Dead Presidents

Historical facts, thoughts, ramblings and collections on the Presidency and about the Presidents of the United States.

By Anthony Bergen

Grover Cleveland is fairly well-known for being the only President to serve two non-consecutive terms in the White House (from 1885-1889 as the 22nd President and from 1893-1897 as the 24th).  Cleveland is also the only President who was of fighting age during the Civil War to not serve in the military.  Although he was drafted, Cleveland purchased a substitute to fight in his place, which was a legal option under the Conscription Act of 1863, paying $150 to a Polish immigrant named George Benninsky to replace him.  Cleveland served as assistant district attorney of Erie County, New York during that time and Benninsky eventually returned home safely from the war.

It was not an aversion to difficult responsibilities that led Cleveland to purchase a substitute during the Civil War.  As Sheriff of Erie County, New York from 1871-1873, Cleveland felt it was his duty to perform the role of public executioner rather than force subordinates to carry out the unfortunate task.  While Sheriff, the future President personally executed two men (both of whom were convicted murderers) by hanging.

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