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

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

As you may be aware, March has been designated as Women’s History Month. I’m proud to say that I was alive when this national “holiday” was born – can’t say that for most! Congress authorized President Ronald Reagan to proclaim Women’s History WEEK to begin on March 7, 1981. Authorizations continued over the next five years, until March 1987 when Women’s History MONTH was designated. Every president since has been authorized by Congress to continue this annual tradition, which brings us to today.

Certainly women should be celebrated all year long. However, there are a number of women throughout our history that deserve special mention because of their contributions to society, and these are the stories told throughout the month of March. In honor of these stories and the women behind them, I’d like to introduce you to three women who you may be familiar with, but perhaps forgotton about, over time.

How did I choose three women out of the myriad of women who are worthy of note?  Easy – I referred to a wonderful program administered by the National Park Service: the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP). The NRHP is the “official list of the Nation’s historic places worthy of preservation…it is part of a national program to coordinate and support public and private efforts to identify, evaluate, and protect America’s historic and archaeological resources” (www.nps.gov/nr/). This website lists sites which are devoted to women’s history, as well as those for African Americans, aviation, the Shakers, Lewis and Clark, and dozens of others. These sites are offered as travel itineraries for the purposes of visiting thematically-grouped history sites.

So off we go on an armchair tour of the first of a few forgotten Women in History!!

Elizabeth C. Quinlan House, NRHP Listing 2013
In an age of measure-and-sew clothing that required multiple trips to tailors and fittings, or having the skill to sew your own clothing, Elizabeth Quinlan introduced to American women in Minneapolis, and eventually around the country, a new way of shopping for clothing. Could this passion have been fueled by the fact that Quinlan could not sew and never made a dress in her life?

Elizabeth C. Quinlan was known as the "Queen of Minneapolis" and was one of the most successful businesswomen of her era.  (ForgottenMinnesota.com)

Elizabeth C. Quinlan was known as the “Queen of Minneapolis” and was one of the most successful businesswomen of her era. (ForgottenMinnesota.com)

The Young-Quinlan Company was the first women’s ready-to-wear shop west of the Mississippi River. Opened in 1894, Ms. Quinlan filled her shop with the latest pre-made fashions from Paris, New York City, and Florence, among other iconic fashion cities. Her start in the industry was modest; in 1879 she earned $10 a week as a clerk in a dry goods store in downtown Minneapolis, and 15 years later she was one of the company’s top sales people, making more money than any of her male counterparts. Her ability to spot a style hit, her entrepreneurial work and innovative practices elevated her reputation nationally, and these skills propelled her store into the national spotlight. In 1937 she was offered a job in New York City making double her salary at the Young-Quinlan Company, which she proudly declined, saying her decision to stay in Minneapolis was “the best day’s work I ever did.”

Quinlan expanded to a new location in 1926, constructing a five-story, $1.25 million building with 250 parking stalls underground and an elevator which brought customers directly to each floor. Always thinking ahead, the core of the store was built to accommodate seven additional floors, and Quinlan also requested of the architect that the design be easily converted into office space if the store failed.

The Young-Quinlan Company store in Minneapolis around 1908.  The store moved to a new , larger location in 1926.  (ForgottenMinnesota.com)

The Young-Quinlan Company store in Minneapolis around 1908. The store moved to a new , larger location in 1926. (ForgottenMinnesota.com)

At the time, the store was considered the largest women’s specialty shop in the country. In addition to the latest women’s fashions, the store also displayed special displays and touring exhibits. In 1932 Quinlan brought a collection of rare imperial treasures from Russia to the auditorium on the 5th floor, and exhibited the $150,000 Hattie Carnegie gown encrusted with 40,000 pearls. Popular actresses of the time, including Ethel Barrymore and Lynn Fontanne, were frequent visitors to the store.

During her career, Elizabeth Quinlan was an important player in national and local civic work, and a supporter of charities and cultural groups. She founded the Business Women’s Club in 1919, was an advisory board member for the Salvation Army, and served on the National Recovery Administration board, which was part of a New Deal program that advocated raising minimum wage, among other policies. As a side business, she became the director of a taxicab company because she wanted a safe taxi system for women and children. In 1935 she was listed as one of the top 16 businesswomen in the United States by Fortune magazine.

The “Queen of Minneapolis” died in 1947, and The Young-Quinlan Company closed in 1985. The home in the Lowry Hill neighborhood of Minneapolis, where Elizabeth Quinlan lived from 1925-1947, was added to the NRHP in 2013. After brief ownership by the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, the home was returned to private ownership in 1981.

This is the home in which Elizabeth C. Quinlan lived  for the last 22 years of her life, from 1925-1947.  The home was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2013.  (Wikipedia Commons)

This is the home in which Elizabeth C. Quinlan lived for the last 22 years of her life, from 1925-1947. The home was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2013. (Wikipedia Commons)

Elizabeth C. Quinlan’s legacy lives on in many ways:  through The Elizabeth C. Quinlan Foundation which supports educational institutions and their activities, and social service organizations and their programs, and the still-standing Young-Quinlan Company store, located at 513 Nicollet Avenue in Minneapolis. Quinlan’s “perfect gem” was saved from demolition in 1985. After several million dollars of restoration work, the building now houses offices and retail outlets. I think Elizabeth Quinlan would approve of that!

Stay tuned for more Women’s History Month sites in the coming weeks!

For more information on The National Register of Historic Places, please visit www.nps.gov/nr

Elizabeth C. Quinlan: http://forgottenminnesota.com/2014/03/the-queen-of-minneapolis/

Elizabeth C. Quinlan Home: http://www.nps.gov/nr/feature/wom/2013/Elizabeth_quinlan_House.htm

-Allison Powell, Park Ranger

James A. Garfield: Man of Many Presidential Firsts

Who was the first President depicted on a postage stamp?   George Washington

Who was the first President born a United States citizen?  Martin Van Buren

Who was the first President to be left handed?  James Garfield??

That’s right.  Eight Presidents are known to be left-handed, and James A. Garfield was the first. In fact, President Garfield holds quite a number of presidential firsts.

