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"His wound is mortal; it is impossible for him to recover" - The Final Hours of President Abraham Lincoln

The Autopsy

Lincoln

Sketch of the Deathbed Scene of President Abraham Lincoln
Immediately after Lincoln died, Hermann Faber, a hospital steward detailed to the Army Medical Museum as a medical artist, entered the room and sketched the scene. The drawing, approved by Surgeon General Barnes, depicts Army physicians actively caring for Lincoln.
(NMHM 29719)

 
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Surgical kit at the autopsy of President Abraham Lincoln
Assistant Surgeon Alfred Wilson, who guarded the door during the post-mortem examination, asked for and received this kit.
(Loaned by Smithsonian's National Museum of American History)

 
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Locks of President Abraham Lincoln's hair
A small amount of hair from the area surrounding President Abraham Lincoln's wound was removed by Dr. C. H. Liebermann, one of the surgeons in attendance at Lincoln's bedside, and given by him to Surgeon General Joseph K. Barnes. Dr. Robert K. Stone, who presided over the autopsy, presented a lock of hair to Mary Todd Lincoln and each of the surgeons present at the autopsy. One of these locks was donated to the Army Medical Museum by Mrs. Joseph K. Barnes in 1899 and the other by Mrs. George. M. Sternberg in 1920.
(M-762.00095)

 
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Bone Fragments from President Abraham Lincoln's Skull
These bone fragments were given as evidence to the War Department's Judge Advocate General after the autopsy.
(M-762.10098)

 
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Dr. Edward Curtis' sleeve cuffs stained with President Abraham Lincoln's blood, Endorsed Envelope and Bone Fragments from President Abraham Lincoln's Skull
Curtis returned home from the autopsy and found that a few drops of Lincoln's blood had stained the cuffs of his shirt. His wife cut the cuffs from the shirt and sealed them in an envelope. Curtis endorsed the envelope with the following: Shirt sleeves soiled with the blood of President Abraham Lincoln at the autopsy on his body April 15, 1865. - Edward Curtis, Asst. Surg. U.S.A.
(M-762.09601 and NMHM 29.719-2)

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When Curtis was cleaning his medical kit, he found a single fragment of bone from Lincoln's skull.
(M-762.09602)

 
Lincoln Lincoln

Case History in The Medical and Surgical History of the War of the Rebellion, Part I, Vol. II, Surgical History, 1870
President Abraham Lincoln's case history was described as one of three recorded cases of a contre coup injury in "The Medical and Surgical History of the War of the Rebellion." In the 19th century, contre coup was described as a fracture of the skull opposite a wound, caused by the transmitted force of the brain. In Lincoln's case, contre coup was evidenced by the fracture of the orbits. Current understanding of contre coup involves trauma of the brain, rather than the skull.
(NMHM 29719)

 
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Bullet that killed President Abraham Lincoln
Dr. Edward Curtis dislodged this bullet from President Lincoln's brain during autopsy.
(M-981.00322)

 

Excerpt published in exhibit:

"The shroud is laid back, and see! A smooth clear skin fitting cleanly over well-rounded muscles, sinewy and strong... Next see the back of the head, low down and a little to the left, a small round blackened wound, such as is made by a pistol-shot at close range. There is no counter-opening, so the missile has lodged and must now be found... The part is lifted from its seat, when suddenly, from out a cruel rent that traverses it from end to end, through these very fingers there slips something hard—slips and falls with a metal's mocking clatter into a basin set beneath. The search is satisfied; a little pellet of lead!"

- Assistant Surgeon Edward Curtis, Personal Recollections of the War of the Rebellion