Chapter VIII: NEGRO TROOPS AT FORT JEFFERSON, RELIEVED IN PART BY WHITE SOLDIERY.
[Note: "Frank" is Mrs. Mudd's family nickname, from her middle name Frances.]
[Note: "Frank" is Mrs. Mudd's family nickname, from her middle name Frances.]
Fort Jefferson, Tortugas Island, Florida, November 11, 1865.
My dear Jere:
Yesterday, the 10th, four companies of heavy artillery arrived to relieve the detested and abominable negro regiment, and I am in hopes our future treatment will be much milder. It can’t be worse. We were placed, without any cause whatever, in heavy leg irons on the 5th of November, marched down to headquarters, then placed under a boss at hard labor cleaning old brick. A tug arrived that day, and it was no doubt to please the crew’s gross fancy and exhibit the Major’s power, that the cruel act was resorted to. We had been closely confined under guard for more than a fortnight previously. Notwithstanding living in irons, we are closely guarded and not suffered to leave the door for the most trivial thing without having a negro guard with musket and bayonet by our side. At night, our chains are taken off, the door locked, and a sentry placed there on guard. This treatment was not brought about by any fear of escape, or the apprehension of any violence on our part, but is no doubt done to degrade and lessen us in the estimation of our fellow-prisoners and citizens, and to keep down the apparent sympathy of strange arrivals, of which every boat brings many.
I received a letter from you and Fanny (my father’s sister) on the 7th and was much rejoiced to know that your hopes of release were so lively. God grant that your efforts may succeed, and I be delivered from this hell upon earth. Fannie was telling me what papa was doing, which I thought was very improper, knowing that any imprudence is subjected to the inspection of officious officers, who are disposed to place their own wicked construction wherever their personal gain or ambition is likely to be profited. I am afraid papa will find himself in the end the victim of imposition of some of these hostile intermeddlers, although mercy grant the contrary. I have had enough of the humanity and Christian spirit that animates the hand of the saints, to cause me to remember them, and it is but natural I should desire that they should be visited by the same degree of chastisement which they have and are still inflicting upon their fellow-countrymen through motives of patriotism and vindication of the honor and supremacy of the Republic. Every day increases my hate toward the authors of my ruin, and sometimes I can scarcely withhold my angry indignation. The near approach of expected relief I am in hopes will keep me within bounds. Should you be so fortunate as to effect my release, lose no time in forwarding the joyous intelligence. Telegraph it to Tom, and tell him to notify me from New Orleans; also write to Henry Benners, postmaster of this place. You can enclose a letter to his address for me, observing due precautions. I sent you what might be a copy of a letter to Secretary Stanton. I did not write, but scribbled it off so that you and counsel could advise regarding. You can omit and supply as you think the case may require. We are all at this moment in chains. Neither Colonel Grenfel nor myself has been taken out to work the past two or three days, but suffered to remain passively in our quarters. He is quite an intelligent man, tall, straight, and about sixty-one or two years of age. He speaks fluently several languages, and often adds mirth by his witty sarcasm and jest. He has been badly wounded and is now suffering with dropsy, and is allowed no medical treatment whatever, but loaded down with chains, and fed upon the most loathsome food, which treatment in a short time must bring him to an untimely grave. You will confer an act of kindness and mercy by acquainting the English Minister at Washington, Sir F. A. Bruce, of these facts.
Your brother, SAM.
Application was made on November 20, 1865, by my uncle, Thomas O. Dyer, of New Orleans, to Major-General Sheridan, commanding the Division of the Gulf, for permission to forward to my father certain articles of clothing and luxury. This permission was granted, as will appear by a copy of the order which follows. Up to this time the articles sent my father by his friends had almost invariably failed to reach him; and even afterward many articles, and even sums of money, sent him seem to have been “confiscated.”
Headquarters Military Division of the Gulf, Office Provost-Marshal General.
New Orleans, November 20, 1865.
Permission is hereby granted to T. O. Dyer to forward this invoice of goods to Samuel A. Mudd, confined at Fort Jefferson, Florida, care of commanding officer there, who will deliver same at his discretion. M. Dept. will furnish transportation.
By command of Maj.-Gen. Sheridan, F. T. SHERMAN, Brig. Gen & P. M. G.
The articles, an invoice of which had been furnished to General Sheridan, were duly sent, and all were received by my father except “2 bottles Bordu Whiskey.” These were nevermore heard of. Whether they were cast overboard in transmission, or were intercepted and the contents consumed by some bibulous individual to Whom opportunity offered temptation, will perhaps never be known
Fort Jefferson, November 25, 1865.