(But first, a presidential last: Garfield was the last President to be born in a log cabin.  Orange Township, Ohio, could have been considered the American frontier when Garfield was born there in 1831.  The modern village of Moreland Hills now makes up this part of the old township, and maintains a replica cabin as Garfield’s birthplace.)

Garfield was the first, and to-date only, sitting member of the U.S. House of Representatives to be elected President.  He was a long-serving member of the House, completing nine terms representing Ohio’s 19th Congressional District before resigning to become President.  Garfield was also a U.S. Senator-elect for Ohio at the time, making him the only man in U.S. history to be a sitting Representative, Senator-elect, and President-elect at the same time!

Garfield is the first, and again the only, President to be a clergyman.  Prior to embarking on a career in politics, young Garfield was a lay minister of the Disciples of Christ.

James A. Garfield was a man of many presidential firsts!  This intense image of him is one of our favorites here at James A. Garfield NHS. (Library of Congress)

James A. Garfield was a man of many presidential firsts! This intense image of him is one of our favorites here at James A. Garfield NHS. (Library of Congress)

He was the first President to successfully use a front-porch campaign strategy.  As was customary for a politician at the time, Garfield spent the 1880 Presidential Campaign tending to his private affairs.  In his case, this was a 150-acre farm in Mentor, Ohio, where he lived with his wife and five children.  Garfield’s reputation for public speaking preceded him, encouraging 17,000 visitors to travel to his home to hear him talk.  Not wanting to be rude, Garfield would stand on his front-porch to speak to the dozens, or sometimes hundreds, of visitors assembled on his lawn nearly every day during that summer and fall.

During one of these speeches, Garfield became the first President to have campaigned in two languages when he spoke to a group of German-Americans using their native tongue.

At his inauguration on March 4, 1881, President Garfield accomplishes three more firsts. He was the first President to review the Inaugural Parade from in front of the White House.  At the inauguration itself, Garfield became the first President to have his mother be in attendance.  Outgoing President Hayes gave up his seat so that Eliza Garfield could sit next to her son.  (President Garfield’s first action after completing the Oath of Office was to bend down and give his dear mother a kiss on the cheek.)  Later that night, President Garfield’s Inaugural Ball became the first public event to be held at the Smithsonian Institution’s newly constructed Arts and Industries Building.

Garfield’s presidency ended after just 200 days. He succumbed to an infection from a gunshot wound and shoddy medical care (no, not first, but second assassinated President, after Abraham Lincoln).  His death, at 49 years of age, made him the first President to die before age 50.

Following her husband’s death, Mrs. Lucretia Garfield contributed her own Presidential first.  In a desire to make sure that her husband was not lost to history and forgotten, she initiated a project to gather as many of Garfield’s Presidential papers as possible.  Prior to this exercise, Presidential papers were considered to be private property of the men who held the office.  Upon leaving the presidency, they would gift some papers to friends, maybe even destroy many others.  By bringing the Garfield papers together into one collection, Lucretia set the precedent for future Presidents- in a manner of speaking, the Garfield collection was the first Presidential library.

Mrs. Lucretia Garfield was understandably concerned that history would forget or ignore her husband due to his short presidency.  By building the first presidential library, she ensured that James A. Garfield's memory and legacy would live forever.   (Library of Congress)

Mrs. Lucretia Garfield was understandably concerned that history would forget or ignore her husband due to his short presidency. By building the first presidential library, she ensured that James A. Garfield’s memory and legacy would live forever. (Library of Congress)

Lucretia’s desire to put together a collection of her late husband’s work, and the mere recognition of President Garfield’s ‘firsts’ have ensured that her fears did not come true. President James A. Garfield continues to be remembered, admired, and studied.

-Benjamin Frayser, Volunteer

Political Satire and the 1880 Presidential Campaign

There’s no denying that the internet and social media play a prominent role in the way we access news today, and the type of news we choose to follow.  This is especially true when it comes to politics and modern presidential campaigns. With this seemingly endless stream of information, there is no shortage of criticism and humor directed at politicians. Whether it’s good or bad, most Americans have likely even come to expect it!

So what about presidential campaigns of the 19th century? Did such witty criticism of the nation’s potential commander-in-chief exist then, too? The answer is, of course, a resounding “yes.”  While Americans of the day certainly were not inundated with updates via Facebook, Twitter, or any other social media site (there weren’t even radios for inquisitive citizens to gather information from), that doesn’t mean humor was absent from political campaigns of the period.

Humorous criticism has always been a staple of political campaigns, in varying degrees of seriousness, and there was no lack of it in James Garfield’s successful campaign of 1880. The most prominent satirical periodical of the day was Puck Magazine, and Garfield often found himself on the receiving end of the publication’s commentary and political cartoons during his campaign. From Credit Mobilier to DeGolyer Pavement and the “salary grab” of 1873, Garfield’s congressional career provided ample ammunition for journalists of the day to criticize.

This image of Garfield and some of the scandals of his political career was entitled "It Makes Him Sick."  It appeared on the cover of the August 18, 1880 issue of Puck Magazine.  (Puck/University of Michigan)

This image of Garfield and some of the scandals of his era was entitled “It Makes Him Sick.” It appeared on the cover of the August 18, 1880 issue of Puck Magazine. (Puck/University of Michigan)

Simultaneously, Garfield’s opponent was not immune from critics. Democratic candidate Winfield Scott Hancock was just as frequently at the center of the magazine’s jokes, despite the fact that it was generally more sympathetic to the Democratic Party. Yet while I found the comics and commentary poking fun at the two candidates to be rather even, while combing through editions of the magazine from the 1880 campaign I stumbled upon something a bit more unusual.

Democratic candidate Winfield Scott Hancock was not spared the satirical treatment in 1880, either, as this Puck cartoon shows.  (Puck/University of Michigan)

Democratic candidate Winfield Scott Hancock was not spared the satirical treatment in 1880, either, as this Puck cartoon shows. (Puck/University of Michigan)

While I expected to see the presidential candidates lambasted, I was not expecting to see anything targeting their spouses. Yet that’s exactly what I found in the July 21, 1880 edition. Starting with Mrs. Garfield, the writers at Puck weave an intricate story of a woman more impressive than even her husband! Of course upon closer examination it’s less about her actual accomplishments and more a grossly exaggerated fiction of the soon-to-be First Lady.  From holding four patents for boiling potatoes, to entering West Point at the age of 71 (!) – only to subsequently give up her military duties to marry James Garfield at the age of 74 – the magazine creates the image of a comically overambitious woman.

