Andrew Jackson, Nathan Forrest and statues…

14502734_341056519569770_3526987611270839125_n So today’s effort is a bit of a mixed bag, expect some meandering of thought. Jump on, enjoy the ride.

You may have heard in the news over the last few days that the Statue of Andrew Jackson in New Orleans in Jackson Square, is under threat from protesters calling themselves ‘Tear ‘Em Down New Orleans’, a group working in conjunction with Black Lives Matter, in a roundabout way, to push through action on votes that passed motion to reposition four statues of controversial historical figures who are in a modern context associated with some degree of white supremacy.

Now we have an invisible set of boundaries here at Naked History. They are loosely constructed, through the need to be fluid; however, we only discuss politics and associated agendas, actions and events within a historical context. So on that basis I’m going to steer clear of adding subjectivity to that particular debate, and try and concentrate on what this protest means from a historical perspective, much in the same way as I did with the piece on the Confederate Battle Flag some time ago. (

In 1971, the statue in Jackson Square was the subject of a controversy regarding the mount of the horse on which his figure sat. The horse is depicted rearing with both forelegs off the ground. It was argued in the ‘Times-Picayune’ by an Historian of the time that this was factually incorrect in sculpture terms, as rearing equine statues represented those who died in battle, which Jackson did not. A compromise was reached by a smooth talking tour guide who claimed the stance allowed for the rider to be noted as surviving battle and moving on to greater deeds. This entire story of course is groundless, as the positioning of an equine in statue – rearing for died in battle, one foreleg raised denoting wounding or died of wounds after the fact, and four legs planted denoting died of natural causes – is in truth, like the positioning of a knight or noble’s legs on his (medieval) effigy denoting participation in Crusade and so on, an urban legend with no basis in fact.14520419_341056422903113_6417033266224056291_n

Ok, back to those statues. I’m not going to recount the full life-histories of the mentioned figures involved, other than to give grounding to the protest currently surrounding their memorialization. Robert E Lee, Nathan Bedford Forrest and the others at the centre of controversy were key players in the Confederate cause, leading armies against the Union. Forrest and his wife have had their remains removed and re-interred on more than one occasion, it would appear solely as a result of his brief liaison with the founding of the Ku Klux Klan. The depth of his involvement has yet to be proven, and his fairly rapid distance from the more violent aspects of their agenda is well documented. During the Civil War, Forrest was caught up in allegations of atrocities against particularly African-American Union Soldiers, infamously at the Battle of Fort Pillow, which was decried as a massacre in several letters written by his own troops to their families following the victory of the Confederates under Forrest.

Certainly Forrest’s level of membership within the Klan, is argued, from a scant association to claims he was a founder member and Grand Wizard. One of his grandsons, Nathan Bedford Forrest II is also noted as a subsequent Grand Wizard. These facts are not confirmed. Forrest’s involvement in the Fort Pillow “Massacre” is still contested, despite his post-war investigation by Congress, who found no case to answer. Forrest was a wealthy slave-owner prior to the Secession by the Confederacy, subsequently losing his fortune on post-war business ventures, aimed at replacing his plantation and slave-trading businesses, following Abolition. Forrest later made guest appearances in a public speaking role aimed at what he claimed was his political and personal goal of bringing about unity and equality between white Americans and their Black counterparts.

His speech, after accepting flowers from an African-American Lady:

“Ladies and Gentlemen I accept the flowers as a memento of reconciliation between the white and colored races of the southern states. I accept it more particularly as it comes from a colored lady, for if there is any one on God’s earth who loves the ladies I believe it is myself. (Immense applause and laughter.) This day is a day that is proud to me, having occupied the position that I did for the past twelve years, and been misunderstood by your race. This is the first opportunity I have had during that time to say that I am your friend. I am here a representative of the southern people, one more slandered and maligned than any man in the nation.

