09-01-1865: Captain Prentice's Letter About Dr. Samuel Mudd and Others at Fort Jefferson.
Source: Provost Marshal, Fort Jefferson, Florida. Records Relating to Prisoners 1865-1870. Record Group 393, Entry 56, Volume 5. U.S. National Archives. Washington, D.C.
Fort Jefferson, Florida
September 1st, 1865
Your communication of August 17th enclosing copy of telegram from Gen. Baker and directing that such disposition be made of the four state prisoners Mudd, Arnold, O’Laughlin and Spangler as should render abortive any attempt at release, also requiring statement of “means adopted” etc. is received.
In reply I have the honor to state that a similar notice was on the 24th received from Maj. Genl. Sheridan enclosing copy of telegram from the Secretary of War, dated Washington, August 17th 12:30 p.m.
Such steps were immediately taken as deemed consistent with the numbers of the garrison, and a statement of the same, together with the strength of the garrison, number of prisoners etc. returned by the Captain bringing the despatches. In the first place, I will state that no prisoner is allowed outside the fort after sunset; the system of sentinels, patrols etc. Lieutenant Carpenter will explain, the patrols going over every part of the fort and once around the breakwater each hour during the night. A sufficient force is held constantly in readiness, close by the quarters of the guard, to man four heavy 10 inch guns. I inclose a copy of a General Order regulating the approach of vessels; a system of signals has also been established between the boarding party and the Guard. All prisoners are required to remain in their quarters after dusk when a patrol arrests anyone found outside. The detail for guard is 75 men each day, with two officers. The pieces of the guard are all loaded and when in post are primed, the guard remaining constantly at their post by the Parterre.
The state prisoners are placed under precisely the same restrictions as the military. I inclose a consolidated Morning Report, which shows the full strength of the garrison to be 377. The large number upon daily duty is explained by the fact that all squads of prisoners and all workshops have to be under charge of soldiers. All are kept armed and could be turned out, but 275 enlisted man and six officers shows the whole number to meet a sudden emergency. The fact of our Lieut. Col., six company officers and more than one hundred enlisted man being on detached service within the Department of Florida has been reported to Maj. Genl. Sheridan. I feel very much embarrassed in consequence of the smallness of the Garrison and especially the small number of commissioned officers having upon my own hands the command of the Post, of my regiment, and the charge of the prisoners. All the field and staff officers being absent, except the Regimental Quartermaster, Chaplin and one Assistant Surgeon, the latter being confined to his bed with fever.
The term of service of 37 recruits (one year men) expired in August and that of 94 will expire during the present month. They will all be kept at duty, however, until some relief arrives. I am only anxious to do my duty, in which I am aided by the good offices of every officer present and feel confident of our ability to hold the prisoners, but I cannot help knowing that the affairs of the Post are in a bad condition which it is impossible for me to remedy. I would respectfully suggest as the best precaution that a reliable gunboat be sent here immediately for duty, there being no vessel of any character at the Post.
I am, Sir, Very Respectfully, Yr. Obdt. Svt.
(sd) W.R. Prentice
Capt. 161st N.Y. Vols. Comdg. Post
Brig. Gen. E.D. Townsend
Asst. Adj. Genl. U.S.A.