The reason behind this exaggeration and why Puck chose to portray Mrs. Garfield in such a light is unclear, though perhaps it becomes clearer after reading the magazine’s description of Mrs. Hancock. Whereas Mrs. Garfield’s life and accomplishments were impossibly unrealistic, Mrs. Hancock is presented as possessing qualities “quite important enough, in a quiet, unobtrusive and domestic way to set a noble example to the women and children of the universe.” Unlike Mrs. Garfield, whose accomplishments have “shaken the world to its foundation,” Mrs. Hancock is presented to the readers as the epitome of a virtuous American woman. Setting a noble example, Puck sees Mrs. Hancock as the more suitable of the two to fulfill the duties of First Lady, as she provides the American public with a character to which any woman would aspire.

This lengthy article satirized Mrs. Lucretia Garfield during the 1880 presidential campaign.  Was this really directed at her, or at her husband?  (Puck/University of Michigan)

This lengthy article satirized Mrs. Lucretia Garfield during the 1880 presidential campaign. Was this really directed at her, or at her husband? (Puck/University of Michigan)

So why the criticism of Mrs. Garfield? Was there something particularly loathsome about her character that prompted the editors at Puck to attack her? Looking through other sources of the time, from Cleveland’s Plain Dealer to The New York Times, Lucretia Garfield is notably absent from any criticism related to her husband, and is even referred to as a “quiet, thoughtful, and refined woman” by the Times. Using a little leeway, perhaps it’s not that Puck is not actually ridiculing her, but rather using her as a way to poke fun at her husband and his rise from “canal boy” to presidential candidate.

However, that is just my conclusion. Whether the authors of this humorous article were truly looking to mock Mrs. Garfield, or to find an alternative way to satirize her husband, we may never know. The one conclusion we can draw is that political satire is certainly not new to American political campaigns or candidates. Whether Lucretia Garfield deserved to bear the brunt of this joke or not is almost irrelevant, as this article clearly illustrates that satire was becoming a prominent voice in American politics, and anyone was fair game.

-James Brundage, Museum Technician

Holidays with the Garfields

The Holiday Season (Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day) means different things to different people.  Some will devoutly observe the sanctimony of the holidays; others will conduct personal reflections on the changing year.  Often, these will be mixed with cherished opportunities to spend time with family and friends.

Though some traditions and customs may have changed over the years, James A. Garfield also observed the holiday season, celebrating with family and friends and reflecting on his accomplishments throughout the past year.

An avid diarist throughout the majority of his life,  Garfield often wrote details of his thoughts on the holidays each year.  Reviewing these diary entries reveals many things both interesting and a little surprising.

James A. Garfield was a dedicated diarist and left behind many recollections of the holiday season.    (Library of Congress)

James A. Garfield was a dedicated diarist and left behind many recollections of the holiday season. (Library of Congress)

New Year’s Day appears to be of more importance to Garfield than did Christmas and Thanksgiving.  He spent many New Year’s Days evaluating the previous year’s achievements and looking at opportunities for personal improvement.

Wednesday, December 31, 1851 – I have perhaps done as well during the past year as could have been expected, but I can do better next time- let me try.

Monday, December 31, 1877 – The year has been an eventful one in many ways, particularly in the line of my public and private life. I shall be curious to see whether it is the culmination of my strength, for I have reached the top of the ridge according to the ordinary calculations of human life.

On some years he included personal reflections that were quite somber.

Thursday, December 31, 1857 – I feel that I am not so good a man in heart as I once was.  Perhaps the business of living is the business of growing hardened to many things in life…I fear that my heart does not pray as it ought.  Oh my God, may the sins of this closing year be blotted from the great book of thy remembrance, and my soul be fitted for heaven.

Friday, January 1, 1875 – I fear (the past) two years have taken away something from my cheerfulness and buoyancy of spirit.  I shall try to resist the shadows and court the sunshine.

The center of Garfield's life during the holidays was, of course, his wife, Lucretia Rudolph Garfield, and their children.   (Library of Congress)

The center of Garfield’s life during the holidays was, of course, his wife, Lucretia Rudolph Garfield, and their children. (Library of Congress)

However, Garfield was not always melancholy around New Year’s Day.  He also enjoyed the social opportunities of the holiday.  As a young man, he noted New Year’s Eve, 1849, was spent at Chagrin Falls, Ohio.  It should not be too hard to imagine 18-year old James celebrating the holiday as young men are likely to- by laughing with friends and chatting with pretty girls.

Perhaps his oddest holiday season came in 1858, when he spent the week between Christmas and New Year’s Eve in intellectual debate with renowned traveling debater William Denton on the proposition that life on Earth exists not by direct, creative power but by progressive development.  Each gave 20 half-hour speeches in Chagrin Falls between December 27 and 31.  Both men claimed victory in the debate, but the experience won Garfield considerable experience, confidence, and local acclaim.

As for Christmas holidays, Garfield does not record much thought on the day in his diary.  As a young man, he typically spent the day at school or church in the morning, then with family in the evening.

Friday, December 25, 1857 – Classes as usual.  But few are gone away ‘to Christmas’.  Spent the evening at (future father-in-law) Brother (Zebulon) Rudolph’s.  A very pleasant time.  Read The Culprit Fay to the company.

As his family life evolved, Garfield wrote frequently of the joy he found in spending time with his wife and children.

Friday, December 25, 1874 – …at an early hour we listened to the exclamations of delight from the children at the presents which has been distributed during the night…I am glad to notice that Harry and Jimmy have…awakened to the love of reading.

Saturday, December 25, 1875 – Spent the day home with the children, who were delighted with their Christmas Gifts.  Crete (Lucretia) and I joined them in their games and made a very pleasant day of it…I did hope to get away to New York for a part of this vacation, but I enjoy being at home more than ever before.  I am glad this is so, although it probably indicates the advance of old age.

