James Garfield Assassination

The assassination of James Abram Garfield

Charles Guiteau borrowed $15 dollars and bought a revolver at a sporting goods store for $10. The revolver was an ivory handled .44 caliber british bulldog. He Checked into the Riggs House hotel room 222 on the night before he was to execute his plan.

Guiteau arrived at the rail station early on July 2, and lay in wait for the President to arrive, lurking about the train station to find the proper attack point. Garfield was en route while Guiteau waited feverishly.

President James Garfield planned to leave Washington D.C. around 9:30 in the morning on July 2, 1881 from the Baltimore & Potomac train station. He was going to meet up with First Lady Lucretia Garfield in Massachusetts for a long awaited and deserved vacation.

Garfield arrived at the rail station with Secretary of State James G. Blaine. In another carriage just behind, followed Garfield's two oldest sons, while Lucretia in poor health and still recovering, was resting in a New Jersey resort and preparing for travel.

Garfield and Secretary Blaine arrived at the train station and were making their way through the crowds as Guiteau approached them from behind. Guiteau raised his gun, aimed, fired and the first shot grazed and stunned the President. He then fired a second shot that struck the President forcefully and lodged deep into his back. Garfield slumped to the tile floor, looking on as Guiteau was pounced upon, quickly subdued and arrested. Guiteau requested to be taken to jail at once and he was obliged.

Guiteau Left a letter to be found the morning of the shooting addressed to General William Tecumseh Sherman: July 2, 1881. It Read...

"I have just shot the President. I shot him several times, as I wished him to go as easily as possible...I am going to the jail. Please order out your troops and take possession of the jail at once."

james garfield doctors

Dr. Smith Townsend was the first doctor to reach Garfield and attempt treatment of his gunshot wounds. Unimaginable today in the 21st century, doctors probed the presidents wound in search of the bullet lodged deep inside without sterilization, unwashed hands and non sterile instruments. First; Dr. Willard Bliss, then Surgeon General of the Army, and Surgeon General of the Navy.

Garfield was first brought to a room upstairs above the depot on a mattress and later transported to the White House

On July 26th a young Alexander Graham Bell brought a sort of makeshift apparatus to the White House he had worked on for days. Combining two different inventions to create a metal detection device. He attempted to locate the bullet with the new device, which he referred to as an induction balance. The attempt was to no avail. (The first X-ray machine was not invented until November 8, 1895 by Wilhelm Conrad Rontgen).

The bullet was never found by Bells invention nor during any of the intrusive probing by doctors unwashed hands. It wouldn't be until Garfield's death and an autopsy was performed that the discovery was made. The bullets path deviated to the left and rested just behind the pancreas. Sadly the bullet was not in a life threatening position. The now gaping wound on the other side spoke the truth. The bullet was never in the area of which the doctors had so aggressively searched. His entire body was riddled with puss and infection (septic poisoning).

Garfield was an extremely strong man who lingered for weeks in agony, while the poison devoured his body. Knowing the end was near he requested to be moved from the White House to his beach cottage. He fought long and hard for life, against what we now know, was a medical impossibility and certain death. He died on September 19, 1881 at 10:30 p.m. In the middle of the night Vice President Chester Alan Arthur was sworn in as the new President of the United States.

Guiteau would now be tried for the cold blooded murder of the United States President, James Garfield. The second presidential assassination in American history. Only sixteen years and three Presidents since the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. The Nation was once again thrust into turmoil and the mourning of a tragic and senseless assassination of an American President.

Guiteau's address to the American People:

Washington June 16, 1881 To the American People: I conceived the idea of removing the President four weeks ago. Not a soul knew of my purpose. I conceived the idea myself and kept it to myself. I read the newspapers carefully, for and against the Administration, and gradually the convictions settled on me that the President's removal was a political necessity, because he proved a traitor to the men that made him, and thereby imperiled the life of the Republic. In the President's madness he has wrecked the once grand old Republican party; and for this he dies. This is not murder. It is a political necessity.

Guiteau's trial began on November 14, 1881. The defense tried their best to portray Guiteau as an insane man. But the very determined prosecution fought earnestly to rebuke that notion. The prosecution won the argument and Guiteau would, for the purposes of trial, not be considered insane. The battle then continued over the President's cause of death. Was it death by Assassination or Mal Practice?

trial of charles guiteau

Guiteau fully expected to be jailed and live out his new infamous life in a prison. One he personally inspected and approved of prior to the shooting. He believed he was doing gods bidding, and would never die for the assassination of President Garfield. Death had never been considered an option in his minds grand scheme.

On January 25, 1882 he was found guilty as charged by a jury of his peers. He was sentenced to die by hanging. He tried to appeal his conviction. However The United States Supreme Court rejected it. In his last ditch effort to save himself, Guiteau wrote a letter to (his) President , Chester Alan Arthur in hopes of getting a Pardon. After all he was the one who put him in office, shouldn't he be be grateful?

Guiteau's letter to Chester A. Arthur:

I am entitled to a full pardon; but I am willing to wait for the public to be educated up to my views and feelings in the matter. In the meantime I suffer in bonds as a patriot...I am willing to DIE for my inspiration, but it will make a terrible reckoning for you and this nation. I made you, and saved the American people great trouble. And the least you can do is let me go; but I appreciate your delicate position, and I am willing to stay here until January, if necessary. I am God's man in this matter. This is dead sure.

Charles Guiteau was hung on June 30, 1882 in front of a crowd of hundreds of on lookers. Eager to witness Guiteau's death at the galos.

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