Samuel Mudd : biography
Samuel Alexander Mudd I, M.D. (December 20, 1833 – January 10, 1883) was an American physician who was convicted and imprisoned for aiding and conspiring with John Wilkes Booth in the 1865 assassination of U.S. President Abraham Lincoln. He was pardoned by President Andrew Johnson and released from prison in 1869. Despite repeated attempts by family members and others to have it expunged, his conviction has never been overturned.
Born in Charles County, Maryland, Mudd was the fourth of ten children of Henry Lowe and Sarah Ann Reeves Mudd. He grew up on "Oak Hill", his father's tobacco plantation of several hundred acres which was located southeast of downtown Washington, D.C., and which was worked by 89 slaves.
At the age of 15, after several years of home tutoring, Mudd went off to boarding school at St. Johns in Frederick, Maryland. Two years later, he enrolled at Georgetown College in Washington, D.C.. He then studied medicine at the University of Maryland, Baltimore, writing his thesis on dysentery.
Upon graduation in 1856, Mudd returned to Charles County to practice medicine, marrying his childhood sweetheart, Sarah Frances (Frankie) Dyer Mudd one year later. As a wedding present, Mudd's father gave the couple of his best farmland, known as St. Catherine’s, and a new house. While the house was under construction, the young Mudds lived with Frankie's bachelor brother, Jeremiah Dyer, finally moving into their new home in 1859. They had nine children in all; four before Mudd's arrest and five after his release from prison.Andrew Jerome Mudd (1858-1882), Lillian Augusta "Sissie" Mudd (1860-1940), Thomas Dyer Mudd (1862-1929) and Samuel Alexander Mudd, II (1864-1930),(Henry Mudd (born 1870, died at eight months), Stella Marie Mudd (1871-1952), Edward Joseph Mudd (1873-1946), Rose De Lima "Emie" Mudd (1875-1943), and Mary Eleanor "Nettie" Mudd (1878-1943. To supplement his income from his medical practice, Mudd became a small scale tobacco grower, using five slaves according to the 1860 U.S. Slave Census. Mudd believed that slavery was divinely ordained, writing a letter to the theologian Orestes Brownson to that effect.
With the advent of the American Civil War in 1861, the Southern Maryland slave system and the economy it supported rapidly began to collapse. In 1863, the Union Army established Camp Stanton just from the Mudd farm to enlist black freedmen and run-away slaves. Six regiments totaling over 8,700 black soldiers, many from Southern Maryland, were trained there. In 1864, Maryland, which was exempt from Lincoln's 1863 Emancipation Proclamation, abolished slavery, making it difficult for growers like Mudd to operate their plantations. As a result, Mudd considered selling his farm and depending on his medical practice. As Mudd pondered his alternatives, he was introduced to someone who said he might be interested in buying his property, the 26-year-old actor John Wilkes Booth.
Film and television
Mudd's life was the subject of a 1936 John Ford-directed film The Prisoner of Shark Island, based on a script by Nunnally Johnson. Another film, entitled The Ordeal of Dr. Mudd, was made in 1980. It starred Dennis Weaver as Mudd, and espoused the point of view that Mudd was innocent of any conspiracy.
Roger Mudd, an Emmy Award-winning journalist and television host, is related to Samuel Mudd, though he is not a direct descendant, as has been mistakenly reported.
On the episode "Swiss Diplomacy" of the NBC Drama The West Wing, first lady (and cardiac surgeon) Dr. Abby Bartlet commented on the duty of a physician to treat an injured patient despite potential legal repercussions. She responded to Mudd's treason conviction with "So that's the way it goes. You set the leg."
Samuel Mudd is sometimes given as the origin of the phrase "your name is mud", as in, for example, the 2007 film National Treasure: Book of Secrets. However, according to an online etymology dictionary, this phrase has its earliest known recorded instance in 1823, ten years before Mudd's birth, and is based on an obsolete sense of the word "mud" meaning "a stupid twaddling fellow".
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