The Attempted Assassination of President McKinley
seven minutes past four o’clock on
the afternoon of September 6th, President McKinley, while receiving
the people in the Temple of Music at the Pan-American Exposition,
in Buffalo, was shot twice by an anarchist. The man had a pistol
in his right hand, concealed by a handkerchief so arranged as to
give the appearance of a bandage. He was in line with others passing
before the President, and just as the latter was extending his hand,
raised the pistol and fired two shots.
One bullet struck the sternum, and
glanced off, producing simply a contusion, and was found in the
clothing. The other one, which is thought to have been the first
fired, penetrated the abdomen five inches below the nipple, and
an inch and a half to the left of the median line.
Word was at once sent to the Emergency
Hospital in the Exposition grounds, and Drs. Ellis, Mann, Jr., and
Hall of the hospital staff bore the wounded President to the ambulance,
and hurried with him to the hospital. This was at 4.14. On arrival
at the hospital, the President was fully conscious. He was placed
in one of the private rooms, but, on the arrival of Drs. Mann and
Rixey, was transferred to the small operating room to the right
of the entrance. At 5.07, just one hour after the shot, Dr. Matthew
D. Mann arrived at the hospital, and Drs. Mynter and Parmenter arrived
almost immediately. At half past five o’clock, Dr. Rixey of the
U. S. Navy, the President’s personal physician, arrived, and then
the operation was begun by Dr. Mann, assisted by Drs. Mynter, Parmenter,
and Lee. There were present also Drs. Wardin, Van Peyma, and C.
G. Stockton. Dr. Charles McBurney of this city became subsequently
associated with the case as consulting surgeon.
The abdomen was opened by an incision
including the point of entrance of the bullet. It was found that
the missile had penetrated the anterior wall of the stomach. This
hole was immediately closed by a Lembert suture of fine silk, and
then the organ was turned over, and a search was made for the point
of exit in the posterior wall. This was quickly found, and sutured
in the same way.
A careful examination showed that
the intestine and other abdominal organs had not been injured. After
a toilet of the peritoneum, the abdominal wound was closed without
drainage. The further course of the bullet could not be traced,
and the bullet itself was not found.
Shortly before the close of the operation,
Dr. Roswell Park, who had been summoned from Niagara Falls, arrived
at the hospital.
The illustrious patient stood the
ether and the operation well, his pulse at its termination being
130, and of good quality. At half past seven he was removed in the
ambulance to the residence of Mr. Milburn, where he is at the present
For about twelve hours after the operation
the temperature was in the neighborhood of 100°, and slowly rising;
it then fluctuated between 101° and 102° for thirty-six hours, after
which it very gradually declined. The pulse was 120 to 130, and
the respiration about 25.
There have been at no time any symptoms
of peritonitis or of septic poisoning.
The pistol used was, fortunately,
one of slight penetrating power, and the bullet was of small caliber,
otherwise the ball which struck the sternum would almost certainly
have done far greater damage than that which perforated the stomach,
even had it not caused instant death.
The great public interest manifested
in the case made it necessary for the M
R to send a member of its editorial
staff to Buffalo to study it from its strictly scientific aspect.
The data furnished by this gentleman can be considered, therefore,
as thoroughly trustworthy, and based on authoritative statements
of the different surgical attendants on the case. The idea was to
obtain all the points of real interest from a surgical standpoint,
and such as have been furnished can be considered strictly accurate.
A very remarkable feature of the operation
was its performance so soon after the infliction of the injury,
and in this respect it may be looked upon as unique. The details
of the procedure could not have been better arranged if they had
been planned beforehand. In fact, the ultimate success of the operation
was largely due to this fortunate circumstance. This by no means
detracts from the well-acknowledged skill of the operator and the
perfection of all his details of modern technique. Fortunately,
in consequence mainly of careful handling of the patient before
the operation, only a very small amount of stomach contents escaped
into the peritoneal cavity. Viewed by itself as a surgical procedure,
it may be considered beyond criticism. No chances were taken for
any failure of most minute details. In fact, it was the opportunity
appropriately met of demonstrating to the public one of the many
triumphs of modern surgery.
It is most gratifying to state that
at the present writing the distinguished patient is on a fair way
to complete recovery. The elevated temperature which for the first
few days occasioned so much anxiety to the daily newspapers was
largely due to the ordinary effects of secondary shock. Although
general peritonitis was quite naturally feared, there was at no
time any distinct evidence of such a complication.
During the first few days the stomach
was kept quiet by rectal alimentation, and at no time was any nausea,
tympanitis, or gaseous retention manifest. There was so little pain
that no anodyne was required after the third day. Except for the
fact that a portion of the bullet track in the course of the abdominal
incision failed to unite—a trifling matter in itself—the case would
not have had a  single drawback
from a public, sensational, or spectacular standpoint. The only
trouble now from the latter view centers in the present uncertainty
as to the location of the bullet. Although believed to be lodged
in the muscles of the back somewhere in the lower dorsal or upper
lumbar region, there has been no means as yet of proving such a
point. Of course every hope now rests in the probability of the
muscle becoming safely encysted and consequently harmless. It is
somewhat difficult to understand why, up to this writing, the x-ray,
so easily and effectually applied, has not been brought into service.
It would hardly be so much a matter of gratifying curiosity—as remarked
by one of the eminent surgeons in the case—as of being absolutely
sure of the terminal track of the missile. It is to be hoped that
the bullet course behind and beyond the stomach is in a safely closed
and aseptic condition. This would seemingly be the only absolute
guarantee against any future trouble from secondary suppurating
In calculating the naturally direct
course of the missile from before backward to its supposed designation,
it may be fair to assume that the only serious damage that was done
was the double perforation of the stomach wall. Taking the chances
of a shot in any other direction would have been more than hazardous.
It seems quite evident, in the absence of any positive data to the
contrary, that the general direction of the missile must have been
in the mid-epigastric plane obliquely backward and to the left.
Such a course would explain the missing
of the pancreas, and the splenic artery below, the cœliac axis internally,
the spleen to the left, and the left suprarenal capsule and left
kidney below. The escape of the liver was easily explained by the
track of the ball being just external to the shelving top of the
But whatever theories may be offered
as to the precise nature of the injury, they can be very harmlessly
ventilated in the face of the gratifying fact that the patient seems
destined to recover and valiantly defy them all.