William Howard Taft: Gets the Flu

May 1, 1909: Taft caught a bad cold that lasted several days 1a. SEE BELOW It was the first event in a terrible month for him.
Taft's illness lasted several days. Butt's entries begin on May 1, 1909 1b:
The President is quite unwell. When I reported at his office this morning he looked up very languidly and said:

"I am afraid I am not fit to play this afternoon, Archie. I never felt so sick before. There is some work I must do, but I am going to bed as soon after as I can and will remain there until I am better."

He really looked all tuckered out and as pale as a ghost. When he started for Alexandria yesterday he was feeling done up and asked me to feel his pulse. He did not seem to have any fever and he thought possibly he had only taken cold. But to-day he is decidedly sick.

The next day, May 2, Butt wrote 1b:
The President is still sick. I think he is quite knocked out. I went to the White House this morning to see him and found him in the study, sitting before a big blazing fire, looking thoroughly worn and tuckered out. When he gets sick he looks it. I felt very much alarmed, seeing his great form utterly relaxed, his eyes heavy, and his skin very white. He could hardly articulate, his throat is so swollen. When I asked him if he felt well enough to go out, he said he did not.

"Take a holiday, Archie, and enjoy yourself," he said with a wan smile.

This is the first time he has ever intimated to me that he realized he was keeping me pretty well on the go.

On May 3rd, Butt wrote 1c:
The President is slightly better this morning. He came over to the office for awhile, but returned early to the house to bury himself in his study. He balked at the last moment last night and did not go to the [Admiral] Cowles' to dinner, and Mrs. Taft had to go without him.
On the morning of May 4 the day's plan included 1d:
We ride this afternoon for a half hour. The physician will not permit him to do more, and he must go at a jog.
But in the evening Butt wrote 1e:
The President tried to pose [for the portrait-painter] for a little while, but he was very tired and very weak. He fell asleep twice while standing up, and sat in a chair for a minute and was sound asleep.

While Mrs. Taft seems to be growing younger, he seems to be growing so much older. I looked at his face in repose and saw lines there, deep, deep lines, which I had never noticed before.

Of course we did not go riding. He soon went upstairs to rest and I remained with the artist, helping her clean the mess she made.

Cited Sources
  1. Butt, Archibald W. Taft and Roosevelt: The Intimate Letters of Archie Butt, Military Aide. Garden City, NY: Doubleday (1930). Volume 1: pages 1-432. Volume 2: pages 433-862.
    a  pp.70,75, 76  b  p.70  c  p.73  d  p.75  e  p.76

    Comment: Butt, an Army officer, was military aide first to President Theodore Roosevelt and then to President William Taft. On April 14, 1912, Butt was at sea aboard the Titanic returning from a European vacation that Taft had insisted he take. President Taft later said: "When I heard that part of the ship's company had gone down, I gave up hope for the rescue of Major Butt, unless by accident. I knew that he would certainly remain on the ship's deck until every duty had been performed and every sacrifice made that properly fell on one charged, as he would feel himself charged, with responsibility for the rescue of others." Taft was correct. Butt did not survive the sinking.

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