Postponed Opening 2020

Following the recommendation of social distancing and the limit placed on group gatherings, the Dr. Samuel A. Mudd House will delay the opening of its 2020 operating season by several weeks. At this time, we plan to open on April 18, 2020 with a commemoration of the 155th anniversary of the assassination. We will continue to monitor the status of the COVID-19 outbreak and will make future adjustments to the schedule as needed. Please check back often for updates!

We at the Dr. Samuel A. Mudd Society wish you all the best and look forward to the time when we can all enjoy our love of history together once more! House in the morning

The 2020 Season is Almost Upon Us!

The 2020 season for the Dr. Samuel A. Mudd House Museum will open on Saturday April 18, 2020. We will be open every Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday through mid-November. The only tour day we will be closed will be Easter Sunday. Our hours of operation will remain 11-4 Wednesdays and Saturdays and Noon-4 Sundays.

We will continue to offer the “Tracking an Assassin” walking tour of the escape route. Dates and times will be posted throughout the season.

Additionally, the 2020 monthly speaker series is back and completely booked for the season! All of the talks begin at 1 pm and are first come first served. Here are the dates and topics:

April 18-Booth, Surratt, and Black Folks (Bernie Siler)

May 16-Women in the Civil War (Donna Peterson)

June 20-Josiah Henson (Edna Troianno)

July 18-John Wilkes Booth (Lisa Samia)

August 15-Boston Corbett (NPS Ranger Steve Miller)

September 19-Dry Tortugas (James A. Kushlan and Kristen Hines)

October 17-Molly Dyer (Lynn Bounviri)

November 21-Charles County: Gateway to the Confederacy (Garth Bowling)

We hope to see you at the museum this season!

“A casual or accidental meeting”: How last-minute Christmas shopping transformed Dr. Mudd into a conspirator.

By Bob Bowser

On December 23, 1864 two men set off from Bryantown, Maryland en route to Washington City. Dr. Samuel A. Mudd and his cousin, Jeremiah T. Mudd, departed Bryantown on a last-minute Christmas shopping trip. That summer, Dr. Mudd had finished adding a two-story addition to his home. The number of inhabitants on his farm was growing and he wanted to purchase a new wood stove to facilitate cooking. Dr. Mudd knew the markets and shops of Pennsylvania Avenue were the perfect place to acquire the new stove, as well as afford him the opportunity to pick up various other small gifts for the family.[1]

Jeremiah T. Mudd
Jeremiah Mudd (The History of the Mudd Family in the US)

Even on horseback the twenty-five mile trip took hours to complete. The men finally reached the Navy Yard bridge and crossed into Washington’s city limits in the late afternoon. Jeremiah reported that they stabled their horses “near the Navy Yard,” which meant employing the services of Mr. M. J. Pope. Located a few blocks north of the Navy Yard at K and 8th Streets southeast, Pope’s livery stable was the only of its kind in the vicinity.[2]

According to Jeremiah Mudd, the two men then made their way to the hotels and shopping district of Pennsylvania Avenue. Jeremiah noted that it was “a little in the night” by the time the men reached their destination, adding “the lamps were lit on the street.” Sunset in Washington occurs around 4:45 pm in late December. While Jeremiah did not know the exact time of their arrival on Pennsylvania Avenue, simple estimation and his description places it sometime around or a little after 5 pm. The two men went to the Pennsylvania House Hotel and registered for a room.

Pennsylvania house
Source: Boyd’s Washington City Directory, 1864

Famished from their long journey, the two Mudds went in search of a meal. They walked one block west and settled in at Dubant & Brother’s restaurant located on the corner of 6th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue.[3] The meal lasted around one hour. Feeling invigorated by the food and the buzzing atmosphere of Pennsylvania Avenue at Christmas time, the men decided to continue several blocks farther west to Brown’s Hotel to “see if we could recognize anybody from the country.”

