Each year on the third Monday of February, we celebrate George Washington’s Birthday. One of the 11 permanent holidays established by Congress, commonly known as Presidents’ Day, it will be observed this year on Monday, Feb. 20, and will mark the 285th anniversary of Washington’s birth.
Beginning with Washington, and most recently George W. Bush, 20 U.S. presidents have served in their state’s militia or National Guard. Among them are many with connections to the Ohio National Guard.
Three future presidents served during the Civil War in the Ohio Volunteer Militia, which would later be called the Ohio National Guard.
James A. Garfield, the 20th president of the United States, rose to the rank of major general before resigning to take a seat in Congress. During the Civil War, Garfield commissioned as a colonel in the 42nd Ohio Volunteer Infantry, and later, while commanding a brigade in the 6th Division of the Army of the Ohio, he fought in the Battle of Shiloh.
Rutherford B. Hayes, our 19th president, was a member of the 23rd Ohio Volunteer Infantry. Hayes was wounded five times, most seriously at the Battle of South Mountain; he earned a reputation for bravery in combat and was brevetted major general.
William McKinley, the 25th and last president who served in the Civil War, enlisted as a private in the 23rd Ohio Volunteer Infantry and later served as a commissary sergeant, bringing rations and other supplies to the front lines. He was commissioned a second lieutenant in recognition of his service during the Battle of Antietam, one of the bloodiest of the war.
Other presidents with Ohio connections and ties to the military were William Henry Harrison, Benjamin Harrison, Ulysses S. Grant and William Howard Taft.
While we enjoy a three-day weekend, let’s remember the contributions of those who preceded us in service to their country.
The writer is the Ohio adjutant general of the Ohio National Guard and is a member of the governor’s cabinet, responsible for the command of the Ohio National Guard and the military readiness of the Ohio Militia.