Dr. Samuel Mudd, M.D.
Samuel Alexander Mudd
December 20, 1833
Charles County, Maryland, U.S.
|Died||January 10, 1883 (aged 49)|
Waldorf, Maryland, U.S.
|Known for||being John Wilkes Booth's doctor|
|Spouse(s)||Sarah Frances Dyer Mudd|
|Children||Andrew Jerome Mudd |
Lillian Augusta Mudd
Thomas Dyer Mudd
Samuel Alexander Mudd, II
Stella Marie Mudd
Edward Joseph Mudd
Rose De Lima Mudd
Mary Eleanor Mudd
|Parent(s)||Henry Lowe Mudd |
Sarah Ann Reeves
Working as a doctor and tobacco farmer in Southern Maryland, Mudd was a Democrat and used slaves and declared his belief in slavery as a God-given institution. The Civil War seriously damaged his business, especially when Maryland abolished slavery in 1864. That year, he first met Booth, who was planning to kidnap Lincoln, and Mudd was seen in company with three of the conspirators. However, his part in the plot, if any, remains unclear.
After mortally wounding Lincoln on April 14, 1865, Booth rode with conspirator David Herold to Mudd's home in the early hours of April 15 for surgery on his fractured leg before he crossed into Virginia. Sometime that day, Mudd must have learned of the assassination but did not report Booth's visit to the authorities for another 24 hours. That appeared to link him to the crime, as did his various changes of story under interrogation. A military commission found him guilty of aiding and conspiring in a murder, and he was sentenced to life imprisonment, escaping the death penalty by a single vote.
Mudd was pardoned by President Andrew Johnson and released from prison in 1869. Despite repeated attempts by family members and others to have it expunged, his conviction has not been overturned.
Born in Charles County, Maryland, Mudd was the fourth of 10 children of Henry Lowe and Sarah Ann Reeves Mudd. He grew up on Oak Hill, his father's tobacco plantation of several hundred acres, 30 miles (48 km) southeast of Washington, DC, and worked by 89 slaves.
At 15, after several years of home tutoring, Mudd went off to boarding school at St. John's Literary Institute, now known as Saint John's Catholic Prep School in Frederick, Maryland. Two years later, he enrolled at Georgetown College in Washington, DC. He then studied medicine at the University of Maryland, Baltimore, writing his thesis on dysentery.
Upon graduation in 1856, Mudd returned to Charles County to practice medicine, marrying his childhood sweetheart, Sarah Frances (Frankie) Dyer Mudd one year later.
As a wedding present, Mudd's father gave the couple 218 acres (0.88 km2) of his best farmland and a new house named St. Catherine. While the house was under construction, the young Mudds lived with Frankie's bachelor brother, Jeremiah Dyer, finally moving into their new home in 1859. They had nine children in all: four before Mudd's arrest and five after his release from prison. To supplement his income from his medical practice, Mudd became a small scale tobacco grower, using five slaves according to the 1860 census. Mudd believed that slavery was divinely ordained and wrote a letter to the theologian Orestes Brownson to that effect.
With the advent of the American Civil War in 1861, the Southern Maryland slave system and the economy that it supported rapidly began to collapse. In 1863, the Union Army established Camp Stanton, just 10 miles (16 km) from the Mudd farm to enlist black freedmen and runaway slaves. Six regiments totaling over 8,700 black soldiers, many from Southern Maryland, were trained there. In 1864, Maryland, which was exempt from Lincoln's 1863 Emancipation Proclamation, abolished slavery, making it difficult for growers like Mudd to operate their plantations. As a result, Mudd considered selling his farm and depending on his medical practice. As Mudd pondered his alternatives, he was introduced to someone who said he might be interested in buying his property, a 26-year-old actor, John Wilkes Booth.
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Many historians agree that President Abraham Lincoln's future assassin, John Wilkes Booth, visited Bryantown, Maryland, in November and December 1864, claiming to look for real estate investments. Bryantown is about 25 miles (40 km) from Washington, DC, and about 5 miles (8.0 km) from Mudd's farm. The real estate story was merely a cover; Booth's true purpose was to plan an escape route as part of a plan to kidnap Lincoln. Booth believed the federal government would ransom Lincoln by releasing a large number of Confederate prisoners of war.
Historians agree that Booth met Mudd at St. Mary's Catholic Church in Bryantown during one of those visits, probably in November. Booth visited Mudd at his farm the next day, and stayed there overnight. The following day, Booth purchased a horse from Mudd's neighbor and returned to Washington. Some historians[better source needed] believe that Booth used his visit to Bryantown to recruit Mudd to his kidnapping plot, but others[who?] believe that Mudd would have had no interest in such a scheme.