I will say to you and to the colored race that men who bore arms and followed the flag of the Confederacy are, with very few exceptions, your friends. I have an opportunity of saying what I have always felt – that I am your friend, for my interests are your interests, and your interests are my interests. We were born on the same soil, breathe the same air, and live in the same land. Why, then, can we not live as brothers? I will say that when the war broke out I felt it my duty to stand by my people. When the time came I did the best I could, and I don’t believe I flickered. I came here with the jeers of some white people, who think that I am doing wrong. I believe that I can exert some influence, and do much to assist the people in strengthening fraternal relations, and shall do all in my power to bring about peace. It has always been my motto to elevate every man- to depress none. (Applause.) I want to elevate you to take positions in law offices, in stores, on farms, and wherever you are capable of going.

I have not said anything about politics today. I don’t propose to say anything about politics. You have a right to elect whom you please; vote for the man you think best, and I think, when that is done, that you and I are freemen. Do as you consider right and honest in electing men for office. I did not come here to make you a long speech, although invited to do so by you. I am not much of a speaker, and my business prevented me from preparing myself. I came to meet you as friends, and welcome you to the white people. I want you to come nearer to us. When I can serve you I will do so. We have but one flag, one country; let us stand together. We may differ in color, but not in sentiment. Use your best judgement in selecting men for office and vote as you think right.

Many things have been said about me which are wrong, and which white and black persons here, who stood by me through the war, can contradict. I have been in the heat of battle when colored men, asked me to protect them. I have placed myself between them and the bullets of my men, and told them they should be kept unharmed. Go to work, be industrious, live honestly and act truly, and when you are oppressed I’ll come to your relief. I thank you, ladies and gentlemen, for this opportunity you have afforded me to be with you, and to assure you that I am with you in heart and in hand.” (Prolonged applause.)

Andrew Jackson is a slightly different kettle of fish. Following his inauguration as seventh President of the United States, Jackson was like several others, including Washington, Jefferson et al, a Slave-owner. He passed away prior to the Civil War, in 1845. Despite his political acts having the potential to cost him votes, he was noted as a man of principles who stuck by his resolution to act for the American working classes in certain areas, particularly with regard to taxes, to the financial cost of wealthier supporters. He was however to be permanently associated with the passing of the Indian Removal Acts during his Presidential tenure, at the time arguably seen as acceptable by his white voting majority, however now seen as historically unpalatable. As a result, and despite his commemorative statues not being included in the four controversial ones listed as to be repositioned elsewhere, as per the recent votes, the Protest group have seen fit to advance on his statue too, with threats to pull it down themselves.

My thought is this. Whilst from a modern viewpoint, it could be seen by some that such figures may represent now unseemly aspects of American History, I struggle to see what purpose removal of such commemorations, and changing school and street names to more palatable alternatives, seems in a way to be an attempt to re-write history; almost to pretend it didn’t happen, in an odd shutting the stable door scenario to remove the existence and contribution of these people, however positive or negative their input was, from all recollection. Far from “rubbing the collective nose of African and Native Americans in the negative aspects of the past, through these figures, would it not make more sense to accept their place in history and learn from the mistakes they made?

Nathan Forrest may have had something to do with the massacre of 200 black Union troops at Fort Pillow. He may or may not have had an association with the origins of the Ku Klux Klan -arguably before their violent racial-political motivation gained impetus – but he was also a respected and highly motivated commander during the Civil War, despite having no military or tactical training. It was said that of all the commanders in the Confederate Army, Forrest was the one feared most by Union leaders, simply for his skill, courage and tenacity. The row surrounding the removal of his remains and their commemoration, has served only to invite present Klan chiefs to step in and attempt to take control of the situation with their offer to guard, pay for and organise a further reinternment under their own agenda.

Andrew Jackson made his own mistakes as President – he is not alone in that. He was also remembered for his devotion to his wife Rachel, particularly in the face of deeply personal taunts made by his political rival, John Quincy Adams, who Jackson felt drove her to her death from a suspected heart attack, with his consistent goading of the unfortunate circumstances of the Jackson marriage in its beginning.

