James Abram Garfield
Burial Location Visited President Grave #
Cleveland, Ohio June 21, 2005 22nd Visited

My favorite gravesite I have ever
visited is the James A. Garfield
Memorial in Cleveland. After he
died in 1881, Garfield's mourners
 built this 180-foot sandstone
tomb to house the assassinated
president's remains. It also
features mosaics, murals, bas
reliefs, and a statue of Garfield
carved from Italian marble.

James and Lucretia Garfield's caskets rest
upon catafalques in the crypt. The docent
who unlocked the tomb gate for my father
and me intimated that we were only the
second party to ask for access to the
inner chamber in the past fifty years.
Staff from the television network C-SPAN
made the other request.

* Fast Facts * *

- First Lady: Lucretia Rudolph Garfield

  - Spouse: Lucretia Rudolph Garfield (m. 1858-1881)

- Political Party: Republican Party

- Term: 1881

- Vice President: Chester Alan Arthur

- Born: November 19, 1831

- Died: September 19, 1881

- Age: 49

- Cause of Death: Infection of Gunshot Wound

- Last Words: "Oh, Swaim, there is a pain here. Oh, Swaim!"

 Cemetery: Lake View Cemetery, Cleveland, Ohio

- GPS Coordinates: 41°30'36.1"N 81°35'28.9"W

* Background on James A. Garfield * *

* James Abram Garfield, the last U.S. president born in a log cabin, began life on November 19, 1831 in Orange Township, Ohio. James' father died when he was an infant, and he was primarily raised by his impoverished mother, Eliza. James was a voracious reader, and he was inspired by the publication The Pirate's Own Book to work as a laborer on a ship. He left home at age sixteen and was employed upon a canal boat, but returned home six weeks later after he fell overboard and contracted malaria. Eliza Garfield hoped her son would follow more scholarly pursuits and gifted him her entire life savings - $17 - which covered one term's tuition at the Western Reserve Eclectic Institute. To pay for the remainder of his education, the young man performed carpentry and janitorial duties for the school. He was adept enough at mathematics, literature, and ancient languages that he became a professor in those subjects. It was in his capacity as an instructor that he met shy student Lucretia Rudolph, whom he wed in November 1858 following a prolonged engagement. During their courtship, James left Ohio and completed his studies at Williams College in Massachusetts.

* Around the time of his marriage to "Crete," James began to dabble in politics as a Republican. He was a member of the Ohio State Senate in 1861 when the Civil War erupted. Twenty-nine-year-old Garfield soon joined the Union Army. Heroics in skirmishes in Kentucky and Tennessee - such as the battles of Middle Creek and Shiloh - propelled him to the rank of major general. In 1862, the Garfield's friends submitted his name for consideration for U.S. representative for Ohio's 19th District. He won the election in November, but when the time came for the general to take his seat in late 1863 - a critical period of the war - he had reservations about leaving his troops. Garfield was convinced to accept the will of the voters and join Congress by President Abraham Lincoln, who was in need of allies in Washington to pass legislation. Garfield served over seventeen years in the House of Representatives, where he voted in favor of the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution which abolished slavery, as well as the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments, which pledged equal protection under the law and voting rights to citizens regardless of race. At the June 1880 Republican National Convention, Congressman Garfield delivered a speech in favor of naming Treasury Secretary John Sherman the party's nominee for president, hoping he would succeed the retiring Rutherford B. Hayes. Garfield had significant public speaking experience throughout his life as a professor, a preacher, and a politician, and the oration earned him accolades from convention delegates. Sherman did not receive enough support to win the nomination, nor did candidates Ulysses S. Grant or James G. Blaine. but after thirty-five indecisive ballots, a majority of delegates turned to the man who spoke in support of him. On the thirty-sixth ballot, Garfield was chosen as the GOP presidential nominee. In the November election, the Republican defeated Democrat Winfield Scott Hancock, a fellow Union Army general. Garfield remains the sole incumbent member of the House of Representatives to be elected president.

* Garfield spent a significant amount of time during the first four months of his term filling openings for political appointments, which exceeded 80,000. One person who did not receive a post was thirty-nine-year-old Charles Guiteau, who had delivered several unremarkable speeches on Garfield’s behalf during the 1880 campaign. The mentally ill Guiteau believed he was responsible for Garfield’s election and viewed the Paris consulship as fitting payment. The office-seeker turned up at the executive mansion at least fifteen times to claim his reward; he also frequented the state department. When Secretary of State James Blaine informed Guiteau he would not receive the appointment, Guiteau was outraged. He came to believe that God wanted him to assassinate Garfield, and that this act would bring him the prestige he deserved. On July 2, as Garfield prepared to leave Washington from the Baltimore and Potomac Railroad Station, Guiteau walked up behind the president and fired two shots from his British Bulldog revolver. One bullet struck the president’s right arm. The other lodged in his back. Garfield was removed from the floor where he fell and placed upon a mattress made of hay and horse hair, after which he was carried upstairs. An hour later, the president rode back to the executive mansion in a makeshift ambulance. Within a day of the attack, a dozen physicians examined the victim’s back, but none were able to determine the location or the trajectory of the ammunition. Dr. D. W. Bliss, an acquaintance of the president who had lost his practice, assumed control of the scene and barred other medical professionals from seeing the patient. Bliss was wary of emerging theories about bacteria and probed Garfield’s wound with unwashed hands and instruments numerous times over the ensuing weeks. Beset by fever and infection, Garfield struggled on his sickbed for eighty days until he succumbed on September 19, 1881. Guiteau, captured immediately after the shooting, was executed by hanging on June 30, 1882.

Sources Consulted                                                                                                                                                     

Ackerman, Kenneth D. "The Garfield Assassination Altered American History, But Is Woefully Forgotten Today." smithsonianmag.com. Updated November 19, 2018. https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/garfield- assassination-altered-american-history-woefully-forgotten-today-180968319/.

American Experience. "Murder of a President." Directed by Rob Rapley. PBS, 2016.

Cash, James B. Unsung Heroes: Ohioans in the White House: A Modern Appraisal. Wilmington, OH: Orange Frazer Press, 1998. Reprinted. Wilmington, OH: Orange Frazer Press, 2000.

Dyer, Davis. "James A. Garfield." In The Reader's Companion to the American Presidency, edited by Alan Brinkley and Davis Dyer, 238-46. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2000.

"The Election of President James Garfield of Ohio." history.house.gov. Accessed July 2, 2019. https://history.house.gov/Historical-Highlights/1851-1900/The-election-of-President-James-Garfield-of- Ohio/.

Lamb, Brian, and the C-SPAN Staff. Who's Buried in Grant's Tomb?: A Tour of Presidential Gravesites. New York: PublicAffairs, 2000. Reprinted. New York: PublicAffairs, 2003.

"Overview." grantstomb.org. Accessed July 2, 2019. https://grantstomb.org/overview/.

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