My previous two posts concerned a day trip I took a couple of weeks ago to southern Maryland, visiting the homes of two of the convicted Lincoln conspirators, Mary Surratt and Dr. Samuel Mudd. Both sites are well interpreted.
I was especially interested in Dr. Mudd’s house, since carpenter Edman “Ned” Spangler, son of a York County sheriff. and tried along with Surratt, Mudd and the others accused, spent his last few years at the Mudd home, and is buried nearby.
While the other seven defendants were found guilty of conspiring to assassinate President Lincoln and either swiftly hung or sentenced to life imprisonment, Ned was only found guilty of aiding Booth’s escape from Ford’s Theater and sentenced to six years in prison, a charge he vehemently denied. That sentence was to be served at Ft. Jefferson in the Dry Tortugas, an island fort turned military prison, about 70 miles from Key West.
A yellow fever epidemic killed many of the prisoners at Fort Jefferson in 1867, including conspirator Michael O’Laughlen. Dr. Mudd treated many of the sick men and fell ill himself with the fever. Ned and conspirator Samuel Arnold reportedly helped nurse the doctor and others back to health.
One of the last acts of President Andrew Johnson before he left office in March 1969 was to pardon Spangler, Mudd and Arnold. Spangler went back to work for the contractor building John Ford’s new theater in Baltimore. Sometime in the early 1870s Spangler went to live with his old friend, Mudd, and Mudd’s family. Some accounts said Ned was planning to build a small house on the farm for himself, but he was caught in a winter storm, sickened and died February 7, 1875. He would have been 50 years old in August.
I was excited to see some Spangler artifacts on display at the Mudd House, including his Bible, doll chairs made for Mudd children and a dresser. One of most interesting items is a large wooden plane stamped with “E.Spangler.”
The Mudds were Roman Catholic, and Ned is said to have been baptized Catholic shortly before he died. I stopped at the old St. Peter’s Catholic cemetery nearby. His grave is marked by a fairly modern tombstone erected by the Surratt Society and Mudd Society. A jar of withered flowers still decorated the site; they had been placed there not too long before by our Mudd House docent in commemoration of Ned’s birthday on August 10.