Let’s stop campaigning to tear down statues of historical figures, in a knee-jerk attempt to apologise for actions that took place in a different time with different values and context. Who exactly are we apologizing to, anyway? And what for? We know the Indian Removal Act led to the re-settlement of Native Americans, away from their ancestral land. We know that it directly led to the ‘trail of tears’. We know the ripple effects are still being felt in 2016 with the Dakota Pipeline for example. But taking down Andrew Jackson’s statue isn’t going to change that; nor is it going to make things right. But it does seem to have the potential to negate any good that he did. Is that not worth the remembrance? Where do we draw the line? Who is next? Mark Twain maybe?


The Knights of the Golden Circle

Book cover: An authentic exposition of the Knights of the Golden Circle, A history of secession from 1834 to 1861 Photo Credit- Public Domain,
Book cover: An authentic exposition of the Knights of the Golden Circle, A history of secession from 1834 to 1861 Photo Credit- Public Domain

1860 were a very turbulent time in American History.  The Civil War was about to break out in earnest after a few skirmishes in the 1850s in Bleeding Kansas.  The country was about to be torn in two between the North and the South.  In the North, there was a vocal faction of the Democratic party who opposed the war.  Republicans began calling the anti-war Democrats “Copperheads” after the venomous snake.  This group adopted the slur and reinterpreted the copper “head” as the symbol of liberty cut from coins they used for their badges.  At their peak, they had the support of two senators, several newspapers and a strong base in the metropolitan areas.  Members opposed the draft and the freedom of slaves and wanted the union back with slavery.  They often met with Confederate agents and took money to encourage their activities.

The Knights of the Golden Circle became involved with the copperheads in 1861.  The Knights were established earlier than that in the 1850s by George W. L. Bickley.  The first group or “castle” was established in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1854.  After being driven from Cincinnati by debt collectors, Bickley traveled through the East and South promoting the society.  The aims of the KGC were to annex the “golden circle”, which included Mexico, the Caribbean, Central America and the northern part of South America.  These would be made into slave states, Mexico alone was divided into 25 new slave states, which would tip the balance of power in Congress back into the hands of the slaveholders of the South.  Once the war broke out in 1861, the KGC became politicized and joined with the copperheads as their secret arm.  The KGC figured prominently in the temporarily successful takeover of southern New Mexico Territory by confederate forces in May 1861.  They tried to join New Mexico to the new Confederate States of America, but were ultimately defeated.

In the North, the KGC stirred up trouble in the border states and became very strong in Kentucky, Illinois, Missouri, Ohio and Indiana.  Some frauds sold tickets for a dollar to Pennsylvania Dutch farmers near the battle of Gettysburg, which supposedly protected the farmers from having their homes looted for supplies.  Unsurprisingly, the tickets were not worth the paper they were written on and General Jubal Early took what he needed.  Also in 1863, the KCG tried to buy a schooner in San Francisco to pick off shipments from the California gold fields to the east coast.  They were caught on their maiden voyage.

The KGC rebranded as the Order of the Sons of Liberty under Ohio politician, Clement Vallandingham, a prominent copperhead.  The group membership was radical enough to discourage enlistments, resist the draft, and shield deserters in some places.  Vallandingham declared in May 1863 the war was no longer about the union, but being fought to free the blacks and enslave Southern whites.  He was arrested by the army for “sympathy to the enemy”.  Vallandingham was court martialed and sentenced to imprisonment.  However, Lincoln commuted his sentence to banishment to the Confederacy.  Incredibly, Vallandingham was still nominated for governor of Ohio in 1863 by the Democrats.  How this would work, I don’t think anyone could be sure.  He campaigned from Canada, but ultimately lost.  However, don’t count Vallandingham out of the story yet.

In the absence of Vallandingham, the KGC tried to organize a revolt in the old Northwest Territory, consisting of the states of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota.  Harrison H. Dodd was a KGC member and the leader of this would be rebellion, but a Federal investigation thwarted their plans.  A series of trials followed and revealed plans to set free the Confederate prisoners held in the state.  The culprits were sentenced by a military court to hang, but the case heard by the Supreme Court ruled they should have had civilian trials.

