Teddy's wound too serious to probe; surgeons fear blood poison

Former U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt pictured shortly before would-be assassin, John Schrank, shot him in Milwaukee, Wis., on Oct. 14, 1912. File Photo by Library of Congress/UPI
1 of 2 | Former U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt pictured shortly before would-be assassin, John Schrank, shot him in Milwaukee, Wis., on Oct. 14, 1912. File Photo by Library of Congress/UPI

CHICAGO, Oct. 15, 1912 (UP) -- Col. Theodore Roosevelt, who narrowly escaped death last night in Milwaukee when a maniac's bullet plowed its way into his right breast, will not be operated on for the removal of the bullet for several days. Surgeons attending him this morning decided that the wound was so important complete rest was required for the patient before the bullet was probed for, and issued a statement to this effect. They added that the condition of the colonel is hopeful. His pulse is high, but that is the result of loss of blood.

Col. Roosevelt himself was much more cheerful than the doctors' bulletin concerning his condition seemed to indicate, saying if not for the doctors, "I could make a public speech today."


The doctors told the colonel he would have to stay in bed for the next ten days. He didn't like it, but grinned and said he guessed he'd have to submit.


The colonel's speaking campaign has definitely been abandoned, and he may not make another speech before election. Medill McCormick and other bull moose leaders today said the progressive candidate for president might talk at Madison square garden, New York, before election day, if his strength is sufficient.

Hundreds of sympathetic messages poured into Mercy hospital for the colonel today. Men of high and low degree congratulated him on his escape from death, and expressed the hope that his recovery would be speedy.

The bullet has been located by X-ray examinations, resting under the tenth rib against the wall of the colonel's chest. The wound is four inches deep. No vital organ was struck, but it is feared infection may result, as the bullet was fired from a rusty gun.

The following message was sent to Mrs. Roosevelt at New York today at the colonel's request.

"Respiratory movement good; pulse normal; bullet in safe place; expectorate no blood."

Word was received here that Mrs. Alice Roosevelt-Longworth, daughter of the colonel and wife of Congressman Nicholas Longworth, was on her way here from Cincinnati and would arrive at the hospital this afternoon.

Medill McCormick was one of the first persons admitted to the hospital to see the colonel today. The two talked politics for a few minutes and McCormick informed Col. Roosevelt that he had canceled all of the progressive nominee's speaking dates for the remainder of the campaign.


A meeting was arranged for this afternoon, between McCormick and O. K. Davis, of the New York progressive headquarters, with the colonel.

During the preliminaries to the operation which was decided upon at Mercy hospital, Col. Roosevelt patiently submitted to two X-ray examinations.

While they were in progress, he laughed and joked with the surgeons, and there was a twinkle in his eyes that indicated that his physical injury was not affecting his cheerfulness.

"Carrying that speech was certainly lucky for you," said Dr. Ochsner.

"Ho! ho!" laughed the colonel.

"That speech would have stopped more than a bullet. It was a great speech."

Dr. John B. Murphy stopped peering into the X-ray machine and looked at the colonel's face.

"Came pretty near getting you, Colonel," said the surgeon.

"Not with a bullet like that," replied Col. Roosevelt. "They will have to use higher caliber lead than that if they want to get me. It would take a Howitzer to kill a bull moose."

The colonel jokingly chided the surgeons for "taking the case so seriously." He insisted he was "feeling fine."

"I'll be out campaigning in the next twenty-four hours," he said, "if they let me have my way about it. I feel great this morning and I could deliver a speech now if you doctors would let me get up."


Behind the shooting of Roosevelt is a story that shows the iron nerve of the former president, the nerve that carried him through the Spanish-American war and the grit and determination that he displayed in his famous lion hunts in the jungles of Africa. He insisted on speaking before an audience at the Auditorium in Milwaukee, after the bullet had lodged in his body.

The colonel had hardly begun to speak last night when an elderly lady in the crowd arose in her seat and said:

"Col. Roosevelt, please go back and let the doctors dress your wound."

With a snap of his teeth, the colonel replied, "Dear madam, it is very nice of you, but I am not hurt. If you saw me on horseback, you would think I had a pretty strong seat now."

Philip J. Roosevelt, cousin of the colonel, also interrupted him.

"Stop," begged the young man. "I will not stop," fired back the colonel, as he plunged into his attack on Wilson, LaFollette and the platforms of the two old parties.

The bitter arraignment of his antagonists continued for an hour, but toward the end, as the speaker grew weaker from loss of blood, his tone changed and he interpolated a new phrase into his parting sentence-an appeal to his hearers to join with him "in kindness, charity and generosity" to bring nearer the day when social and industrial justice shall be achieved in this great land of ours.


Then, having finished his speech, the colonel submitted to the entreaties of his friends and was taken from the hall.

At Mercy hospital Dr. Terrill, the colonel's personal physician, Dr. Joseph C. Bloodgood of Johns Hopkins university, and Dr. F. F. Sayles of Milwaukee, with four eminent Chicago surgeons, Drs. Arthur Bevan, John B. Murphy, L. L. McArthur and A. J. Ochsner, located the bullet.

The greatest danger was from blood poison, the surgeons agreed, because the bullet had been fired from a rusty revolver, and possibly had deposited infection as it plowed through the colonel's clothing, his thick bundled of manuscript of his Milwaukee speech, his spectacle case and into his body.

Practically all the way from Milwaukee, nearly two hours ride, the colonel slept in the stateroom of his car, attached to a regular train. His temperature was normal, but his pulse was 84. Normally it is 72.

Drs. Terrill and Bevan remained by his side during the trip which ended here at 3:30 a. m.

As the colonel was sleeping when the train reached Chicago, it was decided to allow him to sleep until daylight. His train was put on a quiet spur and he was allowed to sleep until 6 a. m.


When the colonel awoke, he and his cousin Philip J. Roosevelt, his secretary J. W. McGrath and the doctors were taken at once to Mercy hospital, leaving the station at 6:15. A more thorough examination was made than was permitted at Milwaukee, and the seriousness of Col. Roosevelt's condition became apparent.

The colonel insisted that his injury was not so dangerous as the doctors would have him believe. He said he was resting well, and that he did not have any fear of the injury proving fatal.

All of the hospital staff which could be spared from duty in other parts of the institution was put at the disposal of the colonel's physicians, and two of the most competent nurses in the hospital were assigned to his room.

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