Thursday, July 3, 2008

President Garfield was shot yesterday

Yesterday was the 127th Anniv. of the assassination of a Civil War veteran who was serving as our nation's president. James A. Garfield was murdered by Charles Guiteau as he was waiting for a train to take him to Williams College where he was scheduled to make a speech. Like Lincoln, President Garfield had not bodyguards and he was shot from behind at point blank range. One of the witnesses to the assassination was Robert Todd Lincoln who was the only surviving son of our beloved 16th President. Guiteau was apprehended and his purpose for murdering Garfield hinged on his belief that the Republican Party was divided over Garfields presidency and only his murder would solve the problem. President Garfield lingered for several months and died on September 19, 1881. Doctors had been unable to locate and remove the bullet that drove itself deep into his back and infection and other issues led to his demise. Ironcally, inventor Alexander Graham Bell probed the wound with a "metal detector" but the metal bed frame made the device useles. Nobody thought to try it again on different type of bedframe.

Most historians and medical experts now believe that Garfield probably would have survived his wound had the doctors attending him been more capable. Several inserted their unsterilized fingers into the wound to probe for the bullet, and one doctor punctured Garfield's liver in doing so. This alone would not have brought about death as the liver is one of the few organs in the human body that can regenerate itself. However, this physician probably introduced Streptococcus bacteria into the President's body and that caused blood poisoning for which at that time there were no antibiotics. Vice-President Chester A. Arthur who had hired a substitute to serve in his place during the Civil War replace Garfield as President. After a State Funeral, Garfield's body was taken to Cleveland where another short funeral was held. He is buried in Mentor, Ohio which is just east of Cleveland.

Guiteau's trial was a national sensation and he even tried to plead insanity so he could avoid the death penalty. He was so vain that he provided a New York newspaper writer with a autobiography and followed that with a personal ad for any lady under thirty years old! He even claimed that the doctors had killed Garfield by their poor medical techinques and that he was only guilty for shooting Garfield. Guiteau's insanity defense, his brash attitude and his unwilingness to take responsibilty for his crime led to his conviction and his death sentence. His only appeal was rejected and on June 30, 1882, Guiteau was hanged to death. Even before his death, Charles Guiteau continued his brash, vain, over confident style. He recited a poem as his "final words" and even requested that music be played during his "speech". The request for the strings was denied but below is Charles Guiteau's final words.

The Prisoner's Last Words
(June 30, 1882)
I am now going to read some verses which are intended to
indicate my feelings at the moment of leaving this world. If set to music they may be rendered very effective. The idea is that of a child babbling to his mamma and his papa. I wrote it this morning about ten o'clock:

I am going to the Lordy, I am so glad,
I am going to the Lordy, I am so glad,
I am going to the Lordy,
Glory hallelujah! Glory hallelujah!
I am going to the Lordy.
I love the Lordy with all my soul,
Glory hallelujah!
And that is the reason I am going to the Lord,
Glory hallelujah! Glory hallelujah!
I am going to the Lord.
I saved my party and my land,
Glory hallelujah!
But they have murdered me for it,
And that is the reason I am going to the Lordy,
Glory hallelujah! Glory hallelujah!
I am going to the Lordy!
I wonder what I will do when I get to the Lordy,
I guess that I will weep no more
When I get to the Lordy!
Glory hallelujah!
I wonder what I will see when I get to the Lordy,
I expect to see most glorious things,
Beyond all earthly conception
When I am with the Lordy!
Glory hallelujah! Glory hallelujah!
I am with the Lord.

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