary for the full development of our bodies and the preservation of our health.”  Second was an understanding of the principles of arts and industry (how things work). Third on the list was the knowledge necessary to a full comprehension of one’s rights and duties as a citizen.  Fourth was understanding the intellectual, moral, religious and aesthetic nature of man, and his relations to nature and civilization.  Finally, a complete education should provide the special and thorough knowledge required for a particular chosen profession.  Garfield had obviously thought deeply about what an education ought to be; his list of five kinds of knowledge stands up well to the test of time.  The order of importance he assigns, however, deviates significantly from the goals of modern education.

James Garfield’s papers reveal some of his very specific and firmly held ideas about teaching and learning.  Here are a few.

“I, for one, declare that no child of mine shall ever be compelled to study one hour, or to learn even the English alphabet, before he has deposited under his skin at least seven years of muscle and bone.”

Garfield children Brady portrait

James and Lucretia Garfield’s five surviving children: Mollie; James R.; Harry; Irvin; and Abram.  All four of the boys received fantastic educations at St. Paul’s boarding school in New Hampshire and their father’s alma mater, William College, in Massachusetts.  Mollie attending something along the lines of a “finishing school”before marrying Joseph Stanley-Brown when she was 21.  (Library of Congress)

“School committees would summarily dismiss the teacher who should have the good sense and courage to spend three days of each week with her pupils in the fields and woods, teaching them the names, peculiarities, and uses of rocks, trees, plants, and flowers, and the beautiful story of the animals, birds, and insects which fill the world with life and beauty.  They will applaud her for continuing to perpetrate that undefended and indefensible outrage upon the laws of physical and intellectual life which keeps little children sitting in silence, in a vain attempt to hold its [sic]mind to the words of a printed page, for six hours in a day…This practice kills by the savagery of slow torture.”

“I am well aware of the current notion that…a finished education is supposed to consist mainly of literary culture…This generation is beginning to understand that education should not be forever divorced from industry,–that the highest results can be reached only when science guides the hand of labor…Machinery is the chief implement with which civilization does its work; but the science of mechanics is impossible without mathematics.”

“I insist that it should be made an indispensable condition of graduation in every American college, that the student must understand the history of this continent since its discovery by Europeans; the origin and history of the United States, its constitution of government, the struggles through which it has passed, and the rights and duties of citizens who are to determine its destiny and share its glory.”

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The modern U.S. Department of Education owes much to James A. Garfield, who introduced an April 1866 bill in the House of Representatives to created a Federal Bureau of Education.  (U.S. Department of Education)

As a member of Congress, Garfield’s most significant achievement was passing a bill that created the first Federal Bureau of Education, a piece of legislation he introduced in April, 1866.  It provided for a Commissioner of Education who would be charged with collecting and disseminating information about education in the United States.  In arguing for this Bureau Garfield said, “In 1860 there were in the United States 115,224 common schools, 500,000 school officers, 150,241 teachers and 5,477,037 scholars; thus showing that more than six million people of the United States are directly engaged in the work of education.  Not only has this large proportion of our population been thus engaged, but the Congress of the United States has given fifty-three million acres of public lands to fourteen States and Territories of the Union for the support of schools.”  He made it clear that the purpose of the bureau was to gather information and statistics about schools across the nation, and share it with local and state educators.  It should discover the quality and effectiveness of schools for blacks and immigrants as compared to those for native-born whites. The Bureau was not involved in curriculum development or school management.

(Check back soon for Part II!)

-Joan Kapsch, Park Guide

Caroline Ransom: Artistic Endeavors on the Western Reserve

Throughout the Garfields’ Mentor, Ohio home, many beautiful pieces of art are on view for visitors to enjoy. The elegant Reception Hall is a small gallery in itself, with pieces including portraits of James and Lucretia Garfield, a Japanese temple gong, and a large piece entitled The Old Spring House (Flirtation). One could spend many hours admiring the artistic skill in the home, including that of the family (the tiles around the dining room fireplace, as well as the pencil drawings on the second floor, are the work of Lucretia Garfield and her children). The work of one artist in particular, Caroline Ransom, is especially prolific in the Garfield home, and worth learning more about.

Caroline Ransom was a portrait artist who was also a friend of the Garfields, getting to know them in Washington, D.C. as did several of her contemporaries. Many diary entries, letters, and other primary sources illustrate the closeness of Ransom’s relationship with the family. James and Lucretia, for their part, had interests in the arts throughout their lives. Both attended the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia, James was an early regent of the newly established Smithsonian in Washington, D.C., and Lucretia had been a student illustrator at a publication of the Western Reserve Eclectic Institute.

Congressman James A. Garfield spent many years as a Regent of the Smithsonian Institution, seen here in its early days.  Garfield said this one of his most enjoyable public duties.  (Smithsonian Institution)

Congressman James A. Garfield spent many years as a Regent of the Smithsonian Institution, seen here in its early days. Garfield said this was one of his most enjoyable public duties. (Smithsonian Institution)

Ransom was a native Ohioan, born in 1826 in Newark, OH. Soon after Caroline’s birth, the family moved and her father established a settlement on the Western Reserve centered on a mill. However, the businesses that her father built had failed by 1864, and the family, now poor, moved to Cleveland. Caroline, in the meantime, had begun pursuing her interest in art in earnest.

On the Western Reserve, though, fine art was difficult to come by. In the 1850s, Ransom had the chance to study with landscape artist Asher B. Durand, who was part of the Hudson River School of painters, in New York. After a few months of study, Durand recommended that Ransom focus on portraits instead—so she began studying with a series of other artists, the first being Thomas Hicks, a portrait and genre artist. While studying with Hicks, Ransom painted a portrait of a Mrs. Goss that is now in the archives of the Cleveland Museum of Art.

Caroline Ransom's portrait of a Mrs. Goss.  (Cleveland Museum of Art)

Caroline Ransom’s portrait of a Mrs. Goss. (Cleveland Museum of Art)

By the end of the 1850s, Ransom was spending time in Washington, D.C. as well as Ohio, and had begun to create portraits of politicians. Her portrait of Representative Joshua Giddings was displayed at the National Academy of Design’s 1859 exhibition, next to a painting by artist Daniel Huntington, another of her mentors. The purchase of the Giddings painting marked the first time the federal government had purchased a painting by a female artist. Two of Ransom’s paintings, the one of Representative Giddings as well as one she did of Speaker of the House John W. Taylor, are in the Capitol building to this day (the former is stored in the archives and the latter is part of the Speaker of the House portrait collection).

Speaker of the House John W. Taylor, as painted by Caroline Ransom in 1900.  Taylor was from New York and served as Speaker twice: 1820-21 and 1825-27.  Later in life, he moved to Cleveland, Ohio to live with his eldest daughter.  (U.S. House of Representatives)

Speaker of the House John W. Taylor, as painted by Caroline Ransom in 1900. Taylor was from New York and served as Speaker twice: 1820-21 and 1825-27. Later in life, he moved to Cleveland, Ohio to live with his eldest daughter. (U.S. House of Representatives)

The Civil War and its aftermath in the 1860s brought Ransom a new outlet for her art, and she began painting portraits of soldiers who had been killed during the conflict and presenting the portraits to their families. Ransom also approached James Garfield, asking him to sit for her so she could paint his portrait. Eventually he did, and the result is a large portrait that is displayed today on the second floor landing of the Garfields’ Mentor home. The painting served as a memorial for the family of the late president, where a vase of fresh flowers was often placed in front of it when the Garfields lived in the home after President Garfield’s assassination.

