George Atzerodt

George Atzerodt
Born June 12, 1835
Dörna (today part of Anrode), Thuringia Germany
Died July 7, 1865 (at age 30)
Washington, D.C.
Conviction Involvement in Abraham Lincoln’s assassination
Penalty Execution by hanging

George Atzerodt (1835 – 1865) was one of the conspirators, with John Wilkes Booth, who conspired in the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln in 1865. His original intention was to kill Andrew Johnson, the Vice President, but he was unable to carry out that plan due to a failure of nerve. Atzerodt was hanged for the crime, along with three other conspirators in the plot.

Personal Life

Atzerodt’s family emigrated to the United States from Germany in 1843, when he was still a child. In adulthood, he settled in the small Maryland town of Port Tobacco, where he set up a business repairing carriages. His life proceeded quietly for the next few years, until he traveled to Washington, D.C. and met John Wilkes Booth. Atzerodt never married during his short life.

The Conspiracy

While in Washington, Booth suggested that Atzerodt should join him in an attempt on the life of the President. As Atzerodt was later to confess during his trial, he was willing to join the conspiracy from an early stage. Booth gave Atzerodt the task of assassinating the Vice President, Andrew Johnson, and on the morning of April 14, 1865, he checked into the Kirkwood House hotel in Washington. This was the same building in which Johnson was residing.

In the event, Atzerodt’s nerves failed him, and he was unable to muster up the courage to proceed with his plan to kill Johnson. Instead he went to the bar of the hotel and drank heavily. Because of the effects of his intoxication, he walked the streets of Washington all night. However, a bartender had become suspicious when Atzerodt had asked him about the whereabouts of the Vice President, and told the police that a man in a gray coat (Atzerodt) seemed suspicious.

The following day, after the assassination of the President had taken place at Ford’s Theatre, military police arrived to search Atzerodt’s room. They quickly ascertained that his bed had not been occupied the previous night, and that under the pillow were concealed a Bowie knife and a loaded revolver. Additionally, they discovered that one of Booth’s bank books was in the room. Five days later, on April 20, Atzerodt was arrested in Germantown, Maryland, where he had sought refuge with a cousin.

Trial and Punishment

Captain William Doster, representing Atzerodt in court, claimed that his client was a “constitutional coward”, and that for this reason he was simply incapable of assassinating the Vice President. He further claimed that Booth would therefore not have given him that job. The court rejected this argument, and Atzerodt was convicted and sentenced to death by hanging. A little later, Atzerodt confessed to a minister in his cell; the minister said later that Atzerodt had told him that Booth’s original plan was to kidnap the President.

According to the confession reported by the minister, Atzerodt had not known that Booth wanted to kill the President until two hours before he was shot. He also said that Booth would have preferred David Herold to carry out the killing of Johnson, with Atzerodt simply providing support, since Booth felt that Herold was pluckier than Atzerodt. Along with three other conspirators, Atzerodt was executed by hanging on July 7, 1865, in Washington, D.C. Atzerodt’s death was slow, as the impact of the drop did not break his neck. He is buried under a pseudonym in Baltimore, Maryland.

5 responses to “George Atzerodt”


    WHY WAS HE HANGED????????????

  2. RP says:

    Atzerodt was charged with being a party to the assassination conspiracy

  3. Ted says:

    Of the 4 parties that we hanged he appears to be the most innocent. He did nothing to harm Vice Pres Johnson and appears to have done nothing to aid the conspiracy to kill Lincoln at all. He obviously should have reported the whole matter to authorities. Some punishment was probably deserved but hanging appears to be a little extreme. Does anyone know if there was a followup by the authorities regarding the other people mentioned in his statements as being a part of the conspiracy? It would appear that at least 3 maybe 4 other parties should have been arrested and tried for their part in the assassination.

  4. Ike says:

    The REAL reason that an innocent Atzerodt was hanged was because Atzerodt was a part of Booth’s smuggling ring. So was Edman Spangler and other “conspirators”. Spangler’s real “crime” was that he said that the ASSASSIN who ran across the stage, WAS NOT BOOTH! Spangler would know because he had worked for Booth’s father for years. If the general public knew that J.W. Booth had a large, effective and working smuggling ring that was operating in Washington, Stanton’s “tissue of lies” murder conspiracy hoax would fall apart. The simple fact was that Booth’s kidnap Lincoln plot was feasible because of the existence of the smuggling ring. Why bungle about Maryland when an efficient smuggling ring could get Booth safely out of Washington super quick? Lewis Payne/Powell was another innocent. Seward’s would be assassin was described as having ” light hair and a bushy red beard”. Payne/Powell had black hair and could not grow a beard to win a million dollar bet. There is no real PROOF against any of the “Lincoln Conspirators”. In a real, impartial court of law, with real, competent defense council any and all of the “Lincoln Conspirators” would have likely been found “Not Guilty”. As was John Surratt, when he was tried a couple of years later.
    Who killed Lincoln?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *