September 19, 2007

September 19 | James Garfield

November 19, 1831 - September 19, 1881: Age 49

James A. Garfield was the 20th President of the United States. He served as a general for the Union in the Civil War, and was elected President in 1880. He took office on March 4, 1881, but would serve only a little over six months.

A religious fanatic named Charles Junius Guiteau shot him twice as he was walking through a railroad station in Washington. It turned out that Guiteau was upset at not being given the US consulship in Paris despite repeated attempts to apply for the job. He shot Garfield twice, once in the arm and then again somewhere near his spine. The second bullet stayed in his body until he died; all attempts to find it and remove it failed. Alexander Graham Bell even invented a metal detector to try to find it, but the machine was foiled by the metal bed frame and nobody realized the cause of the malfunction. As infection set in, Garfield became sicker and sicker, confined to his bed with fevers and pain. He died of a heart attack and blood poisoning 80 days after he was shot.

People now believe his death was hastened or even precipitated by bad medical care. Several doctors attempted to get the bullet out by sticking their (non-sterile) fingers into the would, and one punctured his liver in the process. It may be that this introduced bacteria deadly enough to kill him.

Guiteau was sentenced to death and hanged the following June.

Source: Wikipedia

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