CHAPTER II: MY MOTHER’S STATEMENT.
The following very full statement was written by my mother:
The following very full statement was written by my mother:
The first time I ever saw John Wilkes Booth was in November, 1864. My husband went to Bryantown Church, and was introduced to Booth by John Thompson, an old friend from Baltimore, who asked my husband if he knew of any one who had a good riding-horse for sale; to which he replied, “My next neighbor has one.” After this they made arrangements for Booth to come up to our home that evening to see about buying this horse. There was company in the house and supper was just over, when my husband came in and asked me to prepare for a stranger.
My husband came in with the stranger and made the necessary introductions. The conversation was on general topics. Nothing relative to the Administration or the war was spoken of by any one present. After supper, Booth joined the visitors and remained in general conversation until bedtime, which was about 9:30 o’clock. I did not see Booth again until at the breakfast table the next morning.
After breakfast the horses were ordered, Booth tied his at the gate, and my husband threw the bridle rein of his horse over his arm and walked along with Booth across the field to Squire George Gardiner’s. Booth soon returned, came in and got his overcoat which he had thrown over the back of a chair in the parlor, said good-by, and rode away. The horse he purchased was sent to him at Bryantown that evening. After he had gone I went to the parlor to put things in order. Lying on the floor by the chair that had held his overcoat was a letter, not enclosed in an envelope, that had fallen from his pocket. I picked it up and almost involuntarily glanced at the headlines. These lines convinced me that some poor man’s home had been wrecked by the handsome face and wily ways of Booth. The letter was from New York; but I did not look at the name of the writer, and I do not know to this day who she was. I laid it on the table, hoping to be able to find some means of returning it to him. As he never returned, I subsequently threw it in the fire.
About 4 A. M. on the 15th of April, 1865, I heard a rap on the door, and as my husband was not feeling well he asked me if I would not go and see who it was. I replied, “I would rather you would go and see for yourself.” He arose and went to the door in his night clothes. I heard some one talking in the hall, and footsteps as they passed into the parlor. My husband returned and told me there was a man out there with his leg broken. He asked me to tear some strips for bandages. I did so. Afterward I heard my husband and a third man assisting the injured man up-stairs. The Doctor returned, and went to bed himself. At 6 o’clock I arose, called the servants to get breakfast, and at 7 waked my husband. He sent a servant to tell the man who called himself “Tyson” (and who afterward proved to be Herold) to come to breakfast. I then prepared breakfast for the sick man, put it on a tray, and sent it to his room by a servant; told her to place it on the table by his bed and come down. Tyson and my husband then came to the table, and while at breakfast Tyson asked the Doctor if he knew many persons in the lower part of the county near the river. To which he replied in the negative. Tyson spoke of a good many families that he knew. The Doctor knew some of the parties spoken of, others he did not know. This led me to ask Tyson, “Are you a resident of the county ?” He replied, “No, ma’am, but I have been frolicking around for five or six months.” He looked so boyish that I remarked, “All play and no work makes Jack a bad boy. Your father ought to make you go to work.” He answered me, “My father is dead, and I am ahead of the old lady.”
At this time he seemed not to have a care in the world. Turning to my husband he asked the distance to the river. The Doctor replied, “About eighteen or twenty miles.” Tyson then remarked, “We are on our way to the river; which is the nearest road we could take?" There was a road leading across the Sakiah which my husband usually took in attending to his practice, and as it was the shortest way, told him of it. Afterward I saw the Doctor standing in the back yard pointing across the swamp. Tyson then came into the house and went up-stairs, I presume to sleep. I heard no more from either of the strangers till dinner. When the doctor returned to dinner Tyson came down, and I sent the servant up to the sick man’s room with his dinner. The servant returned and brought down the dinner and breakfast dishes, and I found he had not eaten anything during the day.
At dinner Tyson asked the Doctor if he thought he could procure a carriage in the neighborhood to carry his friend away. My husband replied, “I am going to Bryantown to get the mail and see some sick, and if you will ride along with me to the village, perhaps you can get a carriage there.” As they were leaving the house I asked my husband if I could go up and see the sick man. “Yes, certainly you can,” he replied. As he had taken nothing to eat during the day, I took up to his room some cake, a couple of oranges, and some wine on a tray. I placed the tray on the table by the bed, asked him how he was feeling and if I could do anything for him. His reply was, “My back hurts me dreadfully. I must have hurt it when the horse fell and broke my leg.” I asked him if he would take the cake and wine; he refused. He then wished to know if the Doctor had any brandy. I told him no, but that he had some good whiskey, and offered to get him some, but he declined. I remarked, “I guess you think I have very little hospitality; you have been sick all day and I have not been up to see you.” and again asked if I could do anything for him, to which he did not reply - his face being all the time turned to the wall. I then left the room.
