The Civil War Careers of Post-Civil War Presidents (Lecture)

The Civil War Careers of Post-Civil War Presidents (Lecture)

Welcome everyone to Gettysburg National
Military Park glad you see y’all made out of the snow-covered driveways good
to see y’all here today my name is Dan Vermilya I’m a park ranger at Antietam
National Battlefield but today I’m up here with you folks at Gettysburg for
our midwinter lecture series this year I’ve been in the Park Service for five
years now most of them at Antietam but I have worked here at Gettysburg here and
there over the last few years very nice to be with you today our topic today
it’s something a little bit different we are talking about the post-civil war
careers of the post-civil war presidents and I think it’s important for me up
front to be very clear about what we’re going to be talking about today and what
we’re not going to be talking about today
of course today is George Washington’s birthday so happy birthday to George
Washington it seems that in American history presidents are often pushed
aside to the realm of trivia I think most people encounter different
presidents especially some of the presidents we’re going to talk about
today in my instance when I’m in the Antietam bookstore and I see the ruler
that’s got all the presidents on it in order kind of almost like a hey can you
list all the presidents and and know the trivia about them and I think sometimes
we forget that they’re not just faces on gold coins issued they are actual actual
people actual people who serve this country so today we’re going to look at
a few of these men and a few of these presidents as they were during the Civil
War soldiers and veterans of the war this talk is not an examination of the
presidencies of these men it’s not on reconstruction rather it’s a Civil War
talk with a reconstruction twist we are focus focus almost exclusively on the
Civil War years seeing how the war shaped the next generation of leaders
and the United States it is the goal this talk to provide a glimpse of the
Civil War careers of four men who went on to lead the United States as
president Rutherford B Hayes James Garfield Benjamin Harrison and William
McKinley Wars in American history have typically produced the next generation
of American leadership in the case of the presidency many of held military
service but few were actually shaped by combat
during their military service each of these men experienced combat during the
Civil War saw death knew what it was to be on the battlefield during immense
bloodshed their service during the war shaped them as men and as future leaders
just as the war transformed the nation it transformed its citizens and soldiers
turning lawyers educators college presidents professors and business men
into congressmen governor’s senators and presidents so what we’re gonna do is I
know there’s technically five of these guys who saw combat during the war and
went on to become president of course we have right up top ulysses s grant
unfortunately if you’re a big grant aficionado we will not be talking about
grant today grant could have his entire lecture series just on him for an entire
winter after all his face is on the fifty dollar bill so I’ve been told I
don’t actually have one so the four I’m glad you liked that one the four we’re
going to be talking about if of course as I said Rutherford B Hayes James
Garfield Benjamin Harrison and William akin Lee the idea for this talk came
walk right now I’m working on a book project on James Garfield during the
Civil War and every time I mention that to someone they always say wow that’s
really interesting I know nothing about his Civil War career and it always
expands out I don’t really know much about the Civil War career of these
other guys who went on to become president so that’s how the idea for
this program came about looking at the Civil War careers of some of these guys
so what we’re going to do is we’re going to cycle through and look at their Civil
War careers and first off we’re going to talk about two of them together because
they each served in the same regiment and along the way I have some really
nifty photographs of them taking their oath of office to remind ourselves that
while their most famous for taking this oath they did have a career before then
it’s also important to know if I can just go back here one all five of these
guys including grant in this part all five were actually from Ohio grant and
Harrison eventually moved elsewhere of these five grant was the only West Point
graduate for all came from civilian life only
grant saw two full terms in the white house
none of the other four lived through eight years of the presidency in fact
two of these men were assassinated so let’s start with number 19 Rutherford B
Hayes this is a photograph of Hayes and his wife Lucy in 1852 the year they were
married when the Civil War began Rutherford Hayes was a 38 year old
attorney living near Cincinnati he was married with three kids is a graduate of
Kenyon College and Harvard Law School and at the beginning the war he felt
very strongly about the reasons for which he was about to be fighting and
the reasons why this nation was going to war to with itself in January of 1861 he
wrote disunion and civil war are at hand and yet I fear disunion and war less
than compromise in April once the first shots had been fired in Charleston
Harbor he wrote to his uncle we are all for war the few dissidents have to run
like Quarter Horses for cover even mrs. Hayes was very much
on the bandwagon in support of the Union cause of his wife he wrote Lucy enjoys
the war fever and wishes she had been in Fort Sumter with a garrison of women
Hayes was among the many many who before they even entered military service began
drilling on their own forming militia units militia companies he was appointed
a major in the 23rd Ohio early on he wrote around the same time to a friend
of his living in Texas people forget self the virtues of Magna
midde T encouraged patriotism etc are called into life people are more
generous more sympathetic better than when engaged in the more selfish
pursuits of peace may there be as much of this the better side of war enjoyed
on both sides and as little of the horrors of war suffered as possible and
may we soon have an honorable and enduring peace and I think it’s