My dearest Wife:
I am as well as circumstances permit. Give my love to all, Pa, Ma, and the family. Tell the children they must be good, learn their lessons, and pray for their disconsolate papa. I am afraid to write more, lest objection be made; and believe me, my dear Frank, your most faithful and devoted husband, confiding in the infinite goodness and mercy of God and the prayerful intercession of many friends, I am in hopes of a speedy release and return to you.
A mail has arrived. The letters and papers have not been distributed, consequently I do not know whether there is anything for me or not. Kiss all the children, etc. Yours,
Dry Tortugas, Fla., December 9, 1865.
My dear Jere:
I received your last, dated November 7, 1865, which I assure you has raised my spirits above description. Let me hear from you all, not contraband, at your earliest opportunity.
I received a trunk from dear Tom on the 3d of December, invoiced as containing a quantity of fine clothes, several cans of vegetables, fish, whiskey, etc. The whiskey was not received. I wrote to him acknowledging the receipt. He may not get it, so when you write, inform him.
The negro regiment has been only partially relieved by white troops. Our condition is not much better. We are still in irons, compelled to wash down six bastions of the Fort daily, closely guarded, denied all intercourse with other prisoners, locked up at night, and a sentry placed at the door. Our fare is something better, and we are allowed to purchase articles of food, etc. I also received twenty-five dollars from Tom. This was placed in the hands of the commander, not to my credit. We are only allowed three dollars per month. I assure you no reasonable cause can be alleged for our present rash and inhuman treatment other than my attempted escape.
I thought I had paid the penalty of my offense when we were paid a visit by Generals Newton and Forsyth, and we are informed by the negro Commandant that it was through their order we were placed in irons. Newton commands this department. God bless him and his tribe!
I am well and in hopes of a speedy release from my chains. Good-by, my dearest brother and friend.
Give my love to all and kiss Frank and the children for me. You need not send me any more money. I will call upon you when I need it. I have enough to bring me home. This note is written far underground. Your brother,
Fort Jefferson, Florida, December 12, 1865.
My darling Frank:
I received last night yours of the 20th of November, which relieved me of many apprehensions regarding you and our little ones.
I assure you last week has been the most miserable of my imprisonment, on account of the gloom which came over me in consequence of your failing to write at the appointed time. You said nothing in your letter about your previous sickness or indisposition. I, therefore, conclude you have fully recovered. I am truly pleased to see you so hopeful of my speedy release. I can see nothing cheering in what you have communicated, but it may be owing to my want of understanding. It is my impression this flimsy pretense is resorted to to keep up a show of doing something, when in reality nothing is intended to be accomplished. I am pleased to know that you are satisfied; as for myself, nothing short of removal from this place can create an impression of fair dealing on the part of those in authority.
I am sorry to hear of the death of George Garrico and Mr. Bean. Our white population is wonderfully diminishing by death and other causes. The negroes will soon be in the majority, if not already. Should I be released any time shortly, and circumstances permit, I will use all my endeavors to find a more congenial locality. I wrote to you on the 7th, also on the 1st, which I am in hopes you shall have received before this. I sent you on the 7th a couple of large mosscards, and today send you three more, having nothing more suitable at hand. I have some small shell frames for pictures, but cannot send them conveniently by mail. I will try to send them by the next mail if I can arrange a safe box, etc. I was in hopes I would have the pleasure of bringing in person these little curiosities, but fate has decreed otherwise.
Don’t bother yourself in regard to my wants; they are all plentifully supplied at this time. I have plenty of money for all my wants, clothing sufficient to last me a year or more.
I am well with the exception of a pretty bad cold, and occasional rheumatic attacks. Give my love to Pa, Ma, and all the family.
Fort Jefferson, Dry Tortugas, December 14, 1865.
My darling Wife:
I have received no intelligence from you since the letter dated November 7. In that I was led to hope for a speedy reunion. I fear you have been misled and caused cruel disappointment to visit me in this ungodly place; a new pang to my sufferings.
We have not been visited by a priest up to this time. There is no minister of any denomination here, and no religious observation of Sunday or holidays.
The colored regiment has only been partially relieved. Our fare has much improved since I last wrote, though treatment is the same.
I received a trunk of clothing, cans of vegetables, tobacco and twenty-five dollars from dear Tom on the 3d instant. The clothing is finer than I need, besides I am not situated to wear them. You will please express my thanks and gratitude to Tom when you again write.
Did you deliver the message to Fannie I requested in a former letter, viz: to be more prudent in her writing? The last letter that arrived was not handed me on account of insulting language. She must have been aware that all correspondence is inspected previous to the delivery to prisoners, and language prejudicial to me or herself would be observed, and likely noted. Do caution her for the future, and allow nothing in your power to prevent, to be said or done having a tendency to prolong my misery. I have arrived at that point to which I would accept any terms for an immediate release, - even death I crave to a much longer protraction. So, my darling, try and prevent all language that is not likely to accomplish anything toward my relief. Spare no effort in endeavoring to bring before the Executive my entire innocence. You know well, my darling, could the truth be established, I should receive the thanks and applause of the nation instead of this cruel and unjust treatment.
