“Frank” Mudd - She Never Gave Up - She Never Stopped Fighting (Part 2)


Sergeant Major
Aug 6, 2016
(Part 2)


Sarah “Frank” Mudd was on a mission on this summer day in August. She has a face-to-face meeting with Edwin Stanton the Secretary of War. She seeks permission to send her husband articles of clothing and letters to make him comfortable. On September 30, 1865 she received official word from the War Department:

"Madam: Your application of the 26, of August to know if you would be allowed to communicate with your husband, Dr. Mudd, and if so by what means, and whether you are at liberty to send to him clothing and articles of comfort and money, from home, has been considered by the Secretary of War.

Dr. Mudd will be permitted to receive communications from you, if enclosed, unsealed, to the Adjutant-General of the Army at Washington. The Government provides suitable clothing and all necessary subsistence in such cases, and neither clothing nor money- will be allowed to be furnished him.

I am, Madam, very respectfully "Your obedient servant,” E. D. Townsend, "Assistant Adjutant General,” {2}

Dr. Mudd was sent to Fort Jefferson Dry Totugas located about seventy miles west of Key West Florida. to serve his life sentence. He journeyed with fellow conspirators Samuel Arnold, Michael O’Laughlin, and Edmund or Edward Spangler. After an unsuccessful escape he was placed in hard labor.​

On their first Christmas Day apart he wrote to Frank:

"What have I done to bring so much trouble upon myself and family? The answer from my inmost heart—nothing. I am consoled to know that the greatest saints were the most persecuted and the greatest sufferers, although far be it from classing myself with those chosen friends of God. I have endeavored to the best of my ability to lead as spotless and sinless a life as in my power." {2}

but he also included this observation:

“about being guarded by black soldiers who he described as being a ‘set of ignorant, prejudiced and irresponsible beings of the unbleached humanity’.” {4}

Frank passed these comments along to President Andrew Johnson and it her action was successful in Johnson’s ordering better treatment of Mudd while at Fort Jefferson. From his prison he wrote to his wife:​


Dr. Mudd’s Accommodations at Fort Jefferson
Wikipedia CC (*)

He continues to lament on the conditions:

“I am nearly worn out, the weather is almost suffocating, and millions of mosquitos, fleas, and bedbugs infest the whole island. We can’t rest day or night in peace for the mosquitos,” {5}

It was the mosquitos that aided Dr. Mudd in his eventual release from prison. When a Yellow Fever epidemic hit Fort Jefferson in August of 1867 Dr. Mudd left the carpenter shop he had been assigned and given hospital duty. At the time of the outbreak there were fifty-two prisoners and three hundred military personnel serving at the Fort. Within a few weeks after the outbreak the doctor originally treating the quarantined patients contacted the illness and died. The fever had no respect for anyone. He writes his wife of the deaths of young children and wives of other doctors and officers, fellow guards and prisoner. He details long hours of care only to watch his sick patients take their final breaths. The doctor received great praise for his tireless medical care he provided to all those at the fort as seen by this comment:

“Major Stone has kindly promised to make known my services to the authorities at Washington, but unless they have the magnanimity to release me, their word of praise will be of no consequence.” {2}

Also helping him in his bid for a pardon was the trial of John Surrartt. In an 1866 Supreme Court Case “Ex Parte Lambdin P. Milligan” ruled: “the federal government could not establish military courts to try civilians except where civil courts were no longer functioning in an actual theatre of war.” {7}

Mary’s son had fled the country after Lincoln’s assassination and was finally captured in Alexandria Egypt and brought back to the United States. On June 10, 1867 he went on trial for his participation in the conspiracy of the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. Unlike Dr. Mudd, Surratt was granted a civilian trial and when the jury did not reach an unanimous decision a mistrial was declared. He remained in jail and released in the summer of 1868 without another trial. By this time Frank Mudd had many reasons to be optimistic that her husband would be pardoned and soon. Frank Mudd was so confident the pardon would be forthcoming that she wrote her husband on January 30, 1969:

“My darling Sam

Your letter of January 8th I received on last Wednesday, the first for a long time. When I last wrote I was hoping that it would be the last letter I would write to you on that miserable island, but I now feel very, very hopeful that this will be my last. Every body seems to think that Johnson will release you, beyond a doubt, before his term of office expires; and for myself I can't see how he can possibly get out of it, after all the petitions and appeals which have been made in your behalf. I feel very sanguine of seeing you before the last of March. Should you be released, of which there is but little doubt, you must hurry home, for I assure you, you are sadly needed.

