A New Photograph of Dr. Mudd?

I’ve always been a big proponent of digitization efforts on the part of institutions. Scanning and putting materials online allows researchers to connect with items that they would not know existed otherwise. It was through a digital collection that I noticed that there was a third mug shot photograph of conspirator Michael O’Laughlen when most texts and historians were only aware of two. At the time, I had believed that discovery of a new photograph of a Lincoln conspirator had been a once in a lifetime find. Yet last night while doing some minor research regarding Fort Jefferson, the island prison of the Lincoln assassination conspirators, I believe I stumbled across another historic find and, once again, digitization efforts have made it possible.

In April of this year, Kate and I fulfilled our dream of visiting and camping at Fort Jefferson in the Dry Tortugas. The trip was our honeymoon and one year anniversary all rolled into one and was a magical experience. We took almost 2500 pictures while on the island and yesterday I went through some of them. Some of the pictures we took were attempts to recreate older photos of the Fort that we had seen in books. The goal was to match the old photo as close as we could and use them for side by side shots demonstrating the “Then and Now” of Fort Jefferson. Last night I was looking for high resolution copies of some of the older photographs in order to provide the best visuals I could. While searching for better quality images of National Park Service photographs, I came across a digitization site called the Open Parks Network.

Operating in partnership with the NPS and Clemson University, Open Parks Network is digitizing some of the National Park Service’s holdings of images and documents. In this manner they have digitized some of the collection of Dry Tortugas National Park. I was grateful to find that the Open Parks Network had several of the older images I needed and that they were available to download for free and were in the public domain.

Then, as I was scrolling through the items from the Dry Tortugas collection, I found this curious entry.

Though titled, “Doctor Mudd at fort entrance, Fort Jefferson” it had the date of 1870 attached to it. Given that Dr. Mudd was pardoned and left Fort Jefferson in 1869, I was suspicious. I just assumed that some archivist or digitizer made a mistake somewhere, but I clicked on the entry anyway. This is the image I was presented with.

I, of course, immediately zoomed in on the figure sitting on the railing near the moat.

Now I receive a lot of pictures from people claiming to have a previously unknown photograph of John Wilkes Booth. At times I have been sent a prospective Lewis Powell or George Atzerodt to consider. I’ve also been given a couple of Dr. Mudds to peruse. Yet, despite the many folks who believe their mustachioed gentleman is John Wilkes Booth, I have never been presented with a new image of the conspirators (aside from the O’Laughlen one) that I felt was the real McCoy. Some have trouble accepting my opinion on their images and try to convince me that I’m mistaken. They provide “evidence” which “proves” their image is who they say it is. Some have even taken their images to so-called photography experts who have used scientific means to prove their image is genuine. But such claims have never changed my mind. All of the commissioned “proof” in the world can’t make my eyes see something that it doesn’t. I can speak about details in Booth’s face but, in the end, it just comes down to the basic question, “Does it look right”? Thus far, they never have. So I think it’s safe to say that I have a pretty discriminating eye when it comes to images of Booth and his conspirators.

It is for this reason that I am amazed to find myself saying that this image of Dr. Mudd looks right to me. I fully admit that the quality of the image is not great. The main subject is sitting farther back from the camera than would be optimal. His face is only partially turned toward the camera which impedes identification. And the notation of 1870 needs rectifying. Yet despite all of that, when I look at the gentleman in the picture I see Dr. Mudd. I see his mustache and his goatee (though trimmed a bit closer than in his other pictures). I see his slender build, made even more slender from the conditions of his imprisonment. And even though they are little more than pixels in this low quality image, I can still make out the light and aloof eyes that identify Dr. Mudd to me. In addition the pants and shoes the man is wearing closely, if not exactly, match the attire Dr. Mudd was photographed in while he was working in the carpentry shop at Fort Jefferson.

Let’s address the other aspects of the photo. After the uncanny resemblance to Dr. Mudd, there were a few things I noticed right off the bat. First, this is clearly a photo of a photo. At some point the original photo appears to have been tacked up on a wall or board somewhere and someone took a camera and photographed it. You can still see the tacks that held up the image in the corners.

