A few weeks ago, an important document was discovered after more than a century of neglect. It was a medical report on President Lincoln, sent to the Surgeon General by Charles Leale, the first doctor to arrive at Ford’s Theatre after Lincoln was shot. This report, said scholars and pundits, could change the way we think about those harrowing days after Lincoln’s assassination, when an unsettled country kept a deathbed vigil.
So where was this document found? Was it in a suitcase in the attic of Dr. Leale’s great-great-great-great granddaughter? Well, no, it was at the National Archives. Was it in a warped metal filing cabinet down a neglected set of stairs labeled “Beware of the Leopard”? No, it was in a box of other incoming correspondence to the Surgeon General, filed alphabetically under “L” for Leale. In short, this document that had been excavated from the depths of the earth with great physical effort was right where it was supposed to be.