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Lincoln's Last Hours   By: (1842-1932)

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Lincoln's Last Hours


Charles A. Leale, M. D.

Compliments of

The Estate of Charles A. Leale

New York




Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States

at the regular meeting, February, 1909, City of New York



President Abraham Lincoln

Lincoln's Last Hours

By Charles A. Leale, M. D.


Commander and Companions of the Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States:

At the historic pageant in Washington, when the remains of President Lincoln were being taken from the White House to the Capitol, a carriage immediately preceding the catafalque was assigned to me. Outside were the crowds, the martial music, but inside the carriage I was plunged in deep self communion, until aroused by a gentle tap at the window of my carriage door. An officer of high rank put his head inside and exclaimed: "Dr. Leale, I would rather have done what you did to prolong the life of the President than to have accomplished my duties during the entire war." I shrank back at what he said, and for the first time realized the importance of it all. As soon as I returned to my private office in the hospital, I drew down the window shade, locked the door, threw myself prostrate on the bare wood floor and asked for advice. The answer came as distinctly as if spoken by a human being present: "Forget it all." I visited our Surgeon General, Joseph K. Barnes, and asked his advice; he also said: "Cast it from your memory."

On April 17, 1865, a New York newspaper reporter called at my army tent. I invited him in, and expressed my desire to forget all the recent sad events, and to occupy my mind with the exacting present and plans for the future.

Recently, several of our Companions expressed the conviction, that history now demands, and that it is my duty to give the detailed facts of President Lincoln's death as I know them, and in compliance with their request, I this evening for the first time will read a paper on the subject.

Lincoln's Last Hours

One of the most cruel wars in the history of the world had nearly closed.

The people of the United States were rejoicing at the prospect of peace and returning happiness. President Lincoln, after the surrender of General Robert E. Lee, visited Richmond, Virginia, exposing himself to great danger, and on his return delivered an address from the balcony of the White House.

I was then a Commissioned Officer in the Medical Department of the United States Army, having been appointed from my native State, New York, and was on duty as Surgeon in charge of the Wounded Commissioned Officers' Ward at the United States Army General Hospital, Armory Square, Washington, District of Columbia, where my professional duties were of the greatest importance and required constant and arduous attention. For a brief relief and a few moments in the fresh air I started one evening for a short walk on Pennsylvania Avenue. There were crowds walking toward the President's residence. These I followed and arrived just at the commencement of President Lincoln's last public address to his people. From where I stood I could distinctly hear every word he uttered and I was profoundly impressed with his divine appearance as he stood in the rays of light, which penetrated the windows of the White House.

The influence thus produced gave me an intense desire again to behold his face and study the characteristics of the "Savior of his Country." Therefore on the evening of April 14, 1865, after the completion of my daily hospital duties, I told my Ward Master that I would be absent for a short time... Continue reading book >>

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