08-03-1865: Washington Evening Star Article.
Source: Washington Evening Star, August 3, 1865.
The United States steamer Florida, Lieut. Commander Budd, which conveyed Dr. Mudd, Spangler, O’Laughlin, and Arnold to the Dry Tortugas, in charge of Gen. Dodd, arrived at New York on Tuesday, having left the prisoners at their destination on the 25th; and some of the officers who accompanied them have returned to the city.
The prisoners, as we have stated before, left their quarters at the penitentiary (where they were tried) at two o’clock on the morning of July 18th, in the steamer State of Maine, and carried to Fortress Monroe, where they were transferred to the U. S. steamer Florida, Capt. Budd, on the afternoon of the same day, and proceeded to sea. They were in charge of Gen. Levi A. Dodd, who had been on duty at the penitentiary during the whole of their confinement, who was accompanied by Col. Turner, Assistant Judge Advocate General, who went out to examine into the mode of keeping and treating prisoners there, Brevet Capt. Potter, Surgeon U.S.A. who had medical supervision of the prisoners during their incarceration here, and Capt. Dutton, of the Veteran Reserve Corps, with a guard of 28 men.
The prisoners, all of whom with the exception of Spangler, were sentenced to imprisonment and hard labor for life, and he for six years, had no idea of their destination, unless it was to Albany, until they reached Fortress Monroe, and then seeing the large quantity of rations placed on board, they began to suspect that they were bound to a more distant place than Albany. They were allowed to be together at times during the trip, and frequently engaged in a game of draughts, &c., during the day, but at night they were placed in separate state-rooms, closely guarded. The weather during the whole trip was pleasant, and but one on board (Mudd) was sea sick, and he on the first day at sea only. They were considerably depressed in spirits soon after starting, and when informed of their destination by Gen. Dodd after leaving Port Royal on the 21st, they became quite gloomy; but on reaching the Tortugas, and finding it an island of about 13 acres, enjoying a fine sea breeze and comparatively healthy, they expressed themselves as agreeably surprised, and became more buoyant in spirits. On landing and seeing comfortable quarters inside the fort, and a clump of coconut trees and other vegetation growing, and noticing the other prisoners confined there in good spirits, they soon became quite cheerful.
There are about 550 prisoners confined at the Dry Tortugas at this time, who are well treated, and seemingly enjoy life as well as they could in confinement anywhere. At present there are but nine persons on the sick list, a fact which speaks well for the treatment of the prisoners. The 110th New York Volunteers, Col. Hamilton, has been on duty here for the past sixteen months.
The Florida reached the Tortugas (about sixty miles from Key West) at noon on the 25th of July, and Gen. Dodd with his charge, immediately landed. Sam Arnold was immediately assigned to a desk as clerk in the engineers department, he being familiar with such work. Spangler at once noticed workmen shingling some of the buildings, and expressing a wish to take hand in his old business, was permitted to resume the hatchet and saw. Doctor S. A. Mudd arrived just in the nick of time, the Surgeon of the Post who has been there for six years past, stating that he wished an assistant, Dr. Mudd was notified that he would in future be expected to follow the practice of medicine among the prisoners. O’Laughlin had not, when the Florida left on the morning of the 26th, had his work allotted to him, but would no doubt be assigned some suitable occupation.
On the trip Dr. Mudd acknowledged to Capt. Budd, Gen. Dodd and others, that he knew Booth when he came to his house with Herold on the morning after the assassination, but that he was afraid to tell of his having been there, fearing the life of himself and family would be endangered thereby. He knew that Booth would never be taken alive. He also acknowledged that he had been acquainted with Booth for some time, and that he was with Booth at the National Hotel on the evening referred to by Weichman; that he met Booth in the street and Booth said he wanted him (Mudd) to introduce him to John Surratt; that they started up 7th street on their way to Mrs. Surratts house, and on the way they met John Surratt and Weichman, and returned to Booth’s room at the National, where he and John Surratt had some conversation of a private character. He said that the Military commission in his case had done their duty, and as far as they were concerned the sentence in his case was just; but some of the witnesses had sworn falsely and maliciously.
O’Laughlin acknowledged that the Court had done its duty, and said that he was in the plot to capture the president, but that after the ineffectual attempt in March, when the party hoped to have captured the coach containing the president, he thought that the entire project was given up, and it was as far as he was concerned. He denies positively that he had part or knowledge in the plot to assassinate the president, Gen. Grant, or anyone else.
Sam Arnold made about the same statement as he did before the trial, that he was in the plot to capture, but not to assassinate; that that had failed and he considered himself out of it, and never knew anything about the assassination, which he thought was gotten up by Booth only a few hours before executing it. He thought the Court could not have done otherwise than it did. He expressed his sorrow that he had been led into the plot to capture by Booth and others, and expressed himself thankful that the punishment was no worse.
Spangler talked considerably during the trip, but like the others, was despondent at times, in the uncertainty about their place of destination. While on the voyage he expressed some impatience at his own stupidity in not having recollected while on trial a circumstance in connection with Booth’s escape from the stage, that would have told materially to his (Spangler’s) advantage. Some of the testimony went to show that Spangler has slammed the door to after Booth’s exit, in a way to hinder immediate pursuit. Spangler says it quite escaped his recollection that some time previous to the assassination a patent spring had been put on the door for the purpose of closing it when left carelessly open. He says, however, that he supposes the Court had done right, and if they gave them plenty of work and plenty to eat he was satisfied; although he was not guilty, and knew nothing of Booth’s intentions. He says he did say to Booth “I would do all I can for you” but that was in reference to selling his (Booth’s) horse and buggy, and that it was three days before the assassination. He says that some of the witnesses lied in their testimony, especially about his slapping anyone in the mouth and telling him to keep his mouth shut.
The officers in charge of the prisoners carried out their instructions fully, and before leaving they received the thanks of each of the prisoners for the kind treatment to them.