Caroline Ransom painted this image of James A. Garfield in his Major General's uniform.  This was one of Lucretia Garfield's favorite portraits of her husband.  It still hangs in the Garfield home here at James A. Garfield NHS.  (NPS photo)

Caroline Ransom painted this portrait of James A. Garfield in his Major General’s uniform. This was one of Lucretia Garfield’s favorite portraits of her husband. It still hangs in the Garfield home here at James A. Garfield NHS. (NPS photo)

Another work of Ransom’s, depicting another victim, is displayed in the house to this day: a full-length painting of Saint Roderick. Saint Roderick (San Rodrigo), a Christian priest who lived in Spain during the ninth century, was one of the Martyrs of Córdoba. It is thought that this piece remained in the home after a loan, the collateral of which was the painting, had not been repaid to Lucretia, who had given the money to Caroline Ransom. The painting is a copy of one by Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, and was done by Ransom as a means of improving her technique while she was studying masterpieces in Europe.

Caroline Ransom painted this portrait of Saint Roderick, and it now hangs in the Reception Hall on the first floor of the Garfield home.  (NPS photo)

Caroline Ransom painted this portrait of Saint Roderick, and it now hangs in the Reception Hall on the first floor of the Garfield home. (NPS photo)

In addition to James Garfield, Ransom painted several other portraits of Garfield family members that are displayed in the historic house: in the parlor is a portrait of Eliza Ballou Garfield, James’ mother, and in the Winter Bedroom are two portraits of Garfield children who died at a young age: Eliza Arabella (‘Little Trot’) and Edward (‘Neddie’). Ransom also did a painting of Falstaff, a popular character from several of Shakespeare’s plays, which now hangs in the second floor hallway. Supposedly, Garfield remarked to Caroline Ransom that he was unsatisfied with all of the portraits of Falstaff, thus prompting the artist to create her own interpretation. All of these paintings can be viewed on a tour of the home here at James A. Garfield National Historic Site.

Falstaff was one of James A. Garfield's favorite characters from Shakespeare.  Caroline Ransom painted this portrait of the so-called "Fat Knight" for Garfield because he didn't care for any of the paintings of Falstaff he had seen.  This portrait hangs on the second floor of the Garfield home.  (NPS photo)

Falstaff was one of James A. Garfield’s favorite characters from Shakespeare. Caroline Ransom painted this portrait of the so-called “Fat Knight” for Garfield because he didn’t care for any of the paintings of Falstaff he had seen. This portrait hangs on the second floor of the Garfield home. (NPS photo)

The amount and variety, as well as the content, of the artwork in the Garfield household is a testament to the artistic and scholarly inclinations of the family, the many friendships with artists and creative types that the Garfields enjoyed, and the interesting, and often surprising, anecdotes about this remarkable family. As a bold, promising, and talented artist, Caroline Ransom’s close and lasting friendship with the Garfields is no surprise.

-Katelin McArdle, Park Ranger

Friends to the End

In his forty-nine years, James A. Garfield had a remarkable number of friends. They came from a wide variety of backgrounds including politicians, businessmen, college classmates and soldiers. Of all the colleagues he accumulated, it appears the ones he valued most were those he met as a young man.

Garfield’s diary reveals acquaintences dating back to his early years at the Western Reserve Eclectic Institute. He never lost sight of his friends, often writing letters and visiting whenever possible. It was a rare occasion when Garfield quarreled with a pal and put an end to the relationship. During the summer of 1880 he was inundated with trainloads of visitors at his family farm. His nomination for President prompted his legion of friends to travel to Mentor, leaving the candidate little time for the business at hand.

In examining all of Garfield’s friendships, one of the men closest to him was a Williams College grad and an old army buddy. When the day was finished and all political obligations complete, Garfield looked to Colonel Almon Rockwell to help him relax. It might be a spirited card game or several rounds of billiards or just some friendly talk. When there was a springtime lull at the Capitol Building, Congressman Garfield would duck out of his office to meet Rockwell and catch a Washington Nationals baseball game. The club was mediocre at best, but the two friends had a grand time watching the ball games.

Almon Ferdinand Rockwell was born October 17, 1835 in Gilbertsville, New York. The village is located in the lower part of the state, southwest of Cooperstown.  His American ancestors traced back to 1641 when John Rockwell arrived in Stamford, Connecticut. In later years several family members would serve under General George Washington and the Continental Army.

Almon F. Rockwell was one of James A. Garfield's oldest and closest friends.

Almon F. Rockwell was one of James A. Garfield’s oldest and closest friends.

Rockwell went to the area public schools then enrolled in the Gilbertsville Academy and Collegiate Institute. He met his requirements which allowed him to enter Williams College in September of 1852. In his junior year he made a new friend, an older boy from the Midwest. Rockwell and Garfield began a warm friendship that would last until the President’s death in 1881.

After graduation, Rockwell studied medicine in Philadelphia. In 1858 he received a license to practice. While reviewing source material on Rockwell’s life it is difficult to determine if he actually practiced medicine at any time. Even if he did not, he still had a valuable skill that would be used at various periods during his lifetime.

All of this became a moot point when the Civil War began in April of 1861. In the fall of that same year Rockwell received a commission in the Army of the Ohio. Serving as a first lieutenant, he was assigned to the staff of General Don Carlos Buell. After a brief stay in Louisville, Kentucky, Rockwell saw action at Fort Donelson. He moved on to the Battle of Shiloh where he ran into his old classmate, James Garfield. The two pals reminisced after the fight, then later on the march to Corinth.

James A. Garfield entered the Union army as a Lieutenant Colonel in 1861.  By the time he ran into his old friend Rockwell at Shiloh, Garfield was a Brigadier General.  (Dickinson College)

James A. Garfield entered the Union army as a Lieutenant Colonel in 1861. By the time he ran into his old friend Rockwell at the April 1862 battle of Shiloh, Garfield was a Brigadier General. (Dickinson College)

The reunion did not last long as Rockwell came down with malaria and Garfield took sick leave with a severe case of dysentery. Rockwell was the first to recover, being transferred to the provost marshal’s department then reassigned as an assistant adjutant general. His new responsibility was to help organize and outfit the new regiments of African-American soldiers. That responsibility lasted until the end of the war.

Rockwell was in Washington D.C. on April 14, 1865. He received a frantic message that President Lincoln was shot and he was needed immediately at the Petersen house. Lincoln had been carried from Ford’s Theatre to the home across the street. Rockwell raced to the President’s bedside and remained through the night and early morning hours. He witnessed Abraham Lincoln slip away, one of the most dreadful events in our American history.

Almon Rockwell witnessed the death of President Abraham Lincoln on the morning of April 15, 1865, about nine hours after John Wilkes Booth shot Lincoln at Ford's Theater.  (Wikipedia)

Almon Rockwell witnessed the death of President Abraham Lincoln on the morning of April 15, 1865, about nine hours after John Wilkes Booth shot Lincoln at Ford’s Theater. (Wikipedia)

Though his army commission had expired, Rockwell did not stay unemployed for long. He was offered a position in the Quartermaster Corps of the regular army. The job took him out west where assisted in the construction of several forts including Fort Larned, Fort Gibson, and Fort Sill. He served several years at Fort Yuma, Arizona before being summoned back to Washington D.C. His new detail gave him responsibility for the nation’s national cemeteries.

Rockwell quickly found the occasion to call on his long-lost friend, Congressman Garfield. Living in the same city allowed the two buddies to catch up on old times. Garfield would write in his diary, “In the evening dined at Welcker’s with my old classmate Capt. Rockwell of the Army and had a delightful reunion after seven years of separation. The Captain presented me with a beautiful matchbox of gold with this inscription, “From an old fellow to another.”

Once they were up to date, the two found the nearest billiard parlor and shot pool for hours. One could see them with coats off, shirt sleeves rolled up and calling out their shots. They made a point to play billiards at least several times a week. It is not known how competitive they were, but based on their accomplishments one has to believe they played for keeps.

In addition to shooting pool or a game of casino, they studied the financial markets. After some consideration shares were purchased in the Silver King Mining Company located in Colorado. Shrewd investors were doing quite well with gold and silver mines. It is not clear if the two saw any sizable gains from the stock.