important to point out that some of these sentiments that you’re going to
hear these guys expressing in 1861 are not unique to these men a lot of the
other lectures that we’ve had the experiences of common veterans
coming back to these battlefields and veterans after the war it’s important to
remember that these guys are having in some ways very familiar experiences as
other Civil War soldiers in May of 1861 along those lines Hayes wrote I would
prefer to go into it if I knew I was to die or be killed in the course of it
than to live through and after the war without taking any part of it that is
certainly a sentiment shared by many soldiers on each side and of course
another member of the 23rd Ohio one who in a slightly lower rank than Rutherford
Hayes was our 25th president William McKinley the only non bearded one in
this group so that makes him a little bit unique and this is I think kind of a
cool photograph he got Grover Cleveland there on his way out and William
McKinley on his way in well he was much younger than Rutherford Hayes this is
actually a picture of McKinley from when he was 15 years old he was 18 when the
Civil War began from middle-class family strong interest in education literature
and the Bible he was a very pious young man his mother thought he would grow up
to be a minister he briefly attended Allegheny College and Meadville
Pennsylvania but he had to withdraw because of illness shortly after
beginning he worked actually as a teacher and some local schools in the
area just before the Civil War and when the war began he along with his cousin
William McKinley Osborne not that that’s confusing two of them named William
McKinley his cousin also 18 years old they joined the Poland Guards they’re
from Poland Ohio near Youngstown and they listed in June 1861 as Company II
of the 23rd Ohio Volunteer Infantry his cousin wrote of the decision that the
two of them made that it was quote in cold blood and not through the
enthusiasm of the moment which would make it seem like they’re not really all
that passionate in the belief in this cause
McKinley himself said I came to a deliberate conclusion and have never
been sorry for him after the war though McKinley said of his decision to enlist
we enlisted in the army with no expectation of promotion not for the
paltry pittance of pay not for fame or popular applause we entered the army
moved by the highest and purest motives of patriotism
that no harm might befall the Republic and in 18 years old McKinley was 6 foot
1 and weighed 125 pounds so a very tall guy the 23rd Ohio this is the recreation
of the 23rd Ohio battle flag this is an image of the actual flag from the Ohio
Historical Society this is one of the more famed regiments I would say to come
from the state of Ohio during the Civil War I should just say kind of a
disclaimer I’m a little bit biased I am from Ohio so it’s one reason why I’m
partial with all these guys it’s a regiment largely from Northeast
Ohio also where I’m from what a lot of officers of this regiment were from the
Cincinnati area it was one of the groups of regiments early on that one of the
first regiments to have officers appointed its colonel was William
Rosecrans a name we’ll hear later on in the program
the lieutenant colonel was Stanley Matthews a Cincinnati attorney who would
one day be a u.s. senator and Supreme Court justice and Rutherford Hayes was a
major in this regiment early on he wrote to his wife Lucy of
his first impressions of army life you know how I love you how I love the
family and all but loosely I am much happier in this business than I could be
fretting away in the old office near the courthouse it is living I don’t know how
many would think of the trials and tribulations of army service during the
Civil War in 1861 is living but Rutherford Hayes was very much a fan of
it and early on Hayes made a very strong impression on the regiment there’s a
story that when the regiment received their first batch of rifles they were an
older model not as as good as many of the men would have liked and Hayes went
to the men and said that it wasn’t necessarily the caliber of the muskets
that was going to make them good soldiers but their attitude and their
patriotism and their devotion of the country and he gave a very moving speech
and McKinley said of Hayes from that moment on our confidence in him never
wavered here we have pictures of two of the notable officers William Rosecrans
here and we’ll talk about him a little bit later on and Stanley Matthews the
first lieutenant colonel of the regiment who when he was appointed a justice the
United States Supreme Court was actually appointed by another man we’re going to
talk about today James Garfield Garfield’s only
Supreme Court appointment during his tragically short presidency the first
service of the 23rd Ohio was in western Virginia
unfortunately because we’re covering so much ground we can’t do a detailed
month-by-month account of the service for these men but they gained some
experience in western virginia fighting and some of the relatively small
especially compared to gettysburg battles but it did help these men to
become better soldiers in 1862 that’s when these men see their first major
major combat of the war here is a young private William McKinley and he was
promoted in 1862 very early on to the role that he would become famous for
during the Civil War that of a commissary sergeant in December of 1861
the acting or the regular communist-era sergeant for the 23rd Ohio fell sick so
William McKinley began serving as the commissary sergeant on an acting basis
and after several months everybody liked him so much they said he was doing such
a good job that he was given the position of course was a very difficult
job not an easy task a typical day’s work would involve
sometimes over 1,100 loaves of bread four barrels of potatoes 800 pounds of
pork 150 pounds of coffee 240 pounds of sugar
all this applying the men of the 23rd Ohio and during the early months of 1862
the men are operating under Brigadier General Jacob Cox in western Virginia
part of the Kanawha division should become very very famous in August of
1862 Cox’s command was sent to Washington DC where they would take part
in one of the grand one of the most important campaigns of the American
