James A Garfield was born on November 19, 1831, in Orange
, Cuyahoga County, Ohio. Left fatherless in 1833, he was raised in poverty by his mother. He taught at Hiram College and later became principal. His political career began with his election to the Ohio legislature in 1859. Opposed to both slavery and secession, he volunteered at the outbreak of the Civil War
. He fought at Battle of Shiloh
and achieved the rank of major general for gallantry at Chicamauga.
Garfield went to the United States House of Representatives in 1863 as a radical Republican, but he moderated his views over time. He had been named to the United States Senate at the time of his nomination by the Republicans in 1880, as a compromise choice over Ulysses S. Grant and others. His term in office was short. On July 2, 1881, Garfield was shot while entering a railroad station in Washington D.C.. He died on September 8, 1881, in Elberon NJ.