Rutherford Birchard Hayes

Rutherford Birchard Hayes, nineteenth President of the United States, was born in Delaware, Ohio, on October 4, 1822. He was educated at Norwalk, Ohio, at Middle-town, Connecticut, and at Kenyon College, Gambier, Ohio. He then attended Harvard Law School, was admitted to the Ohio bar in 1845, and began practice in Lower Sandusky (now Fremont). In 1850 he opened an office in Cincinnati and was successful in both law and local politics, as an active campaigner and speaker. First a Whig, he early became a Republican of the moderate school. With the coming of the Civil War, Hayes made patriotic speeches, aided in recruiting, and in June, 1861, entered the service as major of the 23rd Ohio. Although his military service has been described as "varied and capable but not distinguished," it appears that he exhibited considerable personal gallantry on a number of fields. He was wounded badly at South Mountain, where he led a charge; he aided in the capture of the Confederate General John H. Morgan during the latter's Ohio raid and headed his brigade in storming a strongly defended position at the battle of Cloyd's Mountain. He had been promoted to lieutenant colonel and to colonel and on October 19, 1864, was appointed brigadier general. Meantime, he took a creditable part in Philip Sheridan's Shenandoah Valley campaign, commanding first a brigade and then a division of George Crook's Army of West Virginia. For "gallant and distinguished services" at Fisher's Hill and Cedar Creek he was awarded the brevet of major general in March, 1865. He had been elected to Congress the previous October and in June 1865, resigned his commission to take his seat. Reelected in 1866, he resigned in June, 1867, to run for governor of Ohio, was successful, and was reelected in 1869 but refused to run for a third term in 1871. The following year he was beaten for Congress because of the Republican party split and retired to his estate of Spiegel Grove near Fremont. In 1875, Hayes once again ran for governor in a campaign which attracted nationwide attention; his victory made him a national figure and an obvious candidate for the presidential nomination of his party in 1876. In the election of that year, early returns indicated that Hayes's Democratic opponent Samuel J. Tilden was a certain winner, and Hayes retired for the night in that belief. The Republican managers, however, caused the election boards in Louisiana and Florida, where carpetbag rule prevailed, to disqualify sufficient Tilden ballots to throw the electoral votes of those states to Hayes and make him the victor by a margin of one electoral vote: 185 to 184. The outraged Democrats screamed robbery, but an electoral commission was created which by strict party lines voted not to go behind the returns and to certify Hayes the winner—a decision announced only two days before the inaugural. Meantime, a deal was made between the two factions which provided for the withdrawal of the last remaining troops from the ex-Confederate states in return for the orderly inauguration of the Republican candidate. Hayes took the oath and within sixty days the troops were withdrawn; thereafter no Republican presidential candidate would carry a Southern state for forty-four years. Hayes's administration was marked by moderation and by efforts to promote civil service reform. The latter policy, coupled with termination of Federal occupation of the ex-Confederate states, lost Hayes much Republican support, leading one historian to remark that "within six weeks after his inauguration Hayes was without a party." Prior to his election in 1876, Hayes had stated that he would serve but one term. Accordingly, in March, 1881, he returned to Spiegel Grove, where for the remainder of his life he pursued a variety of humanitarian causes and speaking engagements. He died at his home on January 13, 1893, and was first buried in Oakwood Cemetery, Fremont; his remains were removed in 1915 to the state park built on his former estate.

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Reference: Generals in Blue. Lives of the Union Commanders by Ezra J. Warner. Louisiana State University Press. Baton Rouge.