A researcher for the Papers of Lincoln project has found a medical report from 1865 written by the first doctor to reach President Lincoln. The Times Union reports that it was found in the Surgeon General’s correspondence files at the National Archives.
Dr. Charles Leale had only been a doctor for 6 weeks when he decided to go to Ford’s Theater that fateful night. Because he was sitting about 40 feet from the President’s box, he was able to reach it before the Surgeon General and Lincoln’s family physician, Dr. Stone. Although he had first heard the report of a pistol, Leale had also seen John Booth fall to the stage with an unsheathed dagger, and assumed the President had been stabbed. He had the President’s clothes cut open to find the wound, which he believed to be near the shoulder because of the patient’s comatose state. Finding no shoulder wound, Leale examined Lincoln’s head. Before the other doctors had arrived, Leale had found the bullet hole in Lincoln’s head and had “passed the little finger of [his] left hand through the perfectly smooth opening made by the ball.”
His report goes on to describe how they moved the President to the Peterson house across the street, the examinations made there, and the condition of the President has he approached his last hours.
Dr. Leale’s official report was written by a clerk with clear and beautiful penmanship. The Papers of Lincoln project has digitized the 21-page document. It can be viewed on their “New additions” website near the bottom of the page.