Printable version of the Civil War Trails brochure now available!

We are proud to be a site along the Civil War Trails “John Wilkes Booth: Chasing Lincoln’s Assassin” trail! Recently, our friends at Civil War Trails produced a .pdf version of the brochure for standard 8.5″x11″ paper to be printed on a home printer, or easy download for use on a mobile phone. Check out the free download below and plan a trip to see the escape route! As always, remember to take a “sign selfie” at your favorite sites and share it on social media with the hashtag #signselfie. Be sure to “like” our friends on social media @CivilWarTrails.

Experience the Morning of April 15, 1865 at Dr. Mudd’s House!

Ever wonder what it looked like at the Dr. Samuel A. Mudd House when Booth and Herold arrived the morning following the assassination? Earlier this week, we created a time-lapse video to allow you a chance to experience it!

The staff at the Dr. Samuel A. Mudd House prides itself on giving our visitors the chance to experience history. We do this by providing guided tours through the house that allow visitors to stand where history happened and give up close access to the artifacts that were there at the time of Booth’s arrival at Dr. Mudd’s home. Additionally, we take visitors on guided tours of the escape route where they can feel the denseness of the Zekiah Swamp. One experience that we unfortunately haven’t provided is a glimpse at what it looked like at the time John Wilkes Booth arrived at 4am on April 15, 1865.

On April 13, 2022 an experiment was conducted to create a time-lapse video of the light levels at the Dr. Samuel A. Mudd House on the same timeline as the arrival of John Wilkes Booth and David Herold. The aim of the experiment was to see the scene in the front yard as it would have looked 157 years prior. An Android cellular phone equipped with Time Spirit app was used for the experiment. The app captured an image every 12 seconds for the duration of the video and compressed the images into a short video clip. April 13, 2022 was selected for the date of the experiment because it produced the closest meteorological, astronomical, and sunrise timetable as the actual event on April 15, 1865.  During the April 13th experiment, the moon was at nearly 90% illumination, the sun rose at 6:35 am, and the skies were lightly cloudy with stars visible through the cloud cover. On April 15, 1865 the sun rose at 6:32 am, the moon was at 90% illumination, and evidence suggest light cloud cover or clear skies. The only major difference was that the moon set considerably earlier during the experiment than it did in 1865. The fugitives enjoyed the illumination of a nearly full moon through sunrise, whereas the video below shows no evidence of moonlight because it had already dipped below the horizon over the Zekiah Swamp in rear of the house around 4 am. Thus, the conditions in the video clips are actually darker than what Booth and Herold experienced.

The Parlor: the camera location was chosen because Dr. Mudd used this window to peer into the front yard at 4 am on April 15, 1865

In his written statement, Dr. Mudd recalled Booth and Herold arriving at the house.

“About 4 o’clock on Saturday morning, the 15th, two persons came to my house and commenced rapping very loudly at the door. I was very much alarmed at this, fearing it might be somebody who had come there not for any good purpose…Before opening the door, however, I inquired who was there. They told me two strangers form St. Mary’s Co. who were on their way to Washington; but that the horse of one of them had fallen, and broken the rider’s leg. Satisfying myself of the correctness of the statement of one of them having received an injury, by going to a window & seeing one of them in distress, I went and opened the door. I took them into the parlor, and laid the injured man on the sofa, until I could get a light, when I took him upstairs…After the injured man got off of his horse, the other one asked me if I could not have the two horses stabled, as one of them would not suffer herself to be hitched. I went after the boy (an African American laborer named Frank Washington), and he (Herold) held them until the boy came.[i]

Before taking the two men upstairs, Dr. Mudd went to his kitchen building and awakened Frank Washington to tend to the horses. Washington, formerly enslaved by Dr. Mudd, was now a hired hand that worked on the Mudd farm. As he entered the front yard to retrieve the horses, Frank remembered “the day was just breaking: it was just about daybreak.”[ii]

This video captures the scene in the front yard as it would have looked from 3:55 am to 4:55 am in 1865, which is the approximate timeframe covered in the statements above. The clip covers the time just before Booth’s arrival to about the time Dr. Mudd finished splinting Booth’s leg. It should be noted that the light conditions in the clip were still slightly darker than the naked eye. The fence in the front yard (where Dr. Mudd could see the man “in distress”) was visible to cameraman’s naked eye by 4:15 am. It was clear that Dr. Mudd would have clearly seen a person at the fence at that time. It is also important to note that it was almost pitch black inside the house. The cameraman’s light colored camera case was not discernable on the “Booth couch” from a few feet away. It would have been impossible to conduct any kind of examination until Dr. Mudd procured the light referenced in his statement. For reference, the first rays of light on the horizon visible at the 6 second mark occurred at 4:30 am. This was “day break” mentioned by Frank Washington. At that point, Booth’s boot had been removed and Dr. Mudd was working on building and applying the splint.  

