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Garfield, James

On the eve of the Civil War in 1859, attorney and educator James A. Garfield was elected to the Ohio State Senate on the anti-slavery vote. He had previously served as principal of Hiram College and was a member of the Ohio bar. In August of 1861, he was commissioned a lieutenant colonel in the 42nd Ohio Infantry, 17th Brigade, then reported in December to Kentucky and was placed in command of the 17th Brigade. At the Big Sandy River, his troops were outnumbered five to one but held until reinforcements arrived. Garfield then attacked the Confederates at Middle Creek, Kentucky, and won after a five-hour battle. He was promoted to brigadier general and assigned to the 20th Brigade at Columbia, Tennessee, where he joined General Ulyesses S. Grant. He reached Shiloh on the second day of the battle and helped drive back the Confederates. In February of 1863, he joined the army of Cumberland under General William S. Rosecrans and was appointed chief to staff. For his actions at the battle of Chickamauga, Garfield was promoted to major general of Ohio Volunteers. Garfield was elected to Congress in 1862 on the condition that he take the seat in December of ’63, when it was thought the war would be over. He was ready to accept command of a division as the war dragged on, but Lincoln and Secretary of War Stanton urged him to take the seat because of his value as a legislator. He resigned his commission on December 5th and took his seat in Congress two days later. James Garfield became the 20th president of the United States in 1881.