After President Abraham Lincoln was shot on that April night in 1865, the medical details surrounding the state of president and the treatment that he received immediately after the assassination have always been a topic of debate.
However, a medical doctors long lost report of the effort to save President Lincoln’s life has recently been uncovered in the National Archives after remaining untouched for over 147 years, giving clarity to the situation.
An army surgeon by the name of Dr. Charles Leale sat only 40 feet from President Lincoln when he saw actor John Wilkes Booth jump to the stage at Ford’s Theatre wielding a small dagger. His immediate thought was that the President had been stabbed sitting in his ceremonial box, but as the doctor rushed over to aid the president he discovered something much more severe.
“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.
“The coagula I easily removed and passed the little finger of my left hand through the perfectly smooth opening made by the ball.”
Researchers for the Papers of Abraham Lincoln, whose goal is find every document pertaining to Lincoln during his lifetime, uncovered the long lost report after stumbling across the U.S. surgeon general’s April 1865 correspondence, filed under “L” for Leale.
The director of Papers of Abraham Lincoln, Daniel Stowell, claims that “what’s fascinating about this report is its immediacy and its clinical, just-the-facts approach,” Stowell said. “There’s not a lot of flowery language, not a lot of emotion.”
According to Dr. Blaine Houmes, an emergency medical doctor who has studied the assassination says regarding Leale and his actions, that “for his time, he did everything right.”
“When Dr. Leale got into the president’s box, Lincoln was technically dead,” Houmes said. “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.”
Further reading of Leale’s report gives a glimpse into a first hand account of the events that unfolded shortly after Lincoln was shot.
“I immediately ran to the President’s 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!”
As a group carried Lincoln down the stairs of the theatre and across the street to a home, Leale continues
“We placed the President in bed in a diagonal position, as the bed was too short. As soon as we placed him in bed we removed his clothes and covered him with blankets. While covering him I found his lower extremities very cold from his feet to a distance of several inches of above his knees. I then sent for bottles of hot water, and hot blankets, which were applied to his lower extremities and abdomen.”
As the doctor realized there was nothing more that could be done, he simply wrote:
“At 7:20 a.m. he breathed his last, and ‘the spirit fled to God who gave it.’”
Dr. Charles Leale was only 23 years old at the time of President Lincoln’s assassination and only six weeks into his medical profession.
For further reading of this long lost Lincoln death report, you can view the document at http://www.papersofabrahamlincoln.org/New_Documents.htm