George Atzerodt

George Atzerodt

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George Andreas Atzerodt (June 12, 1835 – July 7, 1865) was a conspirator
Conspiracy (political)
In a political sense, conspiracy refers to a group of persons united in the goal of usurping or overthrowing an established political power. Typically, the final goal is to gain power through a revolutionary coup d'état or through assassination....

, with John Wilkes Booth
John Wilkes Booth
John Wilkes Booth was an American stage actor who assassinated President Abraham Lincoln at Ford's Theatre, in Washington, D.C., on April 14, 1865. Booth was a member of the prominent 19th century Booth theatrical family from Maryland and, by the 1860s, was a well-known actor...

, in the assassination of Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln was the 16th President of the United States, serving from March 1861 until his assassination in April 1865. He successfully led his country through a great constitutional, military and moral crisis – the American Civil War – preserving the Union, while ending slavery, and...

. Assigned to assassinate Vice-President Andrew Johnson
Andrew Johnson
Andrew Johnson was the 17th President of the United States . As Vice-President of the United States in 1865, he succeeded Abraham Lincoln following the latter's assassination. Johnson then presided over the initial and contentious Reconstruction era of the United States following the American...

, he lost his nerve and did not make an attempt. He was executed along with three other conspirators by hanging
Hanging
Hanging is the lethal suspension of a person by a ligature. The Oxford English Dictionary states that hanging in this sense is "specifically to put to death by suspension by the neck", though it formerly also referred to crucifixion and death by impalement in which the body would remain...

.

Early life


Atzerodt immigrated from Germany in 1843. As an adult, he opened his own carriage repair business in Port Tobacco, Maryland.

The conspiracy


Some years after opening his carriage repair business, Atzerodt met John Wilkes Booth
John Wilkes Booth
John Wilkes Booth was an American stage actor who assassinated President Abraham Lincoln at Ford's Theatre, in Washington, D.C., on April 14, 1865. Booth was a member of the prominent 19th century Booth theatrical family from Maryland and, by the 1860s, was a well-known actor...

 in Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C., formally the District of Columbia and commonly referred to as Washington, "the District", or simply D.C., is the capital of the United States. On July 16, 1790, the United States Congress approved the creation of a permanent national capital as permitted by the U.S. Constitution....

 Atzerodt was willing to join in a conspiracy to kidnap President
President
A president is a leader of an organization, company, trade union, university, or country.Etymologically, a president is one who presides, who sits in leadership...

 Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln was the 16th President of the United States, serving from March 1861 until his assassination in April 1865. He successfully led his country through a great constitutional, military and moral crisis – the American Civil War – preserving the Union, while ending slavery, and...

, as he later admitted in his trial, which began May 1, 1865. According to the prosecution, Booth assigned Atzerodt to assassinate Vice President
Vice president
A vice president is an officer in government or business who is below a president in rank. The name comes from the Latin vice meaning 'in place of'. In some countries, the vice president is called the deputy president...

 Andrew Johnson
Andrew Johnson
Andrew Johnson was the 17th President of the United States . As Vice-President of the United States in 1865, he succeeded Abraham Lincoln following the latter's assassination. Johnson then presided over the initial and contentious Reconstruction era of the United States following the American...

 on April 14, 1865. On that morning, Atzerodt booked room 126 at the Kirkwood House in Washington, where Johnson was staying. However, he could not muster the courage to kill Johnson, so he began drinking at the hotel bar. He presumably got drunk, and spent the night walking the streets of Washington. During his stay at the hotel, Atzerodt had asked the bartender about Johnson's whereabouts. This aroused suspicion the next day, after Lincoln was assassinated. An employee of the hotel contacted the police regarding a "suspicious looking man in a gray coat."

The military police then conducted a search of Atzerodt's room on April 15 and found that he had not slept in it the night before. Additionally, he had a loaded revolver
Revolver
A revolver is a repeating firearm that has a cylinder containing multiple chambers and at least one barrel for firing. The first revolver ever made was built by Elisha Collier in 1818. The percussion cap revolver was invented by Samuel Colt in 1836. This weapon became known as the Colt Paterson...

 concealed under his pillow, as well as a concealed Bowie knife
Bowie knife
A Bowie knife is a pattern of fixed-blade fighting knife first popularized by Colonel James "Jim" Bowie in the early 19th Century. Since the first incarnation was created by James Black, the Bowie knife has come to incorporate several recognizable and characteristic design features, although its...

. The police also found a bank book belonging to Booth in the room. Atzerodt was arrested on April 20. He was apprehended at the house of his cousin, Hartman Richter, in Germantown, Maryland
Germantown, Montgomery County, Maryland
-Demographics:As of the census of 2010, there were 86,395 people, and 30,531 households residing in the area. The population density was 7,999.5 people per square mile . There were 31,807 housing units at an average density of 2,001.9 per square mile...

.

Trial and execution



Atzerodt's attorney
Lawyer
A lawyer, according to Black's Law Dictionary, is "a person learned in the law; as an attorney, counsel or solicitor; a person who is practicing law." Law is the system of rules of conduct established by the sovereign government of a society to correct wrongs, maintain the stability of political...

, Captain William Doster, stated to the court that he intended "to show that George Atzerodt was a constitutional coward; that if he had been assigned the duty of assassinating the Vice President, he could never have done it; and that, from his known cowardice, Booth probably did not assign to him any such duty." However, this was to no avail.

After the conviction Atzerodt offered a confession to Reverend Butler, a minister who came to his cell to offer him comfort. Butler said that Atzerodt admitted that he did in fact go to the meeting in March to help plan the kidnapping of President Lincoln while he attended a play at a hospital. Atzerodt said he first heard about Booth's plan to assassinate the President just two hours before the shooting. Atzerodt said that Booth really wanted David Herold to assassinate Vice President Johnson because he thought that Herold had "more pluck" than Atzerodt did. Atzerodt said Booth wanted him to "back up" Herold and "give him more courage."

Atzerodt and three other convicted conspirators (Mary Surratt
Mary Surratt
Mary Elizabeth Jenkins Surratt was an American boarding house owner who was convicted of taking part in the conspiracy to assassinate Abraham Lincoln. Sentenced to death, she was hanged, becoming the first woman executed by the United States federal government. She was the mother of John H...

, Lewis Powell
Lewis Powell (assassin)
Lewis Thornton Powell , also known as Lewis Paine or Payne, attempted unsuccessfully to assassinate United States Secretary of State William H...

, and David Herold
David Herold
David Edgar Herold was an accomplice of John Wilkes Booth in the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. After guiding fellow conspirator Lewis Powell to the home of Secretary of State William H. Seward, whom Powell intended to kill, Herold fled and rendezvoused outside of Washington, D.C., with Booth...

) were hanged
Hanging
Hanging is the lethal suspension of a person by a ligature. The Oxford English Dictionary states that hanging in this sense is "specifically to put to death by suspension by the neck", though it formerly also referred to crucifixion and death by impalement in which the body would remain...

 in Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C., formally the District of Columbia and commonly referred to as Washington, "the District", or simply D.C., is the capital of the United States. On July 16, 1790, the United States Congress approved the creation of a permanent national capital as permitted by the U.S. Constitution....

, on July 7, 1865. Atzerodt's last words were: "May we all meet in the other world. God take me now." He did not die instantly; his neck did not break upon impact, and his body shuddered for several minutes before dying. Atzerodt is interred under the fictitious name Gottlief Taubert in St. Paul's Lutheran Cemetery in Baltimore, Maryland.

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