Destiny of the Republic by Candice Millard

I just finished reading Candice Millard’s book Destiny of the Republic. The subtitle of the book is A tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President. That pretty much sums up this book about our twentieth president, James Garfield and his assassination.

Destiny of the Republic is the latest book I have completed as a part of my Presidential Reading Project. I’m reading at least one book about each of our presidents. If you would like to see a summary of my progress, a list of the books I’ve read and links to my reviews of them is here.

James Garfield was born in 1831. He was inaugurated as President in March of 1881. He was shot in July of 1881 and he died September 19, 1881. He was just 49.

Garfield did not want to run for president. He was drafted on the 36th ballot taken at the Republican National Convention in Chicago. He appears to have been a truly good man who wanted to bring the country together. I think he would have been an excellent president.

Garfield’s vice presidential running mate was chosen with no input from Garfield. Chester Arthur had never held a public position except as Collector of the New York Customs House a position he was appointed to for political reasons. Politically he was the creation of Roscoe Conkling the senator from New York who was probably the most powerful man in the country and perhaps also the most corrupt.

Even though Joseph Lister and the antiseptic surgery he pioneered were widely accepted in Europe in 1881, the idea of germs was considered laughable by the doctors who treated Garfield. He probably would have lived if the doctors had not introduced germs as they repeatedly searched for the assassin’s bullet. Ultimately it was the infection that killed Garfield.

Destiny of the Republic is a fascinating book. Millard knows how to tell a story and educate you at the same time. Another of her books that I enjoyed is The River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt’s Darkest Journey.

Garfield’s assassination by a madman who thought he was doing God’s work was so pointless. Nevertheless I thoroughly enjoyed Destiny of the Republic. I appreciated the hopefulness of it. Garfield became President shortly after the end of the Civil War at a time when our country seemed irrevocably divided. I especially like one of the points Millard makes about Garfield in the epilogue.

“The horror and senselessness of his death, and the wasted promise of his life, brought tremendous change to the country he loved — change that, had it come earlier, almost certainly would have spared his life. Garfield’s long illness and painful death brought the country together in a way that, even the day before the assassination attempt had seemed to most Americans impossible. “

California Sierras Camping – Lower Blue Lake and Highland Lakes – Hiking to Granite Lake

Last Sunday and Monday nights Duke and I went camping south of Lake Tahoe in the Sierras. The skies were smoke free and the scenery was stunning.

Sunday we camped in Middle Creek campground just below Upper Blue Lake. Our campsite was right next to a stream. We could see little fish jumping in the nearest pool.

Our campsite in Middle Creek campground

After setting up camp we hiked to nearby Granite Lake.

On the trail to Granite Lake
Granite Lake

Monday we drove to the Highland Lakes area just south of Ebbett’s Pass. We had another great campsite. We could see the lake in the distance.

Our campsite at Highland Lakes Campground
Highland Lake

The drive home on Tuesday took us about two hours. Reno and our house are totally buried in smoke from the wildfires near us and in California.

The only bad thing about this trip was that the battery in our new Ford truck was dead both mornings. The truck had to be jump started. We have an appointment to take it in for repairs in a couple of weeks.

Backcountry Exploring – Modoc National Forest, Cave Lake campground, Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge, and Gooch Spring campground.

Duke and I  have decided to go out camping and exploring every couple of weeks during this time of quarantine. It is a great way to maintain our mental health, such as it is! We just returned from a trip to the area where the northeast corner of California and the northwest corner of Nevada meet.

We drove north from Reno on highway 395 almost to the Oregon border and camped the first night at Cave Lake forest service campground. We had a lovely isolated camp spot just a short walk from the lake.

Because there was going to be a full moon we wanted to stay up until the moon cleared the  mountains. After dinner we sat by the fire for a while and then sat in the truck and listed to the wonderful This week in Virology podcast.  In the morning when we were ready to leave the truck wouldn’t start. The battery in our relatively new truck was dead! Luckily we have a portable jump starter which worked perfectly.

We drove east into California and into the Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge. Just inside the refuge we took a side road to the top of Bald Mountain where there is a fire lookout tower and a magnificent 360 degree view.

They also had something I had never seen before, a Faraday Cage Shelter.

As we drove through the refuge we saw several groups of Pronghorn antelope. Unfortunately they were all in the distance but they are extremely fast and fun to watch.

All the campgrounds in the refuge had “No Campfires” signs. I’m sure the restriction is because of the high fire danger. So our camp at Gooch Spring was a dry camp.

The horizon was a long way away and there were no trees so the moon was spectacular when it came up.

If you would like to see more details of our route you can click the map below to open an interactive CalTopo map in a new browser tab.

NE CA and NW NV Aug 2020