Author: James A. Garfield

James A. Garfield (1831–81) was the 20th President of the United States. Born in Ohio and fatherless at age two, Garfield worked to finance his own education, graduating from Williams College in 1856. When the Civil War began, he joined the Union Army, becoming a brigadier general at age 31 and a major general of volunteers two years later. After Garfield was elected to the US House of Representatives in 1862, President Abraham Lincoln convinced him to resign his military commission and take on the role of congressman. He became the leading Republican in the House, serving for 18 years. Garfield was elected as president in 1880, assuming the office on March 4, 1881. Just four months later, he was shot in a Washington railroad station by an attorney who was angry about being denied a consular post. He died from the gunshot wound and a resulting infection on September 19, 1881.

Decoration Day Address, 1868

James A. Garfield
In this first of such annual addresses at Arlington National Cemetery, James A. Garfield, who in 1881 would become the 20th president of the United States, sets a standard by explaining what Decoration Day is all about and why it should be commemorated.