Greetings, my fellow port swillers!
During the weekly chin-wag with the Mothe yesterday, the subject of President James A. Garfield came up. (If readers have paid the slightest attention to the butterfly-like trajectory of this blog over the years, they should not be the least surprised. Where d’ye suppose I get it from?)
I mentioned the fact that Garfield had seen combat in the Civil War and that, in fact, most of the immediate post-war presidents had done so, but because I was caught cold and was otherwise distracted, could not recall with certainty my little store of trivial knowledge on the subject. Herein, then, because this is my blog (which is mine), some highlights of interest:
Andrew Johnson (1865-1869) – Johnson was too old to go soldiering when the War broke out, but served as Military Governor of Tennessee with the nominal rank of Brigadier General. His headquarters at Nashville was raided from time to time by Nathan Bedford Forrest.
U.S. Grant (1869-1877) – No need to recap his service here, I think.
Rutherford B. Hayes (1877-1881) – Hayes was the Colonel of an Ohio infantry regiment. Wounded in the arm leading a charge against an entrenched position at the Battle of South Mountain during the Antietam Campaign. Later served in the Army of the Shenandoah, first under “Black Dave” Hunter and then Sheridan. Fought in various battles of the Valley Campaign of 1864, where he received several minor wounds. During that campaign, he was promoted to Brigadier General and breveted Major General.
James A. Garfield (1881) – Was the Colonel of an Ohio infantry regiment. He became a Brigadier General under General Buell and fought in the Shiloh Campaign. Later, he became Chief of Staff to Gen. Rosencrans in the Army of the Cumberland and was present at the near-disastrous Battle of Chickamauga. He was promoted to Major General, but later resigned his commission and returned to Congress after Rosencrans was removed from command by Washington.
Chester A. Arthur (1881-1885) – A lawyer, Arthur was appointed Brigadier General on the military staff of the Governor of New York, where he served in teh Quartermaster Department. He never saw combat but instead remained behind organizing and supplying troops, at which he was apparently quite gifted. (He was elected Colonel of a New York infantry regiment, but declined the position at the request of the Governor.)
Grover Cleveland (1885-1889, 1893-1897) – The only genuine weasel in the bunch, in terms of military service. Another New York lawyer, Cleveland took advantage of the terms of the Conscription Act to pay off another man to go serve in the military in his place.
Benjamin Harrison (1889-1893) – Became Colonel of an Indiana infantry regiment. He served in the Atlanta Campaign under Sherman and also participated in the Battle of Nashville. Finished the War a Brigadier General.
William McKinley (1897-1901) – He was a Sergeant in the same Ohio regiment commanded by Hayes (with whom he remained life-long friends) and served in the same campaigns. McKinley was also in the thick of the fighting at Antietam (which Hayes missed due to his wound at South Mountain). During teh Valley Campaign, he was promoted to officer rank, finishing the War as a Brevet Major.
Teddy Roosevelt, who succeeded McKinley, was the first of the next generation of presidents who were born too late to participate in the War. (T.R. was born in 1858. Taft was born in 1857 and Wilson in 1856. And so on.)
So there you are.