SPRINGFIELD, Ill. - The first doctor to reach President Abraham Lincoln after he was shot in a Washington theater rushed to the presidential box and found him paralyzed, comatose, and leaning against his wife. Dr. Charles Leale ordered brandy and water to be brought immediately.
Leale’s long-lost report of his efforts to help the mortally wounded president, written just hours after Lincoln’s death, was discovered in a box at the National Archives late last month.
The doctor, who sat 40 feet from Lincoln at Ford’s Theater that night in April 1865, saw John Wilkes Booth jump to the stage, brandishing a dagger, and heard the cry that the “President has been murdered’’ before pushing his way through the crowd. Thinking Lincoln had been stabbed, Leale ordered men to cut off the president’s coat.
“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, and found that it had entered the encephalon,’’ said Leale in the report.
The historians who discovered the report believe it was filed, packed in a box, stored at the archives, and not seen for 147 years.
A researcher for the Papers of Abraham Lincoln, Helena Iles Papaioannou, found it among correspondence of the US surgeon general from April 1865, filed under “L’’ for Leale.