Sunday, December 24, 1876 – Attended church with Mother, Crete, Mollie, Irvin and Miss Mays. In the evening attended to the Christmas things and read from  (Alfred Lord Tennyson’s) In Memoriam.

Monday, December 25, 1876 – I read to Crete and Miss Mays poems from…In Memoriam which relate to Christmas…their beauties grow upon me at each reading.  I have, for many years, sung  “Ring out, Wild Bells” to a rude air…which Crete is good enough to say is excellent music.

The Garfields had a large family consisting of five children and James's mother, Eliza Ballou Garfield.  In 1879, Lucretia's father, Zeb Rudolph, came to live with them as well.  (Library of Congress)

The Garfields had a large family consisting of five children that survived to adulthood and James’s mother, Eliza Ballou Garfield. In 1879, Lucretia’s father, Zeb Rudolph, came to live with them in their Mentor, Ohio home as well. (Library of Congress)

The holidays were not always so serene for Garfield though.  As a prominent attorney and U.S. Congressman, other affairs frequently kept him busy and away from home.  In 1873 Garfield traveled to Boston on Christmas Eve to take and review testimony for a court case over disputed land in the city.  He spent Christmas Day there in preparation for the trial.  A few years later, in 1879, Garfield was in New York for New Year’s Eve, and longing for home.

Thursday, January 1, 1879 – I am homesick as a boy to be with the dear ones (at home) today.

Indeed, Garfield’s favorite way to spend the holidays was with his family and friends.

Thursday, December 31, 1857 – This evening we went to Bro. Rudolph’s with Crete…we read (George D.) Prentice’s Closing Year. How thrilling!!

Wednesday, December 31, 1873 – Sat up with Crete and watched the old year out.

Sunday, December 31, 1876 – After dinner read to the children from Audubon concerning the wild turkey, its character and habits.  In the evening…read Tennyson’s New Year’s and Christmas Poems until near midnight.  The clock struck the new year before we went to sleep.

Thursday, November 29, 1877 – Spend the day at home…read, wrote, played with the children and enjoyed our home Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, December 24, 1879 – spent several hours with Crete and the boys (Harry and Jimmy) getting Christmas things for the children and our friends.

Friday, December 24, 1880 – …the whole family was ready at six-ten (in the morning) to meet the dear boys (Harry and Jimmy, returning home from boarding school), who bounded in at 6.15 joyful and joy giving. 

The Garfields purchased their home in Mentor, Ohio in 1876 and only spent a few holidays seasons here before James Garfield's presidency and death.  Mrs. Garfield owned the property the rest of her life and spent many holidays here with her children, grandchildren, and extended families.  We have no evidence or photos describing how they decorated the home (if at all) during the holiday season.  (NPS photo)

The Garfields purchased their home in Mentor, Ohio in 1876 and only spent a few holiday seasons here before James Garfield’s presidency and death. Mrs. Garfield owned the property the rest of her life and spent many holidays here with her children, grandchildren, and extended family. Unfortunately, we have no evidence or photos describing how or if they decorated the home during the holiday season. (NPS photo)

Even though Garfield wrote about his holiday experiences some 150 years ago, it is clear many traditions and customs never get old and change.

-Benjamin Frayser, Volunteer

How Do Fees Help Your National Parks?

When the “founding fathers” of the National Park Service first established this agency in 1916, there were a handful of natural sites, mostly around the western United States, which came under the NPS umbrella. Funding for protection of these and future sites was to come from the Congressional budget every year, but could those leaders have predicted that nearly 100 years later, we would have over 400 units in this growing organization? Unfortunately, the funding hasn’t been able to keep up with the number of new parks being added to the fray, and that’s where fees play a big part.

Congress has given the National Park Service the authority to charge several types of fees; entrance; special amenity (special tours, behind the scenes experiences, etc); boating and camping; and others. These fees range from a few dollars per person to per car fees for some of the larger parks. Sites also sell the America the Beautiful – National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Passes, affectionately known as the “annual” and “senior” passes. Depending on the size and amount of revenue generated each year, parks are able to retain nearly 100% of all their fees. Since it was paid by the visitors, this money is in turn used to fund projects that have direct visitor benefits. Facilities, improvements, and programs that make our audiences safer, more comfortable, and more knowledgeable about and appreciative towards our national parks are the types of projects funded by visitor fees.

At James A. Garfield National Historic Site, we’ve been able to do many things for our visitors over the years. Here are a few examples of our “fee projects”:

  • Interpretive Timeline – In 2010, the site commemorated the 30th anniversary of the establishment of the Garfield home and grounds as a national historic site. In addition to many public programs throughout the year, we constructed an interpretive timeline which layered the history of James A. Garfield National Historic Site with that of the National Park Service. The timeline was created by two of our seasonal rangers, who were students at the time and able to put some of their writing and graphics skills to work.
This interpretive timeline was  produced using fee dollars and hangs in the visitor center at James A. Garfield NHS.  (NPS photo)

This interpretive timeline was produced using fee dollars and hangs in the visitor center at James A. Garfield NHS. (NPS photo)

  • Warm Water – This might not seem like a big deal, but it’s nice to wash your hands with warm water, isn’t it? For several years the water heating units in the public restrooms were not functioning properly, and visitors who would wash their hands in colder months would experience absolutely freezing cold water coming out of the faucets! With fee money we were able to purchase new heaters and hire a contractor to install them.
Hot water heaters are now present in both public restrooms at James A. Garfield NHS thanks to fee money.  (NPS photo)

Hot water heaters (hidden inside metal case mounted to the wall) are now present in both public restrooms at James A. Garfield NHS thanks to fee money. (NPS photo)

  • Commemorating the Civil War – From 2011 through summer 2015, our staff and park staffs around the country have been commemorating the Civil War in many different ways. At the Garfield site, we’ve created three “post-up” banners  to supplement the static interpretation in our visitor center: The Civil War in Ohio; James A. Garfield and the Civil War; and Presidents in the Civil War. Additionally, we’ve provided the public with a Civil War encampment weekend each year, which brings history to life through reenactors like soldiers in camp, famous generals, and even President Lincoln and Frederick Douglass.  Fee money has paid for reenactor supplies like straw and firewood, fence banners, and activities for families.
These three panels have added a great deal  to our interpretation of the Civil War as the nation has marked that conflict's 150th anniversary in 2011-15.  We used fee dollars to pay for these panels.  (NPS photo)

