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Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President

4.19  ·  Rating details ·  37,853 Ratings  ·  4,531 Reviews
James A. Garfield may have been the most extraordinary man ever elected president. Born into abject poverty, he rose to become a wunderkind scholar, a Civil War hero, and a renowned and admired reformist congressman. Nominated for president against his will, he engaged in a fierce battle with the corrupt political establishment. But four months after his inauguration, a de ...more
ebook, 345 pages
Published September 20th 2011 by Anchor (first published January 1st 2011)
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Virginia Hoyt A benefit of some kind? Perhaps the way all parts of the nation, especially North and South, were united in their grieving, their appreciation of…moreA benefit of some kind? Perhaps the way all parts of the nation, especially North and South, were united in their grieving, their appreciation of President Garfield.(less)
Virginia Hoyt Hi, I was interested in your question and did some poking around online - found two possibilities for you. First is a book that seems to be written…moreHi, I was interested in your question and did some poking around online - found two possibilities for you. First is a book that seems to be written for adults, but in comic book form, and it is only 80-some pages:
The Fatal Bullet: The Assassination of President James A. Garfield, by Rick Geary.

And then, there is a 15-minute edition especially for children, download onto Kindle for 99 cents.
Author Jeannie Meekins, the title is James Garfield: The Professor President: A 15-Minute Biography.

I have not read either of these so cannot vouch for them, but found them on Amazon. Good luck, this topic should be a good addition into a child's education.(less)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Jeffrey Keeten
Oct 21, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: presidents-staff
In recent years I've been attracted to books about obscure presidents. When I read about the Candice Millard book on James Garfield I was instantly intrigued. I mean no one knows much of anything about Garfield including myself. He is easy to pass over because he barely survived 6 months into his term as president and a good portion of that time he was fighting for his life. The only time his name is brought up in conversation is when someone is struggling to remember the names of the four assas ...more
Elyse
Jun 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I'm excited that I'm excited!!!! Does this make sense?? Have you ever been excited that you are REALLY EXCITED???

In a VERY SHORT PERIOD OF TIME I've read books about 3 American Past Presidents....

I'm pleased to say.... just like the positive late bloomer reader experience WHEN A LIGHT SWITCH WENT OFF ....and I knew I'd be reading for the rest of my life.....
I TURNED A HUGE CORNER AGAIN JUST IN THIS WEEK. I'm now 'clear' -- I have nothing to fear - or reasons to resist reading about past Preside
...more
Miles
Dec 24, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed
If you're like me, I'll bet you haven't given President James Garfield much thought either. Have you? Come on, admit it. He was elected in 1880, shot in 1881 and gone in months, and suddenly it was all Chester Arthur, all the time. But here's a book that manages to make mountains out of this molehill of a Presidency. First, the author persuades us that Garfield was a truly likable, magnetic, wonderful human being. Honest, thrifty, salt-of-the-earth, up from the farm, a true man of the people in ...more
Will Byrnes
If most people were to be asked today what they thought of Garfield, they would most likely offer an answer about a cartoon cat, and not the 20th president of the United States, the president who served only 200 days in office, the second president to be assassinated, and one of our great losses as a nation.

Candice Millard, the dishy author of The River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt’s Darkest Journey, here follows the paths of two men, the ill-fated president, James A Garfield, and the man who
...more
Candi
"There would come a time when the story of James Garfield's early life would be widely admired. Throughout the nation and around the world, his extraordinary rise from fatherlessness and abject poverty would make him the embodiment of the American dream."

This is an outstanding biography of the 20th President of the United States, one whom I admittedly knew very little about previously. James A. Garfield has left such an estimable impression on me after reading this comprehensively researched boo
...more
Matt
History has not done much to remember the 20th President of the United States. Perhaps it was because James A. Garfield was shot just four months into his term of office. Or maybe it’s because he has the misfortune to share a surname with an orange cartoon cat who loves lasagna and hates Mondays. Whatever the reason, Garfield has been unfairly removed from popular knowledge, and exists mainly as an answer your beer-fogged mind struggles to form during trivia night at the local bar.

Candice Milla
...more
Diane
Mar 22, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is another fascinating history book from Candice Millard. Destiny of the Republic is about the life of President James Garfield and Charles Guiteau, the deranged man who assassinated him in 1881. There's also great stuff on the history of medicine, including how long it took before American doctors believed in the importance of sterile instruments and in the dangers of infections in wounds.

One of the frustrating side effects of reading a lot of history is realizing how many times that thing
...more
Michael
I learned a lot of facts from this account of the 1881 Garfield assassination, and I was moved by the plight of good people handicapped by the lack modern advances in presidential security and medical care. But I wasn’t enthralled with how the pieces of the book came together or with the limited reflections on the big picture.

I liked the foreshadowing method Millard employed near the beginning with a visit to the 1876 science and technology exposition in Chicago. There we get Lister failing to
...more
Stephanie
If a mentally ill person had not been able to get his hands on a gun, the secret service was doing the job that it does today, if doctors didn’t consider the science of antisepsis the way the anti science crowd considers climate change today, Ohio would have had a significant president in James A. Garfield.

I had a long review written here that seemed to have grown out of control. I decided I would let you read the book instead, and you should. In short(er) Mr. Garfield grew up poorer than poor.
...more
Richard Derus
Aug 31, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This well-written and tragic story has been revised and can now be found in a place of honor at Expendable Mudge Muses Aloud.
Linda
Feb 02, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What drew me into Destiny of the Republic was a PBS Special that aired not too long ago. We all had a skeletal understanding of the assassination of James A. Garfield. Garfield, unfortunately, became an elusive name in the litany of former presidents. Ah, dear readers, this man was so much more.

In regard to the author, Candice Millard is an exceptional writer. I read her book, The River of Doubt, that depicts the treacherous journey of Teddy Roosevelt as he ventured down the Amazon River. This r
...more
Jennifer
"I never meet a ragged boy in the street without feeling that I may owe him a salute, for I know not what possibilities may be buttoned up under his coat." James A. Garfield

Without a doubt, "Destiny of the Republic" is one of the most interesting and thought provoking non-fiction books I've read in quite some time. Author Candice Millard does an extraordinary job of enlightening readers about the life of James A. Garfield, and the political, scientific, and medical theories and practices of the
...more
Suzy
Wow! Who knew?! When I saw that our Minneapolis Institute of Art book club had picked this for the October book tour, I knew I would read it, but was unsure about whether I would like it. (Although the stellar reviews from my GR community were encouraging.) I did not just like it, I LOVED it. And it was so appropriate to where we are right now in the States with the election just a couple of weeks away.

Millard's story of Garfield, his life and his death by assassination read like a novel. It re
...more
Mara
Reading the Presidents: POTUS #20 – James Garfield

What a great way to start out my mission to get to know the presidents! Candice Millard does a great job of interweaving the stories of multiple characters (à la Erik Larson in The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America): James Garfield , Charles Guiteau (his assassin), and (to a lesser extent) Alexander Graham Bell. Toss in some history of science/medicine, some solid info on the early days of t
...more
Ms.pegasus
Apr 01, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone interested in public policy or history
Recommended to Ms.pegasus by: selection of local book club
Shelves: nonfiction, history
James A. Garfield, 20th President of the United States, assassinated by a disgruntled office seeker. I remember those exact words from my childhood lessons in American history, as I suspect do most other Americans. Millard makes the case for a more meaningful historical legacy. Between his inauguration on March 5 and the shooting on July 2, Garfield was an active opponent of the “spoils system”. Despite the distraction of his wife Lucretia's near fatal illness in May, he installed his own appoin ...more
Jim
Jan 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excellent history, engagingly written. I give it ***** as I couldn't put it down. The story focuses on the assassination of James A. Garfield, but it became a really riveting story for me as it detailed the doctors' efforts to save the life of Garfield. I was aware that, unlike Lincoln, Garfield could have been (easily) saved by present-day medical practice. But I didn't know that he could have been saved in 1881--if the doctors had used up-to-date methods of the time. Dr. Joseph Lister in Engl ...more
Sue
Mar 15, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Readers of history--especially American and political
Recommended to Sue by: Jeffrey Keeten, Chad
This is one of the most interesting biography/history books I've been fortunate to read. The story of the brief Presidency of James Garfield is little known though Millard's work is changing that situation. He came to the Presidency almost accidentally as the Republicans chose him without his campaigning for the position--a compromise of sorts---and a man who became a very popular choice, a man of the people.

