Samuel Mudd was born in Charles County, Maryland, on 20th December, 1833. The son of a large plantation owner, Henry Lowe Mudd, he attended Georgetown College before studying medicine at the University of Maryland.
After graduation in 1856 Mudd returned to Charles County where he worked as a doctor before marrying Sarah Dyer and buying his own farm at Bryantown, Maryland.
Mudd, an advocate of slavery, was a supporter of the Confederacy during the American Civil War. He also associated with agents working for the Confederate Army. This included John Wilkes Booth, who he met for the first time on 13th November, 1864. Further meetings took place between the two men and Louis Weichmann saw him with Booth and John Surratt talking together in Washington on 23rd December, 1864.
After John Wilkes Booth shot Abraham Lincoln on 14th April, 1865 he and David Herold arrived at Mudd's house the following day. Mudd set, splinted and bandaged Booth's broken leg. Mudd also arranged for a carpenter to make Booth a pair of crutches.
The detectives investigating Lincoln's murder soon discovered that Mudd had treated John Wilkes Booth while on the run from the authorities. Mudd was arrested and charged with conspiracy to murder Abraham Lincoln. During his trial Mudd denied recognizing Booth when he treated him. Evidence was also provided that Mudd had a record of bad behaviour towards slaves. This included the shooting of one of his men for disobedience.
On 1st May, 1865, President Andrew Johnson ordered the formation of a nine-man military commission to try the conspirators. It was argued by Edwin M. Stanton, the Secretary of War, that the men should be tried by a military court as Lincoln had been Commander in Chief of the army. Several members of the cabinet, including Gideon Welles (Secretary of the Navy), Edward Bates (Attorney General), Orville H. Browning (Secretary of the Interior), and Henry McCulloch (Secretary of the Treasury), disapproved, preferring a civil trial. However, James Speed, the Attorney General, agreed with Stanton and therefore the defendants did not enjoy the advantages of a jury trial.
The trial began on 10th May, 1865. The military commission included leading generals such as David Hunter, Lewis Wallace, Thomas Harris and Alvin Howe and Joseph Holt was the government's chief prosecutor. Mary Surratt, Lewis Powell, George Atzerodt, David Herold, Samuel Mudd, Michael O'Laughlin, Edman Spangler and Samuel Arnold were all charged with conspiring to murder Lincoln. During the trial Holt attempted to persuade the military commission that Jefferson Davis and the Confederate government had been involved in conspiracy.
Joseph Holt attempted to obscure the fact that there were two plots: the first to kidnap and the second to assassinate. It was important for the prosecution not to reveal the existence of a diary taken from the body of John Wilkes Booth. The diary made it clear that the assassination plan dated from 14th April. The defence surprisingly did not call for Booth's diary to be produced in court.
On 29th June, 1865, Mudd was found guilty of conspiracy to murder. He missed the death penalty by one vote and was sentenced to life imprisonment. Mary Surratt, Lewis Powell, George Atzerodt and David Herold were hanged at Washington Penitentiary on 7th July, 1865. Mudd, along with Michael O'Laughlin, Edman Spangler and Samuel Arnold were imprisoned at Fort Jefferson.
In December, 1865, Mudd complained to his wife about being guarded by black soldiers who he described as being a "set of ignorant, prejudiced and irresponsible beings of the unbleached humanity". Mrs. Mudd passed these comments onto President Andrew Johnson who responded by ordering better treatment for Mudd and his fellow conspirators at Fort Jefferson.
During an outbreak of yellow fever in 1867, the prison doctor died. Mudd agreed to take over and although coming down with the disease he recovered. One of his fellow conspirators, Michael O'Laughlin, was less fortunate and died from the disease.
Mudd was pardoned by Andrew Johnson on 1st March, 1869. He returned home, taking with him Edman Spangler, who he gave 5 acres of land. In 1876 Mudd was elected to the Maryland legislature. Samuel Mudd died of pneumonia on 10th January, 1883.