These three panels have added a great deal to our interpretation of the Civil War as the nation has marked that conflict’s 150th anniversary in 2011-15.  We used fee dollars to pay for these panels. (NPS photo)

  • Get to Know the Presidents – About 5 years ago we purchased a brochure rack with the intention of filling it with brochures from other presidential sites around the country. This has become such a popular feature in our Visitor Center, that one of our volunteers has adopted the weekly duty of calling sites to replenish our rack. We love when our visitors show interest in other presidents (as long as Garfield is still their favorite)!
We purchased this rack with fee money and use it to hold the brochures of other National Park Service presidential sites.  This provides great info for our visitors and also reinforces that we are part of the larger National Park System.  (NPS photo)

We purchased this rack with fee money and use it to hold the brochures of other National Park Service presidential sites. This provides great info for our visitors and also reinforces that we are part of the larger National Park System. (NPS photo)

  • We’ve Got Wheels – If you’ve ever been to the Garfield site, you know there’s quite a lengthy walk between the point of entry at the visitor center and the Garfield home, where tours are led. Often visitors in poor health are not able to make that walk, or find themselves exhausted by the time they get up to the home. We purchased two new wheelchairs to escort visitors to and from the visitor center and house, so they can spend their energy enjoying the house and tour instead of worrying about the trip!
Fee money recently allowed us to purchase two new wheelchairs.  Elderly visitors or those with difficulty walking will appreciate these since the walk between our visitor center and the Garfield home is pretty long!  (NPS photo)

Fee money recently allowed us to purchase two new wheelchairs. Elderly visitors or those with difficulty walking will appreciate these since the walk between our visitor center and the Garfield home is pretty long! (NPS photo)

  • Thirsty? – many visitors, especially in the summer, bring water bottles to the site, and toss them when empty. Our new drinking fountain allows visitors to fill their bottles with cold, filtered water from a specially designed faucet that’s tall enough to accommodate a bottle. With this installation, we hope not only to encourage visitors to drink water, but to bring their reusable bottles from home and fill them up while visiting rather than buying water in plastic bottles and throwing them away.
Using fee dollars, we recently purchased this new water fountain for our visitor center.  You can get a quick sip of cold water here but also refill your own water bottles and help reduce the number of plastic bottles in use.  (NPS photo)

Using fee dollars, we recently purchased this new water fountain for our visitor center. You can get a quick sip of cold water here but also refill your own water bottles and help reduce the number of plastic bottles in use. (NPS photo)

  • Future projects – We’ve got several projects waiting to be funded, so please keep visiting so future visitors might reap the benefits of your fee dollars!
    • Establish distance learning programs which will allow us to provide programming to students and adults around the country, without the travel;
    • Repave pathways around the site to make the surface smoother for wheelchairs and strollers;
    • Create programming to celebrate the NPS centennial and presidential election in 2016;
    • And much, much more!

We can confidently say that on behalf of all the National Park Service staff and volunteers, we appreciate your continued support of our fee program and hope you see the benefits it yields. If you are interested in learning more about your fee dollars at work, please contact the site’s fee manager at 440-255-8722.

-Allison Powell, Park Ranger

More to Explore at Your National Parks

When I say “national parks,”or National Park Service, what comes to mind? If you’re being honest, you might say something like the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, Everglades, or maybe even Cuyahoga Valley if you’re from northeast Ohio. Many of our visitors at James A. Garfield National Historic Site are surprised to find out that our presidential home site is a national park, and more so that the National Park Service encompasses hundreds of “non-nature” sites that tell the history of important people and places in our nation’s history.

Of the 401 units of the National Park Service, over half (257) are history and culture sites. We have special names or designations*, for all our sites, and those describing history/culture sites include:

  • National Battlefields (Antietam, Fort Necessity)
  • National Battlefield Parks (Manassas, Richmond)
  • National Battlefield Site (Brice Cross Roads)
  • National Military Parks (Gettysburg, Shiloh)
  • National Historical Parks (Abraham Lincoln Birthplace, Dayton Aviation Heritage)
  • National Historic Site (James A. Garfield, Brown v. Board of Education)
  • International Historic Sites (Saint Croix Island)
  • National Memorials (Arlington House, Flight 93)
  • National Monuments (Aztec Ruins, George Washington Birthplace)

*For a complete list of all the national park designations, see www.nps.gov/classlist

I’d like to share a small sample of national historic sites which may not be as well-known as our bigger, more nature-related cousins out west, but still have an important story to tell. Even less well-known is the fact that each one of the people at the sites below can be tied in some way to James A. Garfield!

Edgar Allan Poe National Historic Site – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
This site preserves the home rented by Poe from 1843-1844. It was from this home that Poe had the most prolific period of his career, including stories like The Black Cat which was inspired by the basement in the Poe home. James A. Garfield briefly mentioned The Raven in his diary, and had two volumes of Poe works in his book collection (they now sit on the shelves in the Memorial Library).
www.nps.gov/edal

Edgar Allan Poe National Historic Site in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  The Garfields enjoyed Poe's fiction and poetry.  (NPS photo)

Edgar Allan Poe National Historic Site in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Garfields enjoyed Poe’s fiction and poetry. (NPS photo)

Longfellow House Washington’s Headquarters National Historic Site – Cambridge, Massachusetts
This historic site preserves the home of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, one of the world’s foremost 19th century poets. The house also served as headquarters for General George Washington during the Siege of Boston, July 1775-April 1776. In addition to its rich history, the site offers unique opportunities to explore 19th century literature and arts.  On New Year’s Eve, 1852, Garfield wrote in his diary. “…read Longfellow’s ‘Hymn to the Closing Year.’ Memories of by-gone days flit through my mind.”  www.nps.gov/long

Longfellow House-Washington's Headquarters National Historic Site in Cambridge, Massachusetts.  This site interprets Longfellow as an influential 19th century poet but also George Washington's use of the home as a headquarters for nine months during the Revolutionary War.  (NPS photo)

