Dr. Samuel A. Mudd House

Dr. Samuel A. Mudd House photo
Mark Gail - The Washington Post

Editorial Review

While Samuel A. Mudd clearly played a part in Charles County's Civil War history, his role remains open to speculation. Was he an assassination conspirator or a compassionate country doctor? He set the broken leg of John Wilkes Booth hours after Booth had shot President Abraham Lincoln and jumped to the stage at Ford's Theatre. Mudd was tried along with several accomplices and found guilty of conspiracy to murder. He escaped the death penalty by one vote and was sentenced to life in prison, but later pardoned. The family of Mudd maintains his innocence. Along with a dedicated corps of volunteers, they share his story in his home, restored to its 1860s grandeur.

Costumed docents describe how a disguised Booth (and a companion, David Herold) arrived early in the morning April 15, 1865, with a broken leg he said he injured in a horse accident. Mudd led him to a sofa that still sits in the living room. After Mudd set the broken limb, his visitors retired upstairs, where some original furnishings remain. Many of Mudd's personal effects, including various medical tools, are displayed throughout the house. All rooms have been returned to their Civil War color scheme.

Booth and Herold departed later that day on a path still visible on the property. When questioned about the incident, Mudd -- a known supporter of slavery and a Confederate sympathizer -- said he did not recognize the men. Within days, he was under arrest for conspiracy; he had met Booth twice the previous year. Docents say these meetings were chance encounters, not part of a plot to assassinate the president. In the end, Mudd spent less than four years at a remote Florida prison in the Dry Tortugas. During his confinement, yellow fever broke out, killing the prison doctor and others. Mudd cared for ailing patients despite contracting the disease himself. His efforts earned him a pardon from President Andrew Johnson, who also cited doubts about his guilt. Mudd returned to his home and was later elected to the Maryland legislature in 1876. He died of pneumonia in 1883, soon after his 49th birthday. His original headstone remains on the 10-acre property, although he is buried a few miles away.

Open April to November on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays from 11 to 4 (last tour is at 3:30). $4 adults, $1 children ages 6 to 16.