I went down to the kitchen, where the servants were preparing for the “Easter Sunday dinner.” After a short while Tyson rapped from the outside on the kitchen window. I went to the front door, opened it, and asked if he succeeded in procuring a carriage. He replied, “No, ma’am; we stopped over at the Doctor`s father’s and asked for his carriage, but tomorrow being Easter Sunday, his family had to go to church, and he could not spare it. I then rode some distance down the road with the Doctor, and then concluded to return and try the horses.”
He went upstairs. I heard them moving around the room and in a short time they came down, the man calling himself Tyler (who afterward proved to be Booth) hobbling on a stick which our old gardener, Mr. John Best, an Englishman, had sent up to him at the request of Tyson. When they came down I was standing in the hall at the foot of the stairs. Tyler wore heavy whiskers; these proved to be false, and became partially detached as he came down the stairs. So much of his face as could be seen presented a picture of agony. I told Tyson if he must go to do so, but to please leave his friend here, we would take care of him, although the discovery of the false whiskers aroused my suspicions. Tyson’s reply was, “If he suffers much we won’t go far. I will take him to my lady-love’s, not far from here.” They passed out of the door. Tyson helped Tyler to get on his horse, then mounted his own horse and they rode away. I did not see either of them after this.
About an hour afterward my husband returned and told me of the assassination of the President, and that there were soldiers in Bryantown looking for the assassin. A short while after this he remarked, “Frank, those men were suspicious characters. I will go to Bryantown and tell the officers.” I agreed with him as to the suspicious character of the men, and told him about the false whiskers, but begged him not to go - I was afraid to remain in the house without him; and as the next day was Sunday, asked him to send word to the soldiers from church, which he did, Dr. George D. Mudd, of Bryantown, being the messenger. He heard no further from them, and on Monday went to see his sick patients. Tuesday he did the same thing, going out in the morning and returning about twelve o’clock. In the afternoon Dr. George Mudd came to the house with some soldiers and asked a description of the two men.
My husband, in my presence, gave them all the information he could. They then left and returned on Friday, when there was another conversation in the hall. My husband told them there was a boot, which he had cut from the man’s leg, found in the room after he left, and went upstairs to get it. The servant while cleaning the room had thrown it under the bed. My husband did not find the boot, and I sent Martha, the housegirl, to get it for him. He brought down the boot, and gave it to the officer in command, who took it and examined it. On the inside was written, “J. Wilkes --.” One of them said, “A part of the name has been effaced”; so I asked if I could see it. The officer held it in his hand while I looked at it. Then I remarked, “No, that is only a dash, there was no other name there.” When they left they required my husband to go with them to Bryantown. I do not know what happened at Bryantown, but that night my husband came home, and was requested to return the next morning, which he did. Again he returned in the evening. The next day, being Sunday, he went to church. On Monday an officer with three soldiers came to our house. They had two colored men from the farm of the Doctor’s father, who were riding two horses also taken from his father’s place.
Then they called for two hired hands on our farm, made them get horses from the stable; one of them saddled the Doctor’s horse, and then they all left for Washington. When the officer saw how grieved I was (I am sorry I do not know his name, for he showed some heart and feeling), he returned to the house and said to me, “Do not grieve and fret that way, I’ll see that your husband soon returns to you”; but it was four long years before he saw his home. About a week after his departure from home I received the following brief note from him:
“Carroll Prison, April 29, 1865.
“My dearest Frank:
“I am very well. Hope you and the children are enjoying a like blessing. Try and get some one to plant our crop. It is very uncertain what time I shall be released from here. Hire hands at the prices they demand. Urge them on all you can and make them work. I am truly in hopes my stay here will be short, when I can return again to your fond embrace and our little children.”
A few days later a company of soldiers were stationed on our farm. They burned the fences, destroyed the wheat and tobacco crops; pulled the boards off the corn-house, so that the corn fell out on the ground, and all the corn that the horses could not eat was trampled under their hoofs in such a way as to render it unfit for use. The meat-house was broken open and the meat taken out. All that they could not eat was left scattered on the hillside where they had pitched their camps. A day or so after their arrival my husband’s sister came over to see me. She wanted some garden seeds, and asked me to go down with her to the old gardener, Mr. John Best, to get them for her. When we went out no soldiers were in sight. We carried a basket, and the old man tied up some seeds in packages, put them in the basket, and then asked us to go to see his garden. A few moments after we entered the garden we were surrounded by soldiers. One officer came over and demanded to know what we had in the basket. The little packages of seeds were unwrapped, the contents examined. With a crest-fallen look he remarked, “I thought you were carrying food to Booth.”
A couple of days after this a negro regiment from Popes Creek came up the Sakiah Swamp in search of Booth. When they were opposite the house they turned and entered the valley leading up the hill at the back of the house. They passed around the house, which was guarded by two young men, left by William P. Wood, keeper of the old Capitol Prison in Washington. These young men were instructed to shoot any one who dared to enter the yard. The negro regiment did not stop to search the house or its surroundings. Mr. Wood and two other detectives had their headquarters in the house, and went out during the day in search of Booth, returning at night. One night Mr. Wood did not return, and the officers in command of the troops on the farm placed a guard around the house and forbade any one leaving or entering the house. I was alone with four little children and a colored woman.