Civil War the Maryland campaign or the Antietam campaign now this command is
reached in Washington DC just after the massive Confederate victory at Manassas
second Manassas and late August and the Kanawha division it was thrown in with
the Union Army the potomac that was rebuilt so quickly in a moment of such
crisis by George McClellan it formed a part of the Union ninth Corps and this
is the only time I should note that any of these four men are going to be
involved with the Army the Potomac it’s one of the interesting
patterns for their service Hayes wrote of George McClellan a man who is
everybody’s favorite Civil War general McClellan is loved not thinking him a
first-class commander uh yet and view of this feeling think him the best man now
available to lead this army well the 23rd Ohio and clowns men
marched forward into battle and their major tests came first at South Mountain
on September 14th 1862 Cox’s division including the 23rd Ohio was engaged in
very heavy combat against D H Hill on the morning of September 14 I should say
if you’ve ever been in this part of the state of Maryland if you’ve ever drove
the old National Road alternate 40 up through South Mountain you’ll realize
that this is not very easy terrain these men were attacking at here but during
the fight there on the morning of the 14th Hayes was severely wounded in the
arm as he wrote of the experience our men halted a defense near the edge of
the woods and kept up a brisk fire upon the enemy who were sheltering themselves
behind stone walls and fences near the top of the hill beyond a cornfield in
front of our position just as I gave the command to charge I felt a stunning blow
and found a musket ball had struck my left arm just above the elbow fearing
that an artery might be cut I asked a soldier near me to tie my handkerchief
above the wound I felt weak faint and sick at the stomach I lay down and was
pretty comfortable well while he was laying down he actually struck up a
conversation with a wounded Confederate and he gave the man Hayes gave the man a
message to give to his family if he should come succumb to his wound
soon after this Hayes was taken to a hospital or to a family’s home in
Middleton Maryland and the campaign would continue on without him
he would not see combat several days later although William McKinley would a
little place called Antietam Creek in Sharpsburg Maryland of course I’m sure
many of you know this familiar structure this famous structure I’d say this is
one of the most famous structures of the American Civil War it’s the Burnside
Bridge at Antietam and this is where the Union ninth Corps was positioned on
September 17th 1862 they had the task of getting across Antietam Creek to attack
the right flank of the Army of Northern Virginia and the men were up very early
that morning it took them several hours to seize this crucial crossing point
over the Antietam in the early afternoon hours of the 17th the 9th corps was
across the creek and they began moving uphill against the Confederates but the
men were famous they were very tired in McKinley sought and need for his
services he brought some of the stragglers together who had made their
way to the back and he actually put them to work a commissary sergeant a young
man only 19 years old he put them to work bringing forward supplies across
the creek up to the men on the front line bringing them food and coffee now
to us today this doesn’t really seem like all that remarkable he’s bringing
forward food to the men on the front lines but think of the human experience
of war you’re exhausted you’re tired you’re probably scared man have been
killed the 23rd Ohio lost very heavily at South Mountain just a few days before
and bringing forward food and supplies under those circumstances was very much
appreciated by the men at of the command of the 23rd Ohio Major James calmly a
major was commanding the regiment at this battle said of McKinley he showed
ability and energy of the 1st class and not only keeping us fully supplied with
rations throughout the fight but in having them fully prepared for eating we
had plenty when everybody else was short he delivered them to us under fire in
two instances with perfect method and coolness
I feel greatly indebted to McKinley no promotion could be made which would give
more general satisfaction well McKinley was indeed promoted after the Battle of
Antietam dr. Joseph Webb the regimental surgeon and also the brother-in-law of
Rutherford Hayes wrote to the lieutenant colonel of the 23rd at that point
Rutherford Hayes our young friend McKinley commissary Sgt Sargent would be
pleased with a promotion it would not object to your recommendation for it
well that promotion did go through now one might think getting promoted this
experience of bringing forward supplies to men under fire that would be pretty
memorable but according to William McKinley his
greatest memory of the Maryland campaign came after the Battle of Antietam came
in the first four days of October 1862 when President Abraham Lincoln journeyed
to visit the army the Potomac and reviewed the troops and McKinley wrote
that seeing the president in the field the most lasting memory that he had of
his service in the Antietam campaign of course two years after McKinley’s death
in October of 1903 the state of Ohio erected this monument him to him on this
battlefield a lot of folks ask why he gets such a big Monument well of course
when you’re president you get big monuments they paid about three times as
much for this monument as they did for the regimental markers on the field at
Antietam and it marks his service to his country and of course the 23rd Ohio lost
about 200 men in the span of three days between South Mountain and Antietam after Antietam the 23rd Ohio service
with the army the Potomac came to a close they returned to Western Virginia
where they would stay for 1863 Hayes was now in command of the regiment and in
January of 63 he was notified that he was now in command of the entire brigade
under which the 23rd Ohio was serving they didn’t do too much by our
Gettysburg standards if you will in 1863 they’re not fighting in any of these
major campaigns perhaps the most notable service that year was when John Hunt
Morgan and his Raiders entered into the state of Ohio Hayes in the 23rd Ohio