Google Earth Dubants
A modern satellite view of the scene on Pennsylvania Avenue. The pins mark the approximate location of most of these buildings. In the late 1800s the address system was amended in Washington rendering addresses before that time obsolete. To determine these approximate locations, Boyd’s 1867 Washington Directory was used as a guide. Using this system allowed the pins to be placed within a door or two of where the actual buildings were located. (Google Earth)

Disappointed by the lack of excitement at Brown’s, the duo remained only about fifteen minutes. They concluded to go the more popular National Hotel a few blocks east. Extrapolating time evidence, it was probably around 7 pm when they reached their new destination. Jeremiah noted that there was a “tremendous crowd” at the National.[4] The two men became separated in the confusion. Jeremiah found an old acquaintance and struck up a conversation. Following the conversation, he visited some clothing shops along Pennsylvania Avenue to plan for purchases the next day.[5]

National Hotel
The National Hotel in 1860 looking east toward the unfinished Capitol Building. (Library of Congress)

Like Jeremiah, Dr. Mudd also ran into an acquaintance at the National Hotel. The actor John Wilkes Booth resided in the National Hotel while in Washington. Mudd had been introduced to Booth a little over one month prior to this occasion at St. Mary’s Church in Bryantown. Evidence suggests that it seems likely that Mudd and Booth met a second time in Bryantown in the week prior to this December 23 encounter. Now, the acquaintances again found themselves in each other’s company.

John Wilkes Booth
John Wilkes Booth (LoC)

Booth had a favor to ask of Dr. Mudd. He desired an introduction to John Surratt. Mudd claimed that Booth’s justification for this meeting was “to select a good locality for a country residence.” According to Dr. Mudd, he attempted to deflect the request by pleading that he was in town with a relative from the country and the two needed to reconnect for the night. He added that he was also expected to meet acquaintances at his hotel at 8 pm. Judging by the extrapolated time evidence, this conversation was probably happening between thirty and forty-five minutes of that deadline. Mudd noted that Booth “had the number, street, and name of John Surratt written on a card, saying, to comply would not detain me over five minutes.” Today, one can only assume that the address written on the card was 541 H Street, which was the location of the boarding house owned by John’s mother, Mary Surratt. The Surratt Boarding House was a simple five block walk north up 6th Street from the National Hotel.[6]

800px-John_Surratt
John Surratt in 1867 (LoC)

While the journey would take longer than the promised five minutes, it was certainly possible to complete a round trip in thirty minutes. Dr. Mudd decided to walk with John Wilkes Booth. He noted that instead of simply walking up 6th Street, he and Booth “started down one street, and then up another.” This put the two men walking north on 7th Street. At just about the same time, John Surratt and his friend Louis Weichmann were leaving the Surratt boarding house. In later years, Weichmann reported that the two men had just left the establishment “to take a stroll on Pennsylvania Avenue” as he “anxious to purchase a few Christmas presents for my sisters.” The pair began walking down 7th Street.

As they all reached a spot opposite the Odd Fellows Hall, Dr. Mudd realized that he had just passed John Surratt and another man on the sidewalk.[7] It would have been approaching 8 pm and nighttime darkness had set in two hours prior. In the dim light of the street lamps, it would have been hard for Mudd to recognize Surratt even from as close as a few feet. Realizing who he had just passed, Mudd stopped and called out “Surratt, Surratt!” John Surratt and Louis Weichmann stopped and turned to see who was calling them. Upon seeing an old friend, Surratt reportedly exclaimed “why, Doctor, how do you do? I am so glad to see you, let me make you acquainted with my friend.” Formal introductions took place. First, Surratt introduced Dr. Mudd to Weichmann and then Dr. Mudd introduced Booth to both men. At Booth’s invitation, the party of four returned to the National Hotel.[8]

7t street with arrows
7th and D Streets in 1864. Mudd and Booth used the sidewalk to the left of this image and would have been walking away from the camera. Surratt and Weichmann would have been on the same sidewalk walking towards the camera. The blue arrow points out the Odd Fellows Hall. The red arrow points out the approximate location of the introductions. (Metropolitan Museum of Art)
Modern Odd Fellows
A modern street view of the Odd Fellows Hall taken from the location of the introductions. (Bob Bowser)
opposite odd fellows modern
A modern street view of the site of the introductions. The Odd Fellows Hall is behind the camera. (Bob Bowser)
Walk to boarding house with photographer
Modern satellite image of Mudd and Booth’s search for Surratt. The location of the photographer in the 1864 image is marked for reference. (Google Earth)

