In the Footsteps of Dr. Mudd in the City of Baltimore

Students of the Lincoln assassination associate certain locations with Dr. Samuel A. Mudd. First to mind comes Bryantown, Maryland. The Bryantown area was Dr. Mudd’s hometown. It is where he was born and raised, where built his own home and family, where he became an important figure in American history, and where he is buried. Next, one thinks of Washington DC. Washington was where Dr. Mudd introduced John Wilkes Booth to John Surratt and, whether he knew it or not, is where he sealed himself into the conspiracy plot. Washington later became the scene of Sam’s imprisonment, trial, and conviction. The final and, perhaps, the location most closely associated with Dr. Mudd is Fort Jefferson in Dry Tortugas, Florida. Following his conviction, Mudd spent nearly four years imprisoned on the hellish island, while his family fought for his pardon.

One location not often associated with Dr. Mudd is the city of Baltimore, Maryland. This oversight is unfortunate, due to the importance of the city in Sam’s life. The following is a brief attempt to point out the significance of Baltimore in Dr. Mudd’s story and highlight several sites that are tied to his history. Please note, several of the buildings highlighted in this article are no longer standing due to modern development. However, the tourist can still feel the weight of these places in the history of the Mudd family.

Map for sites
This map indicates the location of each site mentioned in this post.

1. Davidge Hall (520 W. Lombard Street)

In October 1854, twenty-one-year-old Samuel Mudd entered the University of Maryland Medical Department in Baltimore. He undoubtedly spent hours of his time listening to lectures and watching demonstrations in Davidge Hall during his two-year course of studies. [1] The building welcomed its first medical students in 1812 and is the longest serving building for medical instruction in the United States. A short, yet informative video on the history of Davidge Hall can be found here.[2] Sam graduated in March 1856, following completion of his dissertation on dysentery. The dissertation was dedicated to Dr. Samuel Chew, dean of medical faculty at the time.

Baltimore Infirmary Plaque
Front of Davidge Hall

2. The Baltimore Infirmary (southwest corner of W. Lombard Street and S. Green Street)

Across the intersection adjacent from Davidge Hall once stood the Baltimore Infirmary. Sam was one of only ten students selected to serve in the infirmary during his time in medical school. The infirmary contained 150 beds and offered “private accommodations of superior character,” as well as hot and cold baths on each floor of the building. Patients were “attended to by the Professors of the university and cared for by the Sisters of Charity.”

Infirmary Ad
The Baltimore Infirmary from a contemporary advertisement.

Additionally, patients were promised that “there is a resident Physician at all times in the house.” Sam was one of those physicians. It is curious to note that an advertisement for the Infirmary noted “no infectious or contagious diseases are admitted.”[3] In 1855, Sam noted treating several cases of Yellow Fever that had been transported to the Infirmary from Norfolk, Virginia. This experience would pay itself back tenfold in 1867 when, as a prisoner at Fort Jefferson, Dr. Mudd took on the task of fighting a Yellow Fever epidemic that ravished the island. For his efforts, he was “universally respected among the soldiers.”[4] Around 300 officers and men of the garrison created and signed a petition asking President Johnson to release Dr. Mudd for his work at abating the epidemic. It took nearly fourteen months, but Dr. Mudd finally received his pardon in February 1869. The majority of the pardon credits Dr. Mudd’s efforts during the Yellow Fever epidemic as a cause warranting his release. The lessons learned in the Baltimore Infirmary ultimately returned Sam to his family in 1869. [5]

Sadly, the Infirmary no longer stands today. It has been fittingly replaced with the Emergency Room for the University of Maryland Medical Center. For those visiting the site, there is a small plaque commemorating the history of the Infirmary mounted on a pillar near the modern building. To find it, one needs to approach the main entrance rotunda and walk down the side walk heading south on South Green Street. Once the rotunda has been passed, the visitor notices several tables near the building. Just beyond the tables (between the tables and the windows) stands a stone pillar topped by a stone ball. The plaque is mounted on the pillar.

