OTD: Dr. Mudd receives a Pardon

On this date, February 8th, in 1869, President Andrew Johnson presented Mrs. Mudd with a pardon for her imprisoned husband.

Dr. Mudd 4

Mrs. Mudd, her friends, and neighbors had worked diligently trying to get Dr. Mudd released from Ft. Jefferson for years. According to Mrs. Mudd, during her several meetings with Johnson, “He conveyed to me always the idea that he wanted to release my husband, but said more than once ‘the pressure on me is too great.'” Now, with less than a month left in his presidency, Johnson called Mrs. Mudd to the White House and gave her a pardon for Dr. Mudd. A month later, on March 8th, Dr. Mudd was released from custody at Fort Jefferson.

Here is President Johnson’s pardon of Dr. Mudd in full, courtesy of Robert Summers’ impeccable Dr. Samuel A. Mudd Research Site:

“Andrew Johnson
President of the United States of America.

To all to Whom these Presents shall come. Greeting:

Whereas, on the twenty-ninth day of June in the year 1865, Dr. Samuel A. Mudd was by the judgment of a Military Commission, convened and holden at the City of Washington, in part convicted, and in part acquitted, of the specification wherein he was inculpated in the charge for the trial of which said Military Commission was so convened and held, and which specification in its principal allegation against him, was and is in the words and figures following, to wit:

And in further prosecution of said conspiracy, the said Samuel A. Mudd did, at Washington City and within the Military Department and military lines aforesaid, on or before the sixth day of March, A. D. 1865 and on divers other days and times between that day and the twentieth day of April A. D. 1865, advise, encourage, receive, entertain, harbor and conceal, aid and assist, the said John Wilkes Booth, David E. Herold, Lewis Payne, John H. Surratt, Michael O’Laughlen, George A. Atzerodt, Mary E. Surratt and Samuel Arnold and their confederates, with knowledge of the murderous and traitorous conspiracy aforesaid, and with intent to aid, abet, and assist them in the execution thereof, and in escaping from justice after the murder of the said Abraham Lincoln, in pursuance of said conspiracy in manner aforesaid:

And whereas, upon a consideration and examination of the record of said trial and conviction and of the evidence given at said trial, I am satisfied that the guilt found by the said judgment against the Samuel A. Mudd was of receiving, entertaining, harboring, and concealing John Wilkes Booth and David E. Herold, with the intent to aid, abet and assist them in escaping from justice after the assassination of the late President of the United States, and not of any other or greater participation or complicity in said abominable crime;

And whereas, it is represented to me by respectable and intelligent members of the medical profession, that the circumstances of the surgical aid to the escaping assassin and the imputed concealment of his flight are deserving of a lenient construction as within the obligations of professional duty, and thus inadequate evidence of a guilty sympathy with the crime or the criminal;

And whereas, in other respects the evidence, imputing such guilty sympathy or purpose of aid in defeat of justice, leaves room for uncertainty as to the true measure and nature of the complicity of the said Samuel A. Mudd in the attempted escape of said assassins;

And whereas, the sentence imposed by said Military Commission upon the said Samuel A. Mudd was that he be imprisoned at hard labor for life, and the confinement under such sentence was directed to be had in the military prison at Dry Tortugas, Florida, and the said prisoner has been hitherto, and now is, suffering the infliction of such sentence;

And whereas, upon occasion of the prevalence of the Yellow Fever at that military station, and the death by that pestilence of the medical officer of the Post, the said Samuel A. Mudd devoted himself to the care and cure of the sick, and interposed his courage and his skill to protect the garrison, otherwise without adequate medical aid, from peril and alarm, and thus, as the officers and men unite in testifying, saved many valuable lives and earned the admiration and the gratitude of all who observed or experienced his generous and faithful service to humanity;

And whereas, the surviving families and friends of the Surgeon and other officers who were the victims of the pestilence earnestly present their dying testimony to the conspicuous merit of Dr. Mudd’s conduct, and their own sense of obligation to him and Lieut. Zabriskie and two hundred and ninety nine noncommissioned officers and privates stationed at the Dry Tortugas have united in presenting to my attention the praiseworthy action of the prisoner and in petitioning for his pardon;

And whereas the Medical Society of Hartford County, Maryland, of which he was an associate, have petitioned for his pardon, and thirty nine members of the Senate and House of Representatives of the Congress of the United States have also requested his pardon;

Now, therefore be it known that I, Andrew Johnson, President of the United States of America, in consideration of the premises, divers other good and sufficient reasons me thereunto moving, do hereby grant to the said Dr. Samuel A. Mudd a full and unconditional pardon.

In testimony thereof, I have hereunto signed my name and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the City of Washington, this Eighth day of February, A. D. (Seal) 1869, and the Independence of the United States the ninety third.

