04-22-1865: Colonel Wells' Report on Dr. Samuel Mudd and the Hunt for John Wilkes Booth.
Source: U.S. National Archives, Microfilm M-599.
I have the honor to report the progress as follows in the matter entrusted to my care. As early as October last J. Wilkes Booth called upon a family living about five miles from this point, and made very thorough inquiries in relation to roads, means of conveyance, etc., particularly the road from Washington to this point (Bryantown) and especially whether there were any by-roads that would be likely to mislead a person coming from Washington here; and as to the roads, distances etc. from this point to the Potomac River. On the next day, he was introduced by a Mr. Thompson, of whom he made these inquiries, to Dr. Samuel A. Mudd who lives three miles north of this place, and of whom he inquired where he could buy fine horses; and on the next day bought a large bay horse with a defect in one eye (which is the same horse that Atzerodt claimed to have owned, and which was ridden by the assassin of Mr. Seward, and afterwards picked up by us in Washington).
On Saturday last, J. Wilkes Booth, together with a young man whose name is not certainly known by parties here, came to the house of the same Dr. Mudd whose acquaintance he made about daylight in the morning. They rode a bright bay mare and a large roan horse, the same animals procured by Booth and Herold at the two stables in Washington. Booth was very lame, and claimed to have broken his leg by a fall from his horse. He was carried into the upper story of the doctor's house, and on examination, as the doctor states, it appeared that the left shin-bone was broken about two inches above the ankle. He complained of suffering severe pain from it, and also in his back. The bone was set, and he was taken care of by the doctor who remembered him as the man Booth to whom he was introduced.
Booth was in a very nervous, excited condition, pale and worn. He wore a pair of long riding boots, reaching half-way between the knee and the hip. The ankle was so swollen that it became necessary to cut the boot in order to remove it, which boot was left in the house, and is now in my possession. On the inside upon the lining is written "Henry Luz, Maker, 445 Broadway" and below that "J. Wilkes."
Booth's companion was a smooth-faced young man who seemed acquainted with the people in the vicinity, but not with the country and mentioned several persons here, some of whom I have arrested, and the balance of whom I shall arrest. They remained at this house until about 3 o'clock of Saturday afternoon. An Englishman on the premises of Dr. Mudd made a pair of crutches by order of the doctor. Booth procured a razor, shaved off his moustache, and left in the afternoon, but for what exact destination I am not at present able to say positively. The young man, however, who was with him, inquired very particularly the road leading to Piney Church, and especially in relation to a road not very well known leading through the field and swamp in that direction, the distance being about five miles. I have had all that searched, but found nothing further.
There is a swamp, varying from half a mile to three miles in width and about twenty miles in length, the head of which is not far from Dr. Mudd's house. The trend of that swamp is northeast and southwest, and it terminates in a small creek which empties into the Potomac.
Dr. Mudd is either ignorant or willfully conceals the direction that the fugitives took; but a colored man says that about four o'clock a young man answering the description given before, riding the bay horse described above, rode rapidly by him towards the cross-roads leading to Bryantown, which would be a tolerably direct road to Piney Church.In a very few minutes he returned riding at a rapid pace, back in the direction from which he first came. Shortly after, he again returned, but on foot, stopped and said "I am entirely lost & do not know which is east or west." He asked where the sun rose; he then asked if there was a Dr. Sam Mudd living about there. The colored man told him that he did live near there, and where his house was. He then asked the colored man who lived in the house near which this conversation took place, and on being informed it was the residence of Henry L. Mudd, the father of the doctor, he asked the colored man if he thought he could stay there during the night, to which the colored man replied that he could not say, as he did not know. He then said "I think I will not bother anyone tonight," and asked "Isn't there a large swamp near here?" The colored man told him yes, and pointed out the direction to it. He wished the negro to go to Bryantown for him, which is three miles distant, the negro refusing, he said "Well I will take the swamp anyhow. I will not bother anyone tonight." He then went off in the direction of the swamp, but, from the formation of the land, could be seen but a short distance by the negro.
Up to this time I have not discovered any positive of him. I have put scouting parties with guides and detectives in all directions, to search houses, barns, and outhouses. I shall commence immediately and put a large force each side of this swamp to search it and the adjacent country from its head to the Potomac.
I am strongly of the opinion that Booth's design was to reach the Potomac somewhere in the direction indicated above, and if he has not already reached the Potomac and crossed it into Virginia or gone to sea - which is not probable - he is now in this swamp, or concealed near to it. I recommend that renewed diligence be used to prevent any escape by way of the Potomac.
I also recommend that inquiries be made in New York in relation to the boots; the address of the maker is given above.
I have the honor to remain Sir,
Your Obt. Servant
Col. & Provost Marshal General, Def. S. of Pot.