Monday, November 12, 2007

Future Presidents during the Civil War

In a previous blog I discussed the retired Presidents and their lives during the Civil War. Today I want to go through the lives of Presidents who were alive during the conflict but didn't hear the sounds of battle.
Chester A. Arthur would eventually become our 21st President but he had to get there first. Arthur was a man known for having powerful friends in high places. From these friends he sought political positions within the well known spoils system. At the outbreak of the Civil War, he became the state's assistant quartermaster general, with responsibility for supplying barracks, food, and equipment for the New York militia. On July 27, 1862, three weeks after President Lincoln's call for 300,000 more men, Arthur was advanced to the state quartermaster generalship. When Democrat Horatio Seymour took over the New York governorship in 1863 Arthur left the office but served as an advisor for the rest of the war. He also hired a substitute to fill in for him after he was drafted to serve in the Union army. Paying a sub was easy for Arthur since he was a lawyer and came from an influential family. After working as a lawyer and as head of the customs house Arthur was elected Vice-President behind James Garfield. Garfield was only in power for a few months when he was murdered by Charles J. Guiteau. Arthur took office and for the first time in his life he avoided using the spoils system. As President he did a decent job and signed the Civil Services act which forever eliminated the spoils system. He hoped for reelection in 1884 but James G. Blaine beat him for the Republican nomination. Mr. Blaine would later lost to Grover Cleveland in the election of 1884. A year and a half later on Nov. 18, 1886 he died in New York City of Bright's disease.
Grover Cleveland had two things in common with Chester A. Arthur. They were both presidents and they both avoided the Federal draft by hiring substitutes to serve in their place. During the Civil War Cleveland was in Buffalo, New York as a lawyer and later as assistant district attorney for Erie County. He would serve in this position for the rest of the conflict. After serving as Sheriff of Erie County he was became mayor of Buffalo in 1881. A few years later he was elected a Governor of New York. In history he is the only President to serve two non-consecutive terms in office. (1885-1889, 1983-1897) After leaving the White House, Cleveland lived in retirement in Princeton, New Jersey. He died in 1908.
Theodore Roosevelt was born in New York City in 1858. Being a member of a wealthy family didn't help Theodore from avoiding illness as a child and his desire for a strenuous life. As a child he claims to have watched Abraham Lincolns funeral procession pass his grandfathers home. With him are his younger brother Elliott and a friend named Edith Kermit Carow. He went on to live an eventful life as a hunter, soldier and politician. As out 25th President he broke up business monopolies and won the Nobel Peace Prize for mediating the Russo-Japanese War. He also became one only former President to have an assassination attempt made against him. After overcoming so much in life Roosevelt was on his last legs in 1919. At the time of his death: "No man has had a happier life than I have led; a happier life in every way."William Howard Taft, the man who would succeed Roosevelt as President was born in 1857. Like Roosevelt he was just a child during the war and according to history he didn't enjoy the notoriety of doing anything interesting like watching Lincoln's funeral procession. The son of a distinguished judge, he graduated from Yale, and returned to Cincinnati to study and practice law. After serving as Sec. of War and as President he became the only chief executive to serve on the Supreme Court. President Harding made him Chief Justice of the United States, a position he held until just before his death in 1930. Taft later claimed that he never remembered being President. Because of his youth at the time I guess he didn't remember the Civil War either.
Woodrow Wilson was born in 1856, the son of a Presbyterian minister who during the Civil War was a pastor in Augusta, Georgia, and during Reconstruction a professor in the charred city of Columbia, South Carolina. It is interesting to note that Wilson was the only future President to live within Confederate territory during the war. His father was a supporter of the Confederate cause and the family endured William T. Sherman's March to the Sea in 1864. Wilson himself great up to be a Confederate sympathizer and stated that the South had “absolutely nothing to apologize for." Moreover, the South had preserved its self-respect by leaving the Union and fighting in the Civil War. Wilsons love for the South continued in his 1893 book entitled Division and Reunion, 1829-1889. In the book, Wilson supports the idea of slaving by claiming that is was a successful labor system even though it was morally wrong. Moreover, he wrote that Lincoln was an "admirable figure" but that succession was legal in every respect even though history had written that it was wrong. After serving as a professor of political science, Wilson became president of Princeton in 1902. In 1913 he was elected out 28th President and served until his two terms ended in 1921. His push for the League of Nations alienated him amongst the American population and he left office a broken man. Exhausted, he suffered a stroke and nearly died. Tenderly nursed by his second wife, Edith Bolling Galt, he lived until 1924. So closes this section on my Presidents During the Civil War Series.
This is the second portion of three and my next blog will focus on the men who served the Union army as soldiers and later became President of the United States.

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