A newly-discovered first-person account of the last hours of Abraham Lincoln’s life is generating some excitement among Lincoln-philes in Springfield and Washington. Helena Papaioannou, a researcher for the Papers of Abraham Lincoln, was reviewing the file of a surgeon general when she found a report from Dr. Charles Leale, who was perhaps forty feet from Lincoln’s box at Ford’s Theatre the night he was shot in 1865. Papaioannou is based at the National Archives in Washington.
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In Springfield, Papers director Daniel Stowell says it’s unlikely the young doctor lived in regret that he couldn’t save Lincoln. By removing a blood clot, “he managed to keep Lincoln alive for several hours, which allowed Robert Lincoln, the President’s oldest son, to see his father again before he died,” said Stowell. Happening upon a document that she was not specifically looking for, says Papaionnou, was “serendipitous.” Leale was 23 and just six weeks out of medical school when he answered the call of “Is there a surgeon in the house?” at Ford’s Theatre.