ER with arrow
The monument can be found behind the rotunda in  the approximate location of the arrow.  This photo was taken standing in front of Davidge Hall looking diagonally across the intersection.

 

close up of plaque
The plaque dedicated to the Baltimore Infirmary.

 

3. Dyer, Henderson, & Co. (No. 8 E. Camden Street)

Sam had several ardent allies who fought tenaciously for his release from prison. First and foremost was his beloved wife Sarah, who wrote countless letters and made even made several visits to the White House to speak directly with President Johnson. The other main champion for Sam’s release was Sarah’s older brother Jeremiah Dyer. Jere, as the family called him, moved from Bryantown to Baltimore in May 1863 to form Dyer, Henderson, & Company. The business served as a “grocery, commission, and forwarding business.”[6]  In 1865, Jere testified in Sam’s defense during the trial and constantly petitioned leading politicians for support in the push for Dr. Mudd’s pardon. Jere’s letters to his sister reveal that he met with prominent lawyers, governors, and congressmen to use their political power to secure a release for Dr. Mudd.[7]

In 1868, Jere and his partners at Dyer, Henderson, & Co. united with several other businesses to form the “Tobacco Trade Association of Baltimore.”[8] During that same year Dyer, Henderson, & Co. made another bold attempt to save Sam. In September, Dr. Mudd was denied a writ of habeas corpus by Federal District Judge Thomas Boynton. In a letter written to a friend in Key West shortly after this decision, Sam “earnestly appeal to you to employ on my behalf some competent lawyer who will undertake to release me from this hell for one thousand dollars.” He noted that “the firm of Dyer, Henderson, & Co. will pay upon my speedy release five hundred dollars, six months after, five hundred dollars more.” [9] Jere seemed to be willing to go to any length to save his brother-in-law.

The building which housed Dyer, Henderson, & Co. no longer stands today. Sadly, today it is a parking garage attached to Sullivan’s Steakhouse just 1.5 blocks from the Inner Harbor. To see the site, one can simply continue south on Light Street passed the entrance to Sullivan’s. About half way down the block, E. Camden Street opens to Light Street. Follow E. Camden about half way to the back of the block. On the right is a parking garage. This is the general area of where the building stood.

Dyer, Henderson, & Co.
E. Camden Street from S. Charles Street. Dyer, Henderson, & Co. would have been located to the right of this photo.

4. The Baltimore Harbor

The history of the harbor is much too long to address here. It is safe to say that the harbor has, is, and will continue to be a major lifeline of the city. Since the founding of Baltimore, the harbor has provided the economic foundation for the city’s success. Today, it not only remains a vital economic port, but has been revitalized into a major tourist attraction of the city.

The harbor also has a place in Mudd family history. At four o’clock in the morning on March 18, 1869 the steamship Liberty reached its headquarters at Brown’s Wharf in the Fell’s Point area of the city and Dr. Mudd disembarked a free man. Unfortunately, no family and friends had gathered to welcome him due to the early hour of his arrival. Sam gathered his few belongings and proceeded to make the trek to Barnum’s City Hotel to rest.[10] Today’s visitor can still walk on the wharf where Dr. Mudd first stepped foot in Baltimore as a free man. Additionally, the historic warehouse buildings at Brown’s Wharf still stand today. In recent years, the area has been revitalized for tourism and has shops and restaurants. One can enjoy a waterside meal in the very spot where Dr. Mudd stood 150 years ago while sitting in the shade of buildings that witnessed his return to freedom.

harbor
The Inner Harbor as it looks today.
Brown's wharf
The warehouses at Brown’s Wharf in the 1970s. The area has been revitalized and today offers shops, restaurants, and hotels. The historic buildings still stand today. (Library of Congress)
Baltimore and Havanna steamship company close up city directory 1863 pg. 39
An advertisement for the Baltimore and Havana Steamship Company. Dr. Mudd returned on the steamship Liberty.