Longfellow House Washington’s Headquarters National Historic Site in Cambridge, Massachusetts. This site interprets Longfellow as an influential 19th century poet but also George Washington’s use of the home as a headquarters for nine months during the Revolutionary War. (NPS photo)

Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site – Cornish, New Hampshire
Augustus Saint-Gaudens was one of America’s greatest sculptors who created over 150 works of art, from exposed cameos to heroic-size public monuments.  Some of his works include Standing Lincoln and the 1907 Twenty Dollar Gold Piece, considered America’s most beautiful coin. Saint-Gaudens also had a personal connection to James A. Garfield: he sculpted the death mask we have on display in our Visitor Center today. The site maintains “Aspet”, the sculptor’s home, galleries containing some of his works, gardens, and over 100 acres of forested grounds with nature trails.   www.nps.gov/saga

Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site in Cornish, New Hampshire interprets the brilliant art career of Augustus Saint-Gaudens.  You can see one of his sculptures-the James A. Garfield death mask-on display in the visitor center at James A. Garfield NHS.  (NPS photo)

Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site in Cornish, New Hampshire interprets the brilliant art career of Augustus Saint-Gaudens. You can see one of his sculptures-the James A. Garfield death mask-on display in the visitor center at James A. Garfield NHS. (NPS photo)

Vanderbilt Mansion National Historic Site – Hyde Park, New York
A look at the interior of Vanderbilt Mansion may make you wonder about the direction Lucretia Garfield could have taken with the expansion of the Garfield home after the President’s death. This home, built about 10 years after the 9-room expansion to the Garfield home (1884-1886), represents the world of an American millionaire during the Gilded Age, and was established by the NPS as a monument to an era rather than a tribute to one family or person. Today, the site contains 211 acres surrounding the Vanderbilt Mansion. The land contains trails, centuries-old tree plantings, views of the Hudson River and Catskill Mountains, and Italian gardens.  www.nps.gov/vama

Vanderbilt Mansion National Historic Site in Hyde Park, New York.  This site commemorates Gilded Age America and features beautiful views of the Hudson River and the Catskills.  (NPS photo)

Vanderbilt Mansion National Historic Site in Hyde Park, New York. This site commemorates Gilded Age America and features beautiful views of the Hudson River and the Catskills. (NPS photo)

Clara Barton National Historic Site – Glen Echo, Maryland
Clara Barton National Historic Site preserves the home of the foundress of the American Red Cross, where she lived from 1897-1912. As President Garfield lay incapacitated by an assassin’s bullet in 1881, he signed a treaty allowing for collaboration between Ms. Barton and the International Red Cross to establish a national organization in the United States. This site interprets the last 15 years of Clara Barton’s life, and highlights the many accomplishments she made in the field of personal medical care throughout her lifetime.
www.nps.gov/clba

Clara Barton National Historic Site in Glen Echo, Maryland preserves the home of the founder of the American Red Cross.  (NPS photo)

Clara Barton National Historic Site in Glen Echo, Maryland preserves the home of the founder of the American Red Cross. (NPS photo)

We’ll do another post about more history and culture sites soon!

-Allison Powell, Park Ranger

A Snuggery for the General

In 1880, James and Lucretia Garfield expanded their Mentor farmhouse to better accommodate the Congressman and his large family.  One important addition was “a snuggery for the General”—a room at the top of the staircase where Garfield could have a quiet place to read, relax, and work.  When Garfield became the “dark horse” Republican presidential candidate in June, his snuggery was ready.  Through the summer, fall, and winter, candidate and then President-elect Garfield met with supporters, wrote letters and speeches, and welcomed friends in his small private office.  It is described in newspaper and magazine articles, and one image, from Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper, provides a view of the room as it looked during that campaign year.

This image of Garfield's study, or "snuggery," appeared in Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper during the 1881 presidential campaign.  (Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper)

This image of Garfield’s study, or “snuggery,” appeared in Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper during the 1880 presidential campaign. (Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper)

As Garfield was assembling his cabinet in January 1881, he invited New York Senator Roscoe Conkling to Mentor to “consult…on several subjects relating to the next administration—and especially in reference to New York interests.”  Faithful readers of this site will remember that Conkling, while asserting that he was a loyal Republican, insisted that he, not Garfield, ought to control party patronage, particularly in New York.  It took Conkling ten days to respond to the president-elect’s invitation.  Agreeing to visit Mentor, he told Garfield, “I need hardly say that your administration cannot be more successful than I wish it to be.”

Roscoe Conkling was a Senator from New York and one of the most powerful political figures in the United States during much of the 1870s and early 1880s.  He was determined to control who President Garfield appointed to federal offices in New York. (Wikipedia.com)

Roscoe Conkling was a Senator from New York and one of the most powerful political figures in the United States during much of the 1870s and early 1880s. He was determined to control who President Garfield appointed to federal offices in New York. (Wikipedia.com)

Oh, to have been a fly on the wall when these two met in the General’s snuggery!  The meeting lasted six hours, and in his diary Garfield described it as “frank and friendly.”  Conkling began the conversation by telling the President-elect that “Treasury is the only post that would satisfy New York, and our state would prefer to be passed altogether if it could not obtain the department to which its rank and service entitled it.”  It was quickly apparent that Garfield did not feel Conkling spoke for all the New York Republicans, and would not be offering the post of Treasury Secretary to any New Yorker.  Afterwards, Conkling ranted about the reason he had been summoned to Mentor, the length of the conversation, and the fact that Garfield offered him tea. Nowhere did he describe the meeting as “friendly.”

The "snuggery" still looks today much as did when President-elect Garfield and Senator Conkling met here for six hours in early 1881.  (NPS photo)

The “snuggery” still looks today much as did when President-elect Garfield and Senator Conkling met here for six hours in early 1881. (NPS photo)

At the end of February 1881, the Garfield family left Mentor for the White House; James Garfield would never return.  Just a month after President Garfield’s death, his private secretary, Joseph Stanley-Brown, made a suggestion to Mrs. Garfield: “Would it not be well to preserve the General’s desk and all the furniture in his library at ‘I’ St—in order that the room may be reproduced—perhaps at the new library at Mentor?”  “I Street” refers to the Garfield’s home in Washington, D.C., the family’s primary residence during the years that Garfield served in Congress.  Mrs. Garfield took up Stanley-Brown’s suggestion, bringing a number of pieces from Washington, and making some changes—most significantly the addition of a gas fireplace with a mantelpiece inscribed  ”In Memoriam.”