Second, the original image looks like half of a stereoview photograph.  Stereoview or stereoscopic images are taken with a camera that has two lenses spaced beside each other. The camera captures two slightly different angles of the same subject. When viewed with a stereoviewer a three dimension image can be seen. This type of photography was popular in the Civil War era and beyond and can still be seen in the children’s toy, Viewmaster.  The closely cut right hand side of the image and the rounded top seem to imply that this image was taken with one side of a stereoscopic camera.

A stereoview card of Ford’s Theatre

Third, this photograph is old. When it comes to pictures of Fort Jefferson there are only a few that come from the Civil War and Reconstruction eras. A large percent of the archived image of Fort Jefferson are from the 1930s onward. There are a few that were taken in the late 1890s and early 1900s when the Spanish American War made Fort Jefferson an important and useful fort again. Photography had also advanced quite a bit at that time which made photography easier, cheaper and more popular among amateurs. The presence of Union soldiers behind the Dr. Mudd figure and the good condition of the Fort itself show that this image most certainly could have been taken during Dr. Mudd’s imprisonment.

After going through all of the images in the Dry Tortugas collection that the Open Parks Network has digitized, I discovered that this was not the only image that shares the unique features mentioned above. I found eight other images of scenes around the Fort that are photographs of photographs and similarly appear to be parts of stereoview cards. You can view them here (1), here (2), here (3), here (4), here (5), here (6), here (7) and here (8). All the images show the Fort in the state of construction that it was in during the conspirators’ time there. One of the images is of the memorial for Dr. Joseph Sim Smith, the post doctor who died in the Yellow Fever epidemic of 1867 that Dr. Mudd took over for.

If this image was taken at the same time as the Dr. Mudd one, which would seem likely, this can help us date that picture to after 1867.

The back notation of 1870 is a discrepancy in all of this. As far as we know, Dr. Mudd never returned to Fort Jefferson after his pardon in 1869 and, even if he did, it would seem extremely unlikely he would return so soon after his release. Some of the images that look similar to the Dr. Mudd one also bear the notation 1870, but others from the same series do not. It is my opinion that those notations of 1870 cannot be taken as accurate. As stated before, the images are clearly pictures of pictures so we do not know what writing, if any, was on the originals. The fact that none of the 9 images in the series have any other notation on the back shows that not a lot of detail was given to recording precise information about what they show and when. Perhaps 1870 was an approximate (or circa) guess by a well-meaning Park Service employee who discovered the image years later.

To me, despite its problems, this photograph checks all the boxes. The original image was taken using period appropriate photography equipment. The condition of the Fort matches the period of time when the Lincoln conspirators were imprisoned there. The Dr. Mudd figure has the same facial hair and body type as the doctor and his clothes closely match an outfit Mudd was known to have had with him on the fort. Lastly, the specific location of this photograph at the fort makes sense for Dr. Mudd. For a large part of his imprisonment at Fort Jefferson, Mudd was housed in the cell right above the Sally Port entrance. The three vertical windows on the second floor of this image are the windows of Dr. Mudd’s cell. So this image captures not only a figure who looks like Dr. Mudd, but the location of his imprisonment, which seems purposefully planned.

The cell that Dr. Mudd, Samuel Arnold, Michael O’Laughlen and Edman Spangler shared was located above the sally port entrance to Fort Jefferson and is marked by the three vertical windows.

Still, all of this evidence only proves that it is possible for this image to be of Dr. Mudd. In the end, we must all draw our own conclusions.

Personally, I believe that this is an unpublished and previously unknown image of Lincoln assassination conspirator Dr. Samuel A. Mudd. I’m very excited that digitization has allowed me to find this image and share it with all of you. I hope that it can be used to further our understanding of the life of Dr. Mudd and his time at Fort Jefferson.