Upon reaching the lobby of the National, Booth invited the men to his room for cigars and drinks. Mudd politely declined the offer using his prior engagement as an excuse, but “finding that Weichmann and Surratt were disposed to accept- I yielded, remarking, that I could remain many minutes.”[9] Upon entering Booth’s room, Dr. Mudd noted that he immediately took Surratt into a hallway for the purpose of apologizing for introducing him to “a man I knew so little concerning.” He stated that this only took about three minutes and Booth stayed in the room with Weichmann while it occurred. Upon their return, Booth and Surratt struck up a conversation about land speculation in Charles County. Booth pulled out an old letter and had Surratt trace roads and properties on the back. Mudd claimed to have been a “mere onlooker” to this conversation. The entire meeting only took fifteen minutes. Needing to get to his appointment at the Pennsylvania House, Dr. Mudd invited the men to follow him there.[10]

Weichmann remembered things differently. He recounted Dr. Mudd calling Booth, not Surratt, initially into the hallway. He claimed that after a few minutes both men re-entered and asked for Surratt to step into the hall, as well. Weichmann claimed to have been alone in the room for nearly twenty minutes while this private conversation unfolded. The three men then returned to the room, apologetic about the secrecy of the discussion. Weichmann recalled witnessing the discussion over land in Charles County. However, rather than being a mere onlooker, Dr. Mudd was an active participant in the conversation. Weichmann claimed that this second meeting took place for an additional twenty minutes, placing the four men at the National for nearly an hour.[11]

Louis_J_Weichmann
Louis Weichmann (LoC)

All four men left the National and walked around the corner to the Pennsylvania House Hotel. They entered the first floor sitting room and broke into two separate conversations. Booth spoke with Surratt. Weichmann spoke with Mudd. Weichmann and Mudd spoke of the war. The recent news of Hood’s disastrous defeat at Nashville became the topic of their discussion. Weichmann noted that Mudd “expressed an opinion that the war would soon come to an end” judging that Dr. Mudd “spoke like a true Union man” with his sentiments on the battle. Following his short conversation with Surratt, Booth bid the men good night and exited the hotel. Weichmann and Surratt followed soon after. Dr. Mudd reunited with his cousin Jeremiah, who he found sitting in an adjoining lobby room. The two men retired to bed for the night in preparation for a busy day.[12]

Dr. Mudd and Jeremiah awoke on Christmas Eve morning ready to complete the objective of their trip. They took breakfast at the Pennsylvania House and then headed to Pennsylvania Avenue to shop. Dr. Mudd was most interested in purchasing the wood stove for his kitchen. Jeremiah accompanied him on his quest. When trying to recall the name of the stove manufacturer, Jeremiah’s memory faltered. In his testimony he stated “I think by the name of McGregor.”[13] While no stove maker by the name of McGregor can be found in the historic record, E.H. & H.I. Gregory stove makers had a store on the southside of Pennsylvania Avenue near 7th Street. Using the closeness of McGreogor and Gregory, it plausible that this was the business the two men entered that Christmas Eve morning.[14]

Gregory Stove Ad
Source: Boyd’s Washington City Directory, 1864
Stove, bank, and market google earth
Locations of Dr. Mudd’s shopping trip of December 24, 1864.

Dr. Mudd purchased the stove but had a problem. He needed someone to haul it back to Charles County for him. He checked with a Bryantown huckster named Francis Lucas to see if he could haul the stove home. Lucas, who ran a stall in the Seventh Street Market located just to the rear of Gregory Stoves, concluded that he could not as business was slow that day and he needed to continue to sell his all of his poultry in order to have room for the stove in his wagon.[15] Jeremiah noted that  Lucas could not take the stove “on that trip,” indicating that the stove was delivered on a later trip. It seems that Mrs. Mudd would not have her new stove in time for the Christmas holiday.

Seventh Street Market
A wartime view of the Seventh Street or Central Market where Francis Lucas was selling poultry and the Mudd cousins were Christmas shopping. Today, the National Archives and Records Administration Building sits on the site of the market. (LoC)

Dr. Mudd and Jeremiah spent the next few hours drifting in and out of shops, purchasing various articles of clothing and other small items. Jeremiah even noted the doctor making a stop at the Bank of Washington on the corner of 7th and C Streets. They wrapped up their shopping around 1 p.m. and started for their horses near the Navy Yard. According to Jeremiah, the pair left the city near 3 p.m.[16]

