Dr. Mudd's Response to the The Dutton Report

Dr. Mudd's Response to the The Dutton Report  (1865) 
by Samuel Alexander Mudd

When Dr. Mudd learned of Army Captain Dutton’s report, he wrote a heated rebuttal. The authorities refused to print Dr. Mudd's rebuttal, so Dr. Mudd sent it to his wife, who then made it public, saying: "The following is a sworn statement written by my husband while he was a prisoner in Fort Jefferson and which he was not permitted by the authorities to have published. He sent it to me in a letter about the 1st of October, 1865. This statement was made to correct erroneous statements, which had appeared in the public press, allegedly quoting my husband."

The following is Dr. Mudd’s response to Captain Dutton’s report.

Source: The Life of Dr. Samuel A. Mudd, by Nettie Mudd

August 28, 1865

1st. That I confessed to having known Booth while in my house; was afraid to give information of the fact, fearing to endanger my life, or made use of any language in that connection - I positively and emphatically declare to be notoriously false.

2nd. That I was satisfied and willingly acquiesced in the wisdom and decision of the Military Commission who tried me, is again notoriously erroneous and false. On the contrary I charged it (the Commission) with irregularity, injustice, usurpation, and illegality. I confess to being animated at the time but have no recollection of having apologized.

3rd. I did confess to a casual or accidental meeting with Booth in front of one of the hotels on Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, D. C. on the 23d of December 1864, and not on the 15th of January, 1865, as testified to by Weichman. Booth, on that occasion desired me to give him an introduction to Surratt, from whom he said he wished to obtain a knowledge of the country around Washington, in order to be able to select a good locality for a country residence. He had the number, street, and name of John Surratt, written on a card, saying, to comply with his request would not detain me over five minutes. (At the time I was not aware that Surratt was a resident of Washington.) I declined at first, stating I was with a relative and friend from the country and was expecting some friends over from Baltimore, who intended going down with me to spend Christmas, and was by appointment expected to be at the Pennsylvania House by a certain hour - eight o'clock. We started down one street, and then up another, and had not gone far before we met Surratt and Weichman.

Introductions took place, and we turned back in the direction of the hotel. Arriving there, Booth insisted on our going to his room and taking something to drink with him, which I declined for reasons above mentioned; but finding that Weichman and Surratt were disposed to accept—I yielded, remarking, I could not remain many minutes. After arriving in the room, I took the first opportunity presented to apologize to Surratt for having introduced to him Booth—a man I knew so little concerning. This conversation took place in the passage in front of the room and was not over three minutes in duration. Whilst Surratt and myself were in the hall, Booth and Weichman were sitting on the sofa in a corner of the room looking over some Congressional documents. Surratt and myself returned and resumed our former seats (after taking drinks ordered), around a center table, which stood midway the room and distant seven or eight feet from Booth and Weichman. Booth remarked that he had been down in the country a few days before, and said he had not yet recovered from the fatigue. Afterward he said he had been down in Charles County and had made me an offer for the purchase of my land, which I confirmed by an affirmative answer; and he further remarked that on his way up he lost his way and rode several miles off the track. When he said this he left his seat and came over and took a seat immediately by Surratt; taking from his pocket an old letter, he began to draw lines, in order to ascertain from Surratt the location and description of the roads. I was a mere looker on. The conversation that took place could be distinctly heard to any part of the room by any one paying attention. There was nothing secret to my knowledge that took place, with the exception of the conversation of Surratt and myself, which I have before mentioned. I had no secret conversation with Booth, nor with Booth and Surratt together, as testified to by Weichman. I never volunteered any statement of Booth having made me an offer for the purchase of my land, but made an affirmative response only to what Booth said in that connection.

Booth's visit in November, 1864, to Charles County was for the purpose, as expressed by himself, to purchase land and horses; he was inquisitive concerning the political sentiments of the people, inquiring about the contraband trade that existed between the North and South, and wished to be informed about the roads bordering on the Potomac, which I declined doing. He spoke of his being an actor and having two other brothers, who also were actors. He spoke of Junius Brutus as being a good Republican. He said they were largely engaged in the oil business, and gave me a lengthy description of the theory of oil and the process of boring, etc. He said he had a younger brother in California. These and many minor matters spoken of caused me to suspect him to be a Government detective and to advise Surratt regarding him.