Sadly his life would intersect with a madman and with doctors (one in particular) too ce
...more
Wayne Barrett
"His ultimate place in history will be far less exalted than that which he now holds in popular estimation," the New York Times warned its readers. More painful even than the realization that his brief presidency would be forgotten was the thought that future generations would never know the man he had been...
What a tragedy!
Like many of the other reviews I have read on this book I must admit that I knew little to nothing concerning Garfield other than he had been one of the 4 presidents who had
...more
Jill
Feb 22, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Quite a few times while reading this page-turning and well-researched book, I asked myself, “Where is James Garfield now that we really need him?”

Our 20th president was both a gentleman and a scholar. After pulling himself up from an impoverished background, he quickly distinguished himself as a Civil War brigadier general, a respected Senator, a university president at only 26, and a passionate abolitionist. Much to his own amazement, he emerged the winner of the deadlocked 1880 Republican conv
...more
Eric_W
Does anyone really care about James Garfield? You will after reading this book. Were it not for the Emperor of Brazil would Alexander Bell have been relinquished to the backwater of history? And how ironic that a British Dr. Lister proclaimed knowledge that had it been followed would have saved Garfield's life?

Our reading club decided to read this book for several reasons, perhaps the most important being that Charles Guiteau hailed from Freeport where most of us live. We used to joke it was Fre
...more
Paula
Surprisingly very good audiobook. Who ever knew anything about this president?
Highly recommend for those that like history and politics. Just terrific.

5 out of 5 stars.

Cher
Nov 13, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4.5 stars - Incredible. I really loved it.

I am so thankful that this was selected for my local book club as otherwise I may have never learned more about the extraordinary James Garfield. How inspiring that he rose from true abject poverty to become the most powerful man in the country (albeit against his personal wishes/desires). This book has quotes throughout that give the current generation glimpses of what a great leader he was, including his strong support of equality and civil rights. Ho
...more
Jason
This year I've decided to challenge myself. I have decided to research American Presidents that I knew nothing about. This basically covers from George Washington to Theodore Roosevelt.

James Abram Garfield. Just what exactly do we know about him? We know he was a) involved in the Civil War as a Captain, b) he was chosen as a candidate in what would eventually come to be known as an extremely close nominating convention, c) he would serve less than a year in office as President and d) he is, unf
...more
Shaun
Aug 07, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was good...really good.

Candice Millard does an excellent job of detailing James Garfield's rise to the Presidency, the sixth months he served (a third of that mortally wounded and fighting for his life), and his eventual death (not so much a result of the gunshot wound but the questionable treatment he was forced to endure). However, she also includes details on Alexander Bell and Joseph Lister and the history surrounding some of their inventions/discoveries as they intersect and impact Ga
...more
Lynn
Oct 21, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kindle
While this is the life story of President James A. Garfield, it's more a history lesson on his assassination. Garfield died 11 weeks after he was shot because of sepsis introduced by dirty doctors' fingers and instruments. The revered experts in attendance dismissed the innovative theory of sterilization to discourage an unseen tiny world of germs. There were several other historical shockers: Garfield was an abolitionist and champion of black civil rights legislation; no Secret Service protecte ...more
Jason
Jul 23, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Millard takes a deep-dive into a little known (or at least little known to me) period of American history in a way that is exciting, and while well cited, reads like a novel.