EDIT: A couple of comments have been made expressing doubt that the figure is Dr. Mudd due to the fine nature of the subject’s clothing. On the face of it, it is hard to believe that a man who was imprisoned on a isolated island for 3 years and 9 months could look so immaculately dressed. The following is the comment I made in reply to that conclusion which shows why I think it actually makes perfect sense for Dr. Mudd to look so well presented:

“Please thank Rick Smith for his analysis of the clothing. He is a real expert on both civilian and soldier attire so I’m glad to see that this image matches the time period.

It appears that the only reason Rick is suspicious that the image is not Dr. Mudd is due to the cleanliness and fine quality of his outfit. You also seemed surprised by the niceness of his attire. However, we must remember that Dr. Mudd was furnished with clothes by Mrs. Mudd while he was in prison. He used one of his fine suit of clothes when he attempted to make his escape in 1865. Here’s a quote from the report about Mudd’s escape attempt which mentions Dr. Mudd’s clothing:

“Since he has been in confinement here, he has been employed in the Prison Hospital, as Nurse and Acting Steward. When he came here, it was noticed that he immediately adopted the same clothing as worn by other prisoners. Although he had good clothes of his own. On the day he attempted to escape he put on one of the suits he brought with him and in some way got outside the Fort to the Wharf…”

Shortly after his escape attempt, Dr. Mudd wrote home asking his wife to provide him (and his cell mates) with additional clothing. On October 5, 1865, Mudd wrote, “The only article of clothing I need is shirts. The Government furnishes flannel shirts, which I find very pleasant in damp weather, but very disagreeable and warm in dry sunshine. If the friends of Arnold and O’Laughlin should send a box of clothing to them, you may put in a couple of brown linen, or check linen, shirts and a couple pairs cotton drawers. You may not bother yourself to this extent if you anticipate an early release. My clothing is sufficient to come home in.”

At least one shipment of clothes arrived by December as he wrote then to his brother-in-law Jeremiah Dyer that he had received a shipment, “containing a quantity of fine clothes”. A similar letter written to Mrs. Mudd at the time also commented on the clothing shipment stating, “The clothing is finer than I need, besides I am not situated to wear them.

These accounts establish that while Dr. Mudd did possess some fine pieces of clothing while at Fort Jefferson, during his day to day prison life he generally wore the normal garb provided by the government. However, I would imagine that getting your photograph taken would be the one event that would lead you to put on your finest clothing. And, if we speculate that this image might have been taken shortly before Dr. Mudd left Fort Jefferson forever, it would make sense he would change into his finest suit for the journey home.”


EDIT #2: I neglected to mention that this picture of Dr. Mudd wasn’t the only treasure in the Dry Tortugas collection. Also included in the digitized images is this picture of the door to the dungeon that held Dr. Mudd and the other conspirators after Dr. Mudd’s escape attempt. In his later memoirs Samuel Arnold mentioned that the door was headed with the inscription “Whoso entereth here leaveth all hope behind.” From this image of the original door we can see that inscription was a bit more succinct than Arnold recalled but just as foreboding:

Categories: History, News | Tags: , , , | 37 Comments

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37 thoughts on “A New Photograph of Dr. Mudd?

  1. Wow! How cool!

  2. Nick Kelsh

    Love this. Really I interesting. Thanks so much.

  3. Robert Summers

    I agree with your analysis. Well done!

  4. Robert Summers

    Looks like he is all dressed up and waiting for something. Could this be after the pardon, waiting for the schooner Matchless to arrive and take him to Key West?

    • Bob,

      I had the same hypothesis when I first saw the picture. There’s something final about the picture as if he’s final saying goodbye to his island prison. Perhaps someone on board the Matchless brought a camera with them and while the schooner was dropping off supplies they decided to shot some photographs of the fort, one of which included the doctor. It’s interesting to speculate about.

      Also, I’m so glad you have restarted your wonderful Dr. Samuel Mudd Research site. It is such a phenomenal resource that everyone should visit: https://www.muddresearch.com/

      Best,

      Dave

  5. Mike

    Fascinating. You have a strong argument.

  6. Paul Hancq

    Good, thoughtful analysis. Thanks, Dave.

