An “ambitious, thorough, supremely researched” (The Washington Post) biography of the extraordinary, tragic life of America’s twentieth president—James Garfield.

In “the most comprehensive Garfield biography in almost fifty years” (The Wall Street Journal), C.W. Goodyear charts the life and times of one of the most remarkable Americans ever to win the Presidency. Progressive firebrand and conservative compromiser; Union war hero and founder of the first Department of Education; Supreme Court attorney and abolitionist preacher; mathematician and canalman; crooked election-fixed and clean-government champion; Congressional chieftain and gentleman-farmer; the last president to be born in a log cabin; the second to be assassinated. James Abram Garfield was all these things and more.

Over nearly two decades in Congress during a polarized era—Reconstruction and the Gilded Age—Garfield served as a peacemaker in a Republican Party and America defined by divisions. He was elected to overcome them. He was killed while trying to do so.

President Garfield is American history at its finest. It is about an impoverished boy working his way from the frontier to the Presidency; a progressive statesman, trying to raise a more righteous, peaceful Republic out of the ashes of civil war; the tragically imperfect course of that reformation, and the man himself; a martyr-President, whose death succeeded in nudging the country back to cleaner, calmer politics.

About the author(s)

C.W. Goodyear is an author and historian based in Washington, DC. He was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, and grew up abroad before graduating from Yale University.


“An ambitious, thorough, supremely researched biography of James Garfield . . . . Garfield’s life becomes a fascinating national portrait of an imperfect union struggling across its first century to live up to the promise of its founding.”

Garrett M. Graff

"The most comprehensive Garfield biography in almost 50 years, and the most readable ever. Mr. Goodyear is a stylish and energetic writer, whose passion for his subject is reminiscent of a youthful Edmund Morris in The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt."

Richard Norton Smith

"Authoritative. . . . With his engaging writing and comprehensive research, Goodyear’s biography offers a reassessment of Garfield that’s a welcome introduction to the statesman."

Andrew Demillo

 "James A. Garfield has long been too narrowly remembered for his untimely end.  This spirited biography gives us the man in full, suggesting the president he might have become.  A fine first book from an energetic young scholar whose skills enhance every page."

John Lewis Gaddis, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of George Kennan

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