The Rockwell- Garfield friendship extended on several levels. The children of both families became close friends. Sons Hal and Jim Garfield and Don Rockwell roomed together at St Paul’s Prep School. In January 1881 the President-elect arranged for a tutor that gave instruction to the boys at the Rockwell’s Washington home. Later that year, all three began classes at Williams College. Daughter Mollie Garfield spent time with Lulu Rockwell, who was regarded as one of the great beauties. As an adult Lulu would marry a French count and live well for many years in Europe.

The Garfield family, seen here, was very close with the family of Almon Rockwell.  (Library of Congress)

The Garfield family, seen here, was very close with the family of Almon Rockwell. (Library of Congress)

Before President Garfield took office he arranged for Rockwell to be Superintendent of Public Buildings for Washington D. C. A President could always find a way to hire friends for government jobs. By all accounts, Rockwell took this job seriously, being retained by President Chester A. Arthur until his term expired in 1885.

At the time of Garfield’s assassination, Colonel Rockwell had gone ahead to the Washington train station. There he made plans for the President’s trip east to Williams College. The two loyal alumni were intending to visit the school for their latest reunion. Rockwell was startled to hear the sound of gunfire behind him. He turned around to see his best friend lying on the ground, blood pouring out of his side. Rockwell, a trained medical doctor, had to know the President was in a life-threatening state. He organized a party to carry Garfield to a makeshift ambulance and back to the White House.

Charles Guiteau shot President James A. Garfield on July 2, 1881.   Almon Rockwell was in the building and rushed to his wounded friend's side.  (Harper's Weekly)

Charles Guiteau shot President James A. Garfield on July 2, 1881. Almon Rockwell was in the building and rushed to his wounded friend’s side. (Harper’s Weekly)

For the next eighty days, Rockwell never strayed far from Garfield’s side. He visited every afternoon and evening. When the President asked to be moved from Washington to the seashore of Elberon, New Jersey, Rockwell made the trip with the family. Just hours before Garfield passed away on September 19, 1881, he had one final conversation with his old friend. The President had concerns that his legacy was incomplete and in time he might be forgotten. Rockwell assured him that was not the case. He told Garfield that the American people would always have a special place in their hearts for the twentieth President of the United States.

Scenes like this one were common in the White House after President Garfield was shot, as well as in the New Jersey cottage in which he died on September 19, 1881.  Almon Rockwell was with his old friend as much as possible between the shooting and the President's death.  (Wikipedia)

Scenes like this one were common in the White House after President Garfield was shot, as well as in the New Jersey cottage in which he died on September 19, 1881. Almon Rockwell was with his old friend as much as possible between the shooting and the President’s death. (Wikipedia)

Almon Rockwell completed his term as Superintendent of Public Buildings. He then returned to active duty with the Quartermaster Corps until his retirement in 1897. He died on July 31, 1903 in Paris, France. Rockwell had an extensive collection of papers which the family donated to the Library of Congress. The archivists had to be surprised when they discovered a bullet among the papers. After careful examination it proved to be the bullet removed from President Garfield’s body during the autopsy. Why Colonel Rockwell had possession of the bizarre artifact is uncertain. Perhaps it served as a grim reminder of the events of July 2, 1881. Though he lived to be sixty-seven years old, Rockwell never forgot his old college classmate and dearest friend. He remembered the good times and most certainly the bad.

-Scott Longert, Park Guide

Four Hundred and Eight Strong

Imagine stepping back in time to an elegant country estate, and standing on a front porch where a presidential candidate once spoke to thousands of people. Envision a quiet island corridor between Put-in-Bay and the Ohio coast, the same place where the naval Battle of Lake Erie was waged over 200 years ago. Picture yourself walking a peaceful riverside trail, where commerce and community formerly thrived upon the Ohio and Erie Canal.

These are just a few of the scenes preserved and protected by the National Park Service (NPS), and the best part is they are all right here in Ohio. And for park rangers, these scenes are just another day at the office!

The National Park Service (NPS) is an agency of the federal government, operating within the Department of the Interior. The parks that make up the system are further divided into 7 regions: Alaska, Intermountain, Midwest, National Capital, Northeast, Pacific West, and Southeast. Ohio falls within the Midwest Region, which includes parks in or near urban areas like Cuyahoga Valley National Park and Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, varied landscapes such as Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore and Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve, and historic locations like our own James A. Garfield National Historic Site. James A. Garfield National Historic Site (or JAGA, as it is affectionately abbreviated) is one of 408 National Park Service units across the United States, plus the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. Every state has at least one National Park unit (Delaware was the last state to join the list, with the addition of First State National Historical Park, which includes the First State National Monument, in March 2013).

A guided tour of the Garfield home is a must-have experience at James A. Garfield NHS!  Garfield campaigned for president from this home and property in 1880.  (NPS photo)

A guided tour of the Garfield home is a must-have experience at James A. Garfield NHS! Garfield campaigned for president from this home and property in 1880. (NPS photo)

Work within the NPS is generally divided among six main divisions responsible for various aspects of park management. Each division typically includes a chief as well as other management staff who oversee the operations. The division names and functions may vary slightly from one site to another, but the general structure and responsibilities are similar:

Superintendent’s Office

A superintendent and his or her staff oversee all park divisions and activities. This office may also work and communicate with surrounding communities and organizations.

Administrative

The administrative staff manages many functions, including human resources and payroll, budget planning, information technology, property management and acquisition, and purchasing and contracting.

Interpretation, Education, and Visitor Services

IEVS rangers are the staff with whom visitors are most likely to interact on a visit. Interpretive rangers can be found working in visitor centers, leading tours and guided hikes, presenting educational programs to students, supervising volunteers, and organizing special events. Interpretive rangers are also busy behind the scenes, planning programs, creating brochures and park literature, and keeping the park’s website and social media accounts current.

Maintenance

Maintenance employees are responsible for upkeep of the park and its facilities, whether that is cleaning and servicing the buildings and grounds used by the public, constructing and maintaining trails, or keeping areas cleared of snow in the winter months. Some maintenance staff members, like automotive technicians, work on specialized projects depending on the needs of the site.

Visitor and Resource Protection

Visitor and resource protection Rangers are the law enforcement division of a park. These rangers are trained in first aid and incident response, so that in an emergency, they can quickly reach a victim or situation and assist. They also maintain internal communications, such as radio traffic, weather-related news, and employee contact information, and monitor park security systems.

Resource and Visitor Protection park rangers are commissioned federal law enforcement officers.  They ensure that visitors can safely enjoy their national parks and that resources are protected from damage, poaching, metal detecting, harvesting, and other illegal activities.  (NPS photo)

Resource and Visitor Protection Park Rangers are commissioned federal law enforcement officers. They ensure that visitors can safely enjoy their national parks and that resources are protected from damage, poaching, metal detecting, harvesting, and other illegal activities. (NPS photo)

Resource Management

Each park within NPS has a unique set of resources, which could include historical buildings or structures, original artifacts or documents, and natural features. Resource management could involve ecosystem management, such as invasive species or water quality monitoring, or protection of cultural and historical resources, like curating a museum collection or archaeological artifacts.

Although tasks and projects are divided amongst divisions, cooperation between them is essential in order for parks to function well. Beyond these park-level divisions, there are also regional offices for each of the seven regions. These regional offices report to the Washington, D.C. offices, the highest level in the park’s organization. Regional offices may handle affairs that cannot be handled internally at the park level, while the Washington offices handle matters at the nationwide level.

Some visitors are also curious about how one comes to work for the National Park Service in the first place. While working in or visiting a park, you might encounter people with all sorts of educational backgrounds: natural resource management, biology, fisheries and wildlife, history, social science/anthropology, park and recreation management, law enforcement, museum studies, business administration, public administration, or any number of other degrees. Many park employees begin their careers as seasonal staff or interns. Still others have worked in a variety of other industries or environments, such as experience as an educator, military veteran, outdoor recreation instructor, or park volunteer, before joining the staff.