were part of the Union response that pushed the Confederates back and
actually captured several hundred of the Confederate Raiders into the state
indeed the next notable service for the 23rd Ohio came in 1864 in the Shenandoah
Valley first under the command of George crook the commander of the division the
23rd Ohio was in at this time Hayes came to appreciate George crook very much in
fact he named his fourth son after George crook and they’re involved in
much of the up and down back and forth across the Shenandoah throughout the
summer of 1864 and of course in the month of August this man took command of
the force in the Shenandoah that is of course Phil Sheridan by this time
McKinley had rose to the rank of captain on the staff of George crook and he
would help come to have a very prominent role in the Battle of Cedar Creek in
October of 1864 this is one of the more famous images
from the war it’s the famous scene of general Phil Sheridan riding to rally
his demoralized troops at Cedar Creek to push back Jubal Early’s assault
well when General Phil Sheridan was riding forward he encountered a captain
by the name of William McKinley and Sheridan actually wrote of this incident
in his memoirs and when they were passing through the town of a new town
he encountered McKinley who rode ahead and told stragglers that Sheridan was
returning and McKinley was a part of Sheridan’s famous ride to push back in
federal forces at the Battle of Cedar Creek a Union victory in October of 1864
and one of the grand campaigns of the Civil War the fighting at Cedar Creek
was the last major action for the 23rd Ohio though the regiment would serve
into 1865 by the fall of 1864 Rutherford Hayes rising so prominently through the
ranks had been nominated to serve in Congress as a representative and he was
actually elected to Congress in the fall of 1864 so he was elected from the army
to the House of Representatives and for the 23rd Ohio as I said they have a very
distinguished record throughout the war they spent a lot of time in western
Virginia but they are fighting at major battles in the Shenandoah Valley and of
course in the Antietam campaign in September of 1862 and I actually came
across a very good article on this regiment by T Harry Williams and Stephen
Ambrose and I thought part of this summarized the experience of the 23rd
Ohio and indeed the experience of Hayes and McKinley the world the 23rd Ohio was
neither Romantic nor glorious but it was necessary this regimen and others like
it held areas Lincoln had to have if the north were to win the war the role the
23rd was called upon to play was important and the men of Ohio carried it
out with skill valor and pride outstanding men emerged from the regimen
and in later years they were always ready to recall their association with
it on the day he left Ohio in 1877 to take up residence in the White House
Rutherford B Hayes told his fellow citizens a little less than 16 years ago
I marched with 1,000 men to the south to do what we could to restore the Union of
the states and to re-establish the authority of the constant
and that work we were eminently successful they were indeed more
successful than perhaps they suspected and we’ll leave Hayes and McKinley
behind for now we’ll come back to them at the end to talk about our next man up
here James Abram Garfield Mae and I have a particular interest in I grew up about
20 minutes away from Garfield’s home in Mentor Ohio which is now a national park
service sites an awesome sight if you ever have the chance to visit there
James Garfield is a fascinating figure here the second shortest presidency in
American history second only to William Henry Harrison at the time the war began
Garfield was a 29 year old state senator in Columbus and the fact that he had
even made it this far in life was absolutely remarkable this was a guy who
was born in 1831 and his father died when he was two so his mother raised
their children on their own in the wooded wilderness outside of Cleveland
Ohio the age of 16 Garfield left home to work on the canals in Ohio he had wanted
to be a sailor and the canal job was the best he could do at the time he wasn’t
very pleased with it so he came back home and he turned to education he began
going to small school houses he attended school at the Western Reserve eclectic
Institute a school that he rose to become the president of by the late
1850s he had an extremely tenacious work ethic a very very inspiring man in that
regard and he’s elected to the Ohio Senate as a 29 year old at the time the
war begins and he just like Hayes was a very strong believer in the causes for
which the Union Army was going to fight in early in 1861 he wrote with the
secession crisis burgeoning he wrote all that is left for us as a state or as a
company of northern states is to aim and prepare to defend ourselves in the
federal government I believe the doom of slavery is drawing near let war come and
if these predictions of the doom of slavery in 1861 aren’t enough also in
April of 1861 Garfield wrote that he would rather see
a million men die in battle than to see the nation break apart and
Lavery continued very few at that time we’re talking about those times those
types of casualties the Garfield was one of them he wanted an appointment for
quite a while he worked hard on behalf of Ohio Governor pictured here William
Dennison trying to get the state ready for the war effort
while Hayes was appointed a major in the 23rd Oh Garfield had to wait a little
bit longer he had dozens of letters coming to him
as a state politician asking for help for these various officers and getting
their own appointments ultimately he secured a spot with the 42nd Ohio
Volunteer Infantry and his first action occurred in a region that is so remote
that even in the world of the Civil War community today most people I talked to
have never heard of this campaign raise your hand if you’ve heard of the Sandy
Valley campaign in early 1862 okay this is what we call an interpretive moment
the Sandy Valley campaign is very remote it’s in the wintertime
these roads are like many of our driveways were this morning
they are impassable and James Garfield is a young colonel leading a brigade of
untested troops against this guy here Humphrey Marshall who was the u.s.
