CHAPTER XVII: PRISON LIFE IN 1867, CONTINUED - THE SCOURGE OF YELLOW FEVER BEING ENDED, MY FATHER IS AGAIN PUT IN CHAINS.
[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, Florida, December 6, 1867.
My dear Frank:
I wrote to you on the 24th and mailed the same on the 29th. I wrote to you and Jere on the 4th of December and addressed the letter to Jere, and requested him to forward to you as soon as read. I did this in order “to kill two birds with one stone”; that is, I wished to acquaint both with what has transpired here, and desire advice in relation.
I mentioned in those letters the arrival of a gentleman here sent by the Butler Congressional Committee to obtain statements in regard to the assassination. I gave him a declaration under oath, which in substance amounted to the fact that I did not know anything about the matter, or parties concerned, previous to the assassination. I sent you a copy in the letter addressed to Jere. If you think it worth the trouble, you can inquire from knowing ones whether I ought to make a statement of any kind in my present condition. I have doubts about the matter, and concluded that it was better to seek information from those who are better informed, before so doing.
When you write inform me plainly what is the opinion of the public in regard to the course I should pursue. Congress, in my opinion, has acknowledged the illegality of our imprisonment and trial by asking and receiving an oath from us. Mention this idea to counsel and to members of Congress who may be favorably disposed. He informed me that he did not wish his visit here known to the public, lest it might frustrate the purpose which the committee have in view. I shall leave the matter entirely to your own good judgment. Owing to my not making such a statement as he required, he or some one will be sent again in a short time; therefore, I wish you to acquaint me at the earliest opportunity, so I may be prepared.
I have no news. Arnold has been quite sick with the dysentery. He is now out of danger, but very thin and weak. He was sick when he gave his statement, and the labor and excitement aggravated the symptoms. He and Spangler made full and detailed statements, which in my opinion does not shed much light upon the subject of the assassination; nothing more than was known and acknowledged on our trial. They seem to regret having given statements, but I can see no objection other than an impropriety.
My health continues very good, and I have increased several pounds in weight the past two or three weeks. I am now taking things as easy as possible, after finding all my endeavors fruitless and your promises of an early release mere speculation. You must not understand from this that I cease to regard you and all as formerly, but having been satisfied that I have been laboring under a delusion, I have concluded to act on the principle, that what can’t be helped it is useless to grieve about.
A few nights ago, I dreamed I was with Tommy and Sammy. The emotion which it produced soon broke my slumber, and away fled all my happiness; such has been and continues to be my life, until I almost fear to hope. Try for the future, my good Frank, not to unsettle my mind with mere speculations, but tell me frankly and plainly the whole truth. Let me know all the correct news, and if anything new has developed in regard to the assassination.
Your devoted husband, SAM.
Fort Jefferson, Florida, December 7, I867.
My dearest Frank:
I received your last, dated November 7, which gave me much comfort. God grant your anticipation may prove correct. Judging from the tone of the papers, I fear there will be great difficulty to contend against. Our country seems now not to be governed by the Constitution, or by law, but by unbridled popular or public opinion, of which I have no doubt many others, as in my case, have been made victims.
I am very well, but yet in chains, with four others, under guard; and our duty now is to wash down the bastions of the Fort every day. I have gotten used to my present life, and do not feel much incommoded. God grant that I may soon be in the fond embrace of you and our dear little ones. Good-by.
Fort Jefferson, Florida, December, 1867.
Major G. B. Andrews:
I learn through my wife, by yesterday’s mail, that the petition gotten up by the soldiers, with a view to my release, because of services rendered during the recent visitation of fever at this post, has not been received in Washington.
She was made acquainted with the fact through the Honorable Montgomery Blair, who stands high in the confidence of the present Administration. Mr. Blair informed her that such an instrument would have great weight in influencing a favorable action of the President.
Major, I can claim no exception to the general rule of nature. The drowning man catches at straws, the oppressed and exiled seek liberty, reunion, repose, etc.
Were I in other circumstances, modesty would compel me to refrain from the least notoriety, but in my present situation, not only my personal ease and comfort, but the anguish and distress of a wife and four helpless little children, cause me to throw off this humility, and solicit your kind office in my behalf.
I refer you to the hospital report to draw conclusions as to the services rendered. With the exception of the first one or two cases (who died here) all were carried to Sand Key Hospital, over a hundred per cent of whom died.
Upon the sickness and death of Doctor Smith, our lamented surgeon, I was placed in charge of the hospital by Major Stone, who vested me with discretionary power in all that pertains to the duties of a physician. Immediately I discontinued the Sand Key Hospital, I used blankets instead of sheets, and had the windows of the hospital differently arranged.