NPS in Ohio
Ohio is home to eight National Park Service units:

  • Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers National Monument (Wilberforce)
  • Cuyahoga Valley National Park (Cleveland-Akron)
  • Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park (Dayton)
  • First Ladies National Historic Site (Canton)
  • Hopewell Culture National Historical Park (Chillicothe)
  • James A. Garfield National Historic Site (Mentor)
  • Perry’s Victory and International Peace Memorial (Put-in-Bay)
  • William Howard Taft National Historic Site (Cincinnati)

Not included on this list are some of the other NPS designations that are affiliated with the National Park Service (for example, the North Country National Scenic Trail, which runs through Ohio as well as six other states).

Ohio is the birthplace or home of eight U.S. presidents!  Two of them--James A. Garfield and William Howard Taft--have National Historic Sites in the state.  This is William Howard Taft National Historic Site in Cincinnati.  (NPS photo)

Ohio is the birthplace or home of eight U.S. presidents! Two of them–James A. Garfield and William Howard Taft–have National Historic Sites in the state. This is William Howard Taft National Historic Site in Cincinnati. (NPS photo)

Types of NPS Units

Keeping track of all the different designations can be a little confusing, but not to worry—just focus on learning something, having fun, and enjoying your visit! It is helpful, though, to know a little bit about the different types of parks, so you can know some of what to expect when you take your next visit (examples of each designation are in parentheses):

National Park (Acadia)

With 59 units, National Parks are some of the most recognizable and well-known units of NPS. These are generally large, natural places having a wide variety of attributes, often including significant historic or cultural elements. Hunting, mining, and consumptive activities (like collecting fossils or plants) are not authorized within units of this variety.

This Park Ranger is observing wildlife at Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona.  The Park Ranger hat and uniform are almost as iconic as the landscapes and places of historical significance that Rangers interpret and protect!  (NPS photo)

This Park Ranger is observing wildlife at Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona. The Park Ranger hat and uniform are almost as iconic as the landscapes and places of historical significance that Rangers interpret and protect! (NPS photo)

National Monument (Fort Sumter)

A National Monument could be something constructed (like a statue or fort) or something natural (such as a geologic feature). Devils Tower in Wyoming was the first national monument, established by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1906. The Antiquities Act earlier that year authorized the president to declare landmarks, structures, and other objects of historic or scientific interest as national monuments.

National Preserve (Big Cypress)

National preserves are similar to national parks, but allow a wider range of activities within their borders, such as hunting, trapping, and oil extraction. Many existing national preserves, without sport hunting, would qualify for national park designation.

National Historic Site (Clara Barton)

Usually, a national historic site contains a single, historical feature that was directly associated with its subject. Beginning with the Historic Sites Act of 1935, a number of historic sites were established by Secretaries of the Interior, but most have been authorized by Congress.

National Historical Park (Cane River Creole)

Similar to a national historic site, historical parks may center on a particular building or place, but extend into the surrounding area and the associated structures and places.

National Memorial (Mount Rushmore)

A national memorial is commemorative of a historic person or episode, but is specific in that it does not necessarily occupy a site historically or geographically connected with the subject.

Mount Rushmore National Memorial in the Black Hills of South Dakota is among the nation's best-known and most-visited national memorials.  (NPS photo)

Mount Rushmore National Memorial in the Black Hills of South Dakota is among the nation’s best-known and most-visited national memorials. (NPS photo)

National Battlefield (Antietam)

This umbrella title includes national battlefield, national battlefield park, national battlefield site, and national military park.

National Cemetery (Poplar Grove, part of Petersburg National Battlefield)

There are 14 national cemeteries in the National Park System, all of which are administered in conjunction with an associated park unit and are not accounted for separately.

Gettysburg National Cemetery is part of Gettysburg National Military Park in Pennsylvania.  It was at the dedication of this cemetery that President Abraham Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address on November 19, 1863.  (NPS photo)

Gettysburg National Cemetery is part of Gettysburg National Military Park in Pennsylvania. It was at the dedication of this cemetery that President Abraham Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address on November 19, 1863. (NPS photo)

National Recreation Area (Santa Monica Mountains)

Recreation areas are generally found on a large body of water (it could be an unnatural lake, such as Lake Mead) that provides opportunities for aquatic activities like swimming, kayaking, and fishing, and/or they are located near a highly urban area. Like national parks, they often combine historical, cultural, and recreational resources.

National Seashores (Cape Cod), Lakeshores (Apostle Islands), and Rivers (Mississippi)

Ten national seashores have been established on the Atlantic, Gulf and Pacific coasts, some developed and some relatively primitive. Hunting is allowed at many of these sites. National lakeshores, all located on the Great Lakes, are very similar to national seashores in terms of use.

National rivers include subcategories, like national river and recreation area, national scenic river, and wild river, to name a few. The first, Ozark National Scenic Riverways in Missouri, was authorized in 1964 and others were established following passage of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act of 1968.

National Parkway (Blue Ridge)

Parkway refers to a roadway and the adjacent parkland. Parkways are intended for scenic motoring along a protected corridor and often connect cultural sites.

This is a commemorative poster from Blue Ridge Parkway's 75th anniversary back in 2010.  We love the retro look of this poster!  (www.rangerdoug.com)

This is a commemorative poster from Blue Ridge Parkway’s 75th anniversary back in 2010. We love the retro look of this poster! (www.rangerdoug.com)

National Trail (Ice Age National Scenic Trail)

National scenic trails and national historic trails are the titles given to these linear parklands (over 3,600 miles) authorized under the National Trails System Act of 1968. National trails often cross the boundaries of several states within a wider region, and may intersect other park sites.

Other Designations

Some units of the National Park System have unique designations, like the President’s Park (White House), Prince William Forest Park, and City of Rocks National Reserve. Some parks, like Denali in Alaska, combine two designations (National Park and Preserve), while others, like Cuyahoga Valley, were authorized to change their official designation at some point (from National Recreation Area to National Park).

Finally, NPS also helps to manage, through providing technical and financial support, other historically significant, affiliated sites that may or may not fit within the official count of NPS units:

National Historic Landmarks are nationally significant, historic places designated as such by the Secretary of the Interior. To date, there are over 2,500 NHLs across the United States. The National Park Service helps to guide this process and assists with existing sites. The James A. Garfield home is both a National Historic Landmark as well as a National Park Service site.

National Register of Historic Places is the most inclusive category. Sites on this list number over 85,000. The National Park Service administers the NRHP, which includes historic districts as well as individual sites such as parks, town halls, hotels, residences, schools, churches, post offices, theatres, bridges, hospitals, farms, submarines, mills, research facilities, industrial plants, armories, and more. These sites can be federally, privately, or locally owned and operated. All National Historic Sites and National Historical Parks are on this register.

Remember to keep an eye out for the iconic arrowhead logo–you’ll know that you’ve found a National Park!

The Arrowhead is the official logo of the National Park Service.  Look for it on your travels around the country!  There are 408 units of the National Park System to visit, learn from, and enjoy!  (NPS)

The Arrowhead is the official logo of the National Park Service. Look for it on your travels around the country! There are 408 units of the National Park System to visit, learn from, and enjoy! (NPS)

-Katelin McArdle, Park Ranger

Mourning President Garfield

“The waves of emotion that swept over the country, moreover, were fed not only by the fact that America’s president had been attacked…but that that president had been Garfield.”
-Candice Millard, Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President
President James A. Garfield was only in office just four short months before Charles Guiteau’s attempted assassination. While his time as President was brief, his effect on the nation was not. Out of the many things that stand out about James A. Garfield, his effect on the nation is one that must not be over looked. His death has been compared that of John F. Kennedy. Both were bright, articulate, hopeful presidents who had set out to unite America.
On July 2, 1881, President Garfield became the second president to be shot. Walking through Washington, D.C.’s Baltimore & Potomac train station, heading toward his New England-bound train, President Garfield was shot twice by Charles Guiteau, a man who until recently had hoped to work for the President.