A view from the front porch looking into the front yard at “daybreak” 4:30 am

Dr. Mudd noted that “my examination was quite short…I do not suppose I was more than three-quarters of an hour in making the examination of the wound and applying the splint.” After finishing, Mudd “walked around to my farm-yard and gave some directions, when I returned breakfast was ready; and this young man (Herold) was up and knocking about. I asked him to come to breakfast. He did so, but the other man remained upstairs in bed.”[iii]

View of the front yard from a window in the room where Booth was treated. This was the view around the time Dr. Mudd completed his treatment at 4:45 am. The light at right is the “dusk-till-dawn” light in our parking lot.

Breakfast was cooked by a 12 year-old former slave name Lettie Hall. She remembered Dr. Mudd coming to her kitchen dwelling and waking her to make breakfast. She remembered “I got up, killed a chicken, and had the finest biscuits I believe I ever baked. I put cream in for shortening, and they were so pretty and nice. A Mr. Harold {sic}…came down with the family to breakfast…”[iv]

This clip covered the time after the examination was complete and Dr. Mudd gave his instructions to the farm hands, Lettie cooked breakfast, and breakfast was served in the dining room just a few feet behind the camera. The time in the clip ranges from 4:55 am to 5:55 am in 1865. As can be seen, by the time Mudd’s examination was finished the farm was already in complete light. Due to better lighting conditions this clip is identical to what the cameraman observed with the naked eye.

The kitchen where Frank Washington and Lettie Hall began their day. This photo was taken at 5:15 am.

The following clip is a combination of both clips previously shown. The two were spliced together to show the entire time lapse from 3:55 am to 5:55 am on April 15, 1865. For reference, the splice occurs at the 10 second mark and represents the conditions at 4:55 am.

Mother Nature certainly played a factor in Booth’s decision to go to Dr. Mudd’s home. The fugitives reached Beantown around 3:30 am. On the day of our experiment, birds were chirping on the roost by that time. The outdoor savvy Herold would have recognized this as a warning of the impending dawn. From Beantown, the pair would still have nearly 20 miles to travel to the site of their boat hidden on King Creek west of Port Tobacco. Trying to reach the site of the boat would have exposed the men to several hours of travel in broad daylight and put them in danger of being spotted by witnesses or even a cavalry patrol. On the other hand, Dr. Mudd’s home was only three miles east of Beantown and Booth needed medical attention. Booth had already received hospitality at Dr. Mudd’s in the fall of 1864 and the duo new they could reach his farm before sunrise.  

Using the evidence in the video it is easy to see why Booth and Herold elected to stay at the Mudd farm following the completion of Mudd’s medical treatment around 4:45 am. Had the two decided to continue on their way south they would have been clearly visible on the roadways. Dr. Mudd noted that the two left his house around 4 or 5 o’clock that evening. Given that sunset was at 6:48 pm on April 15, 1865, Booth and Herold left Mudd’s farm in broad daylight with several hours remaining before dark. Evidence suggest that the two hid in the swamp until sundown. A former enslaved laborer at the home of Dr. Mudd’s father named Electus Thomas recalled an encounter with Herold “at dusk.” [v] Dr. Mudd’s father’s farm is only ¼ of a mile from Dr. Mudd’s home indicating that the two waited until daylight was nearly gone before daring to move into the open roads.

The route used by Booth and Herold to leave the Mudd farm between 4 and 5 pm on April 15, 1865

We hope these videos help give a new understanding of the story of April 15, 1865 at the Mudd farm. It was eye opening seeing the actual conditions experienced by those involved. It helped bring a better understanding of the manhunt and the timing of Booth and Herold’s arrival and departure from the Dr. Samuel A. Mudd House.

[i] Lincoln Assassination File M599, Reel V, frame 226.

[ii] Poore, The Conspiracy Trial for the Murder of the President, Volume II (Boston: J.E. Tilton and Company, 1865), 316.

[iii] Lincoln Assassination File M599, Reel V, 212-225.

[iv] Butler Woman Cooked Breakfast for Booth after He had Killed Lincoln at Close of Civil War.” Butler Eagle (Butler, Pennsylvania), March 16, 1929.

