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Correspondence

What Dr. Mudd Saw

“I have lost all confidence in the veracity and honesty of the Northern people,
and if I could honorably leave the
country for a foreign land, I believe
our condition would be bettered.”
—Letter to Frances Mudd,
by Samuel Mudd,
September 5, 1865

 an injured John Wilkes Booth fled southward out of Washington and headed for a small plantation at the edge of Zekiah Swamp in Charles County, Maryland.  Though Dr. Samuel Mudd would later declare he had not recognized the fugitive in the false whiskers at his door that Holy Saturday morning, he was, in fact, acquainted with him, having been introduced to Booth in November 1864.  That same fall, “Wilkes” made at least one visit to the Mudd residence, and in late December Mudd joined Booth and John Surratt for a cup of Christmas cheer at the National Hotel in Washington.  Nevertheless, though he might have seen beyond his patient’s attempt at disguise, we cannot assume that Dr. Mudd knew that he was setting the leg of an assassin, or that he had ever conspired to murder Lincoln—he had perhaps plotted to kidnap the old despot, but not to kill him.  Untroubled by matters of guilt or innocence and out for Southern blood, the Yankees found Mudd all too handy, as was the South’s most tragic figure, Mary Surratt.  His defense attorney, Gen. Thomas...

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