Charles Guiteau shot President James A. Garfield on July 2, 1881.  Secretary of State James G. Blaine was standing next to the President when Guiteau attacked.  Secretary of War Robert T. Lincoln was about 40 feet away and walking toward Blaine and Garfield.  (

Charles Guiteau shot President James A. Garfield on July 2, 1881. Secretary of State James G. Blaine was standing next to the President when Guiteau attacked. Secretary of War Robert T. Lincoln was about 40 feet away and walking toward Blaine and Garfield. (Library of Congress)

In 1881, Presidents did not have guards surrounding them or security escorts when traveling. Americans believed the President should be accessible to everyone. The only guard between the President and the people when he was at the White House was his secretary, Joseph Stanley- Brown. Even President Garfield, desperate to cling to any remaining freedoms after taking office, argued that he needed no more protection than the average American.
This mindset, the ability to relate with the general public, was one of the things the nation loved about Garfield. He was human to them, someone with whom nearly everyone could identify. He had grown up in extreme poverty in northern Ohio. His father had died young, and that left only his mother to raise him and his older siblings. He attended school, much of which he paid for by working before and after his classes. Entering the army during the Civil War, he rose up the ranks to become a Major General, only leaving to take a seat in Congress to which his fellow Ohioans had elected him while he fought. However, he remained a farmer and a family man, constantly challenging his children both physically and intellectually. These facts made him different than many of the presidents before him. His life story made him relatable to the average citizen. He welcomed all to his farm in Mentor, Ohio. During his campaign he spoke to all with the same tone of respect, regardless of their place in society.

1880 view of the Garfield home and property, which became the focal point of Garfield's 1880 presidential campaign. (Wash drawing by delineator L.C. Corwine, Library of Congress)

1880 view of the Garfield home and property, which became the focal point of Garfield’s 1880 presidential campaign. (Wash drawing by delineator L.C. Corwine, Library of Congress)

It was Garfield as a person, not a president, that made his death heartbreaking to many Americans. With his death, Americans united with a common feeling of loss, and a common sense of patriotism that had not been seen since before the Civil War, if ever before that.
For many, President Garfield represented not just who America was, but also what it hoped to become. With his death, Americans lost the figurehead they had made Garfield, and that loss was felt by all, regardless of race, gender, or statehood. He was someone who would not tolerate discrimination but also managed to make many in the South feel as though the government was their government, too. This was something they had not felt in years. His background allowed him to connect to the pioneers heading west, while also relating to the immigrants arriving from the east. James A. Garfield was someone that many Americans not only trusted, but loved almost as family.
For 80 days, from the shooting on July 2 to his death on September 19, the public read every newspaper and waited for each bulletin from the President’s doctors hoping for news of Garfield’s recovery. With the announcement of his death, the entire nation mourned, and many traveled to the Washington, D.C. Over 100,000 people went to the nation’s capital to view the President’s body. Everyone from poor farmers to wealthy women and African American laborers came to pay their respects. Mollie Garfield, the president’s daughter wrote in her diary about how the whole city was covered in black. From the White House to the poorest homes, the city was in full mourning. Many who could not afford anything more tore up black clothing and hung it in their windows.

The White House with mourning decorations in September 1881, after the death of President James A. Garfield.  (Library of Congress)

The White House with mourning decorations in September 1881, after the death of President James A. Garfield. (Library of Congress)

Americans were not inactive in their mourning. Over $300,000 was raised to help Lucretia and her children. Hundreds of people wrote letters sending their condolences to Lucretia, many of which she kept in the Memorial Library she created after her husband’s death. Large amounts of memorabilia for the late president were also made, and could be seen in many homes across the country. His monument at Lake View Cemetery in Cleveland, Ohio was one of the biggest and most elaborate mausoleums of its time. People wanted a lasting memorial to Garfield, much like his wife wanted when she created the Memorial Library at their home in Mentor.

Lucretia Garfield had the Memorial Library constructed in 1885-86 to preserve her husband's book collection and memory for herself and their children.  She added the

Lucretia Garfield had the Memorial Library constructed in 1885-86 to preserve her husband’s book collection and memory for herself and their children. She added the “Memory Room” to store the papers of his public career, thus creating the nation’s first presidential library. (NPS photo)

Garfield was the last president to be born in a log cabin. He was the last of many things, but the first of many more. More important than any of Garfield’s achievements during his brief presidency was the impact he had on the American people. His death truly united citizens as Americans. A man who in life had made everyone feel welcome in the United States in death made them feel as though they truly were the United States.

-Rachel Gluvna, Volunteer

Six Unusual Abraham Lincoln Facts and Rumors, Part II

  • Abraham Lincoln was an enthusiast of General Zachary Taylor.

Zachary Taylor would only serve for a brief sixteen months as President of the United States until his untimely death. On July 4, 1850, after consuming large quantities of green apples and cherries with cold milk on a hot day in Washington, he became severely ill with gastroenteritis. He became progressively worse until he died on the night of July 9, 1850. Before his death, it is said his last noble words were, “I have always done my duty. I am ready to die. My only regret is for the friends I leave behind me.”

Before he was president, he led a distinguished career as a general in the Mexican- American War. He delivered crushing blows to the Mexican Army at the battles of Palo Alto, Resaca de la Palma, Monterrey, and Buena Vista, gaining him national fame. Taylor was endeared to his men and junior officers for his modest attitude, fortitude, selflessness, and care for their welfare that also transcended to the public. His name became linked to George Washington and Andrew Jackson, viewed as a man of the people who took up the sword to protect the freedom of all Americans.

Zachary Taylor gained fame as an American commander during the Mexican-American War.  He won the presidency as a Whig in 1848 and died in office in July 1850.  Abraham Lincoln was a Whig before becoming a Republican in the 1850s.  (Library of Congress)

Zachary Taylor gained fame as an American commander during the Mexican-American War. He won the presidency as a Whig in 1848 and died in office in July 1850. Abraham Lincoln was a Whig before becoming a Republican in the 1850s. (Library of Congress)

On July 25, 1850, the forty-one year old Illinois Congressman, Abraham Lincoln, was asked to present the eulogy for the deceased general and president. In his eulogy, he pronounced that Taylor’s most admirable trait was his “dogged incapacity to understand that defeat was possible.”  Lincoln stated that, “His rarest military trait, was a combination of negatives—absence of excitement and absence of fear. He could not be flurried, and he could not be scared.”  Lincoln acclaimed Taylor had a knack to defy any odds stacked up against him, “It did not happen to Gen. Taylor once in his life, to fight a battle on equal terms, or on terms advantageous to himself—and yet he was never beaten, and never retreated. In all, the odds was greatly against him; in each, defeat seemed inevitable; and yet in all, he triumphed.”

Ulysses S. Grant was also an avid admirer of Zachary Taylor, serving as a young lieutenant in his army during the Mexican-American War. Grant commendably declared, “No soldier could face either danger or responsibility more calmly than he.” Grant stated that he most admired Taylor because of his simplicity, lack of pretension, and directness of expression. He specified that these qualities are more rarely found than genius or physical courage. It is though-provoking to wonder that while Grant slugged away with General Lee in the spring of 1864, if his distinguished calm bearing and casual appearance described by fellow officers was emulated from his old idol.

  • Abraham Lincoln considered two promising candidates for command of the Army of the Potomac before the battle of Gettysburg in 1863. 

It took President Lincoln until 1864 to find the right commander to lead his Union armies. Is it possible he had the opportunity to select an efficient leader beforehand? The unsuccessful generals appointed to high command in the East Theater of the war read like a laundry list (McDowell, McClellan, Fremont, Banks, Pope, Burnside, and Hooker). Listed below are two possible candidates rumored to have been offered command of the Army of the Potomac, both killed before the end of the war. 

