Notes From The Doctor Who Tried To Save Lincoln Are Found

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The personal notes of a young doctor who was the first to treat president Abraham Lincoln after he was shot have been discovered in a box of medical records at the National Archives in Washington, DC.

Overlooked for nearly 150 years, the 21 pages of notes detailing the doctor’s recollections of the momentous and historical night were discovered in May by a researcher with the Papers of Abraham Lincoln Project, an organization dedicated to researching documents about and written by Lincoln.

The find is beyond doubt one of immense historical importance and will provide researchers a glimpse into President Lincoln’s final hours written by the man who was closest to him that night.

Dr. Charles Augustus Leale, M.D. was a young man, fresh out of medical school and enjoying the play ‘Our American Cousin’ on April 14, 1865 when he heard the infamous shot echo through the theatre and watched John Wilkes Booth jump to the stage.

Leale, the first on the scene, rushed immediately to the president’s box where he found the leader of the country mortally wounded.  He examined Lincoln and assisted in moving him across the street to the Peterson House.

Leale was with the president the entire night, and although he had declared the wound to be mortal while still in the box at Ford’s Theatre, he nevertheless put forth his best efforts in treating him, and no doubt kept him alive throughout the evening before he finally expired at 7:20am the next morning.

The doctor recalls:  “At 7:20 am he breathed his last and the spirit fled to God who gave it.”

John Wilkes Booth made a run through Virginia for nearly two weeks before Union Soldiers caught up with him and killed him on the 26th of April.

Leale’s notes were written only hours after the death of the president and provide a very early recollection of the facts, laid down in exceptional detail by a firsthand witness and intricately involved person in the night’s events.  An early direct account such as this provides rich detail of one of the most historic events in history, unwashed by historians and unfaded by time.

Dr. Leale passed away in 1932 having rarely spoken about being the attending physician to one of the most historic moments in history.

You can view the notes at The Papers of Abraham Lincoln’s Website HERE

Dr. Leale did provide one other account of that night before the Commandery of the State of New York in 1909 which you can read on our website HERE

 


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