  7. Fascinating piece. Sounds like we approach historical photos the same way. (I’m the guy who identified the first known photo of Phineas Gage.) There used to an extraordinary collection near Baltimore that someone at the Surratt House could probably steer you towards. Visiting cards and so on.

  8. James

    Gives me goosebumps! So cool!

  9. Ray

    You sir are an outstanding observer
    and researcher. I continue to be awe stricken
    by your work. In times when so many efforts are being made to distort and or erase our
    history it is reassuring to know some folks
    dig ever deeper into it and preserve it.

  10. Laura Verge

    Bob and Dave – I had the same reaction as you: Was it Mudd sitting and waiting for his ride to freedom?

    Dave puts up a good argument, but I’m not convinced. First of all, he’s comparing clothing with the posed photo in the supposed carpentry shop. I don’t think Mudd was photographed there while truly working because he was just too nicely dressed to be working. I want someone to tell me what the prisoners at Ft. Jefferson wore usually – certainly not clothes nice enough for church. I also question the style of hat for ca. 1869. There is just something that says early-1900s to me…

    My only other guess might be that Mudd is sitting there waiting for the moment to board the ship that would finally take him to freedom. And, I sure hope that that will be proven, a very fitting way to end the story of Mudd at Ft. Jefferson.

    P.S. So glad to see you have boothiebarn going again. Do you get a Master’s break this summer?

  11. william dolan

    the beard of the man on the wall is not as wide on his chin as the real image of Dr miss. just wondering but otherwise it looks like muddy

  12. Laurie Verge

    One of our dedicated docents at Surratt House Museum is an expert on the Lincoln assassination as well as being very knowledgeable on the subject of men’s clothing of the mid-19th century. It is like pulling teeth to get him to post his expertise, however, so I am posting what he sent to me:

    First thing I noticed: The clothing of the soldier seems to fit the pre-1870s-1880s military style. The kepi especially. 1870s & 1880s kepis were much shorter and did not lay forward like the one in the photo. Also, the way the sack coat is worn is pretty typical of mid-19th century.

    Second: Subject’s goatee is a good deal narrower than Dr. Mudd’s. Not conclusive, since facial hair can be trimmed in various ways. Thousands of men wore the style of beard/goatee in the mid-19th century, commonly known as an Imperial.

    Third: Subject’s clothing appears to be in very good, almost new, and much better than well-repaired condition.

    Fourth: Subject’s hat is curious. It is very light colored, with a very narrow brim, nothing out of the ordinary for 1869. If you have a favorite hat, in good condition, that you purchased in 1865, you don’t throw it away because it is four years old, you continue to wear it. Still, just as with the clothing, it looks pristine. A very light colored hat looking pristine at Fort Jefferson after four years of use in that slough seems improbable. I would logically speculate that Dr. Mudd did not possess a light colored hat.

    Fifth: Relative to hat and clothing; did each prisoner receive a new suit of clothes, a new hat and $10.00 to help them home after serving their time? No dam’ way. My understanding is that they were dropped at Key West and told to find the best way home on their own.

    Conclusion: Subject is a federal detective, clerk, or some other employee of the government.

    • Laurie,

      Please thank Rick Smith for his analysis of the clothing. He is a real expert on both civilian and soldier attire so I’m glad to see that this image matches the time period.

      It appears that the only reason Rick is suspicious that the image is not Dr. Mudd is due to the cleanliness and fine quality of his outfit. You also seemed surprised by the niceness of his attire. However, we must remember that Dr. Mudd was furnished with clothes by Mrs. Mudd while he was in prison. He used one of his fine suit of clothes when he attempted to make his escape in 1865. Here’s a quote from the report about Mudd’s escape attempt which mentions Dr. Mudd’s clothing:

      “Since he has been in confinement here, he has been employed in the Prison Hospital, as Nurse and Acting Steward. When he came here, it was noticed that he immediately adopted the same clothing as worn by other prisoners. Although he had good clothes of his own. On the day he attempted to escape he put on one of the suits he brought with him and in some way got outside the Fort to the Wharf…”

      Shortly after his escape attempt, Dr. Mudd wrote home asking his wife to provide him (and his cell mates) with additional clothing. On October 5, 1865, Mudd wrote, “The only article of clothing I need is shirts. The Government furnishes flannel shirts, which I find very pleasant in damp weather, but very disagreeable and warm in dry sunshine. If the friends of Arnold and O’Laughlin should send a box of clothing to them, you may put in a couple of brown linen, or check linen, shirts and a couple pairs cotton drawers. You may not bother yourself to this extent if you anticipate an early release. My clothing is sufficient to come home in.”

