Source: Washington Times
Source type: newspaper
Document type: article
Document title: “Saw the President Shot”
City of publication: Washington, DC
Date of publication: 8 September 1901
Volume number: none
Issue number: 2661
|“Saw the President Shot.” Washington Times 8 Sept. 1901 n2661: part 1, p. 3.|
|McKinley assassination (eyewitness accounts: Frank W. Lilley); Frank W. Lilley (public statements); McKinley assassination (eyewitnesses); Frank W. Lilley; McKinley assassination; John J. Geary; George F. Foster; George F. Foster (public statements).|
|George B. Cortelyou; Leon Czolgosz; George F. Foster; John J. Geary; Frank W. Lilley; Ida McKinley; William McKinley.|
|The 8 September 1901 and 9 September 1901 editions of Washington Times are both designated by the newspaper itself as issue number 2661.|
Saw the President Shot
Eyewitnesses Describe the Circumstances in Detail.
The Story of Frank W. Lilley, Who Was among the First to Reach Mr.
McKinley’s Side—Remarkable Coolness of the Executive.
BUFFALO, Sept. 7.—One of the men
closest to President McKinley when he was shot was Frank W. Lilley, of Clarence,
Erie county, a traveling salesman. He stood at his side almost before the shooting
and helped to support him as he was escorted to the chair in which he rested
until the arrival of the ambulance.
Mr. Lilley tells the story of the occurrence graphically. “I saw the assailant as he was approaching the President,” he said this morning, “but I took no notice of him till the moment that the shooting occurred. My first impression was that some fool had exploded a firecracker, and did not realize what had occurred till after the second shot, when I saw a revolver in the man’s hand. Then I had no thought for him, hardly. My attention was riveted on the President, as was that of the great majority around him. I saw his assailant knocked down, and remember distinctly that he gave his captors an awful struggle, but I was listening to the President rather than paying attention to anything else.
“I think it was Secretary Cortelyou who asked him if he was shot, and I heard the President reply: ‘Yes; yes.’ Then I saw him stretch his arm toward Cortelyou and heard him say: ‘See that no exaggerated report reaches Mrs. McKinley.’
“When the President had been cared for I turned to look at his assailant, and just then he was being hustled away by his captors, who seemed determined on getting him to a place of safety. The people were then just beginning to realize what had happened, and they were disposed to lynch the prisoner. I had something of that desire myself, and it was shared by everyone in the Temple save those who had him in charge. It was their prompt action that saved a lynching. That is certain.”
With regard to the shooting Mr. Lilley said: “My particular recollection is that of hearing two shots in rapid succession and seeing a smoking revolver in the assassin’s hand. There was no time to see more and no time to do anything. It was all so sudden and so surprising that preventive action was impossible. I do not blame the police or the soldiery. I would decry such functions now, but was then as eager for it as anyone. I wanted to see the President and I wanted to shake hands with him. So did everyone, save one. He was alone and in such a crowd I don’t see how his attack could have been averted. It was well planned. It was stealthy. It was sudden.”
Detective Sergeant Geary was standing next to the President when the shots were fired. He caught the President in his arms immediately afterward and led him to a seat, as Detective Ireland, of the Secret Service force, who was standing on the other side of President McKinley, jumped for the assassin.
According to Geary’s story, the President was not aware at first that the bullets had entered his body. He said as the detective caught him: “I wonder if I am shot!”
“I am afraid you are, sir,” said Geary.
The President threw open his vest. There were two holes in his shirt, one over the abdomen and the other a little above. Blood soaked the white linen.
“You are shot, sir,” said Detective Geary.
“Yes, I guess I am,” replied the President very coolly as he sank into a chair.
George Foster, one of the Secret Service men detailed to guard the President, said: “After we had Czolgosz on the floor, I kneeling with one knee on each arm, he made a desperate effort to shoot again. He struggled fiercely, raised one hand, and tried to pull the trigger. President McKinley did not fall. He stood on his feet for three minutes after being shot, and opened his vest himself. It was after we were in the ambulance that he displayed the greatest fortitude. We were on our way to the hospital. I had one arm under him with his head resting on his arm. He felt his breast and said quietly: ‘Foster, does not that feel like a bullet?’ I put my hand to his breast and felt something hard and oblong under the skin. ‘Yes, it does, Mr. President,’ I replied. ‘Well, we have got one of them, anyway,’ he said, and smiling faintly, he closed his eyes.”