A new report on the death of President Abraham Lincoln, that tells a previously unknown account by the first doctor to treat him in the theatre the night he was shot, has been recently uncovered by a historical researcher.
Researcher Helena Iles Papaioannou discovered the previously unknown 21-page report by a 23-year-old army surgeon, Dr. Charles Leale, who was in attendance at Ford’s Theatre when John Wilkes Booth shot Lincoln and the first to treat him.
In the report found at the National Archives in Washington, DC., Leale explains how at a few minutes past 10:00pm everyone heard a shot ring out, and that a minute later Booth was seen trying to leap from the President’s box to the stage brandishing a dagger. He ended up becoming entangled in the flag draped in front of the box and fell to the stage, Leale explained. Booth ended up breaking his leg in the fall.
There was then a shout by someone that the president was murdered and that other’s began to yell “kill the murderer.”
Leale, sitting only a few feet from the President’s box ran to his aide, only to find a comatose Lincoln slumped against the First Lady. He described how Mrs. Lincoln begged for him to do whatever he could.
He then examined Lincoln, who had shallow breathing, and could not find a pulse. He then ran his fingers around the bullet wound in the President’s head and removed a clot of blood after which the Presidents breathing became more regular, Leale reported.
Leale and other men then helped carry the barely alive President out of the theatre, across the street to the Petersen’s residence. He explains how Lincoln had to be laid diagonally in the bed because it was too short for him.
The young doctor said while waiting for Lincoln’s own doctor to arrive, he did what he could, including ordering hot water and blankets to try and warm the lower extremities of Lincoln of which were becoming very cold.
After a night that saw Mary Todd Lincoln come and go from the room 3 or 4 times before having to be restrained due to her extreme fits of grieving, and his son Robert at his side the whole time, the president finally took his last breathe.
Leale writes, “At 7:20 a.m. he breathed his last, and ‘the spirit fled to God who gave it.’”
Researchers at the Lincoln Library say that in the ensuing years, Leale rarely discussed his role in the drama.