minister to China before the American Civil War he’s a West Point graduate and
he had served in the Mexican War I don’t think he has very much of an advantage
going up against him but in the span of just about a month Garfield is able to
move down this river here the Big Sandy and engage Martha Marshall in battle and
he has a pretty remarkable campaign Garfield defeats Humphrey Marshall at
the Battle of Middle Creek on January 10th of 1862 it’s one of the smallest
least known about battles but it was actually pretty significant at the time
it made headlines and all the major newspapers and by pushing this
Confederate force out of far eastern Kentucky where this is taking place just
around the border with Virginia at the time Garfield was able to elevate his
name and his stature significantly at that point in the war this was the
campaign that got Garfield his rank as a brigadier general he was awarded this
rank just after the Sandy Valley campaign
and though you know of this campaign today at the time the state legislature
of Kentucky considered it on par with Mill Springs and Forte’s Henry and
Donaldson in fact they issued a proclamation thanking the Union Army and
these union officers for pushing Confederates out of this crucial border
state and in this proclamation the two names surrounding that of James Garfield
are those of George Thomas and ulysses s grant so this is the campaign that takes
a young state senator from Ohio and puts him in the same sentence as ulysses s
grant the man who would become a general or Lieutenant General the Union Army by
the end of the war so this really raises Garfield’s stature this leads to his
next stepping stone if you will a brigade command under Don Carlos Buell’s
army of the Ohio that was sent towards Shiloh in April of 1862 to reinforce
grants expedition up the Tennessee River into the state of Tennessee at Shiloh
Garfield did not see heavy action he was a part of the Union Army that arrived
just in time for the fighting on April 7th his brigade was committed late in
the day on April 7th 1862 they came in on the afternoon just as Confederates
were beginning to fall back but the experience certainly had an impact on
James Garfield he wrote many letters home describing and he wrote to his wife
on the whole this is know about no doubt the bloodiest battle ever fought on this
continent in which has been mingled on our side both the worst and the best of
generalship the most noble bravery and the most contemptible cowardice
describing the battlefield he wrote such a scene as this 30 square miles presents
beggars all attempts at description if I live to meet you again I will attempt to
tell something of its horrors God has been good to me and I am yet spared this
is one of the War Department tablets at Shiloh National Military Park that lists
the service of James Garfield in the summer of 62 Garfield was affected by
illness he went on sick leave for several months and by September he was
in Washington DC as a young Republican from Ohio he was much sought after in
the federal capital in fact he stayed and resided with none other
then salmon chased the secretary the treasury member of Lincoln’s cabinet and
under chases tutelage Garfield was involved in some of the less shall we
say less than savory political aspects of the war and by that I mean the image
here this is one of my favorite images of the war it’s a sketch of the Fitz
John Porter court-martial Fitz John Porter was a close associate of George
McClellan and after the Antietam campaign he was put up on charges of
defying orders at second Manassas under the command of John Pope and being a
friend of McClellan’s Porter was an enemy of the Republicans in Washington
meaning that he was an enemy of James Garfield and many of the people on this
court-martial were those who certainly didn’t have many reasons to like Porter
Porter was ultimately convicted of his charges by this court-martial and the
process of it you know it’s very it’s very controversial today many say that
this is one of the dark spots on Garfield’s civil war career although he
firmly believed that Porter was guilty of defying orders at second Manassas the
issue was that he was ordered to attack on the second day of the battle not
knowing that James Longstreet’s force was in his front Porter realized this
and did not make his attack as Pope had ordered him to do Pope was furious about
this afterwards and brought him up on charges and one of the officers who was
shall we say kind of on the opposite end of the spectrum from Porter was Irvin
McDowell he was in the other camp the camp of Garfield in the Republicans and
Garfield was very close with Irvin McDowell and he vindicated Irvin
McDowell in fact he named one of his kids after Irvin McDowell so he was no
friend of Porter’s and he was very much against him in this court-martial years
later he wrote of it no public act with which I have ever been connected was
ever more clear to me than the righteousness of the finding of that
court Porter had been arrested in November of 1862 was found guilty on
January 10th of 1863 and dismissed from the Army on January 21st of 1863 though
that verdict was later reversed years later after his service on this
court-martial Garfield was sent onward to a new post a new command that with
the army of the Cumberland this man pictured here William rosecrans we
mention his name earlier as the first colonel of the 23rd Ohio well he rose
quickly through the ranks of the Union Army and in late 1862 he took command of
the army of the Cumberland this major force operating in Tennessee and at the
Battle of Stones River his chief of staff Julius garish had his head taken
off by cannonball meaning that rosecrans was in need of a
new staff officer and in January of 63 just as this need was present Garfield
arrived on the scene Garfield arrived expecting a brigade or
division command instead he ended up staying up late several nights talking
into the wee hours in the morning about matters of religion with rosecrans
Garfield himself was a disciple of Christ rosecrans was a Roman Catholic
but the two of them found actually that they got along quite well Garfield wrote
of him he is the most Spanish looking man I know and though he swears fiercely
he is a Jesuit of the highest style of Roman piety he carries a cross attached
to his watch seal I find him a man of very decided in muscular thoughts and
with a rare frederick like quality of having his mind made up on every
important question for sharp clear sense ready decisive judgment and bold
self-reliant action he is certainly a very admirable and hence an effective
general Garfield was made Rosecrans chief of staff in February of 1863 and
for the next several months after this the army the cumberland Rosecrans and
garfield they were involved in gathering supplies and preparing to move onward
for their next campaign the next campaign occurred in June of 1863 about
the same time that there were some other things going on in the summer of 1863
late June and early July when he maneuvered south to push forces under
Braxton Bragg and the Confederate Army of Tennessee into southern Tennessee and
