In 1862, Garfield was elected to the House of Representatives. At the time, Garfield was serving in the Union forces as a brigadier general. President Lincoln asked him to resign his commission, he was needed more in Congress than in the army. Elected for another eighteen years, Garfield became one of the most powerful Republicans in the House.
In 1880, Garfield went to the Republican Convention to try and secure the nomination for his friend and colleague, John Sherman. Thirty-six ballots later, Garfield became the dark horse nominee. Oops. Sherman, however, did get a prize out of it. The Senate seat that Garfield was also elected to (that was the job he really wanted) at the same time he was elected President, went to Sherman.
In his brief time in office (the second shortest administration, after William Henry Harrison), Garfield took on the powerful machine of Senator Roscoe Conkling of New York. Garfield fought the corruption and patronage advanced by Conkling, and emerged victorious when Conkling resigned from the Senate in protest, thinking he would be reappointed by the New York legislature. Oops. They missed that memo and appointed someone else.
As Garfield walked through the Sixth Street Station in Washington, DC (the spot is now occupied by the National Gallery of Art), he was approached by Charles Guiteau, who was disgruntled with the Garfield administration as he had been thwarted in securing a federal position. Walking with Garfield was Robert Todd Lincoln, notching his second of three direct associations with presidential assassinations. Garfield lingered for more than four months before succumbing in September 1881. It is widely believed that he would have survived had his doctors been more capable.
- born November 19, 1831 in Orange, Ohio
- died September 19, 1881 in Elberon, New Jersey (after being shot in Washington, DC on July 2) (age 49)
- Party: Republican
- James A. Garfield and Chester Alan Arthur (R) - 4,446,158 popular votes / 214 EVs
- Winfield Scott Hancock and William English (D) - 4,444,260 popular votes / 155 EVs
- Garfield was the last President to be born in a log cabin.
- Garfield is the only man to be elected President as a sitting member of the House of Representatives.
- The assassination of Garfield led indirectly to the Pendelton Civil Service Reform Act, which did away with the "spoils system."
- Among the many treatments tried on Garfield, was Alexander Graham Bell's use of a metal detector to try and find the bullet that was lodged in Garfield's body.
- Garfield is one of three presidents to predecease his mother - Polk and Kennedy are the others.
- Garfield was an ordained minister in the Disciples of Christ, making him the only person to serve as President and be a member of the clergy.
- Garfield was ambidextrous and could write in Latin with his left hand and Greek with the right.
- Garfield had an extramarital affair in 1862, admitted it to his wife, who forgave him.
- White House Biography
- Miller Center Biography
- Congressional Biographical Dictionary
- Internet Public Library Biography
- C-SPAN biography
- Guide to Garfield Papers
- James Garfield's Pension File from the National Archives
- James A. Garfield National Historic Site (in Ohio)
- The Garfield Monument in Cleveland's Lake View Cemetery