Doctor's eyewitness account of Lincoln assassination found
Army surgeon recalls tending to injured president's gun wound with water and brandy
After John Wilkes Booth fired his fatal shot into President Abraham
Lincoln, Army Surgeon Dr. Charles Leale rushed to Lincoln's ceremonial
box to find the president comatose and leaning against his wife. Leale's
long-lost written report to aid the wounded president, written mere
hours after Lincoln's death was discovered in a box at the National
Archives last month.
After John Wilkes Booth fired his fatal shot into President Abraham Lincoln, Army Surgeon Dr. Charles Leale rushed to Lincoln's ceremonial box to find the president comatose and leaning against his wife.
"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 reported. "The coagula I easily removed and passed the little finger of my left hand through the perfectly smooth opening made by the ball."
Leale's report was apparently filed, packed in a box, stored at the archives and not seen for 147 years. According to Daniel Stowell, director of the Papers of Abraham Lincoln says "it's the first draft" of the tragedy. "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."
Historians debate whether Lincoln received proper medical treatment. Leale's report demonstrates "the helplessness of the doctors," Stowell says. "He doesn't say that but you can feel it."
One physician says the medical help at the time did the best it could. "For his time, he did everything right," Dr. Blaine Houmes, a Cedar Rapids, Iowa, specialist in emergency medicine says. Houmes has studied the assassination and thinks that Leale may have pounded on the victim's chest.
"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."
Leale wrote a report for an 1867 congressional committee investigating the assassination that referenced the
At least four researchers have been scouring boxes of documents at the National Archives for more than six years, pulling boxes of paper looking for "Lincoln docs," as Papaioannou called them.
A researcher for the Papers of Abraham Lincoln, Helena Iles Papaioannou, found the report among the U.S. surgeon general's April 1865 correspondence, filed under "L" for Leale.
© 2012, Catholic Online. Distributed by NEWS CONSORTIUM.
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General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
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Keywords: John Wilkes Booth, Abraham Lincoln, assassination, trauma
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