Dr. Charles Leale, an Army surgeon, was sitting 40 feet away from Abraham Lincoln when he was shot the evening of April 14, 1865. Rushing to the wounded president’s side, he found himself the first doctor on the scene. His account of what came next—all 22 pages of it—was discovered recently by a researcher looking through boxes in the National Archives for yet-undiscovered letters written by or to President Lincoln. The report, though written in a formal style, gives an immediate glimpse into what happened that night after John Wilkes Booth fired his pistol:
When I reached the President he was in a state of general paralysis, his eyes were closed and he was in a profoundly comatose condition, while his breathing was intermittent and exceedingly stertorous. I placed my finger on his right radial pulse but could perceive no movement of the artery. As two gentlemen now arrived, I requested them to assist me to place him in a recumbent position, and as I held his head and shoulders, while doing this my hand came in contact with a clot of blood near his left shoulder.