US History On This Day
Charles J. Guiteau Shot President Garfield
July 2, 1881
The president's been shot, but he's not
dead...yet. No, it would take much dirtier hands than Charles J.
Guiteau's to kill President Garfield. When Guiteau, a lawyer
with a history of mental illness, shot Garfield in the back on
July 2, 1881, he thought God had told him to shoot the
president. He also thought he had killed the president, but it
wasn't the bullet that did the job.
Over the next few
weeks, surgeons tried to locate the bullet in the president's
back. Even Alexander Graham Bell tried to help by inventing a
metal detector. Unfortunately for the president, the bullet was
imbedded so deeply in his body that the metal detector could not
locate it. Even more unfortunate was that the importance of
sterilization in the operating room hadn't been realized yet. It
was the infection, caused by doctors probing the president's
wound with unwashed hands, that eventually killed James A.