My dear little Tommy continues still unwell; alas! I fear I shall not be home in time to render him any benefit. I am in hopes I shall be spared this affliction - the loss of one of our dear little children - by a merciful Providence. What I have already undergone is beyond my power of expressing, and nothing but the consciousness of having done no wrong, but a duty, causes me to bear up against my adverse fortune. Written in haste. Write soon. My heart yearns to see you, and the dear little ones.
Good-by, my darling wife, my hope and comfort.
Your husband, SAM.
Fort Jefferson, Dry Tortugas, Florida, December 20, 1865.
My darling Frank:
I am well, things are “in stau quo.” The weather is very warm - mosquitoes and bed-bugs very numerous and troublesome; coupled with this, I feel much disappointed at not being able to enjoy my Christmas dinner at home, as I have been led to hope.
I have received no letters since yours of the 27th of November and December 5th, Since then I have written - this the third letter to you and one to Fannie. I have received no letter from you containing money, and for the future you need not bother yourself to send me anything, only as I may desire. You and our dear little children will require every dime to sustain you, and no doubt even then will suffer many privations and hardships. When you write, let me know whether you have succeeded in hiring any field hands or a cook for another year. Do all you can to avoid being an incumbrance to others, at the same time be careful to prevent actual want to self and our sweet little children - this thought occasions me more anxiety and suffering than any other. A steamer is coming in - I will await the mail before concluding. The steamer has landed, but brought no mail. How anxious I was that it would bring me the glad tidings of release; but I fear the Almighty thinks it would occasion me too much joy.
My darling Frank, when I read the papers that I now and then receive I can see nothing to inspire me with hope regarding myself, or the restoration of peace and good feeling throughout the States. How much I desire the States to assume their proper relation in the Union! Should I be released at this time I would be very much bothered to find a place where we could rest happy and content upon the habitable globe - so demoralized have become the people and insecure life, liberty, and prosperity. Nothing is reliable in these times, and God only knows when I shall be suffered to return to you. I will likely be detained longer than you anticipate, to keep up the appearance of justice, or until excitement and agitation is allayed - so, my dearest, do all you can; let not the cares, which now press heavily upon you, lead you to unnecessarily expose your health and strength - consider the welfare of our dear little children and my happiness, should Providence speedily favor me.
I am sorry I have nothing entertaining and interesting to relate - such would be a contradiction to this place of woe.
Your devoted husband, SAM.
The following is a copy of a letter written by my mother to President Johnson
Bryantown, Md., December 22, 1865.
His Excellency, Andrew Johnson, President of The United States.
Dear Sir: I hesitate to address you, but love is stronger than fear, timidity must yield. I must petition for him who is very, very dear to me. Mr. President, after many weeks anxious waiting for news from my innocent, suffering husband, Dr. Samuel Mudd, last night’s mail brought the sad tidings, he with others, by orders from the War Department, were heavily ironed, and obliged to perform hard work. The plea for this cruel treatment is, that the Government is in possession of news of a plot, originating in Havana or New Orleans, for the rescue of the said prisoners. The food furnished is of such miserable quality, he finds it impossible to eat it. Health and strength are failing. To my poor intellect, it seems an ineffectual plan to put down a plot by avenging upon the prisoners the acts of others. I suppose Secretary Stanton knows better. It strikes me very forcibly, your Excellency is ignorant of this order. I saw you in September, and although I felt I was not as kindly treated as others, I looked into your face, and if it is true that “the face is an index to the heart,” I read in it a good, kind heart that can sympathize with the sufferings of others. I marked the courteous manner you addressed ladies, particularly the aged. These things encouraged me to pray you to interpose your higher authority. The setting of a leg is no crime that calls for forgiveness. I ask you to release him, and I believe you will do it. I beg you in the name of humanity, by all that is dear to me, in the name of his aged and suffering parents, his wife and four babies, to immediately put a stop to this inhuman treatment. By a stroke of your pen, you can cause these irons to fall and food to be supplied. By a stroke of that same pen, you can give him liberty. Think how much depends upon you. You were elected the Father of this people. Their welfare is your Welfare. Then, in the name of God, if you let him die under this treatment, he an American citizen, who has never raised his arm, nor his voice against his country, can these people love you? Forgive me, I speak plainly, but my heart is very sore. You say, “Women are your jewels,” you hope for much from their prayers. I do not love you, neither will I ask the Almighty to bless you; but give back my husband to me, and to his parents who are miserable, - the wealth of my love and gratitude will be yours. My prayers shall ascend in union with my little children who are in happy ignorance, daily looking for the return of their “Pa.” To Him who has said, “Suffer little children to come unto me,” God of mercy I pray you, touch the heart of thy servant, make him give back my husband. Could you look into our household, it would give you a subject for meditation. In the Doctor’s childhood home, there is his father, who is old and infirm. When he hears the name of his boy, his lips tremble, but he thinks it is not manly to yield to tears, besides, he has confidence in you. His mother has scarcely left her sick-room since his arrest. “She waits,” she says, “to see him”; then like Holy Simeon, “she is willing to die.” Pass from this to my little household. I, a wife, drag out life in despondency. I, who was shielded from every care by him who is now suffering a living death, am miserable and have to battle with this overwhelming trouble. I am the mother of four babies, the oldest, seven years, the youngest, but one. The third, a delicate boy requiring constant care. I have confidence in you and feel you will grant my request.
