Currently Reading “Killing Lincoln”

I am currently reading Killing Lincoln: The Shocking Assassination That Changed America Forever by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard. It’s an easy read. Each chapter is about 4 or 5 pages long and it is written on about an eighth grade reading level. I got the book for my birthday. I’m almost finished with it.

Here is an excerpt from Chapter Forth-Five

Working quickly, Leale straddles Lincoln’s chest and begins resuscitating the president, hoping to improve the flow of oxygen to the brain. He shoves two fingers down Lincoln’s throat and presses down on the back of the tongue, just in case food or drink is clogged in the esophagus. As he does so, two other doctors who were in the audience arrive on the scene. Though far more experienced, army surgeon Dr. Charles Sabin Taft and Dr. Albert King defer to Dr. Leale. When he asks them to stimulate the blood flow by manipulating Lincoln’s arms in an up-and-down manner, they instantly kneel down and each take an arm. Leale, meanwhile, presses hard on Lincoln’s torso, trying to stimulate his heart.

Then, as Leale will one day tell an audience celebrating the one hundredth anniversary of Lincoln’s birth, he performs an act of great and urgent intimacy: “I leaned forcibly forward directly over his body, thorax to thorax, face to face, and several times drew in a long breath, then forcibly breathed directly into his mouth and nostrils, which expanded the lungs and improved his respirations.”

Dr. Leale lies atop Lincoln, his lips locked with Lincoln’s, offering what looks to be a lover’s kiss. The theater below is a madhouse. Men in the box around him look on, recognizing that Leale is perfoming a medical prodecure, but struck by the awkward pose nonetheless.

Dr. Leale doesn’t care. Every bit of his energy is poured into accomplishing the impossible task of saving Lincoln. Finally, he knows in his heart that the procedure has worked. He will later recall, “After waiting a moment, I placed my ear over his thorax and found the action of the heart improving. I arose to the erect kneeling posture, then watched for a short time and saw that the president could continue independent breathing and that instant death would not occur. I then announced my diagnosis and prognosis.”

But, Dr. Leale does not utter the hopeful words the onlookers wish to hear. They have seen the president breathe on his own. They know that the heart is functioning. Clearly, they think the president might survive.

Only Dr. Leale has seen the dull look in Lincoln’s pupils, a sure sign that his brain is no longer functioning. “His wound is mortal,” Leale announces softly. “it is impossible for him to recover.”

The book is divided into 3 sections. The first section is about the end of the Civil War. The second part is about the conspiracy with Booth and the actual assassination. The third section is about the manhunt for Booth. There are a lot of eyewitness accounts and testimony, which makes it interesting.


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