then into northern Georgia this is of course the Tullahoma campaign though
it’s not written about much today and it’s not talked about much Abraham
Lincoln himself described this campaign as
the most splendid piece of strategy I know of through maneuver amidst heavy
rains and with relatively low casualties rosecrans was able to push back a major
Confederate Army at the same time as the Gettysburg and Vicksburg campaigns
occurring only incurring only 569 Union casualties in the process now in June of
63 before this campaign began there was a major debate amongst the Union High
Command of the army of the Cumberland whether or not they should push
southward and Garfield was a major proponent of moving in fact he wrote a
very long letter listing all the points why the Army should move and gave it to
Rosecrans he believed himself he believed that he deserved very
significant credit for the campaign writing to his wife in August there is
so much of myself and a plan of this campaign that I must help realize my
ideas I am doing it work here for which I shall never get a tithe of the credit
that others will let it pass I am glad to help save the Republic also during
that summer of 1863 with a lot of inaction by William Rosecrans Garfield
was sending letters to Washington specifically to Sam and chase
criticizing his commander almost behind his back after Bragg fell back into
northern Georgia the stage was set for the second bloodiest battle of the
American Civil War second only to Gettysburg that is of course the Battle
of Chickamauga in September of 1863 on September 19th and 20th one of the
bloodiest battles of the war was fought with over 34,000 combined casualties
there were many soldiers and officers from the Gettysburg Campaign involved
here as the Corps of James Longstreet and arrived in time to take part in this
battle and on the last day of Chickamauga on September 20th
Longstreet’s Corps was crucial in a major breakthrough in the Union lines
pushing through where the division of Thomas wood vacated a position after a
very controversial order was issued by Rosecrans and at Chickamauga late in the
day on September 20th much of the Union Army was falling back towards
Chattanooga and here’s a moment of great controversy of great fame
involving the Civil War career of James Garfield as federal forces were falling
back garfield retreated for a ways with his commander william Rosecrans and then
at a certain point garfield stopped and went back to george thomas holding the
field holding the left end of the Union line the famous rock of Chickamauga
George Thomas for years controversy existed James Garfield himself said that
rosecrans was defeated was demoralized was retreating back to Chattanooga and
Garfield suggested that he needed to be the one to go make a connection with
Thomas and let him know where the rest of the army was Rosecrans himself said
later on that he ordered Garfield to go there because the work in Chattanooga
was too complex and overwhelming for his young chief of staff it’sit’s a
controversy that historians still go back and forth on to this day but it was
something that was publicized greatly in campaign biographies written about James
Garfield during his 1880 campaign thinking all
likelihood it was Garfield as the one who suggested that he’d go link up with
George Thomas here is a image of Garfield during his famous ride from
McClure’s magazine in 1895 and this is a painting of Garfield’s ride commissioned
by the James a Garfield National Historic Site well soon after
Chickamauga Garfield went back to Washington this time to take his seat in
Congress he had a bollec ‘td to the House of Representatives in 1862 and
taking a seat late in 1863 his military career came to an end
many would blame him for the removal of William Rosecrans after Chickamauga
saying that Garfield did so he spoke poorly of Rosecrans in order to benefit
his political career but for Garfield he always felt a fondness for his former
commander from the Army the Cumberland and will move on to now Benjamin
Harrison number 23 a man with many presidential connections in American
history Benjamin Harrison was the grandson of William Henry Harrison and
the great-grandson of Benjamin Harrison a signer of the Declaration of
Independence he was a twenty-year a 28 year old attorney living in Indy
Annapolis on the Civil War began born in Ohio he attended Miami University and
settled in Indiana in the 1850s around the time this photograph was taken and
Harrison is different from the other three men we’ve talked about thus far
today he did not enlist in the Union Army in 1861 at the time he had a wife
two kids another one on the way and he was supporting his brother John and his
nephew Harry he was a practicing attorney in Indianapolis he had a lot
going on and many were in his position a lot of men waited until 1862 to enlist
in 1862 in the summer with many Union setbacks Abraham Lincoln put out a call
for 300,000 new volunteers Harrison was called to the State Capitol and asked by
the Indiana governor to serve and lead troops his response was if I can be of
any service I will go and thus harrison was involved in the raising and
recruiting of men for the 70th indiana volunteer infantry this regiment did not
see all that much active service throughout 1862 or 1863 they were sent
southward into Kentucky then into Tennessee and throughout these years
they mostly were involved in guarding railroads the crucial railroads that
Union armies were moving to move about different parts of the Confederacy the
only action they had came when Confederate Raiders would attack these
railroads and they’d have to go out and fend them off for a short time but
Harrison was a much beloved by the men under his command and he drilled them
well he taught them well and by 1864 when they would be involved in a grand
campaign and major battle action they were ready for the task at hand Harrison’s first major test of combat
and that of his regiment the seventy of Indiana came in the Atlanta Campaign of
1864 they were placed under the command on the brigade of William Ward and the
third division of Daniel Butterfield and the 20th corps under Sherman’s command
and as they move south into Georgia they would encounter combat at many
places the first place was the town of Resaca just inside the border on the
night of May 13th the night before the battle of Resaca was fought Harrison
wrote a letter home saying I must write you tonight as we look for a battle
tomorrow and god only knows who shall come safely through that well Resaca
took place on May 14th and 15th of 1864 the Atlanta Campaign was a series of
flanking maneuvers and sharp fierce engagements being fought by these two
armies early on it was a campaign of movement was Sherman continually trying
to outmaneuver his opponent Confederate commander Joseph Johnston and at Resaca
on the 14th and 15th these two armies squared off in the first major battle of
the campaign disseminate Indiana played a major role in this fighting and
Harrison’s role there was much publicized this was a lithograph that
