The James A. Garfield Monument honors the 20th U.S. President, who was mortally wounded in 1881 at 49 years old, less than four months after entering the White House. The 25-foot monument by sculptor John Quincy Adams Ward stands in the center of a traffic circle on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol. It is the southernmost monument in the three part sculpture group with the Peace Monument on the northern end and the Ulysses S. Grant Memorial in the center. Garfield was the second U.S. President to be assassinated while in office, just 16 years after President Abraham Lincoln was murdered.
Though his life and presidency were cut short, they were nonetheless full of honor and achievement. The intellectually-gifted Garfield, born in poverty in Ohio, earned his way through college by teaching and became a lawyer. An ardent abolitionist, he joined the Union army in 1861 to fight in the Civil War where he gained distinction as a natural born leader. While serving in the army, he was elected to the House of Representatives, and served from 1863 to 1880. Then, while attending the Republican National Convention of 1880 on behalf of candidate John Sherman, Garfield’s rousing speech led the delegates to cast their vote to him, though he had not sought the office. Garfield reluctantly accepted the Republican nomination and won the Presidential election of 1880 with Chester A. Arthur as his running mate.
The memorial, maintained by the Architect of the Capitol, depicts Garfield in a military uniform, standing atop a cylindrical base surrounded by three allegorical figures representing his three phases of his life – scholar, soldier and statesman.
Garfield was gunned down by a deranged office-seeker named Charles Guiteau at the Baltimore and Potomac Railroad Station on his way to a summer vacation. The station, located a few blocks from the memorial, stood on the site of the present-day National Gallery of Art West Building on the National Mall in Washington, DC. Garfield died eleven weeks later after a horrific battle with infection. His assassin was hanged the following year.