A short time later, on December 23, 1864, Mudd went to Washington where he met Booth again. Some historians believe the meeting had been arranged, but others disagree. The two men, as well as John Surratt, Jr., and Louis J. Weichmann, had a conversation and drinks together, first at Booth's hotel and later at Mudd's.
According to a statement made by associated conspirator George Atzerodt, found long after his death and taken down while he was in federal custody on May 1, 1865, Mudd knew in advance about Booth's plans; Atzerodt was sure the doctor knew, he said, because Booth had "sent (as he told me) liquors & provisions... about two weeks before the murder to Dr. Mudd's."
Although that is true, some historians believe that there may be other reasons behind Mudd's relationship to Booth. The trial brought forth many theories of Mudd's involvement in the assassination of Lincoln. One theory posits that Mudd was involved in a completely different conspiracy to gain an upper hand for the southern states. Prior to the assassination of Lincoln, Booth originally intended to kidnap the president and hold him and other political affiliates of the Union for a large sum of money. The plan was in effect until the night of the assassination, when Booth met up with Atzerodt, David Herold and Lewis Paine and disclosed the plot to assassinate the president. Following the assassination, Paine came forth by stating that Booth had not told him until the meeting and that the other men did not know about the plot until the night of the assassination. That supports the theory that Mudd may have been an accomplice to the plot to kidnap the president but not a conspirator to the assassination.
After Booth shot Lincoln on April 14, 1865, he broke his left fibula while fleeing Ford's Theater. Booth met up with Herold and both made for Virginia, via southern Maryland. They stopped at Mudd's house around 4 a.m. on April 15. Mudd splinted Booth's leg. He also arranged for a carpenter, John Best, to make a pair of crutches for Booth, and gave him a shoe to wear. Booth paid Mudd $25 in greenbacks for his services. He and Herold spent between twelve and fifteen hours at Mudd's house. They slept in the front bedroom on the second floor. It is unclear whether Mudd had yet been informed that Booth had killed Lincoln.
Mudd went to Bryantown during the day on April 15 to run errands; if he did not already know the news of the assassination from Booth, he certainly learned of it on the trip. He returned home that evening, and accounts differ as to whether Booth and Herold had already left, whether Mudd met them as they were leaving, and whether they left at Mudd's urging and with his assistance.
It is certain that Mudd did not immediately contact the authorities. When questioned, he stated that he had not wanted to leave his family alone in the house in case the assassins returned and found him absent and his family unprotected. He waited until Mass the following day, Easter Sunday, when he asked his second cousin, Dr. George Mudd, a resident of Bryantown, to notify the 13th New York Cavalry in Bryantown, under the command of Lieutenant David Dana. The delay in contacting the authorities drew suspicion and was a significant factor in tying Mudd to the conspiracy.
During his initial investigative interview on April 18, Mudd stated that he had never seen either of the parties before. In his sworn statement of April 22, he told about Booth's visit to Bryantown in November 1864 but then said, "I have never seen Booth since that time to my knowledge until last Saturday morning." He hid his meeting with Booth in Washington in December 1864. In prison, Mudd admitted the Washington meeting and said he ran into Booth by chance during a Christmas shopping trip. Mudd's failure to mention the meeting in his interview with detectives was a big mistake. When Weichmann later told the authorities of the meeting, they realized that Mudd had misled them and immediately began to treat him as a suspect, rather than a witness.
During the conspiracy trial, Lieutenant Alexander Lovett testified, "On Friday, the 21st of April, I went to Mudd's again, for the purpose of arresting him. When he found we were going to search the house, he said something to his wife, and she went upstairs and brought down a boot. Mudd said he had cut it off the man's leg. I turned down the top of the boot, and saw the name 'J. Wilkes' written in it."
On May 1, 1865, President Johnson ordered the formation of a nine-man military commission to try the conspirators. Mudd was represented by General Thomas Ewing, Jr.. The trial began on May 10, 1865. Mary Surratt, Lewis Powell, George Atzerodt, David Herold, Samuel Mudd, Michael O'Laughlen, Edmund Spangler and Samuel Arnold were all charged with conspiring to murder Lincoln. The prosecution called 366 witnesses.
The defense sought to prove that Mudd was a loyal citizen, citing his self-description as a "Union man" and asserting that he was "a deeply religious man, devoted to family, and a kind master to his slaves." The prosecution presented witnesses who testified that he had shot one of his slaves in the leg and threatened to send others to Richmond, Virginia, to assist in the construction of Confederate defenses. The prosecution also contended that he had been a member of a Confederate communications distribution agency and had sheltered Confederate soldiers on his plantation.