was put forward of him leading his troops forward in battle during that
campaign of course he would later on to go to achieve the title of general
though he was still a colonel at this time after Resaca his name is in the
newspapers in Indianapolis and Cincinnati
his name is rising in state circles and politics after Resaca Johnston’s army
fell back the campaign became increasingly fierce increasingly more
bitter Lew Wallace a famous Union veteran from Indiana wrote of Harrison
and his men during this campaign from Resaca on they had scarcely a halt in
the day or the night that was not marked by heavy fortification for in truth the
commands all came as near living under fire the while as soldiers ever did not
once but all of them of his regiment Harrison wrote to his wife I have got to
love them for their bravery and for dangers we have shared together I have
heard many similar expressions from the men toward me this is a famous sketch of
Union soldiers at the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain in June of 1864 and in the
operations around this crucial Confederate stronghold Harrison and his
command were engaged and the campaign ground to a halt the stress is wearing
on and on everyone Harrison wrote home at this time
I should like to see a few thousand of the on to Atlantis civilians of the
north charging such a line of works most of the tender skinned individuals of
this class would require help to get into the works if they were empty after
Kennesaw Mountain Confederates fell back towards the city of Atlanta and John
Bell hood a veteran of Gettysburg took command of the Confederate Army of
Tennessee and Harrison saw combat next to the Battle of Peachtree Creek on July
20th of 1864 a fellow brigade commander wrote of harrison at this engagement he
said quote the personification of fiery valor with foil with voice and gesture
urging on the furious charge we could see the divisions on our right and left
giving way in apparent confusion a regiment was surprised on the right with
their arms in the stat a battery was captured and on the left a host of huge
it have scattered towards the rear but our advance seemed to give them
encouragement they rallied and retook their lines I never saw on any
battlefield dead and wounded in such numbers and so close together no man in
the army that night stood higher than heroine Harrison excuse me stood higher
than Harrison for heroism had he been a West pointer his promotion
would have been ordered by telegraph with the fall of Atlanta in September of
1864 Harrison was sent home to Indiana for a short while to campaign for the
state Republican ticket by the time he rejoined the army he was sent to
Nashville where he was in charge of some soldiers during the Battle of Nashville
in December of 1864 but his men did not see combat they were in reserve that day
so Harrison didn’t see much action in 62 and 63 but 64 was a very long year for
him and by April of 1865 the war had drawn to a close for these men so where
were they we’ve learned about where they were at the start of the war we learned
what they did during the war but where were they in April of 1865 when this one
future president was accepting the surrender of robert e lee well Garfield
was a congressman a sitting member of the US House of Representatives and he
was very active in campaigning and speaking on issues in fact he was in New
York City on Polly business the night of Lincoln’s
assassination Hayes was still in the army though he was now a congressman
elect and he Anna’s command were in southwestern Virginia near Lynchburg he
officially left the army in June of 1865 and was later brevet ‘add a Major
General of volunteers McKinley was the chief adjutant for Brigadier General
Samuel sprigs Carroll near Winchester but the remnants of the 23rd Ohio
McKinley noted that the news of the surrender of Lee was greeted with 200
guns firing he continued issue orderings issuing orders and was maintaining his
duties and responsibilities he stayed in the army until August of 1865 when he
returned home to Poland Ohio has a 22 year old major Harrison was given the
rank of brevet Brigadier General in February of 1865 and he was training
troops in the Carolinas in April of 1865 when the war came to a close so for
these men was the end of the war the end of service pictured here is the grand
review of the armies in Washington DC and at this review it’s interesting to
note that of the five men who went on to become president who saw combat during
the war only McKinley was not at this Grant was on the stand with Andrew
Johnson then President of the United States Garfield and Hayes were watching
from the Congressional stand and Harrison was riding in the grand review
with the men of the 17th Indiana so was at the end of their service the end of
the war no not necessarily for these men they were still more to do
from the battlefield to the White House Hayes and Garfield were already in
Congress all these men had prominent positions in society but still decided
to serve in the army during this trying time in American history they all had a
background of law and politics all four of them Hayes Garfield Harrison McKinley
we’re either attorneys or admitted to the bar at some point before they became
president of course as we noted earlier grant was the only West pointer and they
served for reasons that were common of others and when we asked ourselves what
was the impact of the Civil War of course on the grand scale we know about
the impact of the war it kept the nation United it brought about the abolition of
slavery freedom for over 4 million people held in bondage but what did it
do to the people of the nation what did it do for the next generation of
American leaders it turned country lawyers state politicians and young
students into military and civic leaders and for these men the end of the war was
not the end of their service so what did they say about the impact of the war
what did they say about their military service
well Hayes after the war became a member of the US House of course as we noted he
became a Governor of Ohio and he’s elected the presidency in 1877 and he
gave a speech in 1879 to a reunion of men of the 23rd Ohio it was given on
September 17th 1879 the 17th anniversary of Antietam and in
that speech he actually asked the question what was the impact of this war
what did it do for the country and what he used to explain the impact of the war
is something that I think everyone here is familiar with today he quoted the
Gettysburg Address he said no statement of the true objects
of the war more complete than this has ever been made it includes them all
nationality Liberty equal rights and self-government these are the principles
for which the Union soldier fought in which it was his aim to maintain and
perpetuate they said that all of these men they said the war was a noble
undertaking fought for higher ideals of freedom liberty and quality this is
something that is found in the speeches of James Garfield who stayed in the
House of Representatives all the way until 1880 when it became the Republican
nominee for president of course his presidency was tragically short he was
