Friday, October 14, 2011

"The bullet is in me now..."

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel notes the anniversary of the assassination attempt on Theodore Roosevelt in Milwaukee in 1912:
It was 99 years ago Oct. 14 that former president Theodore Roosevelt survived an assassination attempt near what is now the Hyatt Regency Milwaukee at W. Kilbourn Ave. and N. 4th St. He was campaigning in Milwaukee as the Progressive (or Bull Moose) Party presidential nominee. His shirt bloodied by a bullet still lodged in his chest, T.R. insisted on delivering an hour-and-a-half long speech anyway at the Milwaukee Auditorium, notable for this declaration:
“Friends, I shall ask you to be as quiet as possible. 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. But 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.”
The assassin was John Schrank, an opponent of Presidential third terms who had followed TR for thousands of miles, finally finding his opportunity in Milwaukee. Shrank wrote that the ghost of William McKinley had advised him in a dream to avenge his [McKinley's] death by killing Roosevelt.


A description of the event:
.... He [TR] stopped for the afternoon at the Hotel Gilpatrick, and after dining with local dignitaries, readied to leave for the Milwaukee Auditorium (now the Milwaukee Theatre) to give a campaign speech.

As he was getting into his vehicle, Roosevelt paused on the floorboards to turn and wave goodbye to well-wishers. Unfortunately, this moment cleared the way for would-be assassin, John Schrank, to take the shot he had been plotting for more than three weeks as he followed Roosevelt's campaign across eight states. Schrank fired his .38 revolver from close range, hitting Roosevelt in the chest.

In the ensuing melee, in which Schrank was immediately caught, Roosevelt's car left, but it was supposedly several moments before Roosevelt fully comprehended that he had been hit. The tenacious Roosevelt insisted, however, on continuing on to his speech anyway. (It could be that he felt he owed the speech it's day — it was the speech's thick manuscript, folded in his breast pocket along with a metal glasses case, that absorbed most of the bullet's force.)

Upon entrance to the Milwaukee Auditorium, Roosevelt announced to the stunned audience that he had been shot, proclaiming: "It takes more than that to kill a Bull Moose!" He then proceeded to speak for 80 minutes before reluctantly going to a Milwaukee hospital for treatment.
Only after the speech did Roosevelt permit himself to be taken to the hospital  The bullet was not removed and remained in his body for the rest of his life. A transcript of the eighty minute (!) speech is here.

Pictures related to the assasination attempt can be found here along with another briefer account including what happened to Shrank:
Schrank was arrested at the scene and Milwaukee officers had to protect him from the crowd. On November 12, 1912 Schrank pled guilty to assault with intent to commit murder. He was found insane by the court and sent to Northern Hospital for the Insane located in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.
Shrank died not long after FDR became President.

TR's bloody shirt - JSOnline