07-06-1865: The Second Affidavit of Sarah Frances Mudd, Dr. Samuel Mudd's Wife.
Source: Thomas Ewing Papers, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.
When the conspiracy trial ended, General Ewing had Mrs. Mudd prepare an updated affidavit. He sent it to President Johnson, asking that Dr. Mudd’s sentence be set aside. The updated affidavit, and General Ewing's letter to President Johnson, are presented below:
I, Sarah F. Mudd, wife of Dr. Mudd, on oath do say,
That I saw John Wilkes Booth when he was in Charles County last fall. He came Sunday evening after supper, staid all night, and next day my husband went with him to Gardiner’s where Booth bought the horse - Booth did not return from Gardiner’s with my husband - and was never at my husband’s house, or so far as I know in the neighborhood before or after until the 15th of April - nor did I ever hear of my husband having met him elsewhere, or being in any way directly or indirectly in communication with him.
The two men came to the house on the 15th of April just before daybreak. After my husband had set the leg he went to bed again, and slept till about 9 o’clock when he breakfasted and went to the field where the hands were working. He returned between 11 and 12 and went to the crippled man’s room for a few minutes and then went back to the field to get a pair of crutches made. He returned at dinner, when Herold (who called himself Hanson, or Harrison) asked if he could not get a carriage or buggy to take his friend (who was called Tyson) away. The Doctor said his father had a carriage which might be got, and he would go with him and see about it. I then told the Doctor that I wanted some calico, soda, needles, and matches, and asked him to go on to Bryantown to get them. He said he would, and I am sure that is all he went to Bryantown for.
The Doctor and Herold had not been gone over a half an hour, when Herold returned and said he could not get father’s carriage and that Doctor had gone into Bryantown and he was going to take his friend off horseback. While Herold was gone, I went to the room where the crippled man was. He had heavy whiskers on - and looked pale, thin and haggard. I staid about five minutes and talked with him. He said his leg was broken a mile and a half from our house by the fall of his horse, and that he had been thrown against a stone which injured his back.
About an hour after Herold got back, they left. As Booth came down to go I was in the hall and saw his whiskers become detached and he pushed them back. Herold came down with him, and went to the front gate where his horse had been standing after his return from Bryantown, and rode him around the house to the stable. Booth went on his crutches through the back yard towards the stable, and just as he was getting to the stable the Doctor rode up from Bryantown to the front gate. The stable is 300 yards from the house. The Doctor dismounted at the front gate and came into the house. He did not see either Booth or Herold on his return near enough to speak to either of them. He came into the house, and went to the fire, and took a book and commenced reading. He did not leave the room until supper time - an hour and a half after they had gone.
Before supper he told me of the report in Bryantown that the president was killed and Mr. Seward and his son. After supper I was speaking of the two men and told him of the crippled man’s whiskers becoming detached. He said that that looked suspicious; and that he had also shaved off his moustache and seemed more excited than the mere fracture of the limb would cause him to be. He then sent for his horse to go to Bryantown and tell the military authorities about these two men. I begged him not to go himself - but to wait till Church next day and tell Dr. George Mudd or some one else living in Bryantown all the circumstances, and have him tell the officers at Bryantown about it. He was very unwilling to delay and warned me of the danger from failure to tell of these men at once. I told him that if he went himself Boyle who was reported to be one of the assassins and who killed Capt. Watkins last fall in that country might have him assassinated for it, and that it would be just as well for the authorities to hear it next day because the crippled man could not escape.
Up to this time I had not the least suspicion that the crippled man was Booth - and I am sure no one would have recognized him as being the same man who was at our house last fall - for he was very much thinner, and looked so pale and haggard, and changed with his heavy whiskers, as to alter entirely his appearance. I am certain that my husband did not recognize him, or suspect him to be Booth even after I told him of the false whiskers. I am sure too that Herold was a total stranger to the Doctor, as he was to me.
Something was said at the trial about the boot, but it was not shown when it was found. I found it on Thursday under the bed, when I was cleaning the room. And next day my husband told Lt. Lovett about it as soon as he saw him and before a word had been said between them as Mr. Hardy testifies.
On Tuesday when the officers came to the house I sent for the Doctor to the field and before he came told the officers everything in presence of Dr. George Mudd. They said from my description the smaller man was certainly Herold. When my husband came to the house and before he saw the officers I told him that I had given them a full statement. He said “That was right.” Then Dr. George Mudd before he introduced my husband told him that he had bought the officers there in compliance with his request on Sunday, for further information about the two suspected men who had been at our house.
