The Senate’s biggest carpetbagger was a Democrat

When you think “carpetbagger”, you think Hillary Clinton in a Yankees hat.

But the original carpetbagger was Democrat Senator James A. Shields, who served as Senator from not one…not two…but three different states.

Shields originally was elected as a war hero, although it doesn’t seem he was much of a hero:

Shields had successfully turned a wound suffered several years earlier in the Mexican War to political advantage, defeating incumbent Senator Sidney Breese, a fellow Democrat. One political wag joked about Shields’ lucky “Mexican bullet.” “What a wonderful shot that was! The bullet went clean through Shields without hurting him, or even leaving a scar, and killed Breese a thousand miles away.”

Shields started in Illinois, serving as a state politician and later was elected Senator from 1849 to 1855.

Then, when he couldn’t get re-elected, he high-tailed it to Minnesota to serve from 1858 to 1859, because you really get a feel for the people of a state after less than two years.

He moved to California and became a Union commander in the Civil War, gaining a promotion to major general which was immediately withdrawn because he was a terrible military commander. Eventually he resigned altogether, a move that was “not resisted” by the War Department.

After the Civil War, he moved to Missouri, and was elected in 1879, dying in office.

Shields’ other contribution to history?

Challenging Abraham Lincoln to a duel because of some funny articles written about him in the Illinois papers, only to have Lincoln demonstrate to Shields that with his longer arms in a swordfight, Shields would stand no chance.

“with my arms TIED” –Abraham Lincoln

Overblown and poor military service?  Moving from state to state to get elected?

Shields was the 19th-century version of John Kerry and Hillary Clinton rolled into one.

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