Major General John Fulton Reynolds (1820-1863)

Admiring Reynolds after the war, General Winfield Scott Hancock noted that, “I may take this occasion to state that, in my opinion, there was no officer in the Army of the Potomac who developed a character for usefulness and ability, in the highest grades of command, superior to that of General Reynolds, and had he lived to the close of the war he would most probably have attained the highest honor in that army.”

Reynolds graduated from the United States Military Academy in 1841, and later served in the Mexican-American War. He was brevetted to captain for gallantry at Monterrey and Buena Vista. By 1863, the “soldier general” had risen through the ranks of the Army of the Potomac to the command of the First Corps.

Lincoln offered the command of the Army of the Potomac to Maj. Gen. John F. Reynolds before the battle of Gettysburg.  Fearing he would face too much political interference from Washington, Reynolds did not accept.  (Library of Congress)

Lincoln offered the command of the Army of the Potomac to Maj. Gen. John F. Reynolds before the battle of Gettysburg. Fearing he would face too much political interference from Washington, Reynolds did not accept. (Library of Congress)

Following the defeat at Chancellorsville in 1863, President Abraham Lincoln contemplated the removal of Major General Joseph Hooker, the current commander of the Army of the Potomac. On May 31, Reynolds, whom Hooker described as “the ablest man officer under me,” took leave and travelled to Washington to discuss the leadership of the Army of the Potomac with Lincoln. He was most likely selected to meet with Lincoln due to his high esteem among his colleagues, and his reputation for staying out of politics. When bluntly asked by Lincoln if he would be interested in command of the Army of the Potomac, Reynolds made it apparent that unless he was given free rein from political control, he would prefer to decline. Unable at the time to comply with his demands, Lincoln reluctantly ordered the recommended choice of Reynolds, General George G. Meade, to replace Hooker on June 28.

On the morning of July 1, 1863, Reynolds was commanding the “left wing” of the Army of the Potomac, on its march toward Gettysburg. He was supervising the placement of the Second Wisconsin Regiment, when a rebel bullet smashed into the back of his head, killing him instantly. When Meade heard of the death of Reynolds, he was almost brought to tears. It is fascinating to wonder how history may have been altered if the aggressively-minded Reynolds had been in command of the Army of the Potomac following the defeat of General Lee at Gettysburg.

Major General Israel Bush Richardson (1815-1862)

Israel Richardson graduated in the same West Point class as Reynolds, the class contributing twenty-three generals to the war. He served in both the Seminole Indian War in Florida and the Mexican-American War. He earned the nickname “Fighting Dick” during the Mexican-American War for his fortitude in battle. Richardson, also a “soldier’s general” had risen from regimental command to division command by 1862. He was said to have a voice that “rang out above the shrilling of trumpets.” While in battle, he was remembered to have “went under fire with as much nonchalance as ordinary people go to breakfast.”

During the battle of Antietam on September 17, 1862, Richardson’s division was tasked with breaking the Confederate center at the Sunken Road. While supervising his artillery fire near the front, he was gravely wounded from an enemy shell fragment.

Following the battle of Antietam, President Lincoln arrived to meet with General McClellan. He was visibly frustrated with the cautiousness McClellan exhibited in following up to destroy Robert E. Lee’s army. The displeased president felt that the Army of the Potomac acted only as “McClellan’s bodyguard.” On October 4, Lincoln made a special visit to the wounded Richardson, who was housed at McClellan’s HQ.

Gen. Israel B. Richardson was a West Point graduate and Mexican-American War veteran.  He was wounded by a shell fragment at the September 1862 battle of Antietam and died two months later.  (Wikipedia)

Gen. Israel B. Richardson was a West Point graduate and Mexican-American War veteran. He was wounded by a shell fragment at the September 1862 battle of Antietam and died two months later. (Wikipedia)

Captain Charles Stuart Draper, one of Richardson’s aides, was also wounded and housed in the same bedroom as Richardson. Draper recalled the conversation that took place between Richardson and Lincoln. He claimed that Richardson spoke to Lincoln on such topics as the future of the nation, and that he gave his opinions on strategy and army personnel. They also spoke on the cautiousness of McClellan. Draper recorded that during their conversation, Lincoln assured Richardson, that if he lived, he would be selected to succeed McClellan in command of the Army of the Potomac.

If Draper’s testimony holds true, Lincoln would have certainly found his “fighting general” as early as 1862. However, on November 3, Richardson died of his wounds. Remarkably, Lincoln waited almost six weeks until the death of Richardson before convincing the timid Ambrose Burnside to take the job. The consequence of this selection ended in the December 13, 1862 battle of Fredericksburg and the useless waste of 12,000 Union soldiers’ lives.

  • President Lincoln offered the Italian revolutionary Giuseppe Garibaldi a field command. 

In the summer of 1861, Abraham Lincoln was interested in seeing if the Italian revolutionary leader Giuseppe Garibaldi would be willing to offer his services to the Union cause. Garibaldi would be able to play a critical role in the war effort by helping to “lend the power of his name, his genius, and his sword to the Northern cause.” Garibaldi was internationally known as the “Hero of Two Worlds” taking part in revolutionary movements in South America and Italy. In 1860, Garibaldi had led his “red shirts” in military campaigns on the Italian mainland hoping to initiate the formation of a unified Italy.

President Lincoln thought he might lure Garibaldi to the United States to fight for the Union, but Garibaldi's demands were far too high.  America would have no Italian Lafayette during the Civil War.  (Wikipedia)

President Lincoln thought he might lure Garibaldi to the United States to fight for the Union, but Garibaldi’s demands–including immediate emancipation of slaves–were far too high. America would have no Italian Lafayette during the Civil War. (Wikipedia)

Rumors began to circulate in Union newspapers that Garibaldi was on his way to take command of the Union army by 1861. James W. Quiggle, the American consul in Belgium, sent a letter to Garibaldi in June 1861 presenting this interest. He stated that “the papers report that you are going to the United States to join the Army of the North in the conflict of my country. If you do, the name of La Fayette will not surpass yours. There are thousands of Italians and Hungarians who will rush to join your ranks and there are thousands and tens of thousands of Americans who will glory to be under the command of the ‘Washington of Italy.’” Garibaldi politely denied such a claim, but the thought of it appealed to the Italian general.

In the end, Garibaldi’s demands were too much for the Lincoln administration. Garibaldi wanted to be appointed to the supreme command of all the Union armies, ranking even above the aging Lieutenant General Winfield Scott. The Lincoln administration was only willing to offer him the rank of major general. He also demanded that all slaves in North American be immediately emancipated. He desired to wage a war for equal rights in North America. Emancipation was not of primary importance to President Lincoln this early in the war. The love affair between the Italian revolutionary and the American public was not meant to be.

-Frank Jastrzembski, Volunteer

Six Unusual Abraham Lincoln Facts and Rumors, Part I

Abraham Lincoln is one of the most studied individuals in human history and is ranked by most historians as the greatest American president.  He and James A. Garfield knew one another; in fact, President Lincoln may have encouraged Garfield to resign from the Union Army and take a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives in late 1863 when Garfield was trying to decide between staying in the Army or going to Congress.

President Abraham Lincoln in 1863.  (Library of Congress)

President Abraham Lincoln in 1863. (Library of Congress)

Here are some interesting, fun, and little-known tidbits about Abraham Lincoln.

  • Abraham Lincoln presented a pair of engraved Colt pistols to a revolutionary Algerian religious and military leader.

Abd el-Kader (1808-1883) was a religious and military leader who led the struggle against French colonialism in Algeria during the 1830s-1840s. He delivered a number of stunning defeats to the French Army, and forced them to commit a tremendous amount of manpower and material to suppress his revolution. After he was finally captured and imprisoned, he renounced the war and was later pardoned by Napoleon III. He was exiled to Damascus to live out the remainder of his life.