5. Barnum’s City Hotel (Southwest corner of E. Fayette and N. Calvert Streets)

 It would have taken some time for Dr. Mudd to journey to Barnum’s City Hotel from Brown’s Wharf. As he approached in the early morning light, Mudd no doubt could see historic Monument Square dimly lit by its gas lamps at the top of the hill. When he reached the top of the hill, his eyes surely cast upon the fifty-two foot tall marble monument, topped by the figure of lady Baltimore. Erected in honor of those men who defended Baltimore in the war of 1812, the monument is full of symbolism. Did Dr. Mudd think of the irony on the symbolism in the objects lady Baltimore is holding? The laurel wreath symbolizing the victory of winning his pardon? The rudder representing the stability of his return to normal life? His new-found freedom reflected by the eagle standing at her feet?[11]

Battle Monumnet

Regardless of what Dr. Mudd may have been thinking when he reached Monument Square, his mind must have been boggled when he walked through the doors at Barnum’s City Hotel. For the last four years, he had resided in crumpled, dank, and diseased prison. His meals consisted of canned vegetables, hard bread, and rancid meat. Now, he entered one of the most opulent hotels in the country that touted a menu of just about any food and drink a guest could request. Opened in 1826, Barnum’s City Hotel was designed to be luxurious. By 1869, the building stood six stories high and had the ability to accommodate 600 guests.[12] Barnum’s offered guests bathing rooms, a barbershop, and a reading room stocked with the leading newspapers of the nation. It also offered a massive dining room and an equally impressive meeting/ballroom.[13] If Dr. Mudd was awed by his new living arrangements, it was short lived. A newspaper account of his return noted that Dr. Mudd only “remained several hours, when he left for the residence of a relative.”[14]

Barnums

The historical irony of Dr. Mudd staying in Barnum’s needs to be mentioned. In August 1865, John Wilkes Booth arranged a meeting at the hotel with two of his boyhood acquaintances, Samuel Arnold and Michael O’Laughlen. Booth ordered the trio drinks and cigars and, for the first time, divulged his plans to kidnap Abraham Lincoln. Arnold and O’Laughlen agreed to join Booth and the conspiracy was born. It is ironic indeed that Dr. Mudd’s first hours of freedom on the mainland were spent in the building where the plot that nearly cost him his life was conceived.[15]

Barnum’s City Hotel was razed in 1889 and the Equitable Building was built in its place. When one visits the site today, they immediately notice a plaque mounted on the corner of the building detailing the construction of the Equitable Building and commemorating Barnum’s City Hotel. Take a moment to stop and contemplate the emotions that Dr. Mudd must have experienced when he stood at this site in March of 1869.

equitable building
The Equitable Building as it appears today.

6. The Jeremiah Dyer Residence (96 Park Avenue)

The “residence of a relative” referred to in the newspaper article was none other than the home of Jeremiah Dyer.  The Baltimore City directory for 1868-1869 has Jere living at 96 Park Place, just a four block walk west on E. Fayette Street from Barnum’s.[16] After his few hours rest at the hotel, Dr. Mudd was reunited with his wife at the home of her brother. The 18th must have been a busy day for Sam. In addition to being reunited with his family, he claimed that he met “our Governor and many of the prominent men of the city & state.”[17] No doubt, these men were influential in helping Sam obtain a pardon.

The Mudds began the journey home to Bryantown on the 19th. The journey was about sixty-five miles by road and rail. One can only imagine the conversations held during that trip. Sam and Sarah returned to their farm on March 20, 1865.  Their ordeal was finally over.

Jeremiah Dyer’s residence sat on the northwest corner of West Fayette Street and Park Avenue. The building no longer stands today but stood at the approximate location of the Barenburg Eye Associates building.

Conclusion and Other Attractions

It is interesting to see the significance of Baltimore in the life of Dr. Mudd. The city served as the source of medical education and training that ultimately saved Sam from a lifetime in prison, as well as welcomed him home when he was pardoned. While most of the structures have vanished over time, it is still fitting to visit the sites associated with these often-overlooked moments in Dr. Mudd’s life.

