Four U.S. presidents have been assassinated – Abraham Lincoln, James A. Garfield, William McKinley, and John F. Kennedy. Even more survived attempted assassinations including Andrew Jackson, William Howard Taft, Theodore Roosevelt, Herbert Hoover, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, and George W. Bush. Any presidential assassination attempt is highly unusual but the attempt to assassinate President Theodore Roosevelt stands head and shoulders above any other. Roosevelt was shot in the chest just before making a speech, but with blood seeping through his shirt and a bullet lodged in his chest, he took the stage anyway and made his speech.
The Theodore Roosevelt assassination attempt
Theodore Roosevelt succeeded William McKinley who himself was assassinated on September 6, 1901 by Leon Czolgosz, a crazed anarchist. Roosevelt was then elected in 1904 to a full term and served to 1909. Four years later, disappointed with the direction William Howard Taft was leading the country, he campaigned again for the 1912 election. It was on October 14, 1912 that his campaign took an odd turn.
While campaigning in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Roosevelt was shot by saloonkeeper John Flammang Schrank at 8:00 PM outside the Gilpatrick Hotel. As he stood up in the open-air automobile and waved his hat with his right hand to the crowd, a flash from a Colt revolver five feet away erupted. The candidate’s stenographer quickly wrestled the would-be assassin to the ground and grabbed the assailant’s right wrist to prevent him from firing a second shot. Roosevelt turned to the assassin and asked calmly, “What did you do it for?” When the assassin refused to answer, Roosevelt exclaimed, “Oh, what’s the use? Turn him over to the police.”
The bullet struck the vest of Roosevelt’s jacket, penetrated his steel eyeglass case, and passed through a 50-page folded copy of the speech he was about to make. According to reports, Roosevelt felt that since he was not coughing up blood, his lungs were undamaged and he could go ahead and make his speech. He telegrammed his wife first, to ease her concerns, and explained that the wound was nothing to worry about, a “mere a particle no more serious than one of the injuries any of the boys used continually to be having.”
Declining to go to the hospital, he took the stage. With blood seeping through his shirt and a bullet embedded in his body, he began to speak:
“Ladies and gentlemen, I don’t know whether you fully understand that I have just been shot, but it takes more than that to kill a Bull Moose.”
“Fortunately I had my manuscript, so you see I was going to make a long speech, and there is a bullet—there is where the bullet went through—and it probably saved me from it going into my heart. The bullet is in me now, so that I cannot make a very long speech, but I will try my best.”
With bystanders positioned around the podium to catch him if he collapsed, Roosevelt continued to speak for 1 ½ hours. His voice weakened and his breath shortened and at one point he told the audience:
“I give you my word, I do not care a rap about being shot – not a rap.”
Later is was found that the bullet had lodged into Roosevelt’s chest muscle and it was concluded that it would be less dangerous to leave it there. Because of the injury, Roosevelt was forced to leave the campaign trail for the final few weeks of the race. Graciously, the other two campaigners voluntarily stopped their own campaigns, refusing to continue until Roosevelt was released from the hospital.
Check out photos related to the President Theodore Roosevelt assassination attempt in the pictorial gallery below.