Health and Medical History of President

Franklin Pierce

President #14
Lived: 1804-1869 Served: 1853-1857

Timeline from 1776: ← 2013

"The place overshadows him and he is crushed by his great duties and seeks refuge in..." 2a

Maladies and Conditions

horse injury
During the Battle of Contreras in the Mexican-American War, Pierce was severely injured when his horse stumbled and fell on some rocks. As a result of the injury, and subsequent episodes of fainting, he missed some later battles. During the presidential election, his opponents intimated that cowardice caused him to miss the battles 1a.

train accident
Pierce and his wife were in a train accident two months before Pierce's inauguration. They sustained slight physical injuries after their train-car derailed, toppled off the embankment, and rolled into a field below 1b.

Reliability of this information is uncertain. 3 Given his alcohol intake, it would not be surprising for him to snore.

In the same train accident, the Pierce's sole surviving child, their son Bennie, was practically decapitated in front of their eyes. He died. The Pierces were wracked with guilt. Mrs. Pierce decided that God had taken their son so her husband would have no family distractions while President. Pierce believed it was punishment for his sins. The Pierces never really recovered from the tragedy 1b.

"Pierce was an alcoholic, as everyone close to him was well aware; a fondness for drink was not something to hide in those times" 4a. At the end of his term, when asked what a President should do after leaving office, he sighed: "There's nothing left... but to get drunk" 1c.

Both Pierce and his wife had tuberculosis of the lungs and hemoptysis. 4a
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Cited Resources
  1. Boller, Paul F. Jr. Presidential Anecdotes. New York: Oxford University Press, 1981.0195029151 Libraries 80-27092. ap. 114 bp. 115 cp. 116
  2. Bumgarner, John R. The Health of the Presidents: The 41 United States Presidents Through 1993 from a Physician's Point of View. Jefferson, NC: MacFarland & Company, 1994.0899509568 Libraries 93-42000. ap. 83. From John W. Forney, who accompanied Pierce to the 1853 New York World's Fair
    Comment: Devotes one chapter to each President, through Clinton. Written for the layperson, well-referenced, with areas of speculation clearly identified, Dr. Zebra depends heavily on this book. Dr. Bumgarner survived the Bataan Death March and has written an unforgettable book casting a physician's eye on that experience.
  3. Dugan, James. Bedlam in the boudoir. Colliers. 22 Feb. 1947; pages 17, 69-70.
    Comment: Credibility is dubious. Just before a list of Presidents, the article states: "Twenty of the 32 Presidents ... are proved or believed on a thick web of circumstance to have been nocturnal nuisances in the White House."
  4. MacMahon, Edward B. and Curry, Leonard. Medical Cover-Ups in the White House. Washington, DC: Farragut, 1987.0918535018 Libraries 87-81241. ap. 19
Other Resources
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