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On Sept. 19, 1881, President James A. Garfield, who had been in office just under four months, succumbed to wounds inflicted by an assassin 80 days earlier. The assassin was an attorney and political office-seeker named Charles Guiteau, a relative stranger to the president and his administration in an era when federal positions were doled out on a “who you know” basis. When his requests for an appointment were ignored, a furious Guiteau stalked the president, vowing revenge. On the morning of July 2, Garfield headed for the Baltimore and Potomac Railroad station on his way to a short vacation. As he walked through the station toward the waiting train, Guiteau stepped behind the president and fired two shots. The first bullet grazed Garfield’s arm; the second lodged below his pancreas. Doctors made several unsuccessful attempts to remove the bullet. Alexander Graham Bell even tried to find the second bullet using an early version of a metal detector, but failed. Garfield’s cause has been disputed, from his physicians’ risky treatments to an already advanced case of heart disease to an aneurism created by internal pressure from the wound. By early September, the president was recuperating at a seaside retreat in New Jersey but then died later that month.
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