By this time, it was 1864 and the Democrats needed someone to run against Lincoln in the presidential election.  Working behind the scenes from Canada, Vallandingham spearheaded the convention in Chicago and producing a largely Copperhead platform.  He also engineered the selection of George Pendleton, a peace Democrat, as the vice president.  However, the presidential candidate chosen was former general George B. McClellan, who was pro war.  The dichotomy between the candidates weakened their position and helped Lincoln gain the victory.  Between this and the Union victories, the public face of the KGC fell apart.  However, there is speculation that they did not fold up and go away.

The KGC was supposed to be extremely rich as they collected and hid money to finance the war effort.  No one is sure if this is true, but there are a lot of stories out there.  They are have also been connected with the missing money from the Confederate Treasury that left Richmond just before its fall.  There is also speculation that John Wilkes Booth, the assassin of President Lincoln, was recruited by the KGC and that the society planned the murder.  However, as I said before, this is speculation.  We know that Booth was in contact with Confederate agents and sympathizers, but that is all.

Additional speculation has been made that Jesse James was a member of the KGC.  We know that James was a Confederate soldier and member of Quantrill’s raiders in a squad commanded by Fletch Taylor then onto a bushwacker group led by Bloody Bill Anderson.  It is rumored that the robberies by the James Gang contributed to the lost KGC treasure.  However, this is all speculation.

The KGC was definitely a fifth column element that existed during the Civil War.  Anything past that is in the realm of theory.


The Lost Confederate Treasury

Artist's impression of the attack at Washington, GA Photo Credit-
Artist’s impression of the attack at Washington, GA Photo Credit-

In April 1865, the confederacy was in its death throes.  Confederate President Jefferson Davis heard on the way home from church on April 2, 1865 that Grant had broken through the line at Petersburg.  The evacuation of Richmond, Virginia, the capital of the Confederacy was underway.  The Confederate cabinet commandeered to special trains on the only open line left to Danville, Virginia- one carrying the cabinet and the other the Confederate treasury along with the assets of six Virginia banks.  The Confederate treasury was worth about $500,000 at the time, which is about 10 million dollars in today’s money.  It consisted of gold ingots, gold double eagle coins, silver coins, silver bricks and $200,000 of Mexican silver dollars.  The bank assets added up to about 9 million dollars in today’s money.  Included in the loot was allegedly donated jewelry, and even floor sweepings from the Dahlonega, Georgia mint. The gold and silver were packed in wooden crates and loaded onto the train.  The only men available to guard this valuable treasure were young midshipmen from a training ship on the James River.  Some of them were as young as twelve years old.

The train hit Danville and some money was paid out an exchanged for Confederate paper money, which quickly became worthless.  The train kept moving south, but when the money was counted a few days later there was some $200,000 missing.  Legends abound that this money was pulled off the train and hidden somewhere in Danville.  More on that in a later post.  The men were instructed to take the remaining money to the old mint at Charlotte, North Carolina, however, they were thwarted by the US Cavalry.  They hid what money was left in old flour and sugar containers and ran for the Georgia/South Carolina line.  They met in Washington, Georgia, where Jefferson Davis was holed up with what was left of his cabinet.  Some of the funds were disbursed to soldiers as pay, but this did not use up all the funds.  It was here where the money and the Confederate cabinet was captured.  The money was prepared for transport to Washington DC.  However, this is where the story gets hazier.

The wagon train stopped outside the Chennault plantation on May 1865.  At 11:00pm that night, a man in blue uniform rode passed the camp.  An hour later, twenty raiders attacked the camp in a well organized attack.  It was so well executed the Chennault family was not even aware it was taking place.  The raiders were found to members of the 7th and 8th Tennessee, which were originally Confederates then switched sides to the Union.  They busted open the wagons and began stuffing so much gold in their saddlebags they were overflowing.  Legend says that one man had a hole in his bag and didn’t realize it and rode off leaving a trail of gold coins.  Union general Edward A. Wild was in charge of finding the missing money and earned infamy for his treatment of the Chennault family, who were innocent bystanders to the raid.  The men tortured and the women strip searched.  Angry soldiers even shot the family dog.  They were dragged to prison, but eventually released.  Some of the money was recaptured, but a portion of it was never found.  This led to the legends that the money was buried somewhere in Wilkes County, Georgia.  Some stories said that after a rain, gold coins would wash up on the dirt roads.

