Report Of First Doctor To Examine Lincoln After Shooting Found

By Amir Khan on June 6, 2012 9:21 AM EDT

Lincoln
Almost 150 years after President Abraham Lincoln was shot by John Wilkes Booth, researchers have rediscovered the report from the first doctor to attend to the dying president (Photo: Creative Commons)

Almost 150 years after President Abraham Lincoln was shot by John Wilkes Booth, researchers have rediscovered the report from the first doctor to attend to the dying president.  The doctor's long-lost report was found in the National Archives late last month, and details the doctor's efforts to save the president's life.

When Lincoln was shot on April 14, 1865 in Ford's Theater, Dr. Charles Leale, an army surgeon, was sitting 40 feet away.

"I immediately ran to the Presidents box and as soon as the door was opened was admitted and introduced to Mrs. Lincoln when she exclaimed several times, 'O Doctor, do what you can for him, do what you can,'" Leale wrote in the report, according to the Los Angeles Times. "I told her we would do all that we possibly could.''

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Booth jumped into the President's box brandishing a dagger, and Leale reacted, thinking Lincoln was stabbed. However, upon examination, he found the president was actually shot.

"I commenced to examine his head (as no wound near the shoulder was found) and soon passed my fingers over a large firm clot of blood situated about one inch below the superior curved line of the occipital bone," Leale wrote, according to the Associated Press. "The coagula I easily removed and passed the little finger of my left hand through the perfectly smooth opening made by the ball."

While the finding does not add much new information to that fateful night, Daniel Stowell, director of the Papers of Abraham Lincoln, called the report "the first draft of history."

"What's fascinating about this report is its immediacy and its clinical, just-the-facts approach," Stowell told the Associated Press. "There's not a lot of flowery language, not a lot of emotion."

Trauma treatment was in its infancy at the time when Lincoln was shot, Dr. Blaine Houmes, a Cedar Rapids, Iowa, specialist in emergency medicine who has studied the assassination, told the AP. Experts debate whether the president received proper treatment, and this report proves he did.

"For his time, he did everything right," Houmes said. ""When Dr. Leale got into the president's box, Lincoln was technically dead. He was able to regain a pulse and get breathing started again. He basically saved Lincoln's life, even though he didn't survive the wound."

The entire report can be viewed here.

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