I did know the basics of Garfield's short presidency, but I did not know that much about the man himself, and certainly not about the political intrigue of the time. I did not know that Garfield was a scholar, a speaker of multiple languages, a Union General, and a man that had won the nomination to be President against his
...more
Book Concierge
Audiobook narrated by Paul Michael

A few short months into his presidency, James A Garfield was shot at close range by a delusional office-seeker named Charles Guiteau. The two bullet wounds were serious but they didn’t kill Garfield. Rather, his physicians killed him by repeatedly introducing infectious agents into the wound.

Gripping, fascinating, and informative, Millard’s novel clearly shows that she is on a par with Laura Hillenbrand (Seabiscuit) and Erik Larsen (Devil in the White City) whe
...more
Evan Leach
Jun 17, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
James Garfield was in office for just 200 days: the second shortest presidency in U.S. history. But this relatively obscure president had the potential to be one of the all-timers until an assassin’s bullet, and the medical “care” he received as a result, ended his life. Candace Millard’s book does an impressive job of telling Garfield’s story while also exploring the larger world of late 19th century America.

The book opens on the 1876 World’s Fair, where Alexander Graham Bell first unveiled th
...more
Mary
Jan 01, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Mary by: Josh
Shelves: non-fiction, 2015
At first glance this book appears to be about a subject matter I would think I'd have only a passing interest in, however, I found myself unable to put it down. It is meticulously researched and reads almost like fiction, and is filled with suspense.

This is not only a historical account about a somewhat obscure president's assassination, but a fascinating insight into the politics, society, state of medicine, and (lack of) sanitation in the US at that time. I was particularly engrossed with the
...more
Kathleen
Interesting! I listened to this on Audible. Narration was fine, except when a Scottish accent was attempted. I felt almost amazed to see how all these separate events met together at this fairly fuzzy point in history (at least, fuzzy to me). Recommended, even though some aspects are a bit weak (quibbles listed last).

This is a biography of President James A. Garfield, who was assassinated (shot point blank) in 1881 by Charles Guiteau, dying several months later from widespread infection.

In telli
...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
  • The President and the Assassin: McKinley, Terror, and Empire at the Dawn of the American Century
  • The President Is a Sick Man: Wherein the Supposedly Virtuous Grover Cleveland Survives a Secret Surgery at Sea and Vilifies the Courageous Newspaperman Who Dared Expose the Truth
  • The Man Who Saved the Union: Ulysses Grant in War and Peace
  • 1861: The Civil War Awakening
  • Dark Horse: The Surprise Election and Political Murder of President James A. Garfield
  • Franklin Pierce: New Hampshire's Favorite Son
  • John Quincy Adams
  • Rawhide Down: The Near Assassination of Ronald Reagan
  • Polk: The Man Who Transformed the Presidency and America
  • The War Lovers: Roosevelt, Lodge, Hearst, and the Rush to Empire, 1898
  • Coolidge
  • Colonel Roosevelt
  • 1920: The Year of the Six Presidents
  • A Country of Vast Designs: James K. Polk, the Mexican War and the Conquest of the American Continent
  • Eisenhower: The White House Years
  • Citizens of London: The Americans who Stood with Britain in its Darkest, Finest Hour
  • President James Buchanan: A Biography
  • Millard Fillmore: Biography of a President
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Candice Millard is a former writer and editor for National Geographic magazine. Her first book, The River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt's Darkest Journey, was a New York Times bestseller and was named one of the best books of the year by the New York Times, Washington Post, San Francisco Chronicle, Christian Science Monitor, and Kansas City Star. The River of Doubt was a Barnes & Noble Discover ...more
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“She (the First Lady, entering the room with her gravely wounded husband) would admit fear but not despair.” 5 likes
“Dr. Lister, who treated the wounded Pres. Garfield, had been so stung by the medical establishment's reaction to his embrace of African-American doctors that he, in response, refused to do part from the status quo enough to considering using antiseptic techniques.” 5 likes
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