The Chennault Plantation in Washington, GA where the Confederate gold reportedly disappeared Photo Credit-
The Chennault Plantation in Washington, GA where the Confederate gold reportedly disappeared Photo Credit-

Another legend persists about the gold and the involvement a local family, the Mumfords.  Stories say that a portion of the treasury was given to members present at the last Confederate cabinet meeting.  Sylvester Mumford, a Confederate sympathizer from New York who had a cotton plantation in the neighborhood, was present and took his share.  One legend says he was given the entirety of the treasury.  It is alleged, Mumford took the money he was given and took a portion of it by steamer from Florida to Great Britain.  The other portion was inherited by Mumford’s daughter, Goertner “Gertrude” Mumford Parkhurst, who lived in New York.  Supposedly, she decided this money should go back to the people it came from and she established trust funds for the education of the descendants of Confederate soldiers.  These were established through her will after her death in 1946.  This story gained popularity from the book Snow White Sands, written by Martha Mizell Puckett.

Wayne J. Lewis was one of the first recipients of the scholarship and became interested in the story.  Through his research, he disproved this connection finding that the stolen money from the Washington heist was accounted for and had been tied up in the federal court system until 1893, where it was awarded back to the federal government.


Sources available on request

The Levellers- Proto-democracy

Leveller manifesto, 1649.
Leveller manifesto, 1649.

After the First English Civil War, everyone thought that Parliament would wield power in England and not the throne.  Well, they were half right.  In the mid 1640s, parliamentarian control was being established throughout England, but the army had the power.  The New Model Army had been socially transformed as officers were drawn from a much lower and broader section of society than before.  These men were poorly paid, hungry and angry.  The Leveller movement grew from this contingent.  At first the term “leveller” referred to a faction of the New Model Army which intended to assassinate King Charles.  The group did not like the term as they felt it was pejorative and refuted the claim they intended to bring all society down to the lowest level.  They preferred the term “agitators”.  However, in the Agreement of the People, manifestos published between 1647 and 1649, the term leveller was adopted because of its familiarity to the public.

In 1647, the New Model Army began discussions on what a new constitution would look like for England.  These Putney Debates had arguments inspired by John Lilburne, Richard Overton and William Walwyn.  Their proposals advocated the return of “free-born” national rights, which had been held by the Anglo-Saxons before the Norman conquest.  These proposals included voting rights for all male householders over the age of 21 following the “one man, one vote” principle.  They also advocated term limits for members of parliament as well as a ban on consecutive terms.  Tithing and excise taxes would be abolished.  The law would be simplified and made accessible to the common people.  This step towards representative democracy was nothing short of radical in the 17th century.  There was not total agreement in the leveller camp.  Lilburne cited the Magna Carta as restoring the rights denied Englishmen by the Normans but took it further saying the rights given to the barons should extend down to all men.  Other Levellers, such as William Walwyn called the Magna Carta a “mess of potage”.  What all of them did refer to were the “natural rights” of men, which had been denied by King Charles and the royalists.  Sound familiar?

