09-04-1865: Mrs. Mudd’s Letter to Judge Holt.
Source: Joseph Holt Papers, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.
Rock Hill, Sept 4th 1865
Judge Holt: Dear Sir,
When I called to see you in Washington on the 5th of July, I intended to speak to you as a child would to a father, and explain every circumstance just as they occurred in relation to the knowledge Dr. had of Booth and his visit to our house after he had committed the heinous crime, which threw sorrow and gloom over the American nation, and heaven knows I have had my share.
Your dignified and reserved manner somewhat awed me. I thought I could see through the reserve a kind heart, and you felt for me in my deep distress.
Under this belief I will venture to explain to you a few circumstances in Doctor’s case and ask your sympathy and aid. When Booth and Herald came to our house on the morning of the 15th of April, Booth was disguised and gave the name of Tyson. Herald gave the name of Hanson or Harrison. Dr. did not recognize him as the man who came to our house last winter at the time he bought the horse of Mr. Gardiner. When Booth came to our house it was only an act of courtesy to a stranger, and kindness to Mr. Gardiner, who is a very old man and a great friend of Doctor’s, that he went with him to the house of Mr. Gardiner’s at the time he purchased the horse, Mr. Gardiner having several fine horses to sell at that time.
When Booth was down here last winter, he was looked upon with distrust; Dr. and everybody who saw him thought he was a government detective.
When Doctor heard for a fact from his brother late on Saturday night of the 15th of April that the president had been killed, and he remembered those men who had been at our house acted rather strangely and I told him of the man’s whiskers becoming detached, he got his horse and wanted to go to Bryantown and give immediate information of the fact. Through my fears and entreaties he delayed until next day, and sent word by Dr. George Mudd to Lt. Dana then in Bryantown. This information was given on Sunday morning but the men in pursuit did not come to our house until Tuesday evening. And when Doctor told them all he knew and pointed the direction Booth had taken they did not seem to believe him. Doctor told Lt. Lovett and those other detectives of Booth’s visit to the country last winter. Also of Booth’s purchasing a horse of Mr. Gardiner. He gave them all the information he could, and all of the aid he could towards their capture.
Those men misconstrued everything he told them and tortured it into criminality. And Doctor is now the innocent victim of a Nation’s wrath. Had those men in pursuit of Booth acted upon Doctor’s directions Booth would have been captured days before he was, and would have saved a great deal of trouble and money to the government. But they lounged around our yards and farm professing to believe we had Booth concealed, and said they did not care whether they caught Booth or not, so they caught two or three of his accomplices as the president had offered $25 a person for them, and that would pay them well enough. Little did I think that Doctor was to be one of their victims.
Judge, I do not believe had demons been sent from the infernal regions they could not have sworn more falsely against Doctor than did Evans, Thomas, Norton, Weichmann and those negroes. The negroes are more excusable. They are ignorant and do not know the nature of an oath as well as a white man. And I feel sure they were bribed by those who expected to get the reward. If you will remember Evans said in his testimony he had to leave Prince Georges County on account of his loyalty. He was obliged to leave so I have heard for forgery and stealing a man’s buggy, and any man that will cheat and steal will lie. Doctor never saw nor heard of Evans until he appeared against him, and Doctor’s father has never seen him notwithstanding Evan’s professed to know him well. Thomas is a low degraded creature, and would sell his soul for money. There is not a negro who knows him who would believe him under oath.
I know nothing about Norton and Weichmann except that their testimony is as false as falsehood itself. I do not believe there has ever been on record where so much false testimony has been taken against any one man as against Doctor.
I have thought of having those men brought before the grand jury and tried for perjury. I think we can bring proof enough against them to count. Judge, do you think this procedure would be of any benefit in Doctor’s case? Please give me your advice and Almighty God will reward your charity.
I wish I could picture to your imagination all I have suffered in the past four months. I am sure the picture would move you to pity. When the trial was going on and day after day I saw in the papers false witness after false witness testify against my innocent husband. I felt that reason would forsake me and I suffered an agony which I hope no other mortal may ever suffer. I would have been glad to have died but Almighty God would not hear my prayer and take me. I have lived longer in the last four months than all of the rest of my life.
I will explain to you my helpless condition. I am in a country place. I have neither father, mother, or brother that I can call on for aid. Doctor’s father has a large family. I cannot burden him. I have four little children, the oldest but seven years. The soldiers who were in pursuit of Booth destroyed all of our last year’s crop, and prevented me from planting any this year by taking our farm hands and putting them in prison until it was too late to plant.
I only have a home to shelter me and my little babies and under present circumstances I cannot tell how long I will have that. I have never known want and have never had a wish but what has been gratified from my childhood, and now when I see poverty for myself and little children, I know not what to resort to. A dark and dreary, dreary life before me. I am only twenty seven years old and I am afraid I will have to live so long.
The separation from my husband who has been my companion from childhood is worse than death. Doctor and I had fondly hoped to raise our little children to be ornaments to society and to their country. What can I expect for them now, ignorance and poverty? Before Dr. was taken from me, I felt if one of our little children were to die, I would die too. Now I pray the Almighty to take them all. I can better se them all die young than see them undergo the hardship they will have to undergo if they live to be grown.
Judge, how I do wish you knew Doctor in social life. If you had, I know you would not for one moment suspect he could be guilty of the enormous crime with which he is charged. Every man who has ever known Doctor knows he is innocent. Doctor knew nothing in the world to capture or assassinate the president until after the deed was done. He had never seen but one of those men who were tried with him. He saw Herald who came to our house on the morning of the 15th of April. If it was a crime to set Booth’s leg when he did not know he had committed any crime, and did not recognize the man, then and then only is he guilty.
Judge, I know and appreciate how far you are above me, so if I have written anything offensive it is through ignorance. I ask you to be a friend to the orphan, the widow and child of misfortune. I know you are all powerful in the case of my husband. Be assured of his innocence and you can convince others. Every word which I have written is as true as if it had to go to the throne of the Almighty for inspection. Pity me; write to me and tell me to come to you, that you will assist me. And I will come and explain every little circumstance and tell you all as a child would tell her troubles to a father. And as truthfully as I would at the bar of Divine justice. I will teach my little children to love and pray for you as long as they live.
Most respectfully and etc.
Sarah F. Mudd
(Judge Advocate General Holt)