GARFIELD, James A. (1831-1881), President. Autograph letter signed ("J.a. Garfield") to Wall J. Ford, Washington, 31 October 1862. 3½ pages, 4to (9 11/16 x 7 11/16 in.), lined stationary, minor separation along two folds, a few minor repairs, otherwise fine.
GARFIELD CONFESSES HE WOULD RATHER BE "HEARING DRUMS AND SEEING A BATTLE," BUT ASKS "DO YOU KNOW WHETHER I AM ELECTED TO CONGRESS OR NOT?"
An interesting wartime letter in which the Brigadier General bemoans his service upon a military court of inquiry hearing the case against the commander of Union forces at the First Battle of Bull Run, Irvin McDowell. Garfield, a pre-war politician, began the war as a lieutenant colonel commanding the 42nd Ohio Infantry. Promoted to Brigadier General, he waged successful campaigns against the Confederates in Kentucky, and fought at Shiloh.
In mid-1862, Garfield was summoned from the field to participate in the Court Martial of Major General Fitz John Porter. Subsequently, he was aked to sit upon a military board of inquiry to examine Irvin McDowell's recent removal from service. McDowell, a career officer who graduated from West Point in 1838, was given command of the Union Army around Washington in 1861. His defeat at the First Battle of Bull Run and the subsequent rout of the army (which was due more to his green troops than his leadership) led to his replacement. He assumed command of a Union corps, but subsequent service led to his removal from command. Angered at his treatment, he requested that a court of inquiry be called to examine his performance. Here, Garfield discusses his service upon that body: "Instead of 'hearing drums and seeing a battle' as the old song has it, I am put on a Court of Inquiry in the case of Gen McDowell which promises to keep me here half a month at least. I have been indignant and disgusted till it is of no use to say any more about it. I appear to be of too much value to the Department to be assigned a better command and not yet being able to give me a large one that let me lie still and do nothing." Ultimately, the court exonerated McDowell and he returned to service.
Garfield was contemplating returning to politics, despite his impatience for field service. He inquires of Ford about the recent election at home: "Do you know whether I am elected to Congress or not? I suppose there was an election held in the Ashtabula District but I have not had very distinct information of the fact. If it has been I wish you would tell me if anybody was elected and if so, who, and if 'who' had any majority and if so how much. I see that the Ohio Statesman concedes that Ashtabula probably went Republican." Garfield was elected to Congress, but returned to the front as a member of General William Rosecrans's staff. He was present at one last battle (Chickamauga) before taking his seat in December 1863.