Later, the city would be the home of Dr. Mudd’s youngest child “Nettie” Mudd Monroe. Nettie married a prominent Baltimore lawyer D. Eldridge Monroe. She moved to Baltimore and, in 1906, wrote The Life of Dr. Samuel A. Mudd. Its pages contain hundreds of the letters that Dr. Mudd sent Mrs. Mudd during his time in prison. Today, the whereabouts of the majority of these letters are unknown. Without her work, history would have lost these valuable documents that provide insight on Dr. Mudd’s experience at Fort Jefferson and the struggle to gain his freedom. Nettie passed away in 1943 and is buried at New Cathedral Cemetery in the suburbs of Baltimore. In another twist of historical fate, within one hundred yards of Nettie’s final resting place is the grave of John H. Surratt Jr.

 

The city of Baltimore has more to offer historians of the Lincoln assassination. For instance, Fort McHenry housed conspirator Samuel Arnold prior to his transfer to Washington for trial. The home of Mary Branson, the young nurse who helped Lewis Powell escape a Union hospital, is located a few blocks north of Camden Yards. Loudon Park cemetery is the final resting place of theater owner John T. Ford. Greenmount Cemetery in northern Baltimore holds several key players in the assassination story including Michael O’Laughlen, Reverdy Johnson, and, of course, John Wilkes Booth.

The next time you find yourself in Baltimore be sure to head out and walk in the footsteps of Dr. Mudd!

[1]Robert K. Summers, Assassin’s Doctor: The Life and Letters of Samuel A. Mudd (Lexington, KY: 2016), 26-29.

[2] “History of Davidge Hall,” The Medical Alumni Association of the University of Maryland, accessed July 27, 2019. https://medicalalumni.org/history-of-davidge-hall/

[3] “Baltimore Infirmary,” The Baltimore Sun, October 8, 1856, pg. 2.

[4]Letter from Dr. Mudd to Mrs. Mudd from Fort Jefferson dated September 19, 1867 found in Nettie Mudd Monroe, The Life of Dr. Samuel A. Mudd, (New York: The Neale Publishing Company, 1906), pg. 265.

[5] Samuel A. Mudd Pardon File B-596, RG 204, U.S. National Archives, College Park, Md.

[6] “Dissolution,” The Baltimore Sun, February 17, 1868, pg. 2.

[7] Life of Samuel A. Mudd, various letters.

[8] “There will be Held a Meeting of the Newly Formed Tobacco Trade Association of Baltimore,” The Baltimore Sun, March 2, 1868, pg. 2

[9] Letter from Dr. Mudd to Dr. Whitehurst, October 14, 1868, Weedon and Whitehurst Family Papers, Manuscripts Department, Southern Historical Collection, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

[10] “Arrival of the Steam Ship Liberty,” The Baltimore Sun, March 19, 1969, pg. 1

[11] Auni Gelles, “Battle Monument,” Battle of Baltimore, accessed July 28, 2019. www.battleofbaltimore.org/items/show/334.

[12] William Prescott Smith, The Book of the Great Railway Celebrations of 1857, (New York: D. Appleton & Co., 1858.)

[13] Berger, Molly W., Hotel Dreams: Luxury, Technology, and Urban Ambition in America, 1829-1929, (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2011), pgs. 17-19.

[14] “Arrival of the Steamship Liberty,” The Baltimore Sun, March 19, 1869, pg. 1.

[15] Samuel Arnold, ed. by Michael Kauffman, Memoirs of a Lincoln Conspirator, (Bowie, Maryland: Heritage Books, 1995), pg. 147.

[16] John W. Woods, Wood’s Baltimore City Directory: 1868-69, (Baltimore: John Woods, 1869) pg. 149.

[17] Dr. Mudd to Dr. Whitehurst April 19, 1869, Weedon and Whitehurst Family Papers, Manuscripts Department, Southern Historical Collection, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC.

 

 

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