There were in the hospital at the time some fifteen or twenty cases under active treatment, many of whom were delirious, and burning with the most intense fever. In less than six hours after, under my management, all were free from delirium, and perspiring freely, and seemed comfortable. All of these recovered. One afterward was taken with relapse and died. I considered all but one out of danger. This latter recovered sufficiently to walk about, but owing to negligence of the nurses, he was suffered to go out without my knowledge, in consequence of which he was taken with relapse and died. I refer you to Colonel Hamilton, who was here at the time, and to the non-commissioned officers of the companies. In proof of what I state, I was strenuously opposed by Major Stone in breaking up the Sand Key Hospital. Perhaps Colonel Hamilton is cognizant of the matter. I succeeded finally with Major Stone by telling him that if he left the disposition of the sick to my judgment, I would faithfully consult the greatest good to the greatest number, to which he consented.
Dr. SAMUEL A. MUDD.
The above letter, written by my father to the Commandant of Fort Jefferson, was not replied to. My father fully believed that Major Andrews destroyed the petition referred to.
Key West, December 13, 1867.
Dr. S. A. Mudd, Fort Jefferson.
Dear Sir: You will oblige me by replying to the following questions:
1st. At what time did you enter duty during the last epidemic at Fort Jefferson? Did you attend Dr. Smith and Mrs. Smith, and what others previous to my arrival?
2d. What was the first case, and what time, whether from Havana, Key West, or regular at the Fort, and any other views which you may have bearing upon the origin, sanitary condition of the Fort, etc.? The Surgeon-General desires a report upon the subject, and I desire and wish to do you every justice for the patient and noble conduct evinced by you during my stay at Fort Jefferson.
I would have written you at an early date, but my time has been much occupied, which I hope you will accept as my apology.
Very truly your friend, D. W. WHITEHURST.
Fort Jefferson, Florida, December 15, 1867.
Dear Doctor Whitehurst:
I received yours of the 13th asking a response to certain questions pertaining to the recent visitation of yellow fever at this Post. The boat leaving in a short time after, I had not time to write by the outgoing mail. Between now and the outgoing mail will permit me only to answer briefly your queries, viz:
1st. I was detailed on duty in the hospital, September 6. Dr. Smith was attacked suddenly the evening of the 5th. I saw him on the morning of the 7th. He was then delirious and unmanageable. He died on the morning of the 8th. Not having kept a record, have to refer you to the hospital report from the 6th of September to the 8th, when relieved by yourself.
2d. I am sorry to state my inability to determine positively the first case, or the manner of its inception. The first case of true yellow fever reported occurred on the 18th, and died the 22d of August. He belonged to Company K, and was taken sick in the quarters of his company, which were in the casemates on the southwest side of the Fort. Some two or three others, belonging to the same company, soon after were taken with the disease, which caused the surgeon of the Fort to believe that it arose from some local cause. He, therefore, removed the company on the eastern side of the Fort, immediately next Company L, and in front of Company I. After this change, several fresh cases took place, and the disease spread to the adjacent companies and prisoners. Company M was located on the south side of the Fort and adjoining Company L, and several days intervened before any cases occurred in that company. Most of the cases came in at night. I am of the opinion had Company K been removed immediately to one of the adjacent keys instead of the east side of the Fort, it would have prevented the spread of the disease. The poison being confined to that company, the winds being continually easterly, favored the propagation instead of cutting short the fatal malady.
So far as I am capable of judging, the first case originated here, but the poison may have been imported. Removal of the company not having checked the infection, on the contrary increasing, showed that they carried the poison with them. Captain Crabb is of the opinion he had the disease on his arrival here from Havana the last of July or first of August. Again about the middle of August the schooner Matchless from Tampa landed with two sick men aboard. I can’t state whether it was before or after the 18th instant, or whether they had yellow fever. The two men were carried to the hospital.
In regard to the pathology of the disease as it existed here, although it answered minutely to the description given by learned men, I will now proceed to answer your kind note, viz: I was placed in charge of the hospital two or three days before your arrival (not having kept a record, I can’t state the time with certainty). There were in the hospital at that time fifteen or twenty cases requiring active treatment. I attended these in hospital, and Dr. Smith and Mrs. Smith and Lieutenant Roemer until relieved by you.
Dr. Smith was delirious and unmanageable from the beginning. I could by no means induce him to take medicine.
Very truly yours, Dr. SAMUEL A. MUDD.