Chasing Lincoln’s Killer

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A German immigrant, Atzerodt was involved in Booth’s 1864 plot to kidnap Lincoln. On April 14, 1865, when Booth charged him with assassinating Vice President Andrew Johnson, Atzerodt refused. Booth threatened to turn him in if he did not comply. Atzerodt did not go through with the assassination, but was incriminated by letters found in Booth’s room. He was eventually executed for his involvement in the assassination plot.

George Atzerodt Quotes in Chasing Lincoln’s Killer

The Chasing Lincoln’s Killer quotes below are all either spoken by George Atzerodt or refer to George Atzerodt. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
News, Information, and Misinformation Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Scholastic Press edition of Chasing Lincoln’s Killer published in 2009.
Chapter 4 Quotes

All Atzerodt had to do was knock on his door and the moment Johnson opened it, plunge the knife into his chest or shoot him dead. Compared with the challenges that faced Booth and Powell, Atzerodt had the easiest job of all. But that night, Johnson escaped death. Atzerodt could not do it. He drank in the hotel lobby, and the more he drank, the worse the plan sounded. He did not knock on Andrew Johnson's door. He left the bar and walked out. Abandoning his mission, Atzerodt got on his horse and rode away. He wasn't sure what to do next.

Related Characters: George Atzerodt, Vice President Andrew Johnson
Page Number: 69
Explanation and Analysis:

George Atzerodt had been tasked with killing the new vice president, Andrew Johnson. When Booth initially told Atzerodt to murder Johnson, Atzerodt had refused. Only after Booth threatened to turn him in to the authorities did Atzerodt agree to the killing. Despite the ease of his target, Atzerodt either lacked the conviction or the courage to take the opportunity. Atzerodt may never have been as fully invested in the Southern cause as Booth believed him to be, or he might have been scared of committing a murder. Either way, despite having ample opportunity to kill Johnson, Atzerodt did not take the chance. This raises a parallel to the several occasions in which Booth had an opportunity to kill Lincoln but was not able to follow through, and this is also an instance of Booth believing (falsely) that everyone who even nominally shares his beliefs must also share his willingness to sacrifice everything for those beliefs. Booth will make this mistake several more times.


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George Atzerodt Character Timeline in Chasing Lincoln’s Killer

The timeline below shows where the character George Atzerodt appears in Chasing Lincoln’s Killer. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1
Planning, Conspiracy, and the Unexpected Theme Icon
The Theatrical and The Real Theme Icon
Survival vs Principles Theme Icon
Now, on April 14, 1865, Booth called on George Atzerodt and Lewis Powell to help him murder Lincoln, Vice President Andrew Johnson, and Secretary of... (full context)
Chapter 4
Planning, Conspiracy, and the Unexpected Theme Icon
At the Kirkwood House, George Atzerodt drank in the hotel lobby, unable to work up the courage to follow through on... (full context)
News, Information, and Misinformation Theme Icon
Booth and Herold exchanged information. Herold knew nothing about Atzerodt’s mission, but he reported on how Powell’s trick with the package of medicine had worked... (full context)
Chapter 7
News, Information, and Misinformation Theme Icon
Meanwhile, George Atzerodt visited a friend named Hezekiah Metz in Maryland. Another guest of Metz’s asked jokingly if... (full context)
Survival vs Principles Theme Icon
...only information on his accomplices. They had evidence that Booth was the killer and that Atzerodt had been supposed to kill the Vice President, but no idea how Booth had meant... (full context)
Chapter 9
News, Information, and Misinformation Theme Icon
Survival vs Principles Theme Icon
On April 20, 1865, detectives arrived at the house of George Atzerodt’s cousin Hartmann Richter. Atzerodt should have realized that his room at the Kirkwood would have... (full context)
Chapter 13
Planning, Conspiracy, and the Unexpected Theme Icon
Stanton put eight defendants on trial: Mary Surratt, Lewis Powell, David Herold, George Atzerodt, Samuel Arnold, Michael O’Laughlen, Edman Spangler and Samuel Mudd. Mudd was the only person who... (full context)
Survival vs Principles Theme Icon
...Wells and other interrogators. Nineteen other men received smaller awards for their help capturing George Atzerodt and Lewis Powell. Richard Garrett made a claim against the government for compensation for his... (full context)
Chapter 14
News, Information, and Misinformation Theme Icon
Survival vs Principles Theme Icon
After a rapid trial in May and June, Mary Surratt, David Herold, George Atzerodt, and Lewis Powell received death warrants on July 6, 1865. They would be hung the... (full context)