The description given by my husband to Herold of the short route to Parson Wilmer’s was given before they started to Bryantown. I saw my husband point out the route to him - they both were then standing in the yard from which the by road could be seen. This was in the early part of the day, while the young man was talking of taking his friend off horseback. The carriage was not spoken of until dinner. I do further certify that Dr. Mudd was not from home but three nights from the 23rd of December until the 21st of April, one of which was in January when he went with me to a party at Mr. George Gardiner’s. On the 23rd of March he came up to Washington with Mr. Lewellyn Gardiner to attend a sale of government horses and mistook the day. On the third occasion, which was the 10th of April, he came up to Dr. Blanford’s with his brother Henry, remained all night, went to Giesborough the next day in company with Dr. Blanford and his brother Henry and did not come into Washington. If my husband knows John Surratt at all, it is nothing more than a passing acquaintance - having seen him at his hotel at Surrattsville. I saw John Surratt once at Surrattsville. I have never seen him at our house and never know of his having stopped there.
It was said in the Argument of the Judge Advocate that Booth and Herold were secreted in the woods near our house after they left. If they were secreted there, neither I nor my husband knew it. My husband was not out of the yard that evening or the next day until he went to church, and we both supposed the men had gone to Parson Wilmer’s.
As to my husband having recognized Booth while he was at our house, I repeat that he did not recognize or suspect the stranger to be Booth; had he done so he certainly would have mentioned it to me, but he did not. Moreover, he did not notice the crippled man specially, nor seem to be interested in learning where he came from or where he was going.
Sarah F. Mudd
Sworn and Subscribed before me this 6th day of July 1865 B.W. Ferguson J.P.
General Ewing's Letter to President Johnson
No. 12 North “A” Street
July 10th 1865
His Excellency Andrew Johnson
President of the United States
I enclose herewith the affidavit of Sarah F. Mudd, wife of Dr. Samuel A. Mudd who has recently been tried before a Military Commission on the charge of conspiracy to assassinate the president and other Chief Officers of the government, and also the affidavits of Dr. J. H. Blanford, Mrs. Elizabeth A. Dyer and Sylvester Mudd in corroboration of her statements - to all of which I ask your Excellency's most earnest attention, in connection with the record in that case.
Mrs. Mudd's affidavit, if accepted as truthful, shows:
1st That the testimony of Norton as to the accused having entered his room at the National on the 3rd of March enquiring for Booth is false - and that Evans' statement in corroboration of Norton that Mudd came to Washington on either the 1st, 2nd or 3rd of March is also false.
Her statement would not have been taken to refute the evidence of these witnesses (because it was fully and overwhelmingly refuted on the trial by the evidence of Thomas Davis, J. H. Blanford, Frank Washington, Betty Washington, Mary, Fannie, Emily and Henry L. Mudd, and John Davis) were it not for the fact that the Special Judge Advocate insisted on the truth of the statements of Evans and Norton, who were strangers to Mudd, against the flatly contradictory evidence of these nine witnesses, who all knew him intimately. And it is not unfair to presume that the Court were greatly influenced by its legal advices all on questions of the weight of evidence, as they were controlled by them on all other questions arising in the trial.
2d Mrs. Mudd's affidavit also shows that her husband was not here between the 23rd of December and the 23rd of March - and therefore the statement of Weichmann as to the interview between Booth, Surratt and Mudd at the National, which that witness swears occurred about the middle of January, is not entitled to credence. On this point she corroborates the evidence of Betty Washington, Thomas Davis, Henry L. Mudd Jr., Mary Mudd and Frank Washington - whose evidence the Special Judge Advocate also declared in his argument could not outweigh the statements of the one witness Weichmann, who was a stranger to the accused - while the five witnesses contradicting him knew the accused intimately.
3d Her affidavit also shows that on Tuesday after the assassination her husband could not have denied to Williams and Gavacan (the detectives) that the two strangers had been at his house, as they swear he did. In this she is corroborated by Dr. George Mudd - and also by Lieut. Lovett who was quoted by the Special Judge Advocate in his argument as having sworn to the denial, whereas in fact he swears to the opposite.
4th Her affidavit also shows that on Friday after the assassination the accused spoke of Booth's boot having been found, voluntarily, and not as claimed only after a threat was made to search the house. In this she is corroborated by Hardy.
5th Her affidavit also shows that the boot was not discovered until Thursday - so that her husband practiced no concealment in not producing it Tuesday.