      At least one shipment of clothes arrived by December as he wrote then to his brother-in-law Jeremiah Dyer that he had received a shipment, “containing a quantity of fine clothes”. A similar letter written to Mrs. Mudd at the time also commented on the clothing shipment stating, “The clothing is finer than I need, besides I am not situated to wear them.”

      These accounts establish that while Dr. Mudd did possess some fine pieces of clothing while at Fort Jefferson, during his day to day prison life he generally wore the normal garb provided by the government. However, I would imagine that getting your photograph taken would be the one event that would lead you to put on your finest clothing. And, if we speculate that this image might have been taken shortly before Dr. Mudd left Fort Jefferson forever, it would make sense he would change into his finest suit for the journey home.

      • Laurie Verge

        Thank you, Dave, for your response that clears up a lot of questions regarding the clothing. I will admit to never having seen the primary source material that you quote here — and to having read Nettie’s book about fifty years ago (if there was mention in it of the information you shared here). I think I mainly remembered letters that Dr. Sam wrote to Frankie that seemed a little harsh – but we won’t go there…

        I also agree with the gentleman who posted about identification via the ears because I was wishing we could see the nose more clearly. I really do think you have a “find” here from the fort’s archives.

        • Laurie Verge

          BTW: The photograph that has been captioned as Dr. Sam working in the carpentry shop – some of us have assumed that the photograph was taken somewhere besides in the shop (too nice table, chair, and certainly the ingrain carpet on the floor). The source that you cited for at least 1865 places him as working in the hospital unit. What is the source (if any) for him having ever worked in the carpentry shop?

          • “I have had my occupation changed to that of the carpenter’s shop, which affords me more exercise and a greater diversion to my thoughts. I occupy my time principally in making little boxes, ornamenting them with different colors and varieties of wood.” – Dr. Mudd, February 20, 1867

            • Laurie Verge

              Thanks again. I believe that one of those beautiful boxes – decorated with shells also – is on display at the Mudd House. Is this from one of the letters included in Nettie’s book? I have already admitted to not having referred to it for many years.

      • Rick Smith

        Dave,

        I’m posting on your site for the first time. Thanks for your very kind words.

        I believe that Sam Arnold spoke of Dr. Mudd being put to work cleaning bricks for some period of time at Ft. Jefferson, before being assigned elsewhere. This work could have had an adverse effect on his clothing, depending on how long a period he labored. But, if he had several changes of clothing, as the excerpts from his letters regarding his clothing certainly suggest, then this supports your view that the photo may be of Dr. Mudd.

        Regardless of my comments above, especially my adamant fifth point (apologies for my language, “No dam’ way.”), I don’t mean to discourage you and hope that it can be proven that your find is a photo of Dr. Mudd.

        In any case, it is a great photo and a very good find you’ve made, whether it is Dr. Mudd or not.

        Rick

        • Rick,

          I took no offense at your comments. As I have said elsewhere, I know that this is a subjective thing and I have no problem with folks who disagree with my identification. Your insight is always appreciated and valued even if we are on different sides of an issue. In the end, I know that it can never be 100% proven that this is an image of Dr. Mudd unless we can somehow find the original image and there is some sort of amazing documentation on the back. Even then, however, there would be room for doubt as to the authenticity of the writing and the information contained.

          I feel that enough pieces of period evidence point to the possibility that this could be Dr. Mudd. The very similar physical appearance between Mudd and the subject of the photo is the hard for me to then ignore. So I will continue to believe that this image is of Dr. Mudd, but I do so knowing that others will not see the picture in the same light.