Mrs. Lucretia Garfield had "In Memoriam" carved into the wood above the snuggery's fireplace after President Garfield's death.  This is one of the few changes she made to the room after her husband's assassination.  (NPS photo)

Mrs. Lucretia Garfield had “In Memoriam” carved into the wood above the snuggery’s fireplace after President Garfield’s death. This is one of the few changes she made to the room after her husband’s assassination. (NPS photo)

Today, the General’s snuggery reflects his brief enjoyment of the room, and Lucretia Garfield’s memorialization in it.  Above the General’s desk is a picture of Dr. John P. Robison, Garfield’s lifelong friend and mentor.  Dr. Robison was twenty years Garfield’s senior, a physician, businessman, and leader of the Disciples of Christ in northeast Ohio.  Dr. Robison owned a farm in Mentor, Ohio and suggested that Congressman Garfield buy the property nearby that was for sale in the summer of 1876.  After James and Lucretia purchased “the old Dickey farm,” Robison oversaw many of the improvements in the house and property while the busy Representative and his family were in Washington. Dr. Robison conducted President Garfield’s funeral services in Cleveland on September 26, 1881.

James A. Garfield's desk, with the photo of Dr. John P. Robeson on the wall above it.  (NPS photo)

James A. Garfield’s desk, with the photo of Dr. John P. Robeson on the wall above it. (NPS photo)

To the right of the General’s desk are pictures of James Smithson and the Smithsonian Castle.  James Smithson was a British scientist and explorer who endowed “an establishment for the increase and diffusion of knowledge” for the United States.  The Smithsonian Institution was established by an act of Congress in 1846.  James Garfield served as a regent for the National Museum, as the Smithsonian was called, from 1865 to 1873 and again from 1878 to 1881.  In addition to his duties as regent, Garfield enjoyed the museum with his family, regularly mentioning visits with his children.  On March 4, 1881, Garfield’s inaugural ball was held in the new National Museum building that we today recognize as the Castle.

Above the fireplace is a framed group of twenty gentlemen, including James Garfield.  The others are Mark Hopkins, president-emeritus, and eighteen members of the Williams College class of 1856.  The pictures were taken in Washington in March, 1881.  On March 5, 1881, the first full day of James Garfield’s presidency, he recorded in his diary, “The pleasant event of the day was the call of the Williams College Alumni, and the speech of Dr. Hopkins, to which I replied briefly.”

The top photo with white matting is an image of President Rutherford B. Hayes.  Below it i(in the middle) s a photo of the Smithsonian Castle, and below that is the image of James Smithson, founder of the Smithsonian.  (NPS photo)

The top photo with white matting is an image of President Rutherford B. Hayes. Below it (in the middle) is a photo of the Smithsonian Castle, and below that is the image of James Smithson, founder of the Smithsonian. (NPS photo)

Without a doubt the most interesting piece in the room is the lopsided leather reading chair.  While not a unique piece, it is rich in Garfield family tradition; and its original leather, now very worn, invites people to imagine James Garfield relaxing with a book at the end of a busy day.

President Garfield's "lopsided" leather reading chair is one of the most commented-upon artifacts on display in the Garfield home.  (NPS photo)

President Garfield’s “lopsided” leather reading chair is one of the most commented-upon artifacts on display in the Garfield home. (NPS photo)

The “snuggery for the General,” as Lucretia Garfield described it, is the room in James Garfield’s Mentor home that most reflects his personality and his interests.  We can all imagine him feeling comfortably at home here.

-Joan Kapsch, Park Guide

Presidents and Politicians: The 23rd Ohio Volunteer Infantry

At the end of the Civil War, many Union officers from Ohio were able to transfer their careers to the political arena. Some were quite successful; others were not. The 23rd Ohio Volunteers had the honor of delivering two future presidents, a Supreme Court justice, and an ambassador to Hawaii.

The 23rd OVI was mustered into service in July 1861 at Camp Chase in Columbus, Ohio. The regimental commander would be William Rosecrans, a man destined for both praise and scorn during the course of his military career. His staff officers were two graduates of Kenyon College: Lieutenant Colonel Stanley Matthews and Major Rutherford B. Hayes. Among the enlisted men was eighteen-year-old William McKinley.

Before leaving Camp Chase, the regiment nearly chose to go on strike. The soldiers went ballistic when they received old muskets probably left over from the Mexican War. Many of the boys refused to accept the ancient guns. While the dispute raged, the officers were alarmed to learn that General John C. Fremont was on his way to inspect the new recruits. A genuine concern developed that the soldiers of the 23rd would boycott the inspection. After much debate the boys agreed to appear in front of General Fremont but still argued they would not go into battle with the outdated weapons.

These members of the 23rd Ohio's color guard stand proudly with their national colors, which have obviously seen a great deal of fighting.  (Ohio Historical Society)

These members of the 23rd Ohio’s color guard stand proudly with their national colors, which have obviously seen a great deal of fighting. (Ohio Historical Society)

While officers tried to coerce the soldiers, Major Hayes went from tent to tent and talked things over with his men. He made no threats, but quietly reminded everybody they had an obligation to defend their country regardless of the poor weapons issued. He assured them better muskets would eventually be issued. The soldiers were impressed with Hayes’s words and agreed to accept the guns. Private McKinley would remark that his fellow soldiers were won over by Major Hayes and readily accepted him as their leader.

Lieutenant Colonel Matthews would not enjoy the respect of his troops. A political appointee, Matthews did not have the ability to instill confidence in his regiment. He was a lawyer by trade, serving as United States Attorney for the District of Ohio. His courtroom skills did not translate well to the Union army. Within a year he would resign from the 23rd.

With Matthews gone, Major Hayes received a promotion to Lieutenant Colonel. By April of 1862 he was appointed commander of the regiment. He proved to be an aggressive leader, always eager to give battle. Sometimes the battles were with superior officers. He tangled with Major General Jesse Reno, who was enraged when the men of the 23rd were caught pilfering straw for their horses and camp site. Hayes defended his soldiers, advising the general he would pay for the straw if need be. After a few tense moments Reno calmed down and headed off to rejoin his division. Hayes was already well thought of by his men. Now they would run through a brick wall for him.

