At the start of the Civil War, Arthur was assigned to the Quartermaster General’s office, quickly proving to be an excellent administrator. By July 1862, Arthur had been promoted to Quartermaster General, and during his time in that post he far exceeded New York’s quota of troops – at a critical time for President Lincoln. In 1871, Arthur was nominated to be the Collector of the New York Customhouse. The Customhouse handled millions of dollars of the nation’s customs receipts and the collector was responsible for managing the patronage system that was the basis for hiring and firing employees.
The popular Arthur was re-nominated for a second term in 1875, but in 1878, President Rutherford B. Hayes ousted Arthur from the Customhouse after a lengthy struggle over civil service reform.
Working tirelessly for the Stalwart faction of the Republican Party, Arthur was nominated to be James Garfield’s Vice-President at the 1880 Republican National Convention. Shot after only four months in office, Garfield lived for eighty days, then died on September 19, 1881. On September 20, Chester Alan Arthur was sworn in as the twenty-first President of the United States.