University Archives


A Rare War-Dated Heartfelt Letter from a Grieving James A. Garfield to His Friend and Successor in Congress

“Our little boy was nearly well when I left home – though I thought for a day or two I should have to drain the last drop in the bitter cup of sorrow by losing him also.”

JAMES A. GARFIELD, Autograph Letter Signed to Ezra B. Taylor, January 9, 1864, Washington, D.C. 2 pp., 7.75ʺ x 9.75ʺ. Expected folds; general toning; very good. Also includes a cabinet card with an engraving of Garfield, 5ʺ x 7ʺ.

Complete Transcript
Washington, Jan 9, 1863 [1864]
E. B. Taylor Esq.
Dear Friend
Yours of Dec 28th came to me in Hiram, and I should have answered it from there, but there was no Notary Public in town before whom I could assign the bonds and my little boy was very dangerously sick for several days so that I could not go to Cleveland to make the assignment. Hence I waited till my return here. In getting them assigned, I found it would make for trouble and require a transfer to the books of the Asst Treasurer in New York after they were in your hands. I have therefore thought it best to sell them here which I have done at par to Jay Cooke & Co.
Please find enclosed the company’s draft on N.Y for Fifteen Hundred Dollars. In regard to the matter of security, give yourself no trouble. Whatever you choose to do will be entirely satisfactory to me—only don’t do any thing that will embarrass yourself. I was sorry you could not have visited us. I hope you and Harriet will be able to go and see Cute and Alonedo some time this winter. Our little boy was nearly well when I left home – though I thought for a day or two I should have to drain the last drop in the bitter cup of sorrow by losing him also.
I shall always be glad to hear from you. Remember me kindly to Harriet, and kiss the little ones for me
Very Truly Yours
J. A. Garfield
P.S. I forgot to acknowledge receipt of yours of Jan 5th, which came yesterday.

Historical Background:
On December 28, 1863, Taylor had written to Garfield, “I received your noble letter on Christmas morning & so acceptable such a highly prized Christmas present was never received before. Such a generous offer! Such words of encouragement, and sympathy! O, how from the depths of my heart for myself & for those dearer to me than life, I thank & love you.... I will accept your offer of a loan of $1500, because it was so cordially made on your part that I know you desire me to do so, & because that sum of money is of such immense value to me now, a value which is not represented by money. It will not relieve me from all burdens, but it will assist me so vastly that I can carry my load easily & cheerily.... I shall insist upon making good to you at least the value of the bonds if they should rise above par while I have the money & will give you security entirely ample for the re-payment of the money.”

In this response, Garfield extends a loan of $1,500 to Taylor by selling bonds to Jay Cooke & Company, a bank founded by financier Jay Cooke (1821-1905) in 1861 in Philadelphia, with branches in New York City and Washington, D.C. Cooke helped underwrite the Union war effort by selling government bonds throughout the country and in Europe.

James A. Garfield and his wife Lucretia Rudolph Garfield married in 1858. Between 1860 and 1874, they had seven children. Their first child, Eliza Arabella “Trot” Garfield, died on December 1, 1863, of diphtheria at the age of three and a half. Their second child Harry Augustus “Hal” Garfield was born on October 11, 1863, and perhaps had the same disease that claimed the life of his sister. He survived until 1942, and was a professor at Princeton College (1903-1908) and the president of Williams College (1908-1934), his father’s and his alma mater. During World War I, he led the U.S. Fuel Administration for President Woodrow Wilson.

James A. Garfield (1831-1881) was born in Ohio and raised by his widowed mother. After attending an academy and a Disciples of Christ college, he graduated from Williams College in 1856. Two years later, he married Lucretia Rudolph (1832-1918), and they had seven children together. He served in the Ohio Senate before raising a regiment in 1861, which he led as its colonel. Promoted to brigadier general at the age of 30, Garfield participated in the Battle of Shiloh in April 1862. He later became chief of staff for General William S. Rosecrans. In October 1862, he won election as a Republican to the U.S. House of Representatives, where he served until 1880. Elected to the U.S. Senate by the Ohio legislature in January 1880 for a term starting more than a year later, Garfield became an early choice of the Republicans for the Presidency. Elected over fellow Civil War veteran and Democratic candidate Winfield Scott Hancock by fewer than 2,000 votes, Garfield took office in March 1881. Less than four months into his presidency, Garfield was shot twice by a disappointed office seeker on July 2, and died eleven weeks later.

Ezra B. Taylor (1823-1912) was born in Ohio and studied law, gaining admission to the bar and beginning a practice in 1845. He was elected prosecuting attorney in Portage County in 1854. He was later a partner in the firm of Taylor and Jones. During the Civil War, he enrolled as a private in the 171st Ohio Infantry, serving from May to August 1864. He served as judge of the court of common pleas from 1877 to 1880. He was elected as a Republican to the U.S. House of Representatives to fill the vacancy caused by the resignation of James A. Garfield to become President of the United States. Taylor continued to serve in Congress until March 1893. Declining to be a candidate for renomination in 1892, he resumed the practice of law in Ohio.

This item comes with a Certificate from John Reznikoff, a premier authenticator for both major 3rd party authentication services, PSA and JSA (James Spence Authentications), as well as numerous auction houses.


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