12-31-1867: Dr. Daniel W. Whitehurst’s Letter to Dr. Crane.
Source: Samuel A. Mudd Pardon File B-596, RG 204, U.S. National Archives, College Park, Maryland.
Dr. C.H. Crane
Asst. Surgeon General
I have the honor of acknowledging receipt of copy of a petition, signed by soldiers of the 5th U.S. Artillery at Fort Jefferson, Fl. in behalf of Dr. Mudd, a state prisoner thereat, and referred to me by order of the Surgeon General for remark incident thereto.
On the morning of 7th August last, at 2 o’clock, I was called on by 2nd Master Thorpe & Dr. Cornick, and was informed that there was much apprehension felt at Fort Jefferson, in consequence of fever existing there; and I was asked if I could not go down; to which I replied, if the situation of my sick of Engineer Hospital, as well as private patients, would admit of leaving that I would cheerfully do so.
At daylight I commenced visiting my patients, and received at the same time, a note from Major Stone, importuning me to come over, as Dr. Smith was extremely ill, and they were all in great affliction. An appeal of this character could not pass unheeded, and turning my sick over to the care of another, I left for Fort Jefferson, arriving there at 10 o’clock that night, and immediately visited Dr. Smith, whom I found in the wildest phrensy. As soon as Major Stone entered, he sprang at him, and demanded that he should be allowed to see his wife, then laying ill in the next room.
I had iced water poured over the head, and in a short time, he fell off into a gentle slumber - awakening at 12, with returning cerebral disturbance, and at 2 of the morning of the 8th I closed his eyes - dying without a struggle.
Dr. Mudd was and had been in attendance on Dr. Smith, as well as Mrs. Smith. Dr. Mudd, at 6 o’clock called on me, and remarked “that he had been doing medical service, from the emergency of events, and as I had come down, he would now retire.” Favorably impressed with his services, I asked him to continue them, which he did, visiting the sick with me, taking down prescriptions, putting them up, and attending to the various duties which the increasing sick required at his hands.
The Hospital Steward, Wythe, was convalescing, with a sick wife and child, and altho’ as efficient as he could be, under such circumstances, he had continued claims upon his attention, in supplying cooks and nurses; for those of one day were patients the next, and thus his duties were exacting in the extreme. Incidentally, I would remark that I found Grenfell a volunteer nurse with Dr. Smith; and after his death in the hospital; and I must say that his attention and kindness was most continuous - to many a sick soldier, their return to health was the result I have no doubt of his continued devotion.
On my arrival, I found a hospital at Sand Key, and that the island was used as a burial place of the dead. The island was small, and had been used during the war for a similar purpose, leaving really but little room for new interments. The hospital tents were located over, and surrounded by graves, and the small wood building, tho’ not so much, was still subject to the same objections. As the communication which I made daily with the island was liable to interruption, and as the sick continued to improve, I thought it best to discontinue the use of the island for that purpose and on the 15th Sept. it was abandoned. From the first development of fever (Aug 18th) there were 27 cases treated, and 6 deaths on Sand Key. In removing the convalescents, and ceasing to make a further use of Sand Key, the most important consideration was that the weather was boisterous, and a hurricane might occur at any moment, a contingency which would have been fatal to all the occupants thereon.
The companies at Sand Key were removed to Loggerhead, and the depressing influences of burials was thus removed from among the soldiers stationed there.
Major Stone and Lieuts Orr & Gordon frequently spoke to me in relation to Dr. Mudd, and they expressed themselves, warmly commendations in his favor, as well also in favor of Grenfell, and that they desired reporting to the government their excellent conduct, and asking its benignant recognition in their behalf.
These gentlemen were all victims of the disease and it seems but just to their memories that opinions so formed and expressed should be made a matter of record.
I believe that these remarks will explain all sought for by the Surgeon General in relation to Dr. Mudd; and in conclusion, I feel that I should be unfaithful to a common humanity did I fail to recognize his useful, unwearying and continued service in a period of sorrow and deep distress.
I have the honor to be
D.W. Whitehurst M.D.