Thursday, May 10, 2012

A Reeves Descendant - Dr. Samuel Mudd

Most Americans, even those with limited knowledge of our history, are aware of Dr. Samuel Mudd and his conviction as a conspirator in the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln. What may not be so well known is that his mother was Sarah Ann Reeves, daughter of Dr. James Reeves and Anne Cecelia Dyer of Charles County, Maryland.

Dr. Mudd working in the prison carpentry shopAs John Wilkes Boothe was making an attempt to escape capture after President Lincoln's assassination, he and an accomplice stopped at the farm of Dr. Samuel Mudd seeking medical attention for Boothe's broken leg. Because the two had met previously on more than one occasion, Dr. Mudd was believed to be one of the conspirators and was tried accordingly.

On June 29, 1865, Dr. Mudd was found guilty and convicted of conspiring to murder President Lincoln. He escaped the death penalty by one vote and was sentenced to life imprisonment. Along with several other convicted conspirators, he was imprisoned at Fort Jefferson in the Dry Tortugas about 70 miles west of Key West, Florida.

During a yellow fever outbreak in 1867, the prison doctor died and Dr. Mudd agreed to take over the position. The soldiers in the fort later wrote a petition to President Johnson praising Dr. Mudd for his assistance, stating that many owed their lives to the care and treatment they received at his hands.

On February 8, 1869, Dr. Mudd was pardoned by President Andrew Johnson, released from prison on March 8, 1869 and returned home to Maryland on March 20, 1869.

Samuel A. Mudd HouseDr. Mudd's Reeves' ancestors are recorded in St. Mary's and Charles County, Maryland by the latter part of the 17th century. His earliest known Reeves' ancestors were Mary Upgate and Thomas Reeves who died in St. Mary's County in 1719. Dr. Mudd's grandfather, Dr. James Reeves, was one of the beneficiaries of the estate of his wealthy cousin Thomas Courtney Reeves. Thomas Courtney Reeves was so immensely wealthy that he is recorded as owning 74 slaves in the 1810 census of Charles County, Maryland. Thomas Courtney Reeves has also been named as the father of Dr. James Reeves in some lineages but twice his will specifically states that James Reeves was his cousin. Thomas Courtney Reeves and his wife Elizabeth Edelin apparently had no children. When Elizabeth Edelin Reeves died some years after her husband, Dr. Mudd's parents Henry Lowe Mudd and Sarah Ann Reeves Mudd were beneficiaries of her will as well.

I became aware of his Reeves' ancestry at some time during the 1970's when my mother briefly corresponded with Dr. Mudd's grandson, Dr. Richard Mudd, in the course of Reeves' research. For many years, Dr. Richard Mudd unsuccessfully lobbied government officials including Presidents Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan seeking to have his grandfather's conviction set aside.

Source of photo of Samuel A. Mudd in prison - Wikipedia. The photo of Dr. Samuel Mudd House & Museum is courtesy of TripAdvisor.

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