Dr. Mudd’s December meeting with Booth returned to haunt him following the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. He was arrested on April 21, 1865 and endured six hours of interrogation by Colonel H. H. Wells. Mudd admitted to having been introduced to John Wilkes Booth in Bryantown in the fall of 1864, going so far as to state “I have never seen Booth since that time to my knowledge until last Saturday morning.” [17] However, he unwisely avoided mentioning the “casual or accidental” meeting in Washington at Christmas time.[18]

On April 24, Mudd was transferred from the makeshift jail at the Bryantown Tavern to the Old Capitol Prison in Washington. In the opinion of Colonel Wells, Dr. Mudd had concealed information that potentially could have led to Booth’s capture had the doctor simply acted promptly with his information. The government used the Old Capitol Prison to hold dozens of individuals they considered as persons of interest in the assassination investigation. Those suspected by the government as conspirators were being held on board two iron clad monitors anchored in the river at the Navy Yard. Despite the information provided by Colonel Wells, the government still did not consider Dr. Mudd a conspirator.

Old_Capitol_prison_Washington,_D.C._circa_1864_34777v
The Old Capitol Prison circa 1864 (LoC)

Among those being held at the Old Capitol Prison was Louis Weichmann. He arrived at the prison on April 30 having been arrested for his connections with Mary and John Surratt. Mary had been in prison ever since a raid on her boarding house that occurred on April 18. The raid resulted in the arrest of all present. Conspirator Lewis Powell had also been captured in the raid and occupied a small room on board one of the monitors to await trial.

On April 30, Weichmann recalled meeting with Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton, as well as special Judge Advocate Henry L. Burnett. Weichmann  was required to give a detailed statement recounting all that he knew of the conspiracy. During the interview, he shared the story of Mudd’s introduction of Booth to John Surratt during the December visit to Washington. Dr. Mudd had confessed to meeting John Wilkes Booth in November 1864, but never mentioned the late December meeting. Worse yet, he never mentioned introducing Booth to Surratt. Upon hearing this new information, Stanton reportedly rose from his desk and “bringing down his clenched hand on the table with much force exclaimed with great earnestness to General Burnett, ‘By God, put that down, Burnett; it is damned important.’” This statement provided key evidence against John Surratt, Mary Surratt, Lewis Powell, and Dr. Mudd. The evidence regarding Mary Surratt was so damning that Stanton ordered that she be transferred to the Washington Arsenal Penitentiary that evening. Her fate was sealed.[21]

Weichmann was transferred to the Old Capitol Prison. The Secretary of War had yet to determine whether he was better suited for the witness stand or prisoner dock. Defendants were not allowed to testify in most states in 19th century America and would not be allowed to testify in the conspirators trial. It was easy to see that Weichmann was present at many key moments of the conspiracy and could be charged as a conspirator. However, if Stanton charged Weichmann valuable testimony against Surratt, Powell, and potentially Mudd would not be heard by the commission. Stanton needed to decided if he could trust Weichmann on the stand. The two would need to meet again in the coming days. 

Another famous inmate at the Old Capitol Prison was theater owner John T. Ford. He recalled an encounter with Louis Weichmann shortly after his incarceration began. This ominous encounter foretold the fate of Dr. Mudd. Ford recalled noticing Weichmann’s behavior was very nervous and erratic. When Ford asked Weichmann why he was behaving so strangely, Weichmann confessed that he was to report to Secretary of War Edwin Stanton for another interview. Ford recalled “he was greatly agitated and begged my advice as to how he should act. I answered, simply tell the truth, be right in all you say—don’t be frightened or influenced any other way.” The two parted and Weichmann again went to see Stanton. Ford next encountered Weichmann a few days later. He noted that Weichmann “seemed unnerved and beyond the power to control his terror.” Apparently, Stanton had threatened Weichmann by telling him that the “blood of the President was as much on his hands as much as Booth.” Ford recalled that Weichmann  was “shaking with fright” as he recalled the meeting. [19]

800px-Edwin_McMasters_Stanton_Secretary_of_War
Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton (LoC)

Several days elapsed and Ford again encountered Weichmann. He was shocked by a considerable change in Weichmann’s demeanor. Ford remembered that Weichmann now “exhibited considerable self-control and said he had again been to the War Department and had made up his mind to stand by the government-which he repeated several times within the few minutes we were together.” The sudden change in Weichmann’s attitude was tied to information that put Dr. Mudd in peril. [20]

Weichmann’s  information had connected the vital link between John Wilkes Booth and John Surratt. On May 4, Weichmann again met with Burnett and Stanton. By the time of this meeting, the government had unraveled much of the web of conspiracy and viewed  John Surratt as Booth’s right-hand man. The government felt that Surratt was responsible for helping build the plan and much of the team for the initial kidnapping conspiracy. Stanton’s desire to apprehend Surratt was so strong that he had issued a $25,000 reward for information leading to his capture.

