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Doctor described Lincoln's final hours

WASHINGTON -- Charles A. Leale was in the theater watching the play "My American Cousin" when he heard a gunshot and saw a man leap to the stage.

At Ford's Theatre on April 14, 1865, Leale became the first doctor to reach the mortally wounded President Abraham Lincoln.

The Papers of Abraham Lincoln project announced Tuesday it had discovered a copy of Leale's report from that night.

"I immediately ran to the Presidents box and as soon as the door was opened was admitted and introduced to Mrs. Lincoln when she exclaimed several times, 'O Doctor, do what you can for him, do what you can,' " the report says. "I told her we would do all that we possibly could."

The 21-page handwritten copy of Leale's report was discovered about two weeks ago by researcher Helena Iles Papaioannou while she was poring through records at the National Archives in Washington. Leale's original report has never been found. The newly discovered report is a copy written by a clerk.

The Army surgeon, who was 23 and just six weeks into his medical practice, described sitting about 40 feet from the president's box, hearing a gunshot, seeing John Wilkes Booth leap to the stage and hearing cries that the "president had been murdered," followed by shouts of "Kill the murderer."

He described examining the president, moving him to a boardinghouse across the street and remaining there with other doctors until Lincoln died the next morning.

"We placed the President in bed in a diagonal position; as the bed was too short," the report says.

The Papers of Abraham Lincoln, administered by the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield, Ill., has found and is digitizing 90,000 documents, director Daniel Stowell said.

Leale's report, neither written by nor to Lincoln, doesn't technically fall in the group's purview, but Stowell said some exceptions are made for extraordinary finds. -- Combined new services

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