1871 must have been a rough year for a certain Charles County physician. In late March of that year a few of the regional newspapers carried stories about the apparently successful suicide of Dr. Mudd who played a small role in the story of Lincoln’s assassination.
The Dr. Mudd reported to have committed suicide by cutting his own throat was not Dr. Samuel Mudd, but rather his second cousin, Dr. George Dyer Mudd.
This “other” Dr. Mudd was actually the elder of the doctors Mudd. George even sponsored his younger cousin, Samuel, when the latter was applying for his doctorate in medicine.
Unlike his younger cousin, Dr. George Mudd was a Union supporter during the Civil War and as such was well liked and known among the Union soldiers who occupied Charles County. It was likely due to this reason that Dr. Samuel Mudd chose to confide to Dr. George Mudd that two “strangers” had come to his house on the morning of April 15th, after the assassination of President Lincoln. Samuel told this to George on April 16th, when both men attended Easter Sunday services at St. Peter’s Church. Dr. Sam hinted to Dr. George that he was worried that these two men might have been connected with Lincoln’s death, but did not put too fine a point on this suspicion. George Mudd said he would tell the authorities, but did not actually report the news until the next day. The authorities eventually followed up on Dr. George Mudd’s lead, and pretty soon the whole family’s name was Mudd due to his younger cousin’s well established acquaintance with John Wilkes Booth.
Despite what the papers initially reported in March of 1871, however, Dr. George Mudd did not succeed in his attempt to kill himself. A correction was quickly published.
Further information was published in the local newspaper, The Port Tobacco Times, on March 24th. The article started with a copy of one of the original notices citing Dr. Mudd’s death by suicide:
“The above, which we find in the Baltimore papers of Wednesday last, is incorrect, and we copy it merely to correct the misstatements of false rumors, growing out of a very unfortunate affair. From trustworthy sources we learn that on Sunday morning last, during a fit of temporary insanity, superinduced by mental prostration, Dr. Mudd did attempt to take his own life but was prevented by friends, but not until he had inflicted an ugly cut upon his throat. The wound is by no means fatal, and, at last accounts, the Doctor is pronounced out of danger.”
Dr. George Mudd recovered from his suicide attempt and it does not appear he ever tried to take his own life again. Instead, two years later, Dr. George Mudd enter politics and was elected as a state senator. When he was re-elected to the legislature in 1876, many newspapers confused him with his infamous cousin.