On June 29, 1865, Mudd was found guilty with the others. The testimony of Louis J. Weichmann was crucial in obtaining the convictions. According to historian Edward Steers, the testimony presented by former slaves was also crucial, but it faded from public memory. Mudd escaped the death penalty by one vote and was sentenced to life imprisonment. Four of the defendants (Surratt, Powell, Atzerodt and Herold) were hanged at the Old Penitentiary at the Washington Arsenal on July 7, 1865.
Mudd, O'Laughlen, Arnold, and Spangler were imprisoned at Fort Jefferson, in the Dry Tortugas, about 70 miles (110 km) west of Key West, Florida. The fort housed Union Army deserters and held about 600 prisoners when Mudd and the others arrived. Prisoners lived on the second tier of the fort, in unfinished, open-air gun rooms called casemates. Mudd and his three companions lived in the casemate directly above the fort's main entrance, called the sally port.
In September 1865, two months after Mudd arrived, the control of Fort Jefferson was transferred from the 161st New York Volunteer Infantry Regiment to the 82nd US Colored Troops. On September 25, 1865, he attempted to escape from Fort Jefferson by stowing away on the transport Thomas A. Scott.
He was quickly discovered and placed, along with Arnold, O'Laughlen, Spangler, and George St. Leger Grenfell, in a large empty ground-level gunroom that soldiers referred to as "the dungeon." The men were let out of the dungeon every working day for 12 hours and were required to wear leg irons. However, following a December 22 letter from his wife to President Johnson, the War Department ordered the discontinuance of the shackles and the move to better quarters, which was accomplished by January.:88–89,95–99,101,103
After three months in the dungeon, Mudd and the others were returned to the general prison population. However, because of his attempted escape, Mudd lost his privilege of working in the prison hospital and was assigned to work in the prison carpentry shop with Spangler.
There was an outbreak of yellow fever in the fall of 1867 at the fort. O'Laughlen eventually died of it on September 23. The prison doctor died, and Mudd agreed to take over the position. He was able to help stem the spread of the disease. The soldiers in the fort wrote a petition to Johnson in October 1867 stating the degree of Mudd's assistance: "He inspired the hopeless with courage and by his constant presence in the midst of danger and infection.... [Many] doubtless owe their lives to the care and treatment they received at his hands." Probably as a reward for his work in the yellow fever epidemic, Mudd was reassigned from the carpentry shop to a clerical job in the Provost Marshal's office, where he remained until his pardon.
The influence of his defense attorney, Thomas Ewing Jr., who was also influential in the President's administration, was one reason why Mudd was pardoned by Johnson on February 8, 1869. He was released from prison on March 8, 1869, and returned to his home in Maryland on March 20, 1869. On March 2, 1869, three weeks after he pardoned Mudd, Johnson also pardoned Spangler and Arnold.
When Mudd returned home, well-wishing friends and strangers, as well as inquiring newspaper reporters, besieged him. Mudd was very reluctant to talk to the press because he felt it had misquoted him in the past. He gave one interview to the New York Herald after his release but immediately regretted it and complained that the article had several factual errors and misrepresented his work during the yellow fever epidemic. On the whole, though, Mudd continued to enjoy the support of his friends and neighbors. He resumed his medical practice and slowly brought the family farm back to productivity.
In 1873, Spangler traveled to the Mudd farm, where Mudd and his wife welcomed him. Spangler lived with the Mudd family for about 18 months, earning his keep by doing carpentry, gardening, and other farm chores,:322 until his death on February 7, 1875.
Mudd always had an interest in politics. In prison, he learned about political happenings by reading the newspapers that were sent to him. After his release, he again became active in community affairs. In 1874, he was elected chief officer of the local farmers association, the Bryantown Grange. In 1876, he was elected Vice President of the local Democratic Tilden-Hendricks presidential election committee. Tilden lost that year to Republican Rutherford B. Hayes in a hotly-disputed election. The next year, Mudd ran as a Democratic candidate for the Maryland House of Delegates but was defeated by the popular Republican William Mitchell.
Mudd's ninth child, Mary Eleanor "Nettie" Mudd, was born in 1878.
In 1880, the Port Tobacco Times reported that Mudd's barn which contained almost 8000 lb. of tobacco, two horses, a wagon, and farm implements was destroyed by fire.
