In post–Civil War America, politics was a brutal sport played with blunt rules. Yet James Garfield's 1881 "dark horse" campaign after the longest-ever Republican nominating process (36 convention ballots), his victory in the closest-ever popular vote for president (by only 7,018 votes out of over 9 million cast), his struggle against feuding factions once elected, and the public's response to its culmination in violence, sets a revealing comparison with America approaching a new campaign year in 2004. Author and Capitol Hill veteran Kenneth D. Ackerman re-creates an American political landscape where fierce battles for power unfolded against a chivalrous code of honor in a nation struggling under the shadow of a recent war to confront its modernity. The murder prompted leaders to recoil at their own excesses and changed the tone of politics for generations to come. Garfield's own struggle against powerful forces is a compelling human drama; the portrait of Americans coming together after his assassination exemplifies the dignity and grace that have long held the nation together in crisis.