We all know that John Wilkes Booth shot and killed President Abraham Lincoln on April 14th, 1865. Most of us also know that he jumped from the presidential box onto the stage at Ford’s Theater and broke his leg before making his exit.
What may not be known is that he traveled south, thinking he would be a hero but found things drastically different. His leg hampered his progress so he stopped at a local doctor’s. known to have been a southern sympathizer. That doctor was Samuel Mudd.
Mudd was no fan of Booth’s either. By 1865 everyone was tired of war and knew that assassinating the beloved President would only cause the south to suffer even more. Still, Mudd did not report setting Booth’s leg and was arrested on April 26th as a co-conspirator. He escaped the death penalty by 1 vote and was imprisoned for life.
He was sent to Fort Jefferson in the Dry Tortugas, then a prison for many southerners and deserters. While there, he became the prisons doctor when yellow fever broke out among the population. He treated the prisoners with little help and won a pardon from President Andrew Johnson in 1869.
Mudd was born on December 20th, 1833. No one knows for sure whether Mudd was in league with Booth or not. It would appear he was not, but he never said one way or the other. Today is name is the source of saying someone’s “name is mudd”. Though it isn’t used much anymore it has kept Mudd’s name in front of the public longer than Booth’s.
How to celebrate – Read a book about Mudd and determine for yourself if he was guilty or not. Visit Fort Jefferson just off the coast of Florida. Mudd’s home in Virginia is a historical site, open for viewing.