[v] Lincoln Assassination File M-619, Reel VI, frame 363.

2022 Season Info!

The 2022 season is almost upon us! Opening Day will be Saturday April 2, 2022. The museum will be open every Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday through Sunday November 20, 2022. Museum hours are 11:00 am – 4 pm on Wednesdays and Saturdays. The museum will operate from noon – 4 pm on Sundays. The final tour of the day will leave at 3:30 pm. The museum will not be open on Easter Sunday, April 17, 2022.

In addition to the regular house tours, we will offer the “Use all Efforts to Secure Him” walking tour of the Booth escape route. We are also planning on hosting our Victorian Christmas in the first weekend of December. Please check the website, calendar, and social media outlets for updates on the offerings of these special events.

Admissions to the museum or to the grounds is free for children 5 and under, $3.00 for children ages 6 to 12, and $10.00 for everyone 13 and up. Dr. Samuel A. Mudd Society members do not pay a fee to visit the museum. Cash and all major credit cards are accepted. The admission fees of non-members helps with the continuous upkeep of preserving the home of Dr. Samuel A. Mudd.

We are looking forward to your visit in 2022!

Christmas at the Dr. Samuel A. Mudd House

The holiday season is always a magical time at the Dr. Samuel A. Mudd House. Unfortunately, this year we were unable to host our annual Victorian Christmas due to the Covid-19 pandemic. We understand how disappointing this was to visitors and volunteers alike! Many of you have made the Victorian Christmas a family holiday tradition and we take great pride in welcoming you all each and every year.

While a physical gathering was impossible, we wanted to give everyone the opportunity to see the house we love in all of its holiday splendor! We decided to keep the decorations simple and appropriate for the Victorian era. We hope you enjoy!

Let us begin with a quick message and a Civil War era holiday story told in our parlor…

Now, take a quick peek at the parlor decorated for the holidays!

The parlor at Christmas

Our simple tree was decorated with candles, a string of cranberries, dried orange slices, Victorian period candy in cheesecloth, and hand cut paper stars. All of the decorations were hand made, with the exception of the candles.

The “presents” from Saint Nicholas hold significance, as well. Hidden among the childrens’ toys, you may recognize a few of our artifacts under the tree! The cribbage board was made by Dr. Mudd while imprisoned at Fort Jefferson. Additionally, the wooden dolls chairs were made by Ned Spangler when he lived on the farm. He made them for Dr. Mudd’s daughters who placed them under the tree as decorations every Christmas.

Saint Nicholas has arrived! Look at those presents!
The greenery and fruit on the mantel

Per Victorian era custom the flat surfaces, such as the mantels, table tops, and window sills were decorated with greens. We used pine and holly.

Greenery on the window sills
(Please note that we are not permitted to light real candles in the house. We did a few modern electric candles to add to the presentation.)
The pianoforte decorated in holiday greens.

And now, let’s turn our attention to the dining room!

The mantel with greens and Victorian Era Christmas cards
A closeup of the cards. These were from the late 1870s and 1880s. They are privately owned.
Mrs. Mudd’s sideboard decorated for the holidays.
The table is ready for a Christmas feast complete with a wreath of greens and period candies!
Mrs. Mudd’s cruet set and the eucalyptus wreath make a splendid centerpiece!

While we missed each and every one of our volunteers and visitors this season, we hope this was able to remind you of fond memories of Victorian Christmas celebrations gone by. Please consider this as your invitation for 2021!

We would be remiss if we did not extend a sincere thank you to our curator Dorothea Barstow who refused to let the pandemic stop the tradition by making this happen!

The Dr. Samuel A. Mudd Society wishes you all a happy and healthy holiday season! Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!

If you enjoy what you see here, please consider donating to the Dr. Samuel A. Mudd House Museum! It is simple and easy to help! Just click the “make a donation” button on our home page, or by clicking the link below:

Spooky Tales from the Mudd House Part III: “The Moving Spirit”

The final installment of Spooky Tales from the Mudd House is here just in time for Halloween! It is by far the most important “Spooky Tale” in the history of the Dr. Samuel A. Mudd Society. As some of you know, the museum allegedly owes its existence to a ghost story. For those of you who know the story, it is well worth a refresher. For those who have never experienced the tale of “the Moving Spirit,” sit back, sip your favorite pumpkin flavored drink, and enjoy.