In July 1860, conflict erupted in Damascus between the Muslim and Christian populations. The Christian quarter was targeted and attacked, leading to the deaths of nearly 3,000 people. Abd el-Kader had previously warned the French consul of an imminent eruption of violence. When violence broke out, the Muslim former freedom fighter sheltered large numbers of Christians, including the heads of several foreign consulates, in his own home. He sent his eldest sons into the streets to offer any surviving Christians shelter. Many survivors testified that Abd el-Kader was instrumental in saving them from certain death.

Reports soon spread through the Christian world of the prominent role Abd el-Kader had played in sheltering the Christian refugees. The international community applauded his effort. The French government bestowed on him the Legion of Honor, and the Order of Pius IX was given to him from the Vatican. Two Colt pistols were delivered from Abraham Lincoln to Abd el-Kader in a box made of bird’s eye maple bearing the inscription, “From the President of the United States, to his Excellency, Lord Abdelkader.” They are currently on display in an Algerian museum.

These two Colt pistols were delivered to Algerian leader Abd el-Kader from Abraham Lincoln.  (Wikipedia)

These two Colt pistols were delivered to Algerian leader Abd el-Kader from Abraham Lincoln. (Wikipedia)

  • Abraham Lincoln offered the Texas governor and former general, Sam Houston, a commission as a major general and command of all the U.S. forces in Texas. 

The man that had fought so hard to bring Texas into the Union twenty-six years before appealed to his fellow Texans to not let it secede in 1861. The pro-union governor of Texas, Sam Houston, refused to swear allegiance to Confederacy and was subsequently unseated from his position. Before he was removed from office, Abraham Lincoln had attempted to win Sam Houston over to the Union cause. Abraham Lincoln sent a secret message to Houston offering military assistance, carried by George H. Giddings, a San Antonio merchant. The message revealed that President Lincoln was offering to appoint Houston a major general in the United States Army. He also authorized Houston to recruit 100,000 men, and if possible, hold Texas in the Union until naval and army support arrived. 

Houston summoned four of his closest friends together at his mansion and read them Lincoln’s offer. Only one of the men advised him to accept Lincoln’s commission and attempt to hold Texas in the Union. Following the advice of his other three friends, the 68-year old Houston tossed the letter into the fireplace. He then proclaimed, “Gentlemen, I have resolved to act in this manner on your advice, but if I was ten years younger I would not.” In an attempt to avoid bloody conflict on the subject of secession in Texas, Houston and his wife quietly left for Huntsville, Texas. Houston soon after died there on July 26, 1863.

In a speech on April 19, 1861, Houston had forewarned a crowd of the destruction that the war would bring to the South. “Let me tell you what is coming. After the sacrifice of countless millions of treasure and hundreds of thousands of lives, you may win Southern independence if God be not against you, but I doubt it.”

This image of Sam Houston was taken around 1859, just two years before the start of the Civil War.  (National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution)

This image of Sam Houston was taken around 1859, just two years before the start of the Civil War. (National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution)

  • Abraham Lincoln nearly fought a broadsword duel! 

In 1842, Abraham Lincoln became engaged in a heated debate with James Shields over the defaulted state bank in Illinois. In one instance, Lincoln publically accused Shields of womanizing. Lincoln stated, “His very features, in the ecstatic agony of his soul, spoke audibly and distinctly–Dear girls, it is distressing, but I cannot marry you all. Too well I know how much you suffer; but do, do remember, it is not my fault that I am so handsome and so interesting.” Public slandering was viciously conducted between the two politicians.

This caused the hot-headed Shields to challenge Lincoln to a duel. The duel was scheduled to be held in Missouri, where dueling was still legal. Since Lincoln was challenged by Shields, he was allowed to choose the weapons used in the duel. Lincoln’s first choice was a cavalry broadsword! This choice did have some rational foundation. Lincoln was aware that he would be able to handle a broadsword better than a pistol. He stated, “I didn’t want the d—-d fellow to kill me, which I think he would have done if we had selected pistols.” Lincoln,who stood 6’4″ tall, against Shields at 5’9″ tall, would hold the advantage with the cumbersome weapon.

On September 22, the combatants met at Bloody Island, Missouri. In a demonstration before the duel was scheduled to commence, Lincoln swung his sword high above his head and sliced a tree branch in two. This act was mean to display the immensity of Lincoln’s reach and strength to the smaller, but fearless, Shields. The men eventually surrendered to reason, and the two level-headed men called a truce.

James Shields, who nearly fought a broadsword duel with Abraham Lincoln.  (National Archives)

James Shields, who nearly fought a broadsword duel with Abraham Lincoln. (National Archives)

Shields would go on the serve as a general in the Mexican-American War, where he was severely wounded at the battle of Cerro Gordo in 1847. He also served as a general in the American Civil War (appointed by Lincoln), where he was also gravely wounded at the battle of Kernstown in 1862. When a naïve army officer questioned Lincoln about the incident in 1865, he was said to have replied, “If you desire my friendship, you will never mention it again.” It would be interesting to wonder how history would have been altered if Lincoln would have killed Shields, or vice versa. Lincoln would not have been the only future president to have killed a man in a duel. That honor was bestowed on Andrew Jackson.

(Check back soon for Part II of this article!)

-Frank Jastrzembski, Volunteer

James A. Garfield and the Lincoln Assassination

One hundred and fifty years ago, on April 14, 1865, John Wilkes Booth committed what many consider the last tragic and violent act of the American Civil War.  That evening, he snuck into the presidential box at Ford’s Theater in Washington, D.C., where President and Mrs. Abraham Lincoln were enjoying the third act of the comedy Our American Cousin.  Booth was a well-known actor from a family of well-known actors, and he had little trouble gaining access to the box.  He drew a small Derringer pistol, pointed it at the back of Lincoln’s head, and pulled the trigger.

As the theater erupted into noise and chaos, Booth leapt from the box onto the stage, supposedly screaming “sic semper tyrannis” (thus always to tyrants) as he jumped.  Despite breaking his leg when he landed, Booth escaped.  He was tracked down and killed by federal troops in Virginia almost two weeks later.  The mortally wounded President Abraham Lincoln was carried across the street to the Petersen House, where he died about nine hours after being shot.  His hopes and plans for a lenient, easy Reconstruction of the South died with him.  Radical Republicans in Congress quickly wrested control of Reconstruction from President Andrew Johnson and inflicted a harsh, punitive program on the South that led to more than a century of hard feelings and distrust.

John Wilkes Booth murdered President Abraham Lincoln on April 14, 1865.  Booth hailed from Maryland and was a Confederate sympathizer.  His plan to avenge the South by killing Lincoln failed since Lincoln intended to offer the South a lenient Reconstruction policy.  Lincoln's death allowed Radical Republicans in Congress to impose a harsh, punitive Reconstruction instead.  (Wikipedia Commons)

John Wilkes Booth murdered President Abraham Lincoln on April 14, 1865. Booth hailed from Maryland and was a Confederate sympathizer. His plan to avenge the South by killing Lincoln failed since Lincoln intended to offer the South a lenient Reconstruction policy. Lincoln’s death allowed Radical Republicans in Congress to impose a harsh, punitive Reconstruction instead. (Wikipedia Commons)

James A. Garfield was a 33-year old freshman congressman when Lincoln was murdered.  A former Union general, Garfield had been nominated by Ohio Republicans and won election to the House of Representatives while still in the field with the army.  He left the military at the end of 1863 to take his seat in the House.  On April 14, 1865, Garfield was on a trip to New York City.  He learned of Lincoln’s death the next morning and wrote to his wife, Lucretia: “I am sick at heart, and feel it to be almost like sacrilege to talk of money or business now.”  Though Garfield had disagreed with President Lincoln on several issues, he was clearly distressed by the violent death of the man whose leadership had seen the United States through its darkest days.

