Presidents Who Served After the Civil War

After Lincoln's Presidency the Republican Party Dominated the White House

Abraham Lincoln was the first president from the Republican Party, and the influence of the Republicans lived on long after Lincoln's assassination.

His vice president, Andrew Johnson, served out Lincoln's term, and then a series of Republicans controlled the White House for two decades.

Abraham Lincoln, 1861-1865

Portrait of President Abraham Lincoln
President Abraham Lincoln. Library of Congress

Abraham Lincoln was the most important president of the 19th century, if not in all of American history. He led the nation through the Civil War and was notable for his great speeches.

Lincoln's rise in politics was one of the greatest American stories. His debates with Stephen Douglas became legendary and led to his 1860 campaign and his victory in the election of 1860.

Andrew Johnson, 1865-1869

Portrait of President Andrew Johnson
President Andrew Johnson. Library of Congress

Tennessee's Andrew Johnson took office after the assassination of Abraham Lincoln and was beset by problems. The Civil War was ending and the nation was still in a state of crisis. Johnson was mistrusted by members of his own party and eventually faced an impeachment trial.

Johnson's controversial time in office was dominated by Reconstruction, the rebuilding of the South after the Civil War.

Ulysses S. Grant, 1869-1877

President Ulysses S. Grant
President Ulysses S. Grant. Library of Congress

Civil War hero General Ulysses S. Grant seemed to be an obvious choice to run for president, though he had not been a very political person throughout most of his life. He was elected in 1868 and gave a promising inaugural address.

Grant's administration became known for corruption, though Grant himself was generally untouched by scandal. He was reelected to a second term in 1872 and served as president during the great celebrations for the nation's centennial in 1876.

Rutherford B. Hayes, 1877-1881

Portrait of President Rutherford B. Hayes
Rutherford B. Hayes. Library of Congress

Rutherford B. Hayes was declared the winner of the disputed election of 1876, which became known as "The Great Stolen Election." It's likely the election was actually won by Rutherford's opponent, Samuel J. Tilden.

Rutherford took office under an agreement to end Reconstruction in the South, and he only served one term. He began the process of instituting civil service reform, a reaction to the spoils system which had flourished for decades since the administration of Andrew Jackson.

James Garfield, 1881

Portrait of President James Garfield
President James Garfield. Library of Congress

James Garfield, a distinguished Civil War veteran, may have been one of the most promising presidents following the war. But his time in the White House was cut short when he was wounded by an assassin four months after taking office on July 2, 1881.

Doctors tried to treat Garfield, but he never recovered, and died on September 19, 1881.

Chester A. Arthur, 1881-1885

Portrait of President Chester Alan Arthur
President Chester Alan Arthur. Library of Congress

Elected vice president on the 1880 Republican ticket with Garfield, Chester Alan Arthur ascended to the presidency upon Garfield's death.

Though he never expected to be president, Arthur proved to be a capable chief executive. He became an advocate of civil service reform and signed the Pendleton Act into law.

Arthur wasn't motivated to run for a second term and was not renominated by the Republican Party.

Grover Cleveland, 1885-1889, 1893-1897

Portrait of President Grover Cleveland
President Grover Cleveland. Library of Congress

Grover Cleveland is best remembered as the only president to serve two non-consecutive terms. He had been perceived as a reform governor of New York, yet came to the White House amid controversy in the election of 1884. He was the first Democrat elected president following the Civil War.

After being defeated by Benjamin Harrison in the election of 1888, Cleveland ran against Harrison again in 1892 and won.

Benjamin Harrison, 1889-1893

Portrait of President Benjamin Harrison
President Benjamin Harrison. Library of Congress

Benjamin Harrison was a senator from Indiana and the grandson of a president, William Henry Harrison. He was nominated by the Republican Party to present a reliable alternative to Grover Cleveland in the election of 1888.

Harrison won and while his term in office was not remarkable, he generally carried on Republican policies such as civil service reform. Following his loss to Cleveland in the 1892 election, he wrote a popular textbook on American government.

William McKinley, 1897-1901

Portrait of President William McKinley
President William McKinley. Getty Images

William McKinley, the last president of the 19th century, is probably best known for having been assassinated in 1901. He led the United States into the Spanish-American War, though his main concern was the promotion of American business.

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McNamara, Robert. "Presidents Who Served After the Civil War." ThoughtCo, Feb. 16, 2021, McNamara, Robert. (2021, February 16). Presidents Who Served After the Civil War. Retrieved from McNamara, Robert. "Presidents Who Served After the Civil War." ThoughtCo. (accessed March 21, 2023).