Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of the United States, was assassinated by confederate sympathiser John Wilkes Booth in April 1865.
That is well known. What is less well known, is that Dr. Charles Leale, an Army surgeon, was sitting 40 feet away.
His report on the incident was recently uncovered by a researcher sifting through boxes in the US National archives.
Here are some excerpts which make interesting reading indeed:
And just take a moment to check out Dr Leale’s handwriting
(which, if I didn’t know better would make me highly skeptical of the documents authenticity): Read the entire original document here.
The theatre was well filled and the play of “Our American Cousin” Progressed very pleasantly until about half past ten, when the report of a pistol was distinctly heard…. (I) Immediately ran to the Presidents 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” I told her we would do all that we possibly could.
….Mr Lincoln was seated in a high backed arm-chair with his head leaning towards his right side supported by Mrs Lincoln who was weeping bitterly.
While approaching the President I sent a gentleman for brandy and another for water.
When I reached the President he was in a state of general paralysis, his eyes were closed and he was in a profoundly comatose condition, while his breathing was intermittent and exceedingly stertorous.
I placed my finger on his right radial pulse but could perceive no movement of the artery. As two gentlemen arrived, I requested them to assist me to place him in a recumbent position, and as I held his head and shoulders…..supposing that he had been stabbed …I asked a gentleman to cut his coat and shirt from that part to enable me if possible to check the hemorrhage, which I supposed took place from the subclavian artery or some of its branches.
Before they had proceeded as far as the elbow 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.
The coagular 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.
As soon as I removed my finger a slight oozing of blood followed, and his breathing became more regular and less stertorous. The brandy and water now arrived and a small quantity was placed in his mouth, which passed into his stomach where it was retained.
[Lincoln was moved to a nearby house]……I then sent for bottles of hot water and hot blankets which were applied to his lower extremities and abdomen. When the President was first laid in bed a slight ecchymosis was noticed on his left eyelid and the pupil of that eye was slightly dilated while the pupil of the right eye was contracted.
About 11PM the right eye began to protrude which was rapidly followed by an increase of the ecchymosis until it encircled the orbit extending above the supra orbital ridge and below the infra orbital foramen.
The wound was kept open by the Surgeon General by means of a silver probe…..who introduced it to a distance of about 2 1/2 inches when it came in contact with a foreign substance which laid across the track of the ball.
This being easily passed the probe was introduced several inches further, when it again touched a hard substance, which was at first supposed to be the ball, but as the bulb of the probe on its withdrawal did not indicate the mark of lead, it was generally though to be another piece of loose bone.
His pulse …ranged…between 40 to 64 beats a minute and his respirations about 24 per minute were loud and stertorous.
At 1 AM his pulse suddenly increasing in frequency to 100 per minute but soon diminished gradually becoming less feeble until 2.54 when it was 48 and hardly perceptible.
At 6.40 AM his pulse could not be counted, it being very intermittent…the respirations now became very short, and the expirations very prolonged and labored accompanied be a gutteral sound.
At 7.20 AM he breathed his last and “the spirit fled to God who gave it”.