Wow, never in a million years did I think a book about the assassination of James Garfield would affect me as much. I found myself finishing this late into the night on my eReader and didn’t want it to end. In Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President, Candice Millard has taken an obscure leader of our country and made him real for the modern generation.
It’s hard to believe how much the average American does not know about this period of our history (myself included). I knew that James Garfield was one of the assassinated Presidents…end of story. However, I found myself shaking my head throughout about how much I really didn’t know. A.) Garfield most likely would have survived the attempt today because his gunshot wound was NOT fatal. He died from a massive sepsis infection from a parade of doctors sticking their unsterilized and ungloved fingers in his wounds. B.) Alexander Graham Bell played a huge part in trying to save Garfield’s life. C.) Robert Todd Lincoln, President Lincoln’s oldest son, was present at THREE of the four presidential assassinations. How’s that for bad luck?
More than anything though, Millard succeeds in giving Garfield a real voice and letting the reader know what kind of a man he was (a kind friend to all). It’s a shame that most people know so little about his short administration, but hopefully with this very worthwhile read, that will change.