The Democrats nominated Winfield Scott Hancock (named for former Presidential Loser, General Winfield “Old Fuss and Feathers” Scott.) This Winfield, although his political ideas seemed somewhat fuzzy, was an authentic war hero, who’d taken a decisive roll in Gettysburg.
His nickname was “Hancock the Superb,” and even his enemies called him “The Thunder of the Potomac.” Republican candidate Garfield must’ve been cursing his luck to be running against such a matinee idol.
Winfield did a lot more for the country than shoot Confederates; he was also responsible for shooting Confederate spies – it was he that oversaw the execution of John Wilkes Booth’s co-conspirators, including boarding-house operator Mary Surrat. 1
After overseeing Reconstruction in Texas and Louisiana, where he won the gratitude of the population by relatively lenient policies, he was shipped out west to the Department of the Dakota, where he provided a military escort for an expedition of the Yellowstone Region, contributing to the ultimate creation of the park. (This guy just gets better and better, doesn’t he?)
His relationships with the Indians were higgledy-piggledy; everything would be going along swimmingly for a while, and then some Union soldiers would massacre some Blackfoot or burn a village or some white settlers would steal some land, and the Indians would decide to take offense.
In spite of Winfield’s impressive resume, a strong economy helped put Garfield in the White House, marking twenty-four years of consecutive Republican administrations, but the margin was thinner than a supermodel’s waist: although the electoral vote was decisive, Garfield squeaked by with a popular vote majority of less than 2000 votes.
James Garfield: 214
Winfield Scott Hancock: 155
1. Hancock felt some qualms about shooting a defenseless woman, but it's not as if the men he executed could defend themselves either. Their hands were tied behind their backs.