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Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Destiny of the Republic

He was born in poverty, in a log cabin, on the American frontier. Through hard work, and a wonderful ability to educate himself, courage and an expansive personality he rose to be President of the United States. No. No. It wasn’t Abe. His name was James Garfield. He was from Ohio and was our second president to be assassinated.
Candace Millard has written a wonderful description of an aspect of the age which saw the transition from the end of Reconstruction to modern America. Her book Destiny of the Republic - A Story of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President tells the story of a little known President, cut off like John Kennedy, in the prime of his life. It was a time of great corruption in government, "robber barons" and the solidification of segregation as part of southern institutions and thinking.
The most interesting part of the book is the story of how a man shot in the back with what should have been non mortal wounds was basically killed by his doctors.
Over a period of about 11 weeks the President was repeatedly probed into his wounds with unsterilized fingers and instruments as the doctors tried to find the bullet lodged in his body. This all at a time when the world famous French doctor, Joseph Lister, had been demonstrating for years how his theories on the prevention of infection could save lives and limbs. The famous American inventor, Alexander Graham Bell also worked furiously to develop a machine which could locate the bullet. All to no avail.
Millard, whose previous book The River of Doubt was about Theodore Roosevelt’s near-fatal journey of exploration in South America, is again perfect in bring these people and events to life. This book of narrative history ranks right up there with others like The Devil in the White City as a classic of its type. I highly recommend it.


Rae said...

That is some interesting history I didn't know. Sounds like a good book to read on a cold winter night.

Montanagirl said...

Interesting! It sounds like an informative and "good" read.

Anonymous said...

I did read Devil in the White City and found it fascintaing. I didn't know about President Garfield. Very interesting. I wonder if you would be interested in a novel about Civil War Reenactors, set at the 150th anniversary of Gettysburg. Thanks for posting!

Retired English Teacher said...

This sounds very interesting. I can barely keep up with reading about what you are reading. I wish I could get all that reading done. This book really does appeal to me. I'll put it on the list.