Garfield, James A. (1831-1881)
James Abram Garfield, 20th President of the United States, was born on a pioneer farm in Cuyahoga County, Ohio, on November 19, 1831. He was graduated from Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts in 1856, served for a while as a schoolmaster of the Western Reserve Eclectic Institute (later Hiram College), and was elected to the Ohio state senate as a Republican in 1859. With the outbreak of the Civil War, Garfield aided with the recruitment of the 42nd Ohio Infantry, of which he was made lieutenant colonel in August, 1861, and colonel in December. Impressing his superiors with his ability to turn raw recruits into soldiers, Garfield was sent to train Don Carlos Buell’s army in Kentucky. Given command of a brigade, he won an unimportant victory in January, 1862 over West Point trained Confederate General Henry Marshall. He was promoted to brigadier general of volunteers to rank from January 11, 1862, and fought with Buell at the battles of Shiloh and Corinth. From that time until late autumn, Garfield was plagued by ill health, but on November 17, 1862, was named to the military commission which drove Major General Fitz John Porter from the service. The following spring, he was appointed chief of staff to General William S. Rosecrans, the commander of the Army of the Cumberland, and after the disastrous battle of Chickamauga, he was promoted to major general. Interestingly, this promotion came after Garfield had been elected to the United States House of Representatives. President Lincoln persuaded him to resign his commission, since he said it was easier to find major generals than competent Republicans in Congress. Garfield won re-election for the next 18 years, and became the leading Republican in the House. At the 1880 Republican Convention, he failed to win the Presidential nomination for his friend John Sherman, but on the 36th ballot, Garfield himself became the “dark horse” candidate. In an amazingly close race, Garfield defeated the Democratic nominee, Winfield Scott Hancock, by a margin of only 10,000 popular votes. Four months after his inauguration, on July 2, 1881, James A. Garfield was shot in a Washington D. C. train station by a disappointed office seeker named Charles J. Guiteau. He lay in the White House for weeks while doctors poked and prodded him to find the bullet (Alexander Graham Bell even tried with an induction-balance electrical device which he had designed). On September 6, Garfield was taken to the New Jersey shore, and for a few days he showed signs of recuperating. However, his recovery was not to be. On September 19, 1881, James A. Garfield died from an infection and internal hemorrhage. He lays in an impressive tomb in Lake View Cemetery in Cleveland, Ohio. Guiteau was hanged on June 30, 1882.
Offered is a fairly large, approximately 1.75 x 5.25 inch, clipped signature, undoubtedly signed while Garfield was a member of Congress. The piece reads “J. A. Garfield / Ohio” and appears to have been removed from a period autograph album (we have encountered this type of paper in that format). The verso of the clip is blank, though many of these removed from albums have a second signature on the opposite side. The autograph is executed in period ink, with virtually no fading noted. Very light toning is present across the face of the piece, probably due to the type of paper used. A nice signature of this Civil War officer and United States president.