We were together in Booth's room about fifteen minutes, after which, at my invitation, they walked up to the Pennsylvania House, where the conversation that ensued between Weichman and myself as testified to by him is in the main correct - only that he, of the two, appeared the better Southern man, and undertook to give me facts from his office to substantiate his statements and opinions. This was but a short time after the defeat of Hood in Tennessee. The papers stated that over nine thousand prisoners had been taken, and that the whole of Hood's army was demoralized and falling back, and there was every prospect of his whole army being either captured or destroyed. To this Weichman replied that only four thousand prisoners had been ordered to be provided for by the Commissary-General, and that he was far from believing the defeat of Hood so disastrous. I spoke with sincerity, and said it was a blow from which the South never would be able to recover; and that the whole South then laid at the mercy of Sherman. Weichman seemed, whilst on the stand, to be disposed to give what he believed a truthful statement. I am in hopes the above will refresh his memory, and he will do me the justice, though late, to correct his erroneous testimony.

To recapitulate - I made use of no such statement as reported by the "Washington Correspondent of the New York Times," only in the sense and meaning as testified to by Dr. George D. Mudd, and as either misunderstood or misrepresented by Colonel Wells and others before the Commission.

I never saw Mrs. Surratt in my life to my knowledge previous to the assassination, and then only through her veil. I never saw Arnold, O'Loughlin, Atzerodt, Payne alias Powel, or Spangler - or ever heard their names mentioned previous to the assassination of the President. I never saw or heard of Booth after the 23d of December 1864, until after the assassination, and then he was in disguise. I did not know Booth whilst in my house, nor did I know Herold; neither of whom made himself known to me. And I further declare they did not make known to me their true destination before I left the house. They inquired the way to many places and desired particularly to go to the Rev. Mr. Wilmer's. I gave a full description of the two parties (whom I represented as suspicious) to Lieutenant Lovett and three other officers, on the Tuesday after the assassination.

I gave a description of one horse - the other I never took any notice of, and do not know to this day the color or appearance. Neither Booth's nor Herold's name was mentioned in connection with the assassination, nor was there any name mentioned on the Tuesday after the assassination, nor was there any name mentioned in connection with the assassination, nor was there any photograph exhibited of any one implicated in the infamous deed. I was merely called upon to give a description of the men and horses and the places they inquired. The evidence of the four detectives - Lovett, Gavacan, Lloyd, and Williams - conflict (unintentionally) vitally on this point; they evidently prove and disprove the fact as they have done in every instance affecting my interest, or upon points in which my welfare was at issue. Some swore that the photograph of Booth was exhibited on Tuesday, which was false. I do not advert to the false testimony; it is evident to the reader, and bears the impress of foul play and persecution somewhere - it may be owing to the thirst after the enormous reward offered by the Government, or a false idea for notoriety. Evans and Norton evidently swore falsely and perjured themselves. Daniel I. Thomas was bought by the detectives - likewise the negroes who swore against me. The court certainly must have seen that a great deal of the testimony was false and incompetent - upon this I charge them with injustice, etc.

Reverend Evans and Norton - I never saw nor heard their names in my life. I never knew, nor have I any knowledge whatsoever, of John Surratt ever visiting Richmond. I had not seen him previous to the 23d of December, 1864, for more than nine months. He was no visitor to my house.

The detectives, Lovett, Gavacan, Lloyd, and Williams, having failed to search my house or to make any inquiries whether the parties left anything behind on the Tuesday after the assassination, I myself did not think - consequently did not remind them. A day or two after their leaving, the boot that was cut from the injured man's leg by myself, was brought to our attention, and I resolved on sending it to the military authorities, but it escaped my memory and I was not reminded of its presence until the Friday after the assassination, when Lieutenant Lovett and the above parties, with a squad of cavalry, came again and asked for the razor the party shaved with. I was then reminded immediately of the boot and, without hesitation, I told them of it and the circumstances. I had never examined the inside of boot leg, consequently knew nothing about a name which was there contained. As soon as I handed the boot to Lieutenant Lovett, they examined and discovered the name "J. Wilkes"; they then handed me his photograph, and asked whether it bore any resemblance to the party, to which I said I would not be able to recognize that as the man (injured), but remarked that there was a resemblance about the eyes and hair. Herold's likeness was also handed me, and I could not see any resemblance, but I had described the horse upon which he rode, which, one of the detectives said, answered exactly to the one taken from one of the stables in Washington.

From the above facts and circumstances I was enabled to form a judgment, which I expressed without hesitation, and I said that I was convinced that the injured man was Booth, the same man who visited my house in November, 1864, and purchased a horse from my neighbor, George Gardiner. I said this because I thought my judgment in the matter was necessary to secure pursuit promptly of the assassins.

- Samuel A. Mudd