Get the Doctor from His Cell: Dr. Samuel Mudd, Yellow Fever, and Redemption at an Island Prison


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By: Robert K. Summers

1867. Seventy miles off Key West, and ninety miles from Cuba, the island prison of Fort Jefferson was the most desolate and secure facility in the United States. When an outbreak of yellow fever infected 270 of the 380 people at the fort, the fate of inmates and guards alike was impossibly bleak. Their salvation came from an unlikely place: Dr. Samuel A. Mudd, prisoner 1524, the most famous convict in America. Dr. Mudd had been found guilty of conspiring to assassinate President Abraham Lincoln. A martyr to Southerners who maintained his innocence, Mudd was sentenced to life at Fort Jefferson, a stark brick garrison in the Gulf of Mexico. After a brutal journey, his days filled with hard labor and yearnings for home, his ultimate salvation came when the yellow fever epidemic hit the fort. Dr. Mudd replaced the prison doctor who had died in the epidemic and worked ceaselessly to save those who imprisoned him. When the epidemic had run its course, 300 surviving soldiers signed a petition to President Johnson to free Dr. Mudd, which he did. Illuminated with new anecdotes and original documents, many in Mudd's own words, this book tells the astonishing true story of confinement and redemption that has inspired Hollywood films and inflames historians to this day.