In the woods, Booth and Herold looked like the dirty, hunted fugitives that they were. They had planned to travel light and move quickly, not to camp out for an extended period in the words. After crossing the river, Booth had planned to charm people into sheltering him in their Virginia households—but this would be dependent on his good looks and fine clothing, and these assets were slipping away with each day passed in the woods.
Booth had believed that his polished manners and appearance, along with his charms as an actor, would allow him to persuade people to help him. Being injured and dirty was a new experience to him, which might have shaken his confidence in his ability to gain people’s trust.
Booth was also shocked and disappointed by the coverage of the assassination in the newspapers that Jones brought him on his third visit to the thicket. He was roundly condemned for killing the president. Worse, whereas Lincoln had been a controversial president while he was alive, in death he was hailed as a martyr. Booth was also horrified by the details he read about Powell’s savage attack on the members of the Seward family.
A consensus was emerging around the nation about how to understand the killing of the president. The consensus was that Lincoln had been killed for what he believed in and that the country should rally around those beliefs in the name of the slaughtered president. Meanwhile, the savageness of Powell’s attack further enhanced the popular impression that Booth and his co-conspirators were monstrous villains. Instead of inspiring the South to fight on, Booth’s crime was inspiring the North to rally around its victories.
Booth found no sign of the letter he had entrusted to a friend to be delivered to the newspapers. He believed that the newspapers were suppressing this letter, but, in fact, his friend had feared being implicated in Booth’s crime and had burned the letter instead of giving it to the papers. Booth opened a small notebook and began to write his own personal account of why and how he had killed Lincoln.
As would happen throughout the manhunt, Booth overestimated the willingness of others to put themselves in danger for him. He believed that everyone ought either to share his principles or be won over by his personal charisma, and he was furious when these calculations proved incorrect. Booth now wished to set the record straight for posterity.
On Tuesday, April 18, the manhunters finally followed up on the tip they had received from George Mudd. George Mudd had already told them all he knew, so the manhunters took him with them to see Samuel Mudd. At the farm, the soldiers interrogated Mudd and his wife. Mudd gave vague answers, saying he had not known the identity of the man with the broken leg. He then told the manhunters that the strangers had gone west, sending them in a wrong direction. Although the investigator could not yet prove it, he suspected Mudd was guilty of something and planned to arrest him later.
Mudd sought to continue to feed the authorities misinformation in order to throw them off Booth’s trail, but he was no practiced actor and something about his story rubbed the investigators the wrong way. As he tried to conceal the extent of his involvement with Booth, Mudd’s story had odd and implausible holes in it. For instance, it would seem strange to anyone that Mudd had not discovered the identity of the man with the broken leg whom he had treated.
In Washington, the presidential funeral procession created a solemn spectacle. Every building on Pennsylvania Avenue was wrapped in black crepe, and thousands came to see the president’s open casket in the Capitol dome. At day’s end, Lincoln’s remains were loaded onto a special train bound for his hometown of Springfield.
Along with newspaper coverage that defined the president’s death as a martyrdom, the funeral procession through Washington was another moment that unified Americans around a single interpretation of the meaning of Lincoln’s death.
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 been searched and his connection to Booth uncovered. Instead he had spent time at his cousin’s house in Maryland, unaware that he was in danger of being arrested. Richter at first told the detectives that Atzerodt was not there, but when they said they would search the house, he confessed that his cousin was upstairs. Atzerodt made a full confession. He gave details about the kidnapping plot and the conspirators’ meeting on April 14. He also described Mary Surratt and Samuel Mudd’s involvement in the scheme.
Although Atzerodt had not gone through with his part of the conspiracy, he had still failed to turn his co-conspirators in. It was an oversight on Booth’s part, however, to think that he could bully Atzerodt into murdering the Vice President. Booth did not have Atzerodt’s full loyalty, and the details that Atzerodt would give in his testimony to the authorities would help them figure out Booth’s whereabouts.
With two of the four central conspirators in captivity, Stanton issued a proclamation. He would pay $100,000 for Lincoln’s killers: Booth, Herold, and John Surratt. Posters with the men’s photographs and the amount of reward money went up across the country.
With the manhunt already five days along, Stanton was impatient to capture Lincoln’s killer. He now sought to appeal not only to Americans’ desire for justice against Lincoln’s killer, but also to their desire for personal enrichment.