First Doctor to Reach Lincoln Found Him Comatose

He ordered brandy be brought to the president, who had just been shot

By Newser Editors and Wire Services

Posted Jun 5, 2012 8:05 PM CDT

(Newser) – The first doctor to reach Abraham Lincoln after he was shot in a Washington theater rushed to the presidential box and found him paralyzed, comatose, and leaning against his wife. Dr. Charles Leale ordered brandy and water to be brought to the president immediately. Leale's long-lost report of his efforts to help the mortally wounded president was discovered in a box at the National Archives late last month.

The doctor, who sat 40 feet from Lincoln at Ford's Theater that night in April 1865, saw John Wilkes Booth jump to the stage, brandishing a dagger, and heard the cry that the "President has been murdered" before pushing his way through the crowd. Thinking Lincoln had been stabbed, Leale ordered men to cut off the president's coat. "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, and found that it had entered the encephalon."

This Nov. 8, 1863, photo shows President Abraham Lincoln.
This Nov. 8, 1863, photo shows President Abraham Lincoln.   (AP Photo/Alexander Gardner, File)
This undated photo of a document from the National Archives shows the last page of an original copy of a 21-page clinical report by Dr. Charles A. Leale.
This undated photo of a document from the National Archives shows the last page of an original copy of a 21-page clinical report by Dr. Charles A. Leale.   (AP Photo/Photo of a National Archives document via the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library & Museum)
This undated photo provided by the Library of Congress shows Dr. Charles A. Leale, who was the first doctor to treat President Abraham Lincoln after he was shot.
This undated photo provided by the Library of Congress shows Dr. Charles A. Leale, who was the first doctor to treat President Abraham Lincoln after he was shot.   (AP Photo/Library of Congress)
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