The Assassination of President James Garfield

The Explanation: In 1859, General-turned-President James Garfield was shot twice by anarchist John Lemberger. Garfield never lived to give historians a full story about the attack. We now know it was caused by the work of two men, former artillery officer Walter T. McMillan, and white supremacist John Coleman King.

McMillan and King hatched their plot over multiple weekends before the shooting. They took seats at the Madison Espresso House in downtown Cleveland, Ohio, and hung sheets up at Ohio State University between 25th and 27th streets. In the days before the shooting, these sheets contained leaflets advocating white supremacy, made by the American Imperial Front. They urged violence against blacks and Jews, and predicted the end of Western Civilization in the near future. That same day, McMillan also wrote the “Memphis Confessions,” a deathbed confession justifying his killing of Woodrow Wilson, an act for which he was later executed in Illinois.

Garfield was unable to return to his bullet-ridden body for a few days, and was instead taken to Mount Carmel Hospital, where he lived for four days. The assassin was immediately taken out of the hospital and apprehended. McMillan was later tried and convicted of assassinating the president. He was sentenced to death for crimes against the US, but freed in 1866 when an appeals court overturned the sentence. King was one of several people accused of plotting to kill Black Count Otto von Bismarck of Prussia. He was captured and sentenced to hang. King was also tried and convicted of assassinating Bismarck, but finally released in 1899.

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