          Best,

          Dave

          • Rick Smith

            Dave,

            Been giving the photo much thought, probably more than I should, and believe you may have something remarkable here.

            I’ll try later today to post some thoughts I’ve had regarding the clothing, which will tend to lean towards your view.

            Rick

          • Rick Smith

            Dave,

            A few further thoughts regarding clothing, and of that worn by the man in your photograph:

            The typical southern Maryland man of the mid 19th century was what we would consider now to be conservative. They tended, for the most part, to be Whig or Southern Democrat, Roman Catholic or Episcopalian. They also tended to be conservative in their mode of dress.

            You can see this conservative dress in the existing photos of Dr. Mudd. The photo taken in the carpenter’s shop is a good example. Mudd is wearing a white shirt (regardless of how re-enactors dress, white shirts were by far the most prevalent for everyday wear during the period), black necktie and vest (in your side-by-side illustration, Mudd is wearing a silk vest, which was certainly not uncommon), light colored trousers, or pantaloons and very nice square toed boots (you can even see the outline of the edge of the boot top under his trouser leg).

            The man in your discovered photo is dressed very much in the same fashion, except that he is wearing shoes and a hat. The coat he is wearing is a sacque style, which was very common and very popular during the period and was worn by men of all classes of society.

            The light colored hat worn by the man in your photo concerned me slightly, as my feeling is that most southern Maryland men of the period would have chosen a darker colored hat, most typically, black. (In Dr. Mudd’s case, it’s possible that wearing a jaunty, light colored, narrow brimmed hat would not have inspired confidence in his patients. Of course, Dr. Mudd was primarily a tobacco farmer and secondarily a medical doctor). As to the hat, he may have purchased, or acquired it in a trade. And, circumstances alter cases; he is not in Maryland, but is being held in a prison, situated on a hot, dry rock. A light colored hat would be slightly more agreeable here.

            From the letter excerpts you presented, it seems that Dr. Mudd did have a better wardrobe than the average prisoner.

            After giving it much thought, I feel that it is possible that the man in your photo could be Dr. Mudd.

            There is so much more to say about the clothing, but I’m afraid that it may put your members to sleep.

            My apologies for being so lengthy.

            Rick

  13. Carol

    Thanks for sharing your insights, Dave.
    Did not know one could camp there –

  14. Dave

    Dave, you and Kate never fail to amaze me. Bravo! It’s inspiring to see that new material can still be found. Thank you for sharing this. Keep up the good work!

  15. Graham Baldwin

    Great post–as usual. Has anyone considered whether this photograph is of sufficient clarity to have an ear-identification expert compare it with any other photo of Dr. Mudd which depicts his right ear?

  16. this man sitting on the moat doesn’t sit up straight with shoulders back and dr. mudd doesn’t either in his known pictures.. as for the clothes looking too nice, we can’t really tell if they are all that clean and pressed. the shoes may be the very ones he wore to the prison so they would have been nice shoes and he sure didn’t get them dirty wearing them inside of the prison. i don’t see how we can dismiss this as being dr. mudd because of what he’s wearing.. beards and mustache’s grow and get cut. can’t judge on that either. this man looks to be the right age and i wouldn’t doubt that it’s dr. mudd…….

    • Laurie Verge

      One of my shy guides at Surratt House Museum made a point worth considering: Dr. Mudd did receive clothes from home (that he said were sufficient), but how long did they last over the four years? Could he store them for safe-keeping? Were they put to everyday use eventually? Read the published memoirs of fellow conspirator/prisoner Samuel Arnold painted a picture of filth and squalor.

      I’ve been in modern carpentry shops, and they are not clean. Also, isn’t it possible that many of Dr. Mudd’s clothes were ruined while he treated those with yellow fever? There is considerable vomiting caused by this horrible disease.

      We’re not discounting that it could possibly be a photo of Dr. Mudd, but does anyone know if he received going home clothes from the government (I doubt it) or if he had good clothes remaining from his first days — or (and I doubt this without seeing dates) did Mrs. Mudd have enough time between hearing of his pardon and his release to send good clothes?

