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.