The Testimony Regarding George Atzerodt

Over May and June of this year, I presented a day-by-day project documenting the Trial of the Lincoln Conspirators. To further support usability of this project for students and researchers, I am releasing individualized tables of the testimony given at the trial relating to each conspirator. Rather than having to look through the entirety of the trial to gain an understanding of the specific evidence against a single person, all of the relevant testimony regarding each conspirator has been organized into an easily accessible and hyperlinked table. I have previously released the testimony regarding Mary Surratt, Lewis PowellDavid Herold and continue today with George Atzerodt. The text that follows this paragraph contains the same information that will always be found on a standalone page of the trial project called George Atzerodt Testimony and can be accessed by clicking the picture of Atzerodt on The Trial homepage. The organized testimony regarding the other conspirators will be published over the next couple of weeks.

The following table shows all of the testimony given at the Lincoln conspiracy trial concerning George Atzerodt. Clicking on any of the witnesses’ names will take you to their corresponding testimony in the chronological Trial project.

The default arrangement of the witnesses in the table is by Relevant Testimony. This organizes the witnesses based on what specific aspect of the conspirator’s case was discussed. In the case of George Atzerodt, I organized the testimony into five categories, labeled A – E. Descriptions of what each category means can be found after the table. The tabs on the bottom of the table allow you to view the witnesses arranged by Date and Alphabetically by last name.

Mobile users: Due to the smaller screen size on mobile devices, you will likely have to scroll left and right on the table to see the Relevant Testimony column.

Relevant Testimony descriptions:

A. George Atzerodt Planned to Kill Andrew Johnson

In attempting to prove their case that Atzerodt intended to kill Vice President Andrew Johnson at the Kirkwood House hotel, the prosecution pointed to the weapons found at the conspirators rented room. They also brought forth a witness who claimed that Atzerodt had asked about the VP’s whereabouts in the hotel. William Doster, Atzerodt’s lawyers, countered these claims by trying to show that the weapons in Atzerodt’s room did not belong to his client and that no one was seen lying in wait to kill Johnson when Lincoln was shot. The hope was to show that Atzerodt posed no threat to Johnson as he had never agreed to a murder plot. While the weapons and some of the items in George Atzerodt’s rented room at the Kirkwood House hotel may have belonged to David Herold and Booth, this did not change the fact that Atzerodt had tossed his own knife into the gutter and pawned his revolver on April 15.

B. George Atzerodt Associating with John Wilkes Booth and the other the Conspirators

In establishing Atzerodt’s role as a member of Booth’s conspiracy against the President, the prosecution had witnesses place George Atzerodt with the other conspirators in the months prior to Lincoln’s assassination. Atzerodt had frequently visited with the conspirators present at Mrs. Surratt’s boardinghouse and had helped to hide the carbines later used by Booth at the Surratt tavern in Maryland. William Doster acknowledged that Atzerodt was party to Booth’s initial abduction plot against the President and did not refute these associations. He did, however, dispute the reliability of witness Marcus Norton who’s testimony against Dr. Mudd was easily disproved.

C. George Atzerodt’s Movements After the Assassination

In the hours after Lincoln was shot, George Atzerodt took a room at the Pennsylvania House hotel with a stranger named Samuel Thomas. The prosecution believed that Samuel Thomas was an alias for one of the other conspirators but their own witnesses failed to identify any of those on trial. While the prosecution hoped to show complicity on the part of Atzerodt after the assassination, Doster provided witnesses to show that Atzerodt returned his rented horse and naturally took a room on April 14, showing no additional connection to Booth’s plot.

D. George Atzerodt Threatened Gen. Grant after the Assassination

After making his way to Montgomery County, Maryland, George Atzerodt took part in an Easter lunch where the topic of discussion was Lincoln’s assassination. According a prosecution witness, Atzerodt made mention that man on Grant’s train had failed in his task to kill the general. The officer who arrested Atzerodt also stated that George never asked the reason for his arrest. William Doster countered with his own defense witnesses who stated that Atzerodt’s comment regarding Grant was misremembered by the prosecution witness. He also attempted to get a confession Atzerodt made regarding his acknowledged participation in the abduction plot put on the record.

E. George Atzerodt was a Coward

To further defend his client against the charge that he had posed a threat to the life of Vice President Johnson, William Doster provided character witnesses who testified that George was a notorious coward. It was the defense attorney’s hope that this would show that Booth would never have entrusted the crime of assassination to the cowardly Atzerodt.

For the closing argument in defense of George Atzerodt click here.

Please remember that the Relevant Testimony descriptor is not meant to be definitive. In some instances, a witness might cover material from more than one category. Still, the attempt has been made to determine the most applicable category for each witness’s overall testimony.

Categories: History | Tags: , | 3 Comments

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3 thoughts on “The Testimony Regarding George Atzerodt

  1. chiefden34gmailcom

    Re: Atzerodt Confessions: Dave, do you have any links or copies to/of these confession documents of George Atzerodt: 1) April 25, 1865 aboard the ironclad; 2) that published by the National Intelligencer July 9, 1865, and 3) that published by the Baltimore American January 18,1869. These are available from the James O. Hall Research Center but they are still closed. The 4/25/1865 version is available from NARA files M-599, reel 3, frames 0596-0602 but I cannot find a way to access that location. My purpose is to compare these to the May 1, 1865 confession which is readily available.

    • Dennis,

      I want you to know that I am working on your request. I’ve decided to transcribe all of the known Atzerodt “confessions” and put them all together in one post. Give me a few more days and I’ll have everything you need.

  2. Pingback: The Confessions of George Atzerodt |

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