Assassinations

After assassinating President Garfield, a lunatic gunman mounted an insanity defense, which the jury--and the nation--rejected despite compelling evidence to the contrary

One warm summer night in 1881, a scrawny, nervous man sat in his boarding house a few blocks from the White House. Outside his window, gaslights flickered and horses clopped over cobblestones, but Charles Guiteau barely noticed. Read more >>

Major Patrick Ferguson's instinct of chivalry spared the life of an American officer with “a remarkable large cocked hat” who was reconnoitering at Chadds Ford and came within range of British rifles.

Seen in its proper historical context—amid the height of the Cold War—the investigation into Kennedy’s assassination looks much more impressive and its shortcomings much more understandable

In September 1994, after doggedly repeating a white lie for forty-seven years, the Air Force finally admitted the truth about a mysterious 1947 crash in the New Mexico desert. Read more >>

This is not a test. It’s the real thing.

How precise is the educated American’s understanding of the history of our country? I don’t mean exact knowledge of minor dates, or small details about the terms of laws, or questions like “Who was secretary of war in 1851?” ( Answer: Charles M. Read more >>

The story of how a blast of cool, dry air changed America

IN THE SUMMER of 1881, as James Garfield lay dying of an assassin’s bullet in the White House, a team of naval engineers was called in to solve a vexing problem: how to cool the President’s bedroom. Read more >>

MATTERS OF FACT

“ASSASSINATION IS NOT an American practice or habit,” wrote Secretary of State William H. Seward on July 15, 1864, “and one so vicious and so desperate cannot be engrafted into our political system. Read more >>

A century ago a President’s murderer went on trial for the first time in our history. The issues raised then continue to trouble us.

The twentieth President of the United States was shot in a Washington, D.C., railroad station on July 2, 1881. He died seventy-nine days later from infections resulting from his wound. Read more >>

On a warm Florida evening in 1933 a madman with a pistol and a personality profile now all too familiar—“unskilled, unfriendly, unmoneyed, and unwell”—came within inches of altering the course of American history in one of its most critical moments

The sun had gone down on a warm Florida winter day (it was seven in the evening of February 15, 1933) when Vincent Astor’s Nourmahal tied up at a Miami dock after twelve days of cruising through the Bahamas. Read more >>

TRUSTING OURSELVES

We like to say that this is a skeptical age. The landscape is all littered with the sad fragments of things we no longer believe in, and we wear the resulting pessimism proudly, as a fashionable garment. We are too smart to be kidded. Read more >>

Had there been a Warren Commission exactly a century ago, when Abraham Lincoln was shot, its report might have read like the somber, moving, and impressively researched book from which the following narrative is taken

Did the mysterious Portuguese sea captain help plot Lincoln’s assassination, or was he an informer?