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    Description

    Dr. Samuel Mudd Autograph Letter Signed "Saml. A Mudd", three lined pages, 5" x 8", "Fort Jefferson, Dry Tortugas, Fla.", October 21,1865, to "My Dear Jere" (his brother, Jeremiah T. Mudd), discussing his life in prison. An alleged co-conspirator of John Wilkes Booth, Dr. Mudd attended him on his flight after the assassination.

    In part: "Since I wrote you last we four [himself, Sam Arnold, Michael O'Laughlen and Edman Spangler] & another prisoner under a life sentence . . . have been locked in a room every night closely guarded & not allowed to leave the door during the day without . . . a guard. This is said to be owing to a rumour . . . that a plot . . . is originating, either at Havana or New Orleans, to rescue us . . . The nation certainly is growing mad to believe in such nonsense; & we the victims of its credulity, feel greatly the sting caused by the sensationalist & political intriguers hostile to our well-being." Mudd asserts no one "can say naught against" their conduct so far, "other than my individual effort to get away, and I plead my apprehensions - the insecurity of life, the humiliation of being guarded by an ignorant, irresponsible & prejudiced negro soldiery . . . as a justification. We are now guarded entirely by negro soldiers & a few white officers, a skin's difference." He asks Jere to inquire into the rescue rumors and any War Department orders that may effect them; they think the rumors "were gotten up purposely to have an excuse to treat us with more rigor & hardship", and he points out that rescue would only be possible if the fort was starved out by a "large fleet & land force." He comments that if they had been guarded by the white 161st New York "no thought of leaving should have been harbored for a moment." After noting receipt of various items and letters he cautions "be careful what you write . . . I will not be able to write as often, owing to my altered position. I am very well - hoping the circumstances that led me to make the foolish attempt to extricate myself from this woeful place may be ameliorating." A postscript asks to know "whether my attempted escape will have a tendency to prolong my stay here, or . . . lessen the influence of friends. I have done nothing more than any other man would under similar circumstances . . . I am resolved not to leave this place unless released by proper authority." A fascinating letter blatantly displaying Mudd's racism, and various personality traits -- such as self-pity -- that have grated on his detractors, both then and since. Mudd was sentenced to life imprisonment at hard labor for complicity with Booth, but in fact first worked as a prison hospital nurse and steward. On September 25, 1865, he tried to escape on a transport ship and consequently was put in leg chains and made to do true hard labor (events which roughly coincided with the arrival of the black guards of whom he complains). Mudd's treatment was ameliorated after his wife appealed to President Johnson, who finally pardoned him and the other conspirators upon leaving office in 1869. Some separation at the folds, else fine.

    Provenance:
    Barrett, part of lot 720; Sang, lot 506.


    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    November, 2008
    20th Thursday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 9
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 2,187

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