Mudd was just 49 years old when he died of pneumonia, on January 10, 1883, and was buried in the cemetery at St. Mary's Catholic Church in Bryantown, the same church in which he once met Booth.:326
|Booknotes interview with Edward Steers, Jr. on Blood on the Moon: The Assassination of Abraham Lincoln, February 17, 2002, C-SPAN|
The degree of Samuel Mudd's culpability has remained controversial ever since. Some, including Mudd's grandson Richard Mudd, claimed that Mudd was innocent of any wrongdoing and that he had merely been imprisoned for treating a man who came to his house late at night with a fractured leg. Over a century after the assassination, Presidents Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan both wrote letters to Richard Mudd in which they agreed that his grandfather had committed no crime. However, others, including authors Edward Steers, Jr. and James Swanson, assert evidence that Samuel Mudd visited Booth three times in the months before the failed kidnapping attempt. The first time was November 1864 when Booth, who was looking for help in his kidnapping plot, was directed to Mudd by agents of the Confederate Secret Service. In December, Booth again met with Mudd and spent the night at his farm. Later that December, Mudd went to Washington and introduced Booth to a Confederate agent who he knew: John Surratt. Additionally, George Atzerodt testified that Booth sent supplies to Mudd's house in preparation for the kidnapping plan. Mudd lied to the authorities who came to his house after the assassination, claiming that he did not recognize the man who showed up on his doorstep in need of treatment and giving them false information about where Booth and Herold went.:211–2,378 He also hid the monogrammed boot that he had cut off Booth's injured leg behind a panel in his attic, but the thorough search of Mudd's house soon revealed this further piece of evidence which was later used against him. One hypothesis is that Dr. Mudd was originally complicit in the kidnapping plot, likely as the person who the conspirators would have turned to for medical treatment in case Lincoln was injured, and that Booth thus remembered the doctor and went to his house to get help in the early hours of April 15.:126-9:59–61
Mudd's grandson, Richard Mudd, unsuccessfully tried to clear his grandfather's name from the stigma of aiding Booth. In 1951, he published The Mudd Family of the United States, an encyclopedic two-volume history of the Mudd family in America, beginning with Thomas Mudd, who arrived from England in 1665. A second edition was published in 1969. Following his death in 2002, his papers, which detailed his attempts to clear his grandfather's name, were donated to Georgetown University's Lauinger Library. They are available to the public in the Special Collections Department.
Richard Mudd petitioned several successive presidents, receiving replies from Presidents Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan. Carter, while sympathetic, responded by stating that he had no authority under law to set aside the conviction; Reagan responded by stating that he had come to believe that Samuel Mudd was innocent of any wrongdoing. In 1992, Representatives Steny Hoyer and Thomas W. Ewing introduced House Bill 1885 to overturn the conviction, but it failed in committee. Mudd then turned to the Army Board for Correction of Military Records, which recommended that the conviction be overturned on the basis that Mudd should have been tried by a civilian court. The recommendation was rejected by Acting Army Assistant Secretary William D. Clark.
Mudd's life was the subject of a 1936 John Ford-directed film The Prisoner of Shark Island, based on a script by Nunnally Johnson. A radio adaptation of The Prisoner of Shark Island aired, as an episode of the radio series Lux Radio Theater, with Gary Cooper as Dr. Mudd, on May 2, 1938, in which significant dramatic license was used by introducing fictional characters and altering several of the known facts of the case for melodramatic expediency. For example, Fort Jefferson was never called "Shark Island."
Another production, with the same title, aired on the radio series Encore Theatre in 1946. Another film, The Ordeal of Dr. Mudd, was made in 1980. It starred Dennis Weaver as Mudd. All of these productions espoused the point of view that Mudd was essentially innocent of any conspiracy.
Roger Mudd, an Emmy Award-winning journalist, television host and former CBS, NBC, and PBS news anchor is related to Samuel Mudd, but he is not a direct descendant, as has mistakenly been reported.
Samuel Mudd's life was also the subject of an episode of the TV western Laramie, "Time of the Traitor" which aired in 1962.
On the episode "Swiss Diplomacy" on The West Wing, the First Lady and cardiac surgeon, Dr. Abby Bartlet commented on the duty of a physician to treat an injured patient despite potential legal repercussions. She responded to Mudd's conviction: "So that's the way it goes. You set the leg."
Samuel Mudd's name is sometimes given as the origin of the phrase "your name is mud," as in, for example, the 2007 feature film National Treasure: Book of Secrets. However, according to an online etymology dictionary, the phrase has its earliest known recorded instance in 1823, ten years before Mudd's birth, and it is based on an obsolete sense of the word "mud" meaning "a stupid twaddling fellow."
- Mudd, Dr. Richard D. (1951). The Mudd Family of the United States. Volume 1 (Second ed.). Saginaw, Michigan: Dr. Richard D. Mudd. pp. 520 ff.
