Destiny Of The Republic: A Tale Of Madness, Medicine And The Murder Of A President by Candice Millard
Had he not been gunned down a few months following his inauguration as president of the United States, James Garfield might have been considered among one of our greatest presidents. Born into poverty in Ohio, Garfield became a college professor, president of Williams College, a Civil War hero and finally a reluctant candidate for the presidency.
A decent and extremely intelligent man, Garfield tried to rise above the divisive political schemes of his day. Political machinations, a deranged assassin, and the inadequacies of medical care make this a very interesting and informative contribution to presidential history.
The question - and obvious answer - is that it wasn't the gunshot that killed Garfield but the actions of his doctors who deliberately ignored the discovery by Joseph Lister that germs and lack of cleanliness lead to infection which ultimately causes death.
Alexander Graham Bell also features prominently in the book. Shortly after the success of his telephone, he began working on a device which would have determined which area in Garfield's body the bullet would be found. Instead, doctors wasted precious weeks ignoring Bell and furthering the demise of the president.
If you like your history told from the perspective of individuals' lives rather than from dry and stodgy historical data, you will find this a fascinating book. Before reading this, I would not have been able to tell you anything about President James Garfield. And I would guess I'm not alone.