The Civil War Careers of Post-Civil War Presidents: Gettysburg Winter Lecture

Here’s Ranger Dan Vermilya giving a really outstanding lecture on what four of the post-Civil War presidents who were Civil War veterans did in the Civil War.  He did not include U.S. Grant or Andrew Johnson, as they are fairly well known.  He focuses on Rutherford B. Hayes, James A. Garfield, Benjamin Harrison, and William McKinley.  I think you’ll agree Dan did a terrific job.



  1. McKinley got a monument for serving coffee under fire, as I recall … 😉

    1. Yep. For bravely taking it upon himself to serve coffee to the troops while under fire.

  2. Al, Thank you for posting that informative lecture. I didn’t realize that Garfield and McKinley had such strong convictions when it came to slavery. I had been doing my own research and writing on the unsuccessful candidates for president. I got as far a the election of 1872 then quit due to lack of interest. Now, after listening to Ranger Vermilya I realize that doing my own research and assembling the information will give me a much deeper Insight of history. To be honest, I shouldn’t be surprised that I’m the only one reading my essays. I’m not an historical scholar nor am I a professional writer, I’m just somebody who made a hobby out of writing biographical essays. When I get to the election of 1880 I can Write about Garfield’s opponent, Winfield Scott Hancock. Again, thanks for sharing the video.

    1. You’re welcome, Pat. There’s only one person in the universe you have to please when you write, and that’s yourself. It doesn’t matter if nobody else reads it or if a million people read it. If you’re happy with it, then it’s a success.

  3. Bob Nelson · · Reply

    Thanks, Al, for another good recommendation. Dan (and others I might mention) really seem comfortable in front of a group. They’re good speakers, easy to listen to. Moreover, they have a good sense of what to include and what to leave out. They don’t “lecture” and they don’t have their eyes buried in their notes. We all know the basics of the story but I had forgotten a few of the details, one being that none of the four had a second term. Two (Garfield and McKinley) were assassinated, Harrison lost to Cleveland in 1892 and Hayes kept his promise not to run for re-election in 1880. One of the reasons Cleveland lost to Harrison in 1888 was that he vetoed pension measures for CW vets during his first term. Cleveland — a Democrat who had bought a substitute during the CW — only won in 1884 because he carried all of the former Confederate states. One other thing struck me. One of Dan’s early slides had a list of U.S. Presidents who had served in the armed forces. Leading the list was WWII with 7. Second was the CW with 5 (6 if you include Arthur who served as quartermaster general of New York militia and turned down active service with the U.S. Volunteers at the request of the NY governor). How many served in Korea? None. How many served in Vietnam? None.

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