- Steers, Edward; Holzer, Harold (2007). Lincoln Legends. University Press of Kentucky. ISBN 978-0-8131-2466-7.
- Mudd, Nettie (1906) . The Life of Dr. Samuel A. Mudd (Fourth ed.). New York and Washington: Neale Publishing Company.
- Andrew Jerome Mudd (1858–1882), Lillian Augusta "Sissie" Mudd (1860–1940), Thomas Dyer Mudd (1862–1929) and Samuel Alexander Mudd, II (1864–1930), Henry Mudd (born 1870, died at eight months), Stella Marie Mudd (1871–1952), Edward Joseph Mudd (1873–1946), Rose De Lima "Emie" Mudd (1875–1943), and Mary Eleanor "Nettie" Mudd (1878–1943.
- "1860 Federal Slave Census, Bryantown, Charles County, Maryland, Slave Owner: Samuel Mudd".
- Steers, Edward; Holzer, Harold (2007). Lincoln Legends. University Press of Kentucky. ISBN 978-0-8131-2466-7.
- "Book Review - His Name Is Still Mudd, by Edward Steers, Jr". civilwarstudies.org. The Smithsonian Associates. Archived from the original on April 22, 2009. Retrieved April 25, 2019. 5th Paragraph.
- "The Text of George Atzerodt's Lost Confession". rogerjnorton.com. December 29, 1996. Retrieved January 4, 2014.
- Prior, L. O. (1964). "Lewis Payne, Pawn of John Wilkes Booth". The Florida Historical Quarterly. 43 (1): 1–20. JSTOR 30140073. (login required)
- "Dr. Samuel A. Mudd". Historynet.com. June 12, 2006. Retrieved December 27, 2008.
- Steers, Edward (2005). Blood on the Moon: The Assassination of Abraham Lincoln. University Press of Kentucky. ISBN 978-0-8131-9151-5.
- "Investigation and Trial Papers Relating to the Assassination of President Lincoln" (Signed Statement of Dr. Samuel A. Mudd, April 22, 1865 ed.). U.S. National Archives, Washington, D.C., microfilm publication M-599. 1865.
- Steers, Edward (2003). The trial: the assassination of President Lincoln and the trial of the conspirators. University Press of Kentucky.
- The Washington Post, "Death of Judge Fred Stone," October 18, 1899: 9.
- Pitman, Benn (1865) . The Assassination of President Lincoln and the Trial of the Conspirators. New York: Moore, Wilstach & Baldwin.
- Steers, Edward (December 2000). "Dr. Mudd and the 'Colored' Witnesses". Civil War History. Kent State University Press. 46 (4): 324–336. doi:10.1353/cwh.2000.0011.
- Reid, Thomas. America's Fortress. Gainesville: University Press of Florida. p. 93,96–97. ISBN 9780813030197.
- "Dr. Samuel A. Mudd Pardon, File # B-596". U.S. National Archives, College Park, Maryland.
- Mudd, Nettie, ed. (1906). The Life of Dr. Samuel A. Mudd. Neale Publishing Company. pp. 319–320.
- Johnson, Andrew (1967). The Papers of Andrew Johnson: September 1868-April 1869. University of Tennessee Press. pp. 334–335.
- Summers, Robert K. (2009). Dr. Samuel A. Mudd at Fort Jefferson. pp. 122–123.
- "Blood on the Moon". C-SPAN. February 17, 2002. Retrieved March 20, 2017.
- Swanson, James. Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln's Killer. Harper Collins, 2006. ISBN 978-0-06-051849-3
- Steers. Blood on the Moon. p. 234–5.
- Vowell, Sarah. Assassination Vacation. Simon and Schuster, 2005. ISBN 0-7432-6003-1
- "Mudd, Richard D., Papers". Repository.library.georgetown.edu. June 13, 2013. Archived from the original on January 4, 2014. Retrieved January 4, 2014.
- "Digital and Special Collections @ Georgetown University". Repository.library.georgetown.edu. Archived from the original on October 30, 2013. Retrieved January 4, 2014.
- Aitken, Robert (2008). Law Makers, Law Breakers, and Uncommon Trials. American Bar Association. ISBN 978-1-59031-880-5.
- National Park Service (April 15, 2008). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service.
- Goldstein, Richard (May 25, 2002). "Dr. Richard Mudd, 101, Dies; Grandfather Treated Booth". The New York Times.
- "Swiss Diplomacy". West Wing Transcripts. Retrieved September 1, 2009.
- "Your name is mud". The Phrase Finder. Retrieved January 13, 2008.
- "mud". Online Etymology Dictionary. Retrieved January 13, 2008.
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