The tale of “the Moving Spirit” was experienced and told by our founder Louise Mudd-Arehart. Although she related the story to all who would listen, she shared it with the entire Society over the course of two newsletters in January and May 1979. Louise remembered that in the early 1960s she began being visited by the “Spirit” in her home. She noted “hearing footsteps going upstairs. BUT there is no upstairs here.” She also reported hearing someone knocking at her door, only to find the step empty when she opened to see who was there. She noted that even her husband experienced the mysterious vanishing knocker and was becoming convinced of supernatural interference.

As the visits continued, Louise was able to notice more details about the “Spirit.” She noted that it was a “man wearing a long brown topcoat and cap.” As time progressed, the encounters became closer. On one occasion, Louise recalled being in the house alone. She was cleaning in her kitchen. As she moved from her kitchen into her dining room she stopped at the site of the “Spirit” standing in front of her. The closeness of this encounter allowed her to note more details than ever before. On this occasion, the man was “wearing black trousers, black vest, white shirt with the sleeves rolled back to his elbows, a black bow tie, untied watching me.” She continued, “he turned and went down the hall,” disturbing the family dog in the process. When Louise followed the man into the next room, she discovered that he had vanished.

By 1970, Louise “started meditating on the things that were happening” and she was convinced that the “Spirit” wanted her to do something. Soon, Louise realized who the “Spirit” was and what he wanted from her. She became “convinced that it was my Grandfather Mudd…it dawned on me what this was all about.” She informed her husband that she needed to travel to see her brother on the family farm because “Grandpa is telling me to save the Dr. Mudd home for the next generation.”

Dr. Samuel A. Mudd “the Moving Spirit”

Louise faced a daunting task. Her brother Joe had taken over the family farm at the passing of his father, Samuel Mudd II. He was one of only three people to privately own the property and his family still occupied the house and farmed the land. Yet Louise was about to ask him voluntarily leave. When she shared here desire to turn the place into a museum, Joe surprised her with his answer. Louise noted her older brother looked at her and said “well, I guess so, because if it isn’t done in my lifetime, I just don’t know what the next generation would do about it.” With those words the Dr. Samuel A. Mudd House museum was born.

The Dr. Samuel A. Mudd House as a private residence in 1976. (Dr. S.A. Mudd House collection)

The fight to create a museum was a long and drawn out process. It took over a decade from when Joe uttered those words until the first official visitors entered the museum. The bureaucratic red tape and politics involved in getting the proper permits and funding seemed never ending. At one point, Louise noted that Joe and his family were “getting disgusted with the time involved” and were considering backing out.

Disappointed but not deterred, Louise told herself “get busy here if you want to see the Dr. Mudd Museum be a reality.” One night, she noted not being able to sleep. Around 2 a.m. she saw an “all white figure” moving around her room. She attempted to wake her husband who promptly told her to go back to sleep. She then tried to convince herself that she was seeing things. Suddenly, “’the white figure’ slowly came around the wall and stopped by my side of the bed. Finally…I got the message. I said ‘OK Grandpa, I’ll get up and get busy.”

Louise began a letter writing campaign in attempt to problem solve and raise funds. She also embarked on a mission to collect as many family heirlooms as possible, many of which are on display in the museum today. By 1976 she had organized “the Committee for the Restoration for the Dr. Samuel A. Mudd House” which was the predecessor of our current Society. She noted that the first meeting of the Board of Directors was held July 14, 1976. A few days before this meeting, Louise experienced the last of her visits from the “Spirit.” This encounter was different from the others. Instead of being visited by a man, she noticed an image “slowly shape up-like out of a tunnel-first small then getting larger. As I began to recognize it I said ‘why that is the Dr. Samuel A. Mudd house.’ Then, it slowly went back down the tunnel…it was the house finished, just like the old pictures of it.”

The house at the start of restoration. (Mudd House collection)
Louise Mudd-Arehart, the real life “Moving Spirit” behind the museum, fulfilling her promise to her grandfather’s ghost by getting her hands dirty removing siding from the house. (Mudd House collection)

While we recognized that not everyone believes in stories of the supernatural, we hope you were able to take something valuable away from our “Spooky Tales.” If you subscribe to experiences of paranormal activity, we hope the stories intrigued you. If you are skeptical, we hope you learned a little about the history of the region and the founding of the museum. Regardless of what you believe, I think we can all agree that we are certainly glad that “the Moving Spirit” helped move Louise’s spirit into action and create the museum we all love today.

The final visit of the “Moving Spirit,” as it looks today.