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Researchers Find Account Of Doctor Who Treated Lincoln’s Fatal Wound

Abraham Lincoln

President Abraham Lincoln. (Credit: CBS)

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WASHINGTON (CBS) – Researchers scouring the National Archives for papers involving President Abraham Lincoln say they’ve made an exciting discovery: a first-person account of a doctor who rushed to Lincoln’s side after he was shot at Ford’s Theatre in D.C.

WBBM’s Mike Krauser reports the document contains the words of the man who answered the question “is there a surgeon in the house?” after John Wilkes Booth shot Lincoln in Washington, D.C.

Dr. Charles A. Leale, an Army surgeon, was 23 years old at the time, according to Daniel W. Stowell, director of the Papers of Abraham Lincoln, a group searching documents written by or to Abraham Lincoln.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Mike Krauser reports

“He (Leale) records his memories from the night before, of seeing the president and the first lady come in with their guests, and bow to the audience, and then hearing the shot, and seeing Booth leap to the stage, and being the first surgeon or doctor who reached Lincoln’s side,” Stowell said. “And he recalls Mary Lincoln’s words to him, ‘Do what you can for him.’ It’s the immediacy of that that is so exciting.”

Stowell said it’s truly a first draft of history.

“You have that sort of immediate (account). It’s very clinical. It’s very, sort of, matter of fact. It’s not infused with a lot of flowery language,” he said. “I’m sure he was, in some ways, still in shock, or processing the fact that here a President of the United States had been assassinated.”

Stowell said the document also reveals the doctor’s feeling of helplessness after Lincoln was shot in the back of the head as he was attending the play “Our American Cousin” on April 14, 1865. He would die the next day at a rowhouse across the street from the theater.

Booth was tracked down on April 26, 1865, and killed after a brief fight with Union troops.