James Abram Garfield was born to Abram and El.
iza Ballou Garfield on November 19, 1831 in Orange Township, Cuyahoga County, Ohio. In 1833 his father died, and he was left in poverty, and had minute education. He was a tall man with a heavy beard. In 1848, he left home to search for work. He soon found a job working on a canal boat, but had to return home six weeks later due to illness. .
After Garfield became well again, he taught in school district schools until he finally got into the Western Reserve Eclectic Institute, presently Hiram College. There he studied and also taught. From there he attended Williams Collage. In 1856 he graduated with honors, and, two years later, became the principle and taught there.
Garfield also talked and lectured at funerals and wedding services. He was a very religious man. He was very much against slavery, which was one of the reasons that he turned to politics.
In1859 he was elected to serve on the Ohio senate until 1861. There he denounced slavery and would apply force if needed to maintain the union. He was then admitted to the bar.
On November 11, 1858, he married Lucretia Rudolph, a former classmate. He then studied law, but soon after joined the Army of Cumberland. He helped draft the 42nd Ohio Volunteer Infantry. There, he rose from Lieutenant Colonel to Major General. He was known for his excellent leadership during the Civil War. He believed and supported the emancipation Proclamation. His primary battle assignment was the head of the brigade that drove Confederates from East Kentucky. He also led another brigade in Shiloh and Chickamauga. A little while after, he returned home on sick leave.
Eliza A. Garfield, their first child, was born in 1860, but died when she was only three in 1863.
In 1862, he was elected to join the U.S. House of Representatives, on which he would represent Ohio. He started in December 1863. His second child, Harry A. Garfield, was born in 1863 (died in 1942).