shot on July 2nd 1881 and he died on September 19th 1881 18 years to the day
after the Battle of Chickamauga his president his presidency only lasted a
few months certainly there were controversies regarding his his
relationship with William rosecrans his conduct in the Fitz John Porter
court-martial but for Garfield he was very proud of his
or service but he noted that greater sacrifices had been made in October of
1879 he gave an address to a reunion of Andersonville Prison survivors where he
said I have addressed a great many audiences but I never before stood in
the presence of one that I felt so whole so wholly unworthy to speak to a man who
came through the war without being shot or made a prisoner is almost out of
place in such an assemblage as this and then he talked about why these men had
reunions and I thought this was fitting given the context of the other lectures
that have been in this series of veterans coming back to these
battlefields he talked about why we need to commemorate these things he said
animals fight but they don’t have reunions to commemorate those fights
reunions are meant to commemorate fights that are waged in pursuit of higher
ideals of truth freedom and equality for Benjamin Harrison he felt very strongly
that his service during the Civil War was a defining moment of his life he
spoke of it quite often in a speech in September of 1888 a speech to the
reunion of the 70th Indiana he wrote he said we are veterans and yet citizens
pledged each according to his own conscience and thought to do that which
will best promote the glory of our country and best conserve and set in our
public measures those patriotic thoughts and purposes that took us into the war
it is my wish today that every relation I occupy to the public or to a political
party might be absolutely forgotten and that I might for this day among these
comrades be thought of only as your comrade your own Colonel he’s saying
that in 1888 when he’s the Republican nominee for president to a reunion of
men from his command and what about William McKinley the odd man out when it
came to facial hair of this crew what about William McKinley the 25th
president his presidency was an end of an era
in American history it was 40 years after the war it was the presidency his
assassination of course led to the presidency of Theodore Roosevelt which
was a whole other epoch in American history starting to progress
of movement in so many ways McKinley elected in 1896 reelected in 1900 shot
in Buffalo New York on September 6th 1901 and he died on September 14th 1901
39 years to the day after the Battle of South Mountain so what about McKinley
well he’s the last these Civil War veterans to become president and he
spoke strongly about the expansion of civil rights because of the Civil War he
said that if African Americans were denied the right to a vote that the war
quote would seem to have determined nothing to have settled nothing Donelson
Antietam Vicksburg and Gettysburg accomplished nothing but the needless
slaughter of brave men the surrender at Appomattox was but an idle ceremony
he said that in 1885 years before he would become president so what did he
say of it when he was president in May of 1980 the dedication of this monument
at Antietam battlefield in May of nineteen hundred and his speech that day
one would be hard-pressed to find references to equal rights and the
expansion of freedom he said the past can never be undone the
new day brings its shining Sun to our light our duty now I am glad to preside
over a nation of nearly 80 million people more United than they ever have
been he said the Valor of the one or the
other the Valor of both referring to Union and Confederate forces is the
common heritage of his all and I think this speech reflects kind of the the
unspoken truth with the reconstruction presidents that these men were Civil War
veterans and they believed strongly in the Union cause but the particular
tragedy of their stories and the tragedy that I tried to find a way to deal with
in this talk somehow and ultimately this speech is the best way I could address
it is they presided over a country that saw after the war the failure to fulfill
the promises of freedom and equality for millions of people and that’s something
that we also have to know when considering the reconstruction years but
nonetheless the service of these men was remarkable in many ways they were men
who saw the country in its time of need and stepped forward
and this is the picture of a statue outside the State House in Columbus Ohio
featuring Grant Sheridan Sherman Garfield Hays Stanton and chase seven
leaders from Ohio during the war now three of the men on this monument went
on to become president Harrison at this time this is put there in 1894 he’s from
Indiana so he’s left out and McKinley hasn’t been president yet but it
reflects the grandeur the grand company that these men were in and I think the
best way to summarize the service of these men during the war all the
positive qualities that it had the sense that they were serving their country
during the war and afterwards they tried to apply that same level of service to
their country as president is reflected in a speech that William McKinley gave
to a reunion of the 23rd Ohio he said we had a million soldiers in the field when
the war terminated and the highest testimony to their character is found in
the fact that when muster hour came and that vast army which for years had been
accustomed to Wars and carnage returned to their homes they dropped into the
quiet walks of citizenship and no trace of them was ever discernible except in
the air the integrity of their character their intense patriotism and their
participation in the growth and development and maintenance of the
government which they contributed so much to save I want to thank everybody
for coming out for our lecture today I leave all a good time and enjoy the
program I know everybody here at Gettysburg is very glad to have so many
of you coming back week after week and so glad to have such strong support for
this lecture series thank you very much for your time
you you


  1. Post
    Mishawaka Post

    Was the 23d Ohio armed with the Colt revolving rifle like the 21st Ohio?

    Ability to lead in battle seemed to run in the Harrison family; Benjamin Harrison's grandfather, William Henry Harrison, had a distinguished military career.

  2. Post
  3. Post
    Jeff Sartain

    Great video. Thanks for the presentation. I found it very interesting since I am a presidential history buff.

  4. Post
    Tristan Gossman

    i dig the talk but Benjamin Harrison did not get to the white house until 1888….not 1884. but interesting and enjoyed it!

  5. Post
    Justin Mays

    Wish he would talked about the 23rd Ohio at Cloyds Mountain they took heavy beating there they did a baynott charge killed Gen Jenkins there

  6. Post
    jeffrey mcfadden

    ah, Benjamin Harrison.
    reminds me of the story of Ben's father John Scott Harrison, and the 1878 body snatching event.

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