After picking up arms and ammunition at the Surratt House, the next significant stop on John Wilkes Booth’s escape route that night of April 15-16, 1865 was 14 miles down the road at the home of Dr. Samuel Mudd. Booth had broken his leg as he made his leap from President Lincoln’s box at Ford’s theater, and it needed medical attention.
Dr. Mudd was 31-years-old, married to Sarah Frances Dyer and the father of four young children. His country-doctor office was in their home on their 218-acre St. Catherine plantation in Charles County, Maryland, near the present town of Waldorf. The Mudd family had come to America in the 1640s, and the young couple’s land and home had originally been part of the larger Oak Hill plantation. According to the Dr. Samuel Mudd House website, they produced mainly tobacco with the help of their ten slaves. In contrast with the Surratt House, less than a half-hour away, the area today is still very rural, not yet consumed by Washington sprawl.
Dr. Mudd went on trial with seven others accused of conspiring to assassinate President Lincoln. (The ninth person accused, Mary Surratt’s son John, had escaped the country before he could be arrested.) Mudd declared that he did not know the identity of the man whose leg he set that night, even though he was previously acquainted with Booth. The man, said to have been disguised with a beard, was allowed to rest in an upstairs bedroom for a few hours, until morning.
Mudd and six others were found guilty of conspiracy; only Edman “Ned” Spangler, York native, was not found guilty of conspiracy, but only of aiding Booth’s escape from the theater, a charge he protested all his life. Four of the defendants, including Mrs. Surratt, were soon hung. Dr. Mudd, Samuel Arnold and Michael O’Laughlen were sentenced to life imprisonment. They were sent to Fort Jefferson in the Dry Tortugas islands between Florida and Cuba. The fort had been converted to a military prison, and Ned Spangler was sent along to serve his six-year sentence.
We again had an excellent docent who explained that the Mudd House, unlike the Surratt House, has never been out of the family. Samuel and Sarah Frances, who he called “Frank,” added to their family after he was pardoned by President Johnson in 1869, along with Spangler and Arnold. (O’Laughlen died at Ft. Jefferson during a yellow fever epidemic in 1867.) The Mudds had a total of nine children, and the house was donated by one of their many descendants to be preserved and interpreted.
As I mentioned before, Ned Spangler eventually lived at the Mudd farm. He is buried nearby. More on Ned’s last years, some things he left behind and his final resting place in a forthcoming post.
See below for more photos of the Mudd House.