Civil War

The Doctor Who Saved Lincoln. Briefly.

They've discovered the first draft of a medical report written by the doctor who first treated President Lincoln immediately after he was shot in the head. And it's typically frustrating to read, given the archaic medicine at the time.

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — The first doctor to reach President Abraham Lincoln after he was shot in a Washington theater rushed to his ceremonial box and found him paralyzed, comatose and leaning against his wife. Dr. Charles Leale ordered brandy and water to be brought immediately.

Gads! This man's been shot in the head. Bring brandy! Lots of brandy!

The Army surgeon, who sat 40 feet from Lincoln at Ford's Theater that night in April 1865, saw assassin John Wilkes Booth jump to the stage, brandishing a dagger. Thinking Lincoln had been stabbed, Leale pushed his way to the victim but found a different injury.

"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," Leale reported. "The coagula I easily removed and passed the little finger of my left hand through the perfectly smooth opening made by the ball."

Leale evidently revived Lincoln by pounding on the president's chest. Later, he might have exacerbated Lincoln's condition by probing for the bullet.

  • mrbrink

    This is really fascinating stuff.

    Modern medicine tip o’ the day, circa 1865: Little fingers can be used for prodding bullet entry points; they’re littler, you see, and they can get in there real good.

  • Steve

    If you think that’s appalling, read about what happened to President James A. Garfield after he was shot. He would have survived if his idiot doctors had just left him alone. What he went through I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy.

  • Glenn Csonka

    I was excited when I read the title of this story. It would make sense that Doctor Who would save Lincoln. After all, he is a Timelord.

    • D_C_Wilson

      That was my first thought, too.

      It makes a better story than Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter. :-P