A Stalwart for the Stalwarts An Alternate History by LordVetinari and William_Dellinger “I am a Stalwart of the Stalwarts! I did it and I want to be arrested! Arthur is President now!” -Charles J. Guiteau, July 2nd, 1881, after shooting President James A. Garfield at the Baltimore and Potomac Railroad Station, Washington D.C. Part One: Shots in a Crowded Station From- “The Garfield Presidency 1881-1890” published by DelRay Books, New York City, New York Copyright 2009 It can be surmised, that few people at the time of the July 2nd assassination attempts aftermath, would have given much in the way of success of the Presidents recovery. In fact, several papers gave erroneous reports that President Garfield was already dead, and that his death had been hidden to allow the family some privacy. However, they later retracted it when they were given the straight facts of his continued survival, however weak and near death he actually was, with many apologetic retractions and hastily edited headlines before they were sent to print again. Day and night vigils were held, while many worried about whether the erroneous headlines of earlier, would prove to be true or some miracle might occur, and health would be restored to President Garfield. In fact it was a stroke of mistiming on the part of the assassin that prevented the wounds from being fatal. His traveling part consisted of his two oldest sons, James Rudolph and Harry Augustus, Speaker of the House James G. Blaine, and Robert Todd Lincoln. However, it was a slight nudge that Harry gave his father, to steer him towards the right exit for the platform that had the greatest impact on the course of events. Of the two shots fired, both were to be later recovered. The first was found in the wall of the station later, having grazed President Garfield’s right arm. The second one hit his right shoulder blade, embedding itself inside. Reports state that Garfield exclaimed “My God, what is this!” Several people either attempted to escape, fearing perhaps a further onslaught of gun-fire or something else. Guiteau was beset by several passerby however, and one man broke Guiteaus nose with the silver top of his cane after striking him repeatedly in the face with it. However, Robert Lincoln managed to prevent the mob of outraged men who were assaulting Guiteau, from killing him by reasoning he must stand trial. The limp and battered and somewhat disturbed officer-seeker was carried off by Washington D.C. police officers to a nearby police holding station. Accounts state that a cab driver noted the man had earlier asked for him to take him to the nearest jail, due to Guiteau planning for his incarceration. Other reports state that he “Shouted expletives of the most vulgar sort, scaring several young ladies, and offending the ears of many decent citizens.” As for the President, he had been able to stay lucid and conscience long enough to be helped into a cab, before the blood loss and shock caused him to fall unconscious. As the cab hastily sped through the streets of the capital, already word was being sent to both the Vice-President and members of Congress in Washington, who were still there during the adjournment for a brief break. Without definite knowledge of whether he was still alive, or indeed would remain so, many were unsure of exactly what to do. Unlike when Lincoln had been shot, there was scant information on where the Presidents location was, his status, and if there was a second plot to try to topple the government was at hand. However, as reports came in, confirming the President still lived and the assassin had been a lone man, things began to coalesce more into definite action. The cab containing the President, Speaker Blaine, and Harry and James arrived at the nearest local hospital, seeking to gain some treatment. Doctors at the hospital were surprised and horrified to find that the man being rushed inside was the President. Blaine promised he would return, but had to get to the Capitol to oversee and report to the House. Harry and James stayed by their father’s side, while asking that a message be sent to the First Lady informing her of the situation. As some of the hospital staff crowded to see, the President briefly regained his senses and as he was carried past the people groaned about “damned gawkers”. The doctor given the task of performing the surgery was an avid proponent of Joseph Lister’s ideas on hospital hygiene, which were largely still a curious idea at the time. Many doctors most likely would have stuck unwashed hands and instruments into wounds, providing an avenue for germs and bacteria to enter into the wound, and start perhaps a gangrenous infection. Such was not the case here. After around two hours of preparation and actual surgery, the President was taken to the White House, bandaged and knocked out. While dangers of infection were still great due to possible bacteriological elements getting onto fresh wrappings, the dangers were lessened. After being received back at the White House by his distressed family, he was taken upstairs and allowed to rest. It would be a month before his health would return, though a dangerous fever because of the Washington heat would force him to be moved to the Jersey Shore that September, for better recuperation. It was to the relief of the nation and well-wishers abroad, that on September 20th, 1881, that he had finally overcome his fever and wounds, and would return to Washington within a week or so.