May our Lord protect us from another disappointment, for I am really in no disposition to bear it. of our blessed Lord. I put you under the protection I think He will bring you home

Your devoted wife, Frank.” {2}

On February 8, 1869 the president signed Mudd’s pardon in the presence of Frank. One month later he walked out of the prison. A few days before Andrew Johnson left office he also pardoned Samuel Arnold and Edmund Spangler. The Yellow Fever that saved Dr. Mudd took the life of fellow-conspirator Michael O’Laughlin on September 23, 1867.

The Mudd family was re-united on March 20, 1869 with a frail, weak and sickly Dr. Mudd. The Mudd’s were reluctant to face reporters and granted one interview to the “New York Herald” that was published on March 31, 1869. The reporter was invited into their home. When asked what was his desire now that he was pardoned of his crimes he simply replied:​

“to be allowed to spend the balance of his days quietly in the bosom of his family.”

As the interview progressed they were joined by Frank Mudd and a daughter.

“A big fire blazed on the ample hearth, and Mrs. Mudd, an intelligent and handsome lady, with one of her children, joined the Doctor and ourselves in the conversation over the events of that memorable April morning after the assassination.

‘Did you see Booth, Mrs. Mudd’? we inquired with a feeling of intense interest to hear her reply.

‘Yes’, she replied, ‘I saw himself and Harold after they entered this parlor. Booth stretched himself out on that sofa there and Harold stooped down to whisper something to him.”

‘How did Booth look’?

‘Very bad. He seemed as though he had been drinking very hard; his eyes were red and swollen and his hair in disorder’.

‘Did he appear to suffer much’?

‘Not after he laid down on the sofa. In fact, it seemed as if hardly anything was wrong with him then’.” {8}

The Mudd family continued to find joy in the support of friends and neighbors. He resumed his medical practice and in time brought his farm back into a productive enterprise. Edmund Spangler stayed with the family for eighteen months from 1873 until his death in February of 1875. He earned his keep working as a carpenter or gardener or any other farm chores. Between the years of 1871 through 1878 they welcomed four more children to their family. Disaster struck the family in 1880 when a fire ravaged their barn costing them the loss of nearly eight thousand pounds of tobacco as well as farm implements, two horses and a wagon. On January 10, 1883 Dr. Mudd succumbed to pneumonia. ​

Sarah “Frank” Mudd never stopped her quest to free her husband. The Mudd family continued to work to clear the name of their infamous relative including the book I used as a source written by his daughter Mary Eleanor “Nettie” Mudd. Nettie was five years old when her father died. Nettie celebrated twenty-eight years of life with her mother after his death. She published her book “The Life of Samuel A. Mudd” in 1906 written when she was in her mid-twenties. It’s safe to say that Nettie clearly writes with a “heart of a daughter”. She details her mother’s deep suffering:

“Nor can one deny to his wife the highest measure of praise for her noble, womanly conduct during all the trying ordeals through which she was required to pass. Her trials will never be known save to herself and the God in whom she unfalteringly trusted. We are given some idea of the depth of her suffering, of the laceration of her woman's heart.”

Then Nettie shares a snippet of her mother’s letter to President Johnson on January 28, 1866 which compares her mother’s anguish in "Biblical" proportions:

“In ‘Rachel mourning for her children and would not be comforted”,

Nettie concludes:

“no lower note of human anguish is sounded than that touched in the heart of this wife and mother, as shown in this appeal for justice to her husband and the father of her little children. Few can read this letter without emotion; none can read it without a measure of profound sympathy, and a yet larger measure of admiration, for the faithful woman who wrote it.” {2}

Frank Mudd died on November 29, 1911 and
is buried next to the man she fought so hard to rescue from a lifetime in prison.