ANDREW JOHNSON, By the President”

Some recent advocates of Dr. Mudd have tried to use this pardon as proof that Dr. Mudd was wholly innocent of the crimes against him. However a pardon is not that same as being exonerated. Exoneration is when one is completely absolved from blame for a wrongdoing. A pardon is when one is forgiven for a wrongdoing. Dr. Mudd was offered and accepted a pardon. To accept a pardon is to accept the guilt of the wronging and to be forgiven for it.

In my eyes, Dr. Mudd earned his pardon due to his assistance during the Yellow Fever epidemic on the Fort.  He risked his life helping the soldiers and prisoners of the fort during their illnesses and subsequently paid for his involvement with John Wilkes Booth.

Dr. Samuel A. Mudd Research Site

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9 thoughts on “OTD: Dr. Mudd receives a Pardon

  1. Richard Sloan

    i’D LIKE TO KNOW WHO THE MEMBERS OF CONGRESS WERE WHO VOTED FOR THE PARDON, AND WHAT STATES THEY REPRESENTED. I ALSO WONDER IF THEY WERE ENTIRELY FROM STATES CONSIDERED SOUTHERN. James O. Hall said that the pardon was the sort of exoneration that the Mudd family wanted. You indicate that it is not the case. Me thinks you are correct. Does anyone wish to chime in on any of this?

    • Richard,

      While Johnson does mention the difficulty in establishing the difference between rendering hippocratic aid vs attempting to help a person escape justice, he does state that he was satisfied with the verdict of the commission.

  2. David George

    this is excellent. thank you for posting!

  3. Eleanor Ford

    i DON’T think it’s JWB either. I have another photo claimed to be him but don’t believe it. Don’t know
    where it came from as I’ve had it so long.

  4. Marvin Goodpickle

    From the book, The Life of Samuel A. Mudd, written by his daughter, Dr. Mudd was apparently unaware that Booth was Booth. Mudd had “met” him on one or two brief occasions some time before the assassination. When Booth showed up at his house at 4am, Booth was in disguise and used a different name. His accomplice did all the talking. It was not until the next day that he learned of the assassination. He was not aiding a known criminal. He and his wife told authorities of their visitors of their own accord. They assisted the military as much as humanly possible. Aside from the fact that most legal authorities said the military had no right to try Mudd, they did so anyway, strung up 4 people and sentenced Dr Mudd to LIFE in prison!. Thankfully he was pardoned 4 years later. I visited his cell at Ft Jefferson a number of years ago and noted how desolate the place is/was. It was NOT the place for a loyal, family man that could have been sent somewhere closer to his family-if at all. The arrogance of the US military leaders and our government continue to be evident today in 2017!

    • Marvin,

      Laurie expertly described the evidence against Dr. Mudd. I echo her sentiments that you should really read Ed Steers’ His Name Is Still Mudd.

      Thanks for commenting.

  5. Laurie Verge

    I will not go into length with a response, but Mudd hosted Booth a number of times in Southern Maryland after being introduced to him in November of 1864, He in turn introduced Booth to a chief Confederate agent in the area, Thomas Harbin, and Harbin was agreeable to assisting in the kidnap plot. Mudd also secured a horse for Booth from a next-door neighbor and took Booth to the blacksmith in Bryantown to have the horse tended to. That horse would later be used by Lewis Powell, who nearly killed Secretary Seward. On December 23, 1864, Mudd met with Booth in Washington and made sure that Booth was introduced to John Surratt, Jr. They spent considerable time together in Booth’s room at the National Hotel that day.

    Fellow conspirator George Atzerodt stated that Booth sent provisions ahead to Dr. Mudd’s home in preparation for what became the aborted kidnap attempt. From that point on, Mudd appears to drop from the Booth scene until the early morning of April 15, 1865, However, there is some evidence that David Herold was sent into Southern Maryland on April 12-13, possibly to alert members of the Confederate underground that something big was happening soon. Was Mudd one of those alerted? His residence was one of the points closest to Washington, and he was known to harbor Confederates in woods behind his house. He had also been a member of the slave patrols before emancipation came to Maryland in November of 1864.

    Whether of not Booth disguised himself before reaching Mudd on April 15 is debatable. He was having a difficult time in the saddle, had refused a carbine in Surrattsville, and likely would have had a difficult time putting on stage whiskers (as the Mudds claimed),

    Too much incriminating evidence to declare Dr. Mudd an innocent victim of government revenge. It is now out-of-print, but I recommend reading His Name Is Still Mudd by Edward Steers, Jr._

    • Paul T Fisher

      Well said, Laurie! I couldn’t agree more. One must look into the Mudd story more than just what’s on the surface. Mudd’s own statements and the statements of his wife appear to conflict with each other in numerous ways.

  6. Rachel Duncan

    When I was 7 years old and in the 2nd grade I specifically remember President Carter exonerating Dr. Mudd which cleared his good name. Even as a 7 year old I recognized the injustice in the Dr. Mudd case!!! Why couldn’t the adults? Poor guy!!! And his poor wife!!! What a loyal woman she was!!!

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