Very respectfully yours, MRS. DR. SAMUEL A. MUDD.
Saturday 23d, 1865.
My darling Frank:
The steamer has remained until the present. I send you one or two moss-pictures as a Christmas gift, being the only thing in my power to transmit. You need not send any person to see me, for at present all intercourse and conversation with outsiders is interdicted, and it would only increase my suffering to be denied the pleasure and satisfaction of some kind friend or familiar face's company.
I am well, but do not enjoy health. We have our Christmas dinner already in prospect, viz: canned roast turkey, sausage, oysters, preserves, fresh peaches, tomatoes, etc.
Wishing from my inmost heart, you a happy, merry and joyful Christmas, I am,
Your faithful, devoted and loving husband, SAM.
Fort Jefferson, December 25, 1865.
My dear Jere:
Today being Christmas, I shall endeavor in spirit to eat my dinner with you all, since Providence has decreed the denial of the reality. I can imagine the sight of all my little children, my dearest Frank and yourself, with the usual glass of egg-nog and sweet things, seated around a happy fire with no thought to mar the pleasure and joy of the greatest Christian festival. This was not long since the happiest of my thoughts, but oh! how far from the realization. I hate to contemplate the time that yet intervenes. For the future, do not mislead me to hope for relief by a certain time when there is no certainty. It adds only a new pain to my already languishing life. Do all you can, say nothing when you know nothing can be effected; avoid irritating and offensive language on all occasions, and with parties whose influence may be of avail, make known the false testimony and unfair measures resorted to in order to effect my conviction. I am very well. Our treatment is the same as when I last wrote.
I received a letter from Fannie dated December 6, mailed the 13th, informing me of your inability to accomplish my release. I have felt considerable disappointment; try for the future to save me this unnecessary anguish. Write often and send me papers. Lose no time in communicating the glad tidings should Providence favor your efforts. Love to all.
Kiss Frank and all my dear little children.
Fort Jefferson, December 25, 1865.
My darling Frank:
I wrote to you on the 10th, and now again on this, that should be to us all a joyful festival, to let you know I am well, and have received through Fannie the intelligence of our mutual disappointment - the inability to effect the object of my sincerest hopes, - a speedy reunion. I was much grieved to know that Jere thought it necessary to rent out the farm. I was in hopes you would be able to hire one or two good hands, and cultivate through old Uncle John’s management the land yourself, but I know all things will be done for the best, therefore feel satisfied. Bear up, my darling, against all the adversities and calamities which have so suddenly befallen us, with Christian fortitude. I sometimes ask myself the question, “what have I done to bring so much trouble upon myself and family?” The answer is from my inmost heart - “nothing.” I am only consoled to know that the greatest saints were the most prosecuted, and the greatest sufferers, although far be it from classing myself with those chosen friends of God. Would to God, darling, it was in my power to afford you some consolation in this, I hope, the darkest hour of our lives. I have endeavored to the best of my ability to lead as spotless and sinless a life as in my power. I have not omitted saying my beads a single day since living on this horrid island. We have not been visited yet by a priest, and I desire much to go to confession and communion and conform to all the requirements of our holy religion, yet I do not know whether I would be allowed this privilege should a minister of our church visit us at this time, since we are yet closely confined under guard and denied all intercourse with outsiders. Our duties are to sweep down the bastions of the Fort every day under a guard. Our condition is the same as when I last wrote. It is alleged my attempted escape has been the cause of our continued harsh treatment, but this can’t be so, for none of the rest made the least move, and none of the party was there at the time. When the irons were placed upon us we were told they were only to be kept on while a steamer or vessel was lying at the wharf; but they have been on every day, and taken off at night since the first day they were put on. I am in hopes the day is not far distant when reason and law will take the place of passion, prejudice, and sectional hatred. So far as our conduct is concerned none have been more quiet and submissive, although certain false statements and representations have been made. My sweet darling wife, good-by. I am truly in hopes you have spent a more agreeable Christmas than myself God bless you all.