In September 1862 the 23rd was heavily engaged in the battle of South Mountain during the Maryland Campaign that culminated with the bloody battle of Antietam. Hayes ordered his regiment to charge. Moments later he was shot in the left arm, but stayed on the field while the fight continued. Later he was moved to a field hospital and eventually recuperated at home in Ohio.

Rutherford B. Hayes served the Union with distinction throughout the Civil War.  Like many postwar Republicans, his military record made him an appealing candidate for high office.  (NEED SOURCE)

Rutherford B. Hayes served the Union with distinction throughout the Civil War. Like many postwar Republicans, his military record made him an appealing candidate for high office. (Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center)

Hayes missed the battle of Antietam, but Commissary Sergeant William McKinley would prove himself a hero there. The 23rd was on the field all day, taking part in one of the most horrific battles of the Civil War. They had entered the fight without eating breakfast and by late afternoon were exhausted and desperate for food. McKinley seized the moment by loading a wagon with rations and coffee. He took one volunteer with him and rode into the fight. He was stopped by several Union officers who warned him to turn back. The sergeant ignored the advice and spurred the horses forward. A rebel cannon shot damaged the back of the wagon but McKinley did not stop until he reached the 23rd. Word of his bravery reached Hayes, who recommended the nineteen-year-old for promotion to second lieutenant. Several weeks later McKinley was an officer.

Hayes, now a colonel, returned to command in November of 1862. His place had been taken by Major James Comly, a competent officer and a good friend. Along with leading the 23rd, Hayes was given command of the First Brigade of the Second Kanawha Division consisting of the 23rd, the 89th Ohio, and two cavalry companies. They saw little action until July of 1863 when the brigade gave chase to Confederate General John Hunt Morgan and his raiders. The rebels had entered southern Ohio via Kentucky, intent on causing as much mayhem as possible. The first Brigade caught up with Morgan on July 19th and followed him to Buffington Island, where the raiders surrendered.

William McKinley entered Union service as a private.  By war's end, he was a Major with an impressive service record.  (NEED SOURCE)

William McKinley entered Union service as a private. By war’s end, he was a Major with an impressive service record. (William McKinley Presidential Library)

For the balance of the year the First Brigade did not see any significant action. In July of 1864 they were involved in the battle of Winchester, Virginia. The Confederates pushed back Hayes’s brigade, forcing them to a defensive position behind a lengthy stone wall. While holding firm, Colonel Hayes realized the 13th regiment had been left behind. He ordered Lieutenant McKinley to ride through the Confederate position and return with the lost soldiers. McKinley galloped forward, dodging bullets and cannon shot. The Union officers had their spyglasses on the rider, amazed that he was still upright in the saddle. McKinley passed the Rebel lines and continued riding until he located the 13th. He brought them back to the Union lines unscathed, and ready to continue the fight. Another promotion for McKinely was in the works, this time to captain.

There would be more honors for Hayes and McKinley. In December Hayes would be promoted to Brigadier General and McKinley to brevet Major. Both men continued to fight to the utmost. While directing his brigade in one battle, Hayes’s horse was killed, causing the general to take a nasty spill. He fell unconscious causing some of his soldiers to think their commander was dead. He roused himself only to see his brigade retreating with Confederates closing in from all directions. General Hayes scrambled to his feet and somehow staggered his way back to safety. A spent rebel bullet struck him in the head, a perfect end to a day of intense fighting.

Once again Major McKinley would leave the safety of his lines, this time to identify cavalry that was too close to the Union position. He galloped forward directly into a company of Confederate riders. The chase was on but the amazing escapades of the daring young officer would not be ended here. To the astonishment of his fellow officers he outran the pursuing Confederates, arriving safely at the Union position. In four years of service McKinley had risen from a volunteer private to a major while still in his early twenties. He mustered out of the army, studied law, and soon became a prosecuting attorney. Similar to his military career, he took the field of politics by storm. In short order he was a Republican Congressman, Governor of Ohio, and in 1896 elected the 25th President of the United States. McKinley won a second term but was shot by a suspected anarchist and died on September 14, 1901.

Stanley Matthews did not endear himself to the soldiers of the 23rd Ohio, who much preferred the command of Rutherford B. Hayes.  Even so, President James A. Garfield nominated Matthews to the Supreme Court in 1881 on Hayes's recommendation.  (NEED SOURCE)

Stanley Matthews did not endear himself to the soldiers of the 23rd Ohio, who much preferred the command of Rutherford B. Hayes. Even so, President James A. Garfield nominated Matthews to the Supreme Court in 1881 on Hayes’s recommendation. (Library of Congress)

General Hayes entered politics immediately after the Civil War. He served as a Republican Congressman, Governor of Ohio for three non-consecutive terms, then won the presidency in the election of 1876. Hayes selected his old staff officer James Comly to be ambassador to Hawaii, where he functioned for six years. At the end of his term, Hayes nominated Stanley Matthews for a position on the United States Supreme Court. The nomination was tabled but re-submitted by President James A. Garfield in 1881. Matthews got his seat and served with distinction until his death in 1889.

James Comly served as a staff officer to Rutherford B. Hayes during the Civil War.  Later, President Hayes made Comly the U.S. ambassador to Hawaii.  (NEED SOURCE)

James Comly served as a staff officer to Rutherford B. Hayes during the Civil War. Later, President Hayes made Comly the U.S. ambassador to Hawaii. (www.picturehistory.com)

The men of the 23rd Ohio Volunteer Infantry performed admirably during their time in the Civil War. They were skillfully commanded by a fearless Rutherford B. Hayes. Major William McKinley displayed immense courage time and again on the battlefield. Stanley Matthews had some deficiencies in command, but proved to be a capable member of the Supreme Court. James Comly served his general well and was rewarded for his efforts by representing the United States in one of the elite assignments any non-politician could hope to get. The 23rd OVI left quite a legacy during the war, and continued doing so for many years to come.

-Scott Longert, Park Guide