Dr. Mudd Pardoned
On February 24, 1868, the U.S. House of Representatives approved by a vote of 126 to 47 an impeachment resolution accusing President Andrew Johnson of violating the Tenure of Office Act by removing Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton from office. Johnson’s political enemies used this charge as a stand-in for all the Johnson post-war reconstruction policies they opposed, including his pardon of many former high-ranking Confederate officials. On May 16, 1868 Johnson survived the Senate impeachment trial by a single vote.
On Christmas Day, 1868, shortly before his term of office ended, President Johnson issued a general amnesty for all those who had been in rebellion against the Union. This included even the imprisoned Jefferson Davis, former president of the Confederacy. However, the general amnesty did not cover Dr. Mudd, Ned Spangler, or Samuel Arnold.
Dr. Mudd, Arnold, and Spangler had not been forgotten in prison. From the first days of their imprisonment, their families and friends had worked diligently for their release. Mrs. Mudd wrote several letters to President Johnson and went to see him often, begging for her husband’s release. In her last public statement, in the Baltimore News newspaper of February 11, 1909, she said:
I called on President Johnson a great many times. He always treated me courteously, but impressed me always as one shrinking from some impending disaster. He conveyed to me always the idea that he wanted to release my husband, but said more than once "the pressure on me is too great."
On January 31, 1869, a month after issuing his general amnesty and a month before he would leave office, President Johnson received a high-powered delegation of men from Maryland. The delegation consisted of Maryland Governor Oden Bowie, three justices of the Maryland Court of Appeals - Chief Justice James Bartol, Justice John Robinson, and Justice Richard Grayson - and two Maryland congressmen - Hiram McCullough and Frederick Stone. As you will recall, Mr. Stone had been one of Dr. Mudd’s defense counsels during the conspiracy trial. The six men asked Johnson to pardon Dr. Mudd before he left office. They also asked him to pardon Samuel Arnold and Edman Spangler. Everyone considered Spangler to be innocent, but he seemed to be comparatively friendless. Johnson said he would seriously think about it.
A week later, February 8, 1869, President Johnson summoned Mrs. Mudd to the White House and personally handed her Dr. Mudd’s pardon. He apologized for not keeping his earlier promises to release Dr. Mudd, but now that his political enemies could no longer harm him, he was setting Dr. Mudd free.
Following the pardon, the War Department ordered the Commanding Officer of Fort Jefferson to release Dr. Mudd. The order was carried out on March 8, 1869, and Dr. Mudd’s long ordeal was over. He had been in Government custody just six weeks shy of four years, from April 21, 1865 when he was arrested at his farm, until March 8, 1869 when he was released from custody at Fort Jefferson. He was still a young man, just 35 years old, but must have felt much older.
Although free, Dr. Mudd had to wait three days for a ship that would carry him away from Fort Jefferson. On March 11th, he finally left Fort Jefferson on the Navy schooner Matchless for Key West. In Key West, Dr. Mudd secured passage on the steamship Liberty as it sailed up from Havana on its way to Baltimore. The Liberty arrived in Baltimore at 4 o’clock in the morning on Thursday, March 18, 1869. With no one to meet him at the dock at that time of the morning, Dr. Mudd left the ship and secured a room at Barnum’s City Hotel, where he rested and waited for morning to arrive. When it did, he left Barnum’s and went to his brother-in-law Jeremiah Dyer’s house, where he was finally reunited with his wife after almost four years.
Later in the day, Dr. Mudd was visited by several prominent Marylanders who had worked for his release, including the Governor of Maryland, Oden Bowie. On Saturday, March 20, 1869, Dr. Mudd and his wife arrived back home at their farm, where there was a joyful reunion with his four children. Dr. Mudd’s mother Sarah Ann Mudd was no longer alive, having died shortly before his release from prison. His father Henry Mudd lived until 1877, but in ever-declining health.