Major McKinley: William McKinley and the Civil War

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Kent State University Press, 2000 - Biography & Autobiography - 191 pages
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"The Civil War was a crucial experience in shaping the character and political life of William McKinley. In this engrossing and well-researched study, William H. Armstrong provides the most thorough treatment of McKinley's military career and shows how his wartime record influenced his emergence as the first modern president. Armstrong is balanced and fair-minded, and his work should become the definitive account of the Civil War years of an important figure of the Gilded Age." --Lewis L. Gould, author of The Presidency of William McKinley

Major McKinley is the first complete account of the Civil War service of President William McKinley, the last of the Civil War veterans to reach the White House and the only one who served in the ranks. McKinley enlisted as a private in the 23rd Ohio Volunteer Infantry (Later commanded by another future president, Rutherford B. Hayes) and was the regiment's commissary sergeant when his bravery at the Battle of Antietam led to a commission and an assignment to Hayes's military staff.

Drawing on a wide variety of sources, including McKinley's own paper and the diaries and letters of men who served with him, this book presents a new picture of McKinley as a soldier and provides a fresh appreciation of his later life as a veteran in politics.


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Page 1 - I always look back with pleasure upon those fourteen months in which I served in the ranks. They taught me a great deal. I was but a school-boy when I went into the army, and that first year was a formative period in my life, during which I learned much of men and of affairs. I have always been glad that I entered the service as a private and served those months in that capacity.

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