Born in Prussia (now part of Germany) George Atzerodt was a carriage-painter by trade. By 1864 the twenty-nine-year-old made his living off the Potomac River. Ferrying Confederate spies across the river, Atzerodt knew the intricate networks of creeks and inlets in the tangled, marshy environment of southern Maryland and eastern Virginia. Such knowledge was invaluable so long as the Booth conspirators planned on spiriting Lincoln out of his capital, and evading pursuers on the roads south to Richmond.
Assigned to kill Vice President Johnson at his Washington hotel on April 14, Atzerodt had no taste for murder. The would-be assassin got drunk instead. This didn’t prevent his later arrest, trial, or execution.