Wanted poster
The government reward offered for Booth, John Surratt, and David Herold. (LoC)

By the beginning of May, Surratt was the only conspirator still at large. Weichmann’s revelation that Dr. Mudd was responsible for introducing Booth and Surratt was the final piece of evidence against Mudd. By the end of the May 4 meeting, Stanton had decided Weichmann’s testimony was too valuable not to be heard in court. Weichmann was returned to the Old Capitol Prison to prepare for his role as star witness. Dr. Mudd was transferred from the Old Capitol Prison to the Washington Arsenal Penitentiary to await trial. He was the last of the suspects to be transferred to the building that would soon host the trial of the conspirators. John Ford noted in disgust, “from that time [the May 4 meeting] Weichmann seemed to devote all his intelligence and energy in discovering and creating testimony for the prosecution.”[22]

court1
The Trial of the Conspirators (Frank Leslie’s Illustrated)

Louis Weichmann testified in the early days trial and was recalled several times for follow up testimony. On the stand, he recounted the fateful meeting in December 1864 in vivid detail, clearly describing Dr. Mudd’s importance in connecting John Wilkes Booth and John Surratt. Despite noting that nothing in the meeting led him to suspect that there “was anything like a conspiracy going on,” the commission took Weichmann’s testimony as proof of Dr. Mudd’s complicity in the scheme.[23]

In late June 1865, Dr. Samuel A. Mudd was convicted of conspiring with and aiding and abetting John Wilkes Booth in his heinous crime. He was sentenced to life in prison, but was pardoned by President Andrew Johnson in February 1869. Mary Surratt was not as fortunate. On July 7, 1865 Mary Surratt and three others were executed for their role in the conspiracy against President Abraham Lincoln. She became the first woman executed by the Federal Government.

Execution of the Lincoln conspirators, 1865 6
The execution of the Lincoln assassination conspirators: “The Drop.” (LoC) 

While there were certainly other factors that led to Dr. Mudd’s arrest and conviction, the December 23, 1864 meeting was the final piece of evidence the government needed to charge him as a conspirator in the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. It appears that even men a century and a half ago waited until the last minute to complete their Christmas shopping. However, in the case of Dr. Mudd it seems that penalties for holiday procrastination went far beyond long lines, grumpy patrons, and lack of gift selection.

cropped-dr-mudd
Dr. Samuel A. Mudd

This article may not be used in part or in full without consent of the author. All rights reserved. 2019.

[1]Ben Perley Poore, The Conspiracy Trial for the Murder of the President, and the Attempt to Overthrow the Government by the Assassination of its Principal Officers: Volume II (Boston: J.E. Tilton and Company, 1865), 259.

[2] Andrew Boyd, Boyd’s Washington and Georgetown directory, Contains also a Buisness Directory of Washington, Georgetown and Alexandria (Washington DC: A. Boyd, 1864) pg. 342.

[3] Boyd, City Directory, 144.

[4] Poore, Vol. II, 259.

[5] Ibid., 260.

[6] Nettie Mudd Monroe, The Life of Dr. Samuel A. Mudd (New York: The Neale Publishing Company, 1906), 42-43.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Poore, Vol. I, 70.;Louis J. Weichmann, A True History of the Assassination of Abraham Lincoln and of the Conspiracy of 1865, Edited by Floyd E. Risvold, (New York: Vintage Books, 1975), 32.

[9] Mudd, Life of Mudd, 43.

[10] Ibid., 43-44.

[11] Poore, Vol. I, 70-71.

[12] Ibid., 100.

[13] Poore, Vol. II, 260.

[14] Boyd, City Directory, 351.

[15] Poore, Vol. II, 268.

[16] Ibid., 260.

[17] Signed statement of Dr. S.A. Mudd, National Archives and Records Administration, Washington DC, m-599.

[18] Mudd, Life of Mudd, 42.

[19]Maryland Historical Society, John T. Ford Papers, File 371, Folder 10.