Over the years, a story emerged about Garfield’s actions in New York after learning of Lincoln’s death.  Like so many other places across the North, New York City was in chaos after the news of the President’s murder began to spread.  Anger, sadness, and fear gripped many of the city’s residents as suspicions of a conspiracy and the expectation of more killings ran rampant.  Supposedly, a mob of some 50,000 people filled Wall Street and screamed for the heads of southern sympathizers.  As the story goes, the crowd had just resolved to destroy the offices of The World, a Democratic newspaper, when a single figure appeared above them on a balcony and began to speak:  “Fellow citizens!  Clouds and darkness are round about Him!  His pavilion is dark waters and thick clouds of the skies!  Justice and judgment are the establishment of His throne!  Mercy and truth shall go before His face!  Fellow citizens!  God reigns, and the Government at Washington still lives!”

These are the words supposedly spoken that day by Congressman James A. Garfield.  A supposed eyewitness to this event reported “The effect was tremendous,” and that Garfield’s words brought calm to the crowd (and saved The World’s office from destruction, one assumes).  This witness then turned to someone close to ask who the speaker was, and was told, “It is General Garfield of Ohio!”

James A. Garfield entered the Union army as a Lieutenant Colonel in 1861.  In December 1863, Major General Garfield left the army to enter the U.S. House of Representatives.  He wore his general's uniform when he first arrived in Congress.  In April 1865, Garfield was in New York City when he learned of Lincoln's assassination.  (Dickinson College)

James A. Garfield entered the Union army as a Lieutenant Colonel in 1861. In December 1863, Major General Garfield left the army to enter the U.S. House of Representatives. He wore his general’s uniform when he first arrived in Congress. In April 1865, Garfield was in New York City when he learned of Lincoln’s assassination. (Dickinson College)

This story became famous and, as historian Allan Peskin relates, “an enduring aspect of the Garfield mythology.”  Regularly re-told by newspapers under the heading “Garfield Stills the Mob,” it was widely circulated in Garfield’s later political campaigns, including his 1880 run for the presidency.  Sadly and ironically, it was also regularly mentioned in memorial pieces after Garfield was, like Lincoln, murdered by an assassin.  However, like so many great stories, there is little reliable evidence to suggest that it happened as reported.

Several things about the story make it unlikely to be completely true.  First and foremost, despite being a lifelong diarist and letter writer, James A. Garfield himself never mentioned it.  Surely some version of it would have made it into a letter or diary entry at some point.  There was also no spoken or written tradition within the Garfield family that lent any authority to this event.  (Garfield himself may have elected not to discount the story after he saw how valuable it was during campaigns.)  Secondly, the same story with nearly the same quotes from Garfield later gained traction as having taken place during the Gold Panic of 1869.  James A. Garfield was nowhere near New York City during that event, but eyewitnesses still claimed to have watched him speak from a balcony and calm thousands of panicked stockbrokers.  Finally, Garfield’s eldest son, Harry A. Garfield, tried unsuccessfully to authenticate the story by searching the archives of New York newspapers.  Allan Peskin writes: “Both the Tribune and the Herald covered the Wall Street meeting and gave what purported to be verbatim accounts of a speech delivered by Garfield.  Although both versions contain echoes of the famous speech, neither version matches the eloquence or brevity of the speech of the legend, nor is there any indication that Garfield’s words pacified an angry mob although, according to the Herald, a lynch mob was calmed shortly before the meeting by Moses Grinnell.”

New Yorkers reading the New York Herald were greeted by this Saturday, April 15, 1865 front page announcing the murder of President Abraham Lincoln.  Supposedly, James A. Garfield "stilled the mob" later that day with a speech that, in all likelihood, he did not actually deliver but that has grown over time  to be part of the Garfield legend.  (historicpages.com)

New Yorkers reading the New York Herald were greeted by this Saturday, April 15, 1865 front page announcing the murder of President Abraham Lincoln. Supposedly, James A. Garfield “stilled the mob” later that day with a speech that, in all likelihood, he did not actually deliver but that has grown over time to be part of the Garfield legend. (historicpages.com)

So what are we to make of this story?  In all likelihood, it is just that: a story.  Garfield may very well have offered a few words to the New York crowd that day, but the image of him calming an angry mob with religious allegories and assurances that the federal government would survive the calamity of Lincoln’s death is very likely a myth.  Like so many events in history, the story took on a life of its own, especially when Garfield became both a presidential candidate and then a martyred leader.  While the story makes Garfield a more appealing and attractive historical figure, it ultimately does him a disservice by making us appreciate him for something that never happened.  There is plenty to admire about James Garfield; we don’t need apocryphal stories to make him more appealing.

-Todd Arrington, Chief of Interpretation & Education

Finding History’s Forgotten Women with the National Register of Historic Places, Part II

To conclude Women’s History Month, we have one more forgotten woman to re-acquaint ourselves with: Anna Mary Robertson Moses. Readers may not recognize this accomplished artist by her formal name, but if I share her nickname, “Grandma Moses”, many might recall this sprightly American folk painter whose artwork was popularized during the mid-twentieth century.

Anna Mary Robertson Moses called herself "Grandma Moses" and began to paint later in life just for something to do.  She soon gained national fame for her paintings.  (Wikipedia)

Anna Mary Robertson Moses called herself “Grandma Moses” and began to paint later in life just for something to do. She soon gained national fame for her paintings. (Wikipedia)

Grandma Moses, a self-proclaimed moniker when she had grandchildren, briefly dabbled in the arts before her husband Thomas’s death. It was only when her hand became too arthritic that her sister Celestia suggested that Anna start to paint instead. Anna followed her advice. One statement of hers that is often quoted is that if she hadn’t started painting, she would’ve raised chickens; meaning that painting was something just to keep herself occupied. She gave away her paintings or occasionally sold them to local stores as décor for $5.

"Joyride," by Grandma Moses, 1953.  (www.theartnewspaper.com)

“Joyride,” by Grandma Moses, 1953. (www.theartnewspaper.com)

By the end of Anna’s career, she had created over 1,000 paintings, become a household name, was associated with advertisements by having her works depicted on products like tiles, dishes, and fabrics, received the Women’s National Press Club Trophy from President Harry Truman, and became an American phenomenon. Her paintings were mostly of memories from her childhood and married life, which were the years most important to her. Typically the paintings showed an expansive landscape with multiples figures in the front, often conducting a task she had done or seen on the farm. Art critics often spoke of her work with disdain, but the American people couldn’t seem to get enough. In a time when people feared atomic bombs and memories of the Great Depression lingered, Grandma Moses depicted a life with which many Americans wanted to identify. Her work was also in great contrast to the then-current art movement known as Cubism (popularized by Spanish artist Pablo Picasso), but still had an air of modernity with her flat figures, which as her work progressed became more abstract.

"The Old Hoosick Bridge," by Grandma Moses (www.mydailyartdisplay.wordpress.com)

“The Old Hoosick Bridge,” by Grandma Moses, 1947.   (www.mydailyartdisplay.wordpress.com)

Anna Mary Robertson Moses died in 1961. In August 2012, Mt. Airy, her home in Augusta County, Virginia, was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. This Shenandoah home was first constructed around 1840 while under the ownership of Major James Crawford, and was later associated with Anna Moses and her husband Thomas. Mt. Airy was the first house Anna and Thomas owned. They purchased it for $6,000 and lived there from January, 1901 to September, 1902.  Anna started creating pictures in the 1930’s from her memories as a farm wife both in Virginia and the New York Hoosick Valley, and it is thought that many of those paintings depicted life at Mt. Airy.

Mt. Airy, in Augusta County, Virginia, was Grandma Moses's home for a short period in the early 1900s.  The home was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2012.  (National Park Service)

Mt. Airy, in Augusta County, Virginia, was Grandma Moses’s home for a short period in the early 1900s. The home was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2012. (National Park Service)

-Allison Powell, Park Ranger