      See what historians go through???

      • As was stated in the piece regarding Dr. Mudd’s escape attempt, he did not regularly wear the nice clothes he had been sent from home and, instead wore the normal garb he was provided by the government. While there were areas of the Fort that were dirty (including the dreaded dungeon that both Arnold and Mudd complain about heavily) why would we assume the prisoners didn’t have some personal property that they kept with them. We know Mudd regularly received items from home. His letters are full of thank you notes to Mrs. Mudd, Jeremiah Dyer and other thanking them for the supplies and then sending them things he made in the carpentry shop in return. I find it likely that Mudd could have used the boxes his care packages came in to store his clothes or perhaps he (or Spangler) even made his own chest of sorts. The doctor had nothing but time to build a chest for his things to keep them clean.

        We know Mrs. Mudd was pretty attentive in sending her husband clothes even though he didn’t need them. In February of 1866 he wrote a letter home regarding how he was essentially trading some of the nice clothes he was being sent for other things: “You need not bother yourself about sending me money. The clothing sent me, I have no use for, and I can convert them into something to eat, should I require. I have not worn any of the clothing sent me; my occupation not being very clean, it would be the height of nonsense to wear them.”

        So again we have evidence of Dr. Mudd being sent clothing that he deemed too nice and choosing not to wear. He apparently sold or traded away some pieces he was given. Still, it’s clear from his escape attempt that he had some nice pieces that he likely retained during the course of his imprisonment under the hope of coming home in fashion.

  17. Nancy Siegel

    Outstanding! Great find and analysis.

    P.S. on another topic – I left you a message on Find-a-Grave awhile back regarding the grave of Edward Gorsuch.

  18. Laurie Verge

    Ed Steers, author of His Name is Still Mudd and also the acclaimed Blood on the Moon, sent me the following and asked that I post it here:

    Dear Laurie,

    I would like to comment on the photograph. I do not have/know how to post to
    all those who have responded so feel free to send me around. First: It is
    definitely the entrance to Fort Jefferson – matches earlier photos almost
    exactly. Second: The soldier is wearing a regulation 1861-1865 kepi – high
    crown, floppy. The 1872 army regs changed the kepi to a low crown that was
    stiffened – the 1861 regs continued up to 1872. Third: The soldier is
    wearing what appears to be a shell jacket consistent with the artillery
    regs, and the fort was staffed with artillery regiments. It may be a fatigue
    jacket – hard to tell. Either way, he is wearing CW regs. In November 1865
    the 5th U.S. Artillery regiment arrived – was replaced in 1869 by the 3rd
    U.S. Artillery. Fourth: The jacket the man is wearing lacks a “skirt” common
    to all frock coats. It looks like a more modern jacket or suitcoat. Could be
    a military fatigue jacket. Puzzling. However, the soldier places the photo
    “of the period.” Interesting photograph.

    • Laurie Verge

      I had not previously noticed the absence of the outer coat’s skirt, a feature of men’s frock coats. There were less formal, everyday jackets known as sack coats, however, during this period. That style would make more sense being worn in the tropical heat of the Dry Tortugas as well as south Florida upon reaching the mainland.

  19. Renee

    that’s him. I have no question. To me, jail sounds the same today in that, when people get released, they leave in their “street clothes”…… what they were wearing when picked up. He’s a doctor, why shouldn’t his going home clothes be nice ? Makes sense to me.

    • Laurie Verge

      Unfortunately, clothes do not make the man…

      While I think there is a good chance that this may be a photo of Dr. Sam, without better images of the space between hat brim and neck, we cannot be positive. I would think that the NPS has the means to get a better enlargement of this photo with concentration on just the partial face. And, someone else mentioned the thought of getting a height guesstimate.

  20. Rich Smyth

    I love the picture of the door! Having visited Ft Jeff. I never thought about a door or bars on the room/cell the conspirators stayed in. I wonder what happened to this relic. Thanks Dave!