The Levellers believed the men fighting should be given rights as they had spilled their blood.  Lilburne had already been sent to prison once for protesting the state of the army fighting for Parliament while Parliament members were living in luxury.  Although they were quick to say they did not want any social egalitarianism and believed in rank.  However, they did want to bring attention to the complaints of the poor, which were not as those in charge believed lazy beggars who could be whipped and put in a corner.  Most poor people were skilled people who had been displaced by the war, and needed a hand up.  The Elizabethan poor laws were notoriously harsh, and they felt those who fought and suffered for the Parliamentary forces should be given relief so they could be productive members of society again.  Thomas Rainsborough said at the debates, “For really I think that the poorest hee that is in England hath a life to live, as the greatest hee; and therefore truly, Sr, I think itt clear, that every Man that is to live under a Government ought first by his own Consent to put himself under that Government; and I do think that the poorest man in England is not at all bound in a strict sense to that Government that he hath not had a voice to put Himself under.”  And why would anyone put themselves under the control of a government who thought they were lazy and were happy to put them in a corner because of the misfortunes of war?
The opposing party in the debates were the Grandees, led by Oliver Cromwell and Henry Ireton, Cromwell’s son in law.  They were horrified by the proposals.  Suffrage should be retained only by landed men, in their opinion, and anything less would be tantamount to anarchy.  Ireton argued, “no man hath a right to an interest or share in the disposing of the affairs of the kingdom… that hath not a permanent fixed interest in this kingdom.”   Parliament was full of lawyers, who did not want to democratize the law.  The tricker the law was gave them job security.  All of them depended heavily on the privilege of rank, for all the talk of getting rid of the royals.  Unsurprisingly, the result of the Putney Debates produced a document that reflected more of the positions of the Grandees than the Levellers.

But Lilburne and crew were not done yet.  They continued producing manifestoes and voice their views in their newspaper The Moderate.  Their aims were clear- a kingless, bishopless Britain.  The hated the new regime accusing Cromwell and the grandees of switching one king for another.  Lilburne gave a scathing rebuke to the House of Lords, which he was trying to get abolished, “All you intended when you set us a-fighting was merely to unhorse and dismount our old riders and tyrants, that so you might get up and ride in their stead.”  They published a pamphlet called England’s New Chains, and questioned any obedience to a regime they condemned as illegitimate.  That went over about as well as you can imagine.

Lilburne, Overton, Walwyn and Thomas Prince were dragged in front of the Council of State and treated to a fist pounding temper tantrum from Oliver Cromwell.  When they refused to acknowledge the Council, they were dragged to the Tower.  They thought they had silenced the movement, but something amazing happened.  The message was took up by Leveller women.  Lilburne had already gone against the traditional Puritan teaching saying women “were by nature all equall and alike in power, dignity, authority and majesty” to men.  His wife, Elizabeth, rose to the challenge and galvanized a petition for her husband’s release.  Elizabeth Lilburne and Katherine Chidley were at the head of a demonstration of women bringing the petition for their husband’s release to the Tower.  Not surprisingly, they were told to go home and not worry their pretty little heads.  Wrong answer, boys.  These women made sure the Manifestation, the latest work of their husbands published from the Tower, was distributed throughout London.

The army took notice and a mutiny over pay turned into a mass demonstration.  By mid-may 1649, rebellion was sweeping through the countryside.  Cromwell turned to face it and travelling fifty miles in one day with a pursuit force, put down the mutiny.  Lilburne was put on trial for treason in October, and brilliantly insisted the jury alone was empowered to issue a verdict.  He called the judges “cyphers of the people’s will”.  He got acquitted, but it was too late.  After several leaders in the New Model Army were shot, their base in the army was effectively undermined.  The influence of the Levellers was broken, although their ideas had influence on the future.  Many of these ideas found their way into important documents, especially a little thing called the Declaration of Independence.



Sources available on request

Dr. Samuel Mudd-   His name was mud

Dr. Samuel Mudd
Dr. Samuel Mudd

Dr. Samuel Alexander Mudd was a doctor and Confederate sympathizer in southern Maryland.  He was married with children and lived a comfortable life near Bryantown, Maryland, outside of Washington DC.  

Dr. Mudd first met John Wilkes Booth in 1864 while he was part of the Confederate underground.  There is evidence at least two meetings, once at St. Mary’s Church near Bryantown, Maryland and at the Bryantown Tavern.  Booth wanted Dr. Mudd to introduce him to Confederate courier, John Surratt, which he did.  The two men remained in sporadic contact.  Later witnesses told authorities John Surratt and the other conspirators visited Dr. Mudd at his farm numerous times in the months before the murder.

