After shooting President Abraham Lincoln on April 14, 1865, John Wilkes Booth rendezvoused with fellow conspirator and accomplice David Herold. The pair stopped at a tavern retrieved Booth’s field glasses, a rifle, and some whiskey.
Finally, the U.S. Cavalry caught up with suspects who were asleep in a tobacco barn near Port Royal, Virginia. Herold surrendered to the troops, but Booth was shot dead after the barn was set on fire.
What about Dr. Mudd? He was apprehended and placed under arrest for conspiracy and for harboring Booth and Herold. Dr. Mudd’s connection to Booth was tenuous, the two had discussed the sale of a horse less than a year before the assassination of the President.
During Mudd’s trial, several witnesses testified that Booth and Mudd were associates. Mudd was convicted and sentenced to life in prison at Fort Jefferson in the Dry Tortugas in the Florida Keys.
Following a failed escape attempt later in 1865, Mudd was assigned to the carpentry shop at the prison. During this time-span, Mudd’s spouse had been sending letters to President Andrew Johnson to plead for her husband’s release.
The doctor was pardoned by President Johnson on February 8, 1869. Johnson released Mudd because of the doctor’s leadership and activity during a yellow fever epidemic on the Dry Tortugas in 1867. The Presidential pardon document was signed by Johnson as Mrs. Mudd witnessed the act. Dr. Mudd was officially released on March 8, 1869.
The question remains, did Dr. Mudd knowingly harbor known fugitives, or was he truly ignorant of the two men’s connection to Lincoln’s assassination at the time when he allowed them to rest at his home?