    • Thank you, Rich. I was equally excited about the door picture as I was regarding the possible Dr. Mudd image. Having read about the inscription on the door from Arnold and Mudd I was amazed to see a picture where it was visible. Like you, I really wish we knew what happened to the door. Sadly, it was probably scrapped for firewood at some point.

  21. Bob Summers, the author of many phenomenal Dr. Mudd books including, Get the Doctor From His Cell and the Dr. Samuel A. Mudd Research site, forwarded this blog post to a friend of his named Mike Ryan who used to be the lead ranger at Dry Tortugas National Park. The following are Mr. Ryan’s thoughts on the image:

    “Hi Bob. Thanks for thinking of me. Seeing the image of Fort Jefferson brought back some nice memories.

    Yes, I have seen the image before–but never considered who was in it. I was more focused on construction details or anything quirky or out-of-place. All things considered, I must say there is a real possibility that the man in the image is Dr. Mudd. There is definitely a resemblance. But I cannot say for sure.

    I agree with David. The date of the image is probably an approximation. When I made digital copies of the collection twenty years ago, I wondered then how accurate the dates were. Someone, anyone, could have been frustrated and simply guessed the date. Overall, I found the dates and descriptions in the collection to be remarkably accurate (or at least pretty close). Only on rare occasions did I find inaccuracies, but this usually involved a three-dimensional artifact (for example, misidentifying a certain type of artillery projectile or gun carriage component). For images, I could tell that they were sometimes approximate, but never more than a year or two off.

    Based on their appearance, it seemed obvious to me that several images were taken inside the fort at the same time. I think that is a safe assumption. Based on this, and based on construction details in the photos, the image was taken prior to 1873, but probably a few years earlier. I am very comfortable saying that the image was taken c1869.

    BTW, I was pleasantly surprised when I first saw the images. We simply don’t have a lot of contemporary images of Third System forts during construction and/or during military use because photography was prohibited by General Order 39. Coastal defenses were a crucial part of the nation’s security, and the Chief Engineer’s Office did not want details of fort construction to be shared with potential enemies. Occasionally an engineer would be directed to have official photos taken to document construction details, but the images in this set seem less formal. Unofficial photos were taken at forts–probably more often than we know, but they were not common.

    The civilian attire of the man in the image gives us hope that it is Dr. Mudd. But the civilian attire cannot rule out other individuals. At the time of the photograph there was still some construction taking place at the fort. There were typically 20-30 civilian construction workers living inside the fort. While the man in the image appears to be nicely dressed–perhaps too well dressed for a typical construction worker–there were 1-2 civilian physicians working at the fort. There were also one or more lighthouse keepers (for the brick tower that at the time was located inside the fort, not far from the sally port). Staring in January, 1869, there was also a civilian in charge of the condensers. And though I doubt an enlisted soldier would be so well dressed during ‘off duty’ time, it is possible that the man is an officer when not on duty.

    Of course, the sally port has always been a popular spot for photographs–it always will be. I wonder if the man in the photo is just a tourist who came out for a visit. Sounds far fetched, but not impossible. I don’t recall ever seeing guidelines on civilians visiting Garden Key. During the Civil War, I am sure that civilians were discouraged from visiting the island, and perhaps even prohibited from landing there. By the late 1860s, that guideline may have been relaxed. No matter what, civilians without a reason to be there were probably prohibited inside the fort. The guard detail assigned to the sally port would have made sure of that.

    My gut feeling is that the man in the image is Dr. Mudd, but I guess we will never know for sure. He was certainly a celebrity worthy of a photograph. And as David pointed out, the casemate where he was imprisoned the longest is in the image. A coincidence? Perhaps. But Fort Jefferson is an out-of-the-way place. Considering the approximate date of the photograph, there are only a few dozen possible candidates who would be in that place, at that time, wearing civilian clothing. And of this small pool of candidates, how many would share a striking resemblance to Dr. Mudd?

    Bob, if I think of anything else I will let you know. I think we are very safe in suggesting that the man in the image is possibly Dr. Mudd. Perhaps that will even stimulate further conversation and research.”

    I’d like to thank Mr. Ryan for his insightful feedback.

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