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A Doctor, an Epidemic and a Presidential Pardon

DRTO - NPS Sign Fort Jefferson - Photo by John Dengler

Ready to play National Park Jeopardy? The category is “No Escape.” The wager is $500. And the clue: “The most famous island prison in the nation.”

Alcatraz in San Francisco, right? Well, sure, except if you’re playing the game in 1865.

Your answer then: Fort Jefferson.

The Civil War ended in April 1865 and Fort Jefferson received its most famous prisoner – Dr. Samuel Mudd – three months later. Convicted of conspiracy for helping John Wilkes Booth after he shot Abraham Lincoln, Mudd was imprisoned for life at the fort in July 1865.

When an epidemic of yellow fever gripped the fort two year later, the doctor helped to save the lives of the soldiers who guarded him, earning their goodwill and an eventual pardon from President Andrew Johnson.

Mudd left the fort in 1869 but his memory lives on. You can visit his cell when you visit the park.

Learn more about Fort Jefferson at this link: http://www.nps.gov/drto/learn/historyculture/fort-jefferson.htm

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