Special Report

Each President’s Path to the Oval Office

Source: Hulton Archive / Getty Images

Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865)
> Term: 1861-1865
> Party affiliation: Republican
> Notable occupation: Lawyer

The dissolution of the Whig Party led to the rise of the Republican Party, and Abraham Lincoln saw this as an opportunity to become a leader in Illinois as well as the region. Lincoln’s debates with fellow Illinois rival Stephen Douglas over slavery and the future of the Union gained him national prominence.

Source: Hulton Archive / Getty Images

Andrew Johnson (1808-1875)
> Term: 1865-1869
> Party affiliation: Democratic
> Notable occupation: Governor

Andrew Johnson was one of the few southern politicians to remain in Congress during the Civil War. A Democrat serving as vice president under the Republican Lincoln, he became president after Lincoln was assassinated.

President Ulysses S. Grant
Source: Wikimedia Commons

Ulysses S. Grant (1822-1885)
> Term: 1869-1877
> Party affiliation: Republican
> Notable occupation: Soldier

Ulysses S. Grant was the Union’s greatest Civil War hero. He became the standard bearer of the Radical Republicans who wished to impose a more punitive peace on the South.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Rutherford B. Hayes (1822-1893)
> Term: 1877-1881
> Party affiliation: Republican
> Notable occupation: Soldier, governor

Rutherford B. Hayes, Civil War veteran and governor of Ohio, believed in securing voting rights for African-Americans and backing the U.S. currency with gold. He wanted to end the violence in the South by phasing out Reconstruction.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

James Garfield (1831-1881)
> Term: 1881-1881
> Party affiliation: Republican
> Notable occupation: Soldier, school president

James Garfield showed leadership qualities by leading Union troops to victory over southern forces in Kentucky. He became a brigadier general at age 31. Garfield served nine terms in the House of Representatives. When an ally, John Sherman, failed to get the Republican nomination in 1880, Garfield eventually got the GOP nod on the 36th ballot.