Mudd Day Date in the current year: December 20, 2024

Mudd Day Mudd Day is observed annually on December 20. It commemorates the birthday of a man whose reputation was forever tarnished due to his acquaintance with John Wilkes Booth, President Abraham Lincoln’s assassin.

Samuel Mudd was born on December 20, 1833 in Charles County, Maryland. Upon graduating from the University of Maryland, Baltimore with a medical degree, he returned to his home county to practice medicine. When Mudd married his childhood sweetheart, his father, a tobacco plantation owner, gifted the newlyweds 218 acres of farmland and a new house.

Mudd became a tobacco-grower like his father to supplement his income from practicing medicine. According to the 1860 census, he owned at least five slaves who worked on the plantation. Judging by Mudd’s letter addressed to the theologian and publicist Orestes Brownston, he believed slavery to be divinely ordained.

Following the outbreak of Civil War in 1861, the slave system of Southern Maryland began to collapse, making it difficult to Mudd to operate his plantation. After Maryland abolished slavery in 1864, he decided to sell his farm and rely on his medical practice for income. That’s how he met John Wilkes Booth for the first time: the 26-year-old actor was introduced to Mudd as a prospective buyer of his property.

At some point Mudd was seen in company with three of Booth’s conspirators, but it is unclear how much he was involved in the plot to assassinate Abraham Lincoln or whether he was involved at all. One of the conspirators, George Atzerdot, claimed that Mudd knew about Booth’s plan in advance, but some historians believed that he knew about Booth’s earlier plan to kidnap the president, but not about the assassination plot.

On April 14, 1865, Booth shot Lincoln in the head at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, D.C. while the president was watching the play Our American Cousin. He broke his left fibula while fleeing the theatre and rode to Mudd’s home to seek medical help, arriving in the early hours of April 15. Mudd splinted Booth’s fractured leg and made him a pair of crutches. Booth and his accomplice David Herold spent at least 12 hours at Mudd’s house that day before crossing to Virginia.

It’s unknown whether Booth told Mudd about the assassination, but the latter must have learned about it sometime that day while running errands in town. However, he failed to report Booth’s visit to the authorities for another 24 hours. This appeared to link Mudd to the crime, and the fact that his story changed several times during interrogations didn’t help.

Mudd was arrested and charged with the conspiracy to murder the president on April 26. The trial began on May 10, and on June 29, Mudd and other conspirators were found guilty. Mudd was sentenced to life imprisonment and spent almost four years in prison before being pardoned by President Andrew Johnson. His conviction, however, haven’t been overturned despite numerous attempts to have it expunged.

The origins of Mudd Day are unclear, and to say that it is a holiday would be an overstatement. Mudd Day serves as a reminder that we should be careful who we associate with.

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Mudd Day, unofficial observances, observances in the US, Samuel Mudd, John Wilkes Booth, assassination of Abraham Lincoln