Some of the soldiers came around the house and began talking impudently to the colored woman. I called her in, locked the door, and drew down the curtains, not knowing whether I would be dead or alive the next morning. I lighted the lamp in the dining-room, put the children to bed, and with the colored woman sat there till two o’clock in the morning. At this time I heard a rap at the door, and a familiar voice call me. It was a cousin of mine, Sylvester Mudd, who had risked his life by coming within the lines, knowing I was alone. I could not have been more glad to see an angel from heaven than I was to see him. The next day the information came that Booth and Herold had been captured. The bugle was sounded, the roll called, and the soldiers left on their march to Washington.
For a little while there was a lull in the storm. My husband, previous to his trial, was placed in the old Carroll Prison in Washington with the others, none of whom he had ever seen before except Herold; and the only time he had ever seen him was when he came to our house with Booth on the morning after the assassination of the President.
I engaged General Ewing to defend my husband. He was not only a lawyer of ability, but had distinguished himself for bravery in the Union army during the war. In this case he proved himself not only a lawyer of merit, but a true friend during my husband`s trial and imprisonment. Whenever he saw the least shadow of hope, he would write me nice, friendly and cheering letters, which I sometimes think must have kept me from despair.
During the trial, which commenced on May 10, 1865, the Doctor’s friends and myself were shocked and surprised at the base and false testimony permitted to be given against him. Daniel Thomas, one of the leading witnesses for the prosecution, was an outcast from his home. His brother swore he would not believe him on his oath. Years afterward he was arrested and convicted on the charge of the commission of pension frauds, and died in the penitentiary. His reason for giving the false evidence was to secure a part of the large reward offered by the Government for the capture and conviction of Booth and those thought to be his accomplices. Norton, Evans, a number of the negroes, and several others, also swore notoriously false.
With all this false testimony his life was spared, but he was sentenced to a life imprisonment on a lonely, dreary island in mid-ocean. Several times during the trial I had occasion to go to Washington. On more than one of these occasions, while I was at General Ewing’s office, I met Mrs. Browning, wife of Secretary of Interior Browning, a member of President Johnson’s Cabinet. One day she told me that her husband and herself took breakfast at a restaurant in Washington, where General Lew Wallace, a member of the Military Commission that condemned my husband, also breakfasted. In the course of the conversation she had with General Wallace at the breakfast table he remarked, “If Booth had not broken his leg, we would never have heard the name of Dr. Mudd.”
Mrs. Browning said to him, “Why don’t you then send Dr. Mudd home to his wife and children?” General Wallace then replied, “The deed is done; somebody must suffer for it, and he may as well suffer as anybody else.” In order to be perfectly fair, my daughter wrote to Mrs. Wallace as to the correctness of this statement, and received the following note in reply:
“Crawfordsville, Ind., September 18, 1905.
“Dear Miss Mudd:
“Mrs. Wallace says she has no remembrance of hearing General Wallace say anything about Dr. Mudd that was like the sentence you quote.
“Truly yours, “H. WALLACE, “Secretary”
A few days after my return from Washington, after the date of this conversation with Mrs. Browning, I saw an ambulance drive up to the house. Lieutenant Baker and Daniel Thomas got out of it and came in. Lieutenant Baker said, “Mrs. Mudd, we came to take you to Washington. I presume you know Daniel Thomas.” I replied in the presence of both, “Knowing Mr. Thomas as I do, and not knowing you, I must look upon you as a gentleman; and if I must go to Washington, it will be under your protection and not that of Daniel Thomas.” I then told Lieutenant Baker that my brother, Jere Dyer, would visit my home, from Baltimore, that evening, and that I would go to Washington the next day with my brother if that would be satisfactory. He replied, “I will trust you.” They then left.
That evening my brother came, and the next day we took the stage for Washington, there being no railroad in this portion of the State at that time. When the stage arrived at Capitol Hill, Washington, I heard the clanking of swords, and an officer came up to the stage and asked if Mrs. Mudd was there. My brother answered, “Yes.” The officer then called a carriage, and my brother and myself were driven to General Baker’s office. In a few moments after our arrival there, the General, who was a brother of the lieutenant who came with Thomas to my home, entered the room and spoke to both of us, then left, I presume to consult with some one else. When he returned he told me to go to a hotel and send the hotel bill to him. I asked him if I could not go to the home of my cousin, Mr. Alexander Clark. To which he replied, "Yes, but return here tomorrow morning at ten o’clock.”
The next morning, at the hour mentioned, I went to General Baker’s office, and was not kept waiting many minutes before he came in. I told him if there was any information I could give him, please to let me get through as soon as possible, as I had left four little children at home, and no responsible person to take care of them. Without asking me a question he remarked, “Mrs. Mudd, stay over till two o’clock, and if I do not send for you, you can go home.” No messenger came, and my brother hired a carriage and brought me home.