The medical report was written just hours after his death and was found in a box in the National Archives in May
SPRINGFIELD, Ill., The first physician to attend to Abraham Lincoln after being shot in a theater in Washington ran to the ceremonial box and found him paralyzed, comatose and leaning on his wife. Dr. Charles Leale ordered that he be given immediately brandy and water.
Leale’s report, lost for a long time on efforts to help the mortally wounded president, written just hours after his death, was found in a box in the National Archives in late May.
The army surgeon, who was sitting about 12 meters (40 feet) in Lincoln at Ford’s Theater that night in April 1865, saw the murderer John Wilkes Booth leaping to the stage, brandishing a dagger. They thought that Lincoln had been stabbed, but when Leale got to the victim he found a different kind of wound.
“I began to examine his head, finding no wound near his shoulder and quickly ran my fingers over a large blood clot and firm it was located one inch (2.5 centimeters) below the upper curve of the occipital bone,” reported Leale. “I removed the clot easily and then spent the little finger of my left hand for smooth opening clearly caused by the bullet.”
Historians think they found the report was filed, and packed in a box, stored in the archives and was not seen for 147 years. Although it does not add much new information, “is the first draft” of the tragedy, said Daniel Stowell, director of the Papers of Abraham Lincoln.
“What is fascinating about the report is its immediacy and its clinical approach, only the facts,” Stowell said. “Not much flowery language, there is not much excitement.”
A researcher for Papers of Abraham Lincoln, Helen Iles Papaioannou, the report found correspondence between April 1865 the Director of Public Health, filed under “L” of Leale.
Doctors continue to debate whether Lincoln received appropriate treatment. With treatment of trauma in childhood, the report illustrates Leale “the impotence of physicians,” said Stowell. “He does not say that, but you can feel it.”
“For its time, did everything correctly,” said Dr. Blaine Houmes, an emergency medicine specialist in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, who has studied the assassination. Accounts vary on how Leale-Houmes did think he could have beaten the victim’s chest, but the doctor rose to the president.
“When Dr. Leale arrived at the President’s box, Lincoln was technically dead,” said Houmes. “He was able to get him back to the pulse and to start breathing again. Basically saved his life at Lincoln, but did not survive the wound.”
Leale wrote a report to the congressional committee investigating the assassination in 1867 which referred to the original report said Stowell, whose group aims to find all documents written by or to Abraham Lincoln during his lifetime.
At least four researchers have been laboriously digging through boxes of documents at the National Archives for over six years. Methodically, have brought the boxes full of documents, there are millions of records packed and never cataloged, said Stowell-looking documents and Lincoln.
Papaioannou was assigned to the correspondence of the Director of Public Health and flipping through the cards offering best inventions for ambulances and onions give advice on feeding the soldiers to protect them from disease when he came upon the report of Leale, maybe rewritten in clean hand by an employee.
“I knew it was interesting. We did not know was that it was new,” said Papaioannou. “We knew that this was new, it was a report of 1865 and probably had not been seen since.”
Leale, who was 23 and just six weeks of starting his medical practice when Lincoln died, never again speak or write about his experience until 1909 in a speech to commemorate the birth centenary of the president.
While the report includes little sense Leale, Papaioannou believes that the way he described the moments after Booth fired the shot that shows how much had been affected.
“Then I heard cries that the ‘President had been murdered’, ‘had been shot’, etc., that came from different places in the audience,” wrote Leale. “I immediately ran to the President’s box and as the door opened, he was admitted and taken to Mrs. Lincoln when she repeatedly said ‘Oh, doctor, whatever you can for him, do what you can!”’.
Papers of Abraham Lincoln, an organization run by the Presidential Library and Museum Abraham Lincoln in Springfield has been found and scanned 90,000 documents, Stowell said. Leale’s report-not written by or to Lincoln-not within what the group does, though Stowell said there can be some exceptions for extraordinary discoveries.
- Account of doctor who treated Abraham Lincoln after he was shot found (telegraph.co.uk)
- First Doctor to Reach Shot Lincoln Found (time.com)