At about four o’clock in the morning on April 15, 1865, Booth and David Herold arrived at the Mudd farm near Bryantown.  Booth was in severe pain with a badly broken leg, and Mudd took  Booth to his sofa and later up to his bed so he could treat Booth’s injured leg.  Dr. Mudd cut the boot from Booth’s foot and splinted it, and arranged for a carpenter to make crutches.  Booth paid Mudd $25 for his aid.  The two stayed at the Mudd farm until later that a day,then Dr. Mudd went into town to run errands.   Here is where the story gets muddy, if you forgive the pun.

While in town, Dr. Mudd claimed he first heard about the assassination of President Lincoln by Booth.  Realizing the murderers were in his house, Dr. Mudd rushed home without alerting authorities, claiming he was afraid the assassins would return to the house and finding him gone harm his wife and children.  There is some speculation as to whether Booth and Herold were already gone when he returned home from town or if he urged them to leave after hearing what they had done.  In any case, Dr. Mudd did not contact anyone about Booth and Herold until at Easter Mass the next day, when he requested his cousin Dr. George Mudd to notify the 13th New York Cavalry.  To Lieutenant David Dana, who commanded the 13th New York, this was extremely fishy.  They searched Mudd’s home and found the boot cut off of Booth, which had “J Wilkes” written in it.  Dr. Mudd claimed he did not know Booth when he arrived at his home, which contradicts the testimony of other witnesses who saw them together in Washington.  Caught in a lie, Dr. Mudd admitted the Washington meeting saying he “ran into” booth by chance.  No one was buying it.

After Booth’s death on April 25, 1865, Dr. Samuel Mudd was arrested and charged with conspiracy to murder Abraham Lincoln.  Prosecutors had a field day with comments Mudd was alleged to have said about the federal government and President Lincoln himself.  A neighbor testified he heard Mudd say “the President, Cabinet, and other Union men” would “be killed in six or seven weeks.”  The defence countered that the neighbor was lying to get the $10,000 reward for convicting Mudd, but it raised serious doubts.  Former slaves testified they heard a conversation between Mudd and a friend that discussed how the president should be dead.  There was also discussion of how supplies were sent to the Mudd farm by the conspirators.  It has been suggested that Mudd was aware of Booth’s original plan to kidnap Lincoln, but did not know it had changed to murder.

Whatever the real story, Mudd was convicted and sentenced to life in prison.  His life was spared by one vote.  He was sent to federal prison in the Dry Tortugas, Florida.  His military escort, George Dutton, later testified Mudd confessed “he knew Booth when he came to the house with Herold”, and that he lied “to protect himself and his family.”  He also admitted to meeting with Booth in Washington by appointment and several times afterward.  This was not new, but only confirmed what the prosecutors suspected.  Mudd prepared an affidavit protesting Dutton’s statement was a lie and he had told him nothing.

Dr. Mudd was allowed to stay in mail contact with his wife, who lobbied President Andrew Johnson for his release.  There was an escape attempt in 1865, which Mudd had been a part of and failed.  He had been clever about it, knowing his mail was monitored he denounced the idea of escape in a letter to his wife.  However, he tried to escape on a supply ship but was caught.  Mudd described his punishments for attempted escape,  “For attempting to make my escape, I was put in the guard-house, with chains on hands and feet, and closely confined for two days. An order then came from the Major for me to be put to hard labor, wheeling sand. I was placed under a boss, who put me to cleaning old bricks. I worked hard all day, and came very near finishing one brick. The order also directs the Provost Marshal to have me closely confined on the arrival of every steamer and until she departs.”  He never tried to escape again.

In the summer of 1867, yellow fever broke out on the island and the prison doctor died.  Dr. Mudd took over his place and treated many of the patients and eventually became sick himself although he recovered.  The non-commissioned officers and soldiers he saved in the epidemic signed a petition for his release, and Dr. Mudd was pardoned in 1869.  He returned home to Maryland and resumed his practice.  Dr. Samuel Mudd died on January 10, 1883 of pneumonia at the age of 49.


Sources available on request