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.”
The historians who discovered the report believe it was filed, packed in a box, stored at the archives and not seen for 147 years. While it doesn’t add much new information, “it’s the first draft” of the tragedy, said Daniel Stowell, director of the Papers of Abraham Lincoln.
Story: AP | Photo: Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library & Museum, via The Associated Press