The Only American Presidents To Be Assassinated

There is no political event more dramatic than a presidential assassination, and the United States has seen many attempted throughout its history, with a handful of successes. Four presidents have been murdered while in office: Abraham Lincoln, James Garfield, William McKinley (pictured above), and John F. Kennedy (via ThoughtCo). Teddy Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan both survived bullet wounds, while Andrew Jackson, Gerald Ford, and Harry Truman were also subject to failed assassination attempts, though unharmed.

Lincoln and JFK are perhaps the most well-known killings, the oldest and newest assassinations of American heads of state. In 1865, Lincoln was watching a play with his family just five days after the official end of the Civil War. He was shot from behind by actor and Confederate sympathizer John Wilkes Booth, who evaded a massive manhunt for two weeks before being caught and killed. John F. Kennedy was killed in his motorcade in 1963, a tragedy that still has a swirl of conspiracies around it today.

Garfield probably died as a result of medical treatment of his wounds

According to History, Charles Guiteau was a deranged man who wrote a speech for President James Garfield that he felt was vital in the president's election victory, even though Garfield completely ignored the speech. Guiteau stalked the president, demanding he be made consul to Paris for his "deeds," and when he was rejected, Guiteau claimed he had a vision from God that told him to kill the president. Guiteau purchased an ivory-handled pistol as he thought it would look good in a museum before shooting Garfield July 2, 1881. Tragically, the wounds were survivable, but doctors searched for the embedded bullet with unsterilized fingers. Following months of intense suffering, President Garfield died on September 19 after a massive infection took hold.

William McKinley was shot in 1901 by an anarchist named Leon Czolgosz, while attending the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, New York (via ThoughtCo). Czolgosz claimed he committed the crime because McKinley was an "enemy of the people" (per Biography). McKinley died from gangrene eight days later.