Thursday, June 07, 2012

Fresh discovery: Treating Abraham Lincoln

An image that never gets old: Lincoln Memorial in Washington. 
I'm a sucker for stories on newly discovered historical documents or artifacts (see Oliver Case Bible post), so I couldn't resist this story on the discovery of a report by a 23-year-old doctor named Charles Leale on his treatment of Abraham Lincoln shortly after the president was shot at Ford's Theatre. (And besides, it gave me a chance to try the Mathew Brady effect from on the Lincoln Memorial photo I shot last summer.)

Dr. Charles Leale  (Library of Congress)
The report by Leale, the first doctor to treat the president in his box after he was shot, is a fascinating first draft of history. John Wilkes Booth shot Lincoln in the back of the head with a single-shot .44-caliber Deringer, which may be viewed today at the small Ford's Theatre museum.

Leale wrote that after Lincoln was wounded, he "heard cries that the ‘President had been murdered,’ which were followed by those of ‘Kill the murderer’ ‘Shoot him’ etc. which came from different parts of the audience."

"I immediately ran to the Presidents box," wrote the young doctor, who also was in the theater, "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!’”

Leale examined the bullet wound in the back of the president's head and noted a "perfectly smooth opening made by the ball" from Booth's pistol. Although Lincoln died early the next morning, Beale is credited with resuscitating the president shortly after he was shot.

The complete original documents are here. Great stuff.

In this newly discovered report, Dr. Charles Leale described his treatment of  President Lincoln
 after he was shot in Ford's Theatre. (Read the complete original documents here.)

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous7:46 AM

    Thanks for the post John. It's difficult to imagine the shock Dr. Leale must have felt that the president had been attacked and then, I have to treat him as a brand new physician. In light of the circumstances, his response is amazing. Great effect on the Lincoln Memorial photo!