During Dr. Samuel Mudd’s 1865 trial, testimony was given that paints a different story of his role in the assassination including statements of Mudd’s hatred of President Lincoln. Many witnesses testified seeing John Surratt visiting the Mudd’s home “dozens of times” before the events of April 14. At times his attorney Thomas Ewing Jr., faced difficulties trying to explain (for example): “why, after word of Booth's role in the assassination reached Bryantown, Mudd's suspicions were not overly aroused by a broken-legged visitor who, during his brief stay the Mudd farm, shaved off his moustache”. {9}

When Lt. Alexander Lovett returned to the Mudd home three days after April 18 when Dr. Mudd claimed no knowledge and insisted he only was treating “a stranger”, it was Frank that brought down from the upstairs bedroom a “boot”. When Lovett “turned down the top of the left-foot riding boot and ‘saw the name J Wilkes written in it’,” it seems to add to the possibility that they were aware it was Booth that the doctor was treating. Did she bring the boot down because she knew they’d find it eventually and it appeared “more innocent” to voluntarily give it up? Had she never turned down the top of the boot to see the name? When the military came on the 18th, why hadn’t they destroyed the Wilke’s boot?

“The conviction of Dr. Samuel Mudd proved to be--along with the death sentence for Mary Surratt--the most controversial action of the Military Commission that tried the Lincoln assassination conspirators.” {9} Perhaps Mudd’s attorney Ewing spoke volumes when he told Frank: “You should seek comfort, however, in the reflection that the vindictive and energetic effort to take his life failed”. That verdict gave Dr. Samuel Mudd a chance to one day be reunited with his family - something President Lincoln was denied. After one hundred and fifty-five years, the case of Dr. Samuel Mudd is still debated.

While I was researching Frank Mudd, I always kept in mind that there were other families that suffered that night including the Lincoln and Seward and lest we forget - the loss felt as a nation. Regarding the assassination of President Lincoln and that of Frank Mudd’s knowledge of events prior to April 14, 1865 - we will never know the answer of the proverbial question: ​


The assassination of President Lincoln at Ford's Theatre, Washington, D.C.
Currier & Ives, 1865
(LOC - No Known Copyright Restrictions)

* * * * *

1. Dr. Samuel A. Mudd at Fort Jefferson 1865-1869. by Robert K. Summers
2. The Life of Samuel A. Mudd, by Nettie Mudd
4. https://spartacus-educational.com/USACWmudd.htm
5. https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/how-samuel-mudd-went-lincoln-conspirator-medical-savior-180954980/
6. https://www.drytortugas.com/samuel-mudd-civil-war/
7. https://www.britannica.com/event/Ex-Parte-Milligan
8. https://lincolnconspirators.com/2018/07/09/an-interview-with-dr-mudd
(*) Wikipedia CC
All Photos Public Domain unless otherwise noted.
To read Part 1:



1st Lieutenant
Forum Host
Nov 27, 2018
Chattanooga, Tennessee
I hadn't realized John Surratt was ever brought to trial. I had heard he went to Italy, and was caught there by Italians, who let him go, he returning to Canada, and the Government here saying it was beyond jurisdictive process. I prefer your version, thinking my source may have been wikipedia a long time ago. I will look once again for where my facts were construed. Thank you for the interesting and delightful part 2.
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connecticut yankee

First Sergeant
Jun 2, 2017
Excellent post in many respects, especially your analysis of questions surrounding the finding of Booth's torn boot in the Mudd home. I think the most telling evidence against Dr.Mudd was his refusal to divulge at any time to authorities Booth's appearance and treatment at the Mudd farmhouse post Lincoln assassination. Dr. Mudd knew Lincoln was assassinated. Dr. Booth knew Booth from prior meetings. Dr. Booth treated Booth's broken foot. Put it alltogether and it isn't hard to reach a "guilty as sin" verdict.
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