George Atzerodt

(1835-1865)

George Atzerodt was the man accused and consequently hanged for the plan of kidnapping President Lincoln and assassinating Vice-president Andrew Johnson.

George Atzerodt was a chronic drinker and it was in this form of self-indulgence that the lives of both the President and the Vice President would be saved, albeit temporarily for the President.

Could the cowardly and often-inebriated German immigrant have been capable of doing such a horrendous act as to actually kidnap Lincoln and murder Andrew Johnson?

The fact remains that through John Wilkes Booth and David Herold, both co-conspirators long before the actual assassination of President Lincoln, Atzerodt found a channel in which to finally be someone.

George Atzerodt shortly before his execution, 1865

George Atzerodt shortly before his execution, 1865

After emigrating from Germany at the age of eight, George Atzerodt grew up in the little town of Port Tobacco, Maryland and seemed to be just one of the local boys. As a young man, George Atzedodt opened a carriage-repair shop in his hometown and was well-known for his craftsmanship and his lack of courage. The lacking of such an endearing quality as courage had an effect on young Atzedodt and would be used as a defense in his trial for conspiracy.

When the Civil War started and the first shots at Ft. Sumter raged Atzerodt made an association that would end his life, prematurely. Atzerodt assisted the Rebel agents (spies) mainly one in particular, John Surratt, in crossing the Potomac River and setting up shop in Union territory. The seeds of a traitor were sewn and what would grow from that association of evil would lay the foundation for a conspiracy theory, Civil War style.

John Surratt would return the favor a couple of years later by enlisting Atzerodt as a co-conspirator in the kidnapping attempt of President Lincoln. Although the plan was never carried out, the idea of it grew in strength and after a few drunken nights and days at the local pubs, Atzerodt found himself in the middle of it all. The problem with the entire plan was that the participants had a weak-link. Atzerodt.

After numerous reports of communications leaked out by a drunken Atzerodt, the kidnapping plan remained just that, a plan and not an action. It was not until John Wilkes Boothe entered onto the scene that the kidnapping plan morphed into the assassination of President Lincoln.

Atzerodt was nothing more than a willing participant in the kidnapping attempt and a third wheel in the assassination. After Booth took over command of the entire conspiracy against both Lincoln and Johnson, Atzerodt was offered the task of killing Andrew Johnson. After a few weeks of planning and detailed directives by Booth, Atzerodt summoned the courage to shoot the Vice President by having a few drinks at a local pub. Alcohol once again got the best of the cowardly Atzerodt and as alcoholics do, he went on a three-day binge and his part in the actual conspiracy was over.

Arrested in his rented room on April 20th, 1865 George Atzerodt would find himself on trial for the conspiracy to assassinate President Lincoln. Atzerodt, along with three other conspirators, were tried and convicted and subsequently hanged on July 7th, 1865.

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