6th It also shows that she saw and conversed with Booth when he was at her husband's house last fall - and again saw and talked with them while her husband was gone to Bryantown on Saturday the 15th April - and that he was then so thin, pale and haggard, and so thoroughly disguised by his false whiskers, that she did not expect at all that he was the same man she met and talked with last fall. This point is of great importance because the Special Judge Advocate assumed it was proved beyond all question that the accused recognized the crippled man as Booth - while there is no evidence to show that he did, except the bare fact that he had met him in the fall or winter before; added to Colonel Wells' statement which is only of an indistinct impression as to what he inferred from Mudd's statements, while all other witnesses say the accused denied having recognized Booth while at his house. Mrs. Mudd says also that she is certain her husband did not recognize or suspect the crippled man to be Booth at any time that day.
On this point of recognition the accused was not able to offer any direct evidence of a single witness - because none whose saw him last fall saw him that Saturday again.
This was, perhaps, a controlling point with the Court against the accused - and therefor Mrs. Mudd's statement as to her own failure to recognize or suspect the crippled man to be Booth is of vital importance.
7th Mrs. Mudd's affidavit also shows that Herald could not have gone to Bryantown with her husband, as the Judge Advocate claims, (8 miles) as he was gone not over half an hour. In this she is corroborated by Primus Johnson and others (see page 25 of argument).
8th It also shows that he pointed out the short route through the swamp (to Parson Wilmer's) to Herold before going to Bryantown and before he learned of the assassination. And that when he returned home, Booth and Herold had left the house and he never spoke to them after he heard of the assassination. In this she is corroborated by her husband's admissions in evidence, and by Betty Washington. See Col. Wells statement also; and pages 35 & 36 of argument, and evidence of there cited.
The Special Judge Advocate claimed that the evidence showed that after the accused returned from Bryantown, where he heard of the assassination, and that a man named Booth was one of the assassins, he aided the escape and concealment of Booth and Herald. The Court doubtless accepted that fact as proved on the Judge Advocate's assertion and on the statement of the detective Gavacan as to Mudd's statement on the subject to him. (See page 27 of argument.) Gavacan's statement as to Mudd's denial on Tuesday that the two men had been at his house at all was clearly shown false (see pages 29 & 30 argument). And I think that evidence on this point as to Mudd's having gone with Booth and Herold part of the way was also fairly overthrown (pages 27 & 28 argument). But the Special Judge Advocate had the ear of the Court, and was with it throughout its deliberations on this case, I am informed - and I have no doubt the Court therefore accepted as true the falsehood that Mudd said he helped the men off after he returned from Bryantown. That act of pointing the route to Wilmer's was the only act shown to have been done by Mudd which could have implicated him had he from the first known the crime and the criminal. Mrs. Mudd's affidavit shows that that act was done before her husband knew of the assassination, or suspected the crippled man to be Booth. And that after he knew of the assassination he did not see Booth or Herold. (See pages 35 & 36 argument)
9th Her affidavit also shows that her husband's suspicions towards those men were not aroused until she told him, an hour after they had gone, that the whiskers of the crippled man were false. And that he then ordered his horse to go to Bryantown to tell the authorities about them, and was only prevented doing so by her fears and entreaties. And that in consequence of her advice only he delayed until next day and sent the information through Dr. George Mudd. This delay was dwelt on by the Special Judge Advocate as proof of his complicity with the assassins, and had, I think, great weight with the Court.
10th The Special Judge Advocate asserted that it was shown that he accused secreted Booth and Herold in the woods Saturday night. There is not a word of evidence justifying that assertion - and Mrs. Mudd's affidavit shows it to be utterly erroneous.
11th Some evidence was offered by the Prosecution (Mary and Milo Simms) going to show that John H. Surratt frequented the house of the accused last year and year before, which, though fully disproved, (see argument pages 14, 15 & 16) was yet insisted on by the Assistant Judge Advocate as true. Mrs. Mudd says she had seen John H. Surratt at his mother's house, at Surrattsville Hotel, before the war - but that she never saw him at the house of the accused or heard of his having been there.
In connection with this letter and its enclosures I ask the attention of your Excellency to my letter to you of the 3rd instant, in which I pointed out in the argument of the Special Judge Advocate eleven material errors in his statement of the evidence against Dr. Mudd, which errors I was not permitted by the Court to call to its attention. In addition to these errors in statements of fact his argument was full of erroneous inferences and inconsequent deductions.
As one of the legal advisers of the Court in its discussions and deliberations on the evidence he was in position to give effect to his conclusions in the finding and sentence which followed, and doubtless did much to lead them into the errors, into which he himself had fallen. I venture to say that the recorded evidence, aside from the affidavits herewith offered, does not support the finding of the Court - and that not only was there not sufficient proof to exclude reasonable doubt of guilt, but that there was not such proof as made guilt more probable that innocence.
But by these affidavits, if they be accepted as true, all doubt is removed, and the innocence of Dr. Mudd is established beyond question. For, if the interview described by Weichmann did occur, it was on the 23rd of December, and was followed by no further intercourse between the accused and Booth or Surratt either written or oral. If can not be claimed that the conspiracy was entered into then, at Booth's first introduction to Surratt and in presence of Weichmann, who was a stranger to Mudd and Booth, and known to Surratt as an employee of the War Department. Besides, the evidence shows that the conspiracy to capture the president - as Booth first professed its object to his accomplices - was got up late in January or in February. If Dr. Mudd had on the 23rd of December had such a scheme proposed to him, and if he had assented to it, no one can doubt that he would have subsequently met the conspirators or some of them. But it is shown he did not see Booth or Surratt after the 23rd of December, and did not even call on either when he was here on the 23rd of March, and at Giesboro on the 11th of April. Admit, what I think the recorded evidence and Mrs. Mudd's statement clearly show, that Dr. Mudd did not have any intercourse whatever with Booth or Surratt after the 23rd of December - before the assassination - and it follows beyond dispute that he was not informed of or assenting to the conspiracy.
If this be so, his entire innocence then follows from the evidence, and these affidavits.
For even though he recognized Booth while at his house, which he constantly asserted and still asserts he did not, and which Mrs. Mudd's failure to recognize him makes most probable, yet no one can suppose that Booth on reaching his house disclosed his horrid crime. In fact the open manner of Mudd in going out with Herold to get his father's carriage, and keeping the men without the slightest effort at concealment, or appearance of concern, at his house, makes it to my mind certain that he did not suspect their guilt before he got to Bryantown. When he got back to his house the men had gone, and he saw them no more - they taking the route he has shown Herold in the forenoon. When his wife told him of the false whiskers of the crippled man, his suspicions were aroused, and his first impulse was that of an innocent man and a good citizen - to go at once to Bryantown and tell of these men to the authorities. Her fears and and entreaties led him to delay sending word to them until next day, when he did it fully and truthfully.
I feel confident that the recorded evidence on an examination will not be found to sustain the finding and sentence of the Court in whole or in part - and that had the case been tried in a Civil Court no jury would have hesitated to rendered a verdict of acquittal. And I feel safe in appealing to the Judge Advocate General, who was probably present at the deliberations of the Court, to sustain me in the assertion that but for the evidence, 1st: as to Mudd's seeking Booth at the National Hotel on the 3rd of March; and 2nd: as to his having seen and assisted Booth and Herold after his return from Bryantown on the 15th of April; and 3rd: as to his unexplained delay until the 16th to communicate his information to the authorities, the Commission itself would have entirely acquitted him. On these three vital points Mrs. Mudd's testimony, if it could have been received by the Court, would have wholly relieved her husband of suspicion; and procured his acquittal. I appeal to your Excellency to receive it now, and give at the weight and effect it would probably have had if received by the Court. It would be not unworthy of Executive consideration if the prisoner had been tried and convicted by a Civil Tribunal with the benefit of every safeguard of liberty provided by law. But as he was tried before the tribunal where many of these safeguards were relaxed, inapplicable or ineffective - and especially as he was borne down by more false testimony than ever took the life of an innocent man in a Court of Justice - I can not be mistaken in believing that you will hear and give effect to the sworn statements of her, who (though she be the wife of the prisoner) knows more of the vital issues of the cause that all other witnesses together; and of whose perfect truth no one, who knows or talks with her, can doubt.
On this corroborated testimony of Mrs. Mudd, I respectfully ask on behalf of the prisoner, his wife, and children, a remission of his sentence.
I am, Sir, Very Respectfully,
Your Obedient Servant
Thomas Ewing Jr.
Since writing the foregoing, I have seen an alleged confession by Atzerodt, in which he is reported as saying that two weeks before the assassination Booth told him that “he had sent provisions and liquors to Dr. Mudd's to be used by the conspirators on the route to Richmond with the president, and that he was acquainted with him, and had letters to him.” If such a statement was in fact made by Atzerodt, the statement by Booth as to his having sent anything to the house of the prisoner we can show was utterly false. The statement on its face shows that Mudd was not then a conspirator; for if he were, why should Booth mention the letters? Would he not have told Atzerodt that he was a conspirator with them? I am informed by Mr. Stone, who was counsel for Herold, that he said he tried to dissuade Booth from going so far out of his route - but that Booth said he must get his leg set and dressed. And that they did not while there intimate to Mudd what had been done. If Herold's confession is in the hands of the Judge Advocate, I ask that it be considered with this application for remission of sentence.
Thomas Ewing Jr.