[20] Ibid.

[21] Weichmann, A True History of the Assassination of Abraham, 226.

[22]MHS,  JTF Papers, File 371, Folder 10.

[23] Poore, Vol. I, 104.

Remember, Remember Dr. Mudd met Booth in November

November 13, 2019 marks the 155th anniversary of John Wilkes Booth’s introduction to Dr. Samuel A. Mudd at St. Mary’s Church in Bryantown. The meeting occurred as a result of John Wilkes Booth’s October visit to Montreal, Quebec. While in that city, Booth met with a southern Marylander named Patrick Martin. Booth was in search of contacts in Charles County and Martin provided him with at least one and possibly two contacts.

John_Wilkes_Booth-portrait
John Wilkes Booth LoC

History tells us that Martin gave Booth a letter of introduction to Dr. William Queen and, quite possibly, Dr. Samuel A. Mudd.[1]

Booth arrived in Charles County on the evening of November 11 and met with Dr. Queen at his home the next day, November 12. Booth spent that night at Dr. Queen’s residence. On Sunday, November 13, Booth attended service with Dr. Queen at St. Mary’s Catholic Church. John Thompson, Dr. Queen’s son-in-law, accompanied the two men to the church. He remembered introducing John Wilkes Booth to Dr. Mudd in the churchyard prior to the service.[2]

St._Mary's_Catholic_Church,_Bryantown,_Maryland_(1901)
St. Mary’s Catholic Church at Bryantown,  Maryland

Dr. Mudd recalled the meeting in his written statement of April 22, 1865. He stated, “I have seen J. Wilkes Booth. I was introduced to him by Mr. J.C. Thompson, a son-in-law of Dr. William Queen, in November or December last…Mr. Thompson at the time that Booth was looking out for lands in this neighborhood or in this country…”[3] Thompson later testified that Booth stated his purpose for visiting Charles County was to purchase land.[4]

The timing of Booth’s visit was no accident. Maryland’s controversial new constitution, which emancipated slavery in the state, went into effect on November 1. The measure deprived slave owners, Dr. Mudd included, of their principle source of labor. The loss of slave labor threatened to destroy the economy of southern Maryland’s plantation agriculture. One week later, President Lincoln was overwhelmingly re-elected for a second term in office. To make matters worse, the military situation continued to worsen. Petersburg and Richmond had been under siege since the summer and General William T. Sherman was just about to begin his famous “march to the sea.” The situation for many white southern Marylanders had reached the point of desperation and John Wilkes Booth entered Charles County at that exact moment seeking help.

Putting these events in context makes it seem highly unlikely that Mudd and Booth simply discussed buying land in their churchyard meeting. Since August, Booth had devoted his time and energy to building a plan to kidnap President Lincoln and take him to Richmond. Mudd’s cousin, Dr. George Mudd, stated in an 1883 interview “there is no doubt of his having been connected with a previous intention of Booth to kidnap or abduct the president…”[5]

george_mudd_original

Whatever the actual conversation involved will never be known. However, history tells us that Dr. Mudd met John Wilkes Booth at least one, but more than likely two more times prior to the assassination. On those occasions, Mudd introduced Booth to Thomas Harbin and John H. Surratt Jr. Both men factored heavily into the kidnapping scheme.

Histories of the Lincoln assassination right fully focus much attention on the tragic events of April 1865. The story of the assassination and manhunt seem too astounding to be real. However, it must be remembered that for Dr. Mudd and Charles County the story began with a simple churchyard meeting in November 1864.

[1] Testimony of Eaton Horner in Ben: Perely Poore ed., THE CONSPIRACY TRIAL FOR THE MURDER OF THE PRESIDENT, AND THE ATTEMPT TO OVERTHROW THE GOVERNMENT BY THE ASSASSINATION OF ITS PRINCIPAL OFFICERS (Boston: J.E. Tilton and Company, 1865), Vol. I, pg. 430.

[2] Testimony of John C. Thompson in Poore Vol. II, pgs.269-271.

[3] Investigation and Trial Papers Relating to the Assassination of President Lincoln, 1865. (NARA microfilm publication M-599) National Archives, Washington, D.C.

[4] Testimony of John C. Thompson in Poore Vol. II, pg. 270.

[5] Cincinatti Enquirer, April 16, 1883.

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 1864, 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.