A series of objects laid out on a wooden table: A map book, a pickax, a necktie, a knife and sheath, a revolver, a saddle and comb.
Photo by Carol Highsmith.

Material Evidence: Powell & Atzerodt

John Wilkes Booth and his group of conspirators planned on killing more than just President Lincoln. George Atzerodt and Lewis Powell were assigned with the assassinations of Vice President Andrew Johnson and Secretary of State William H. Seward, respectively.

George Atzerodt was tasked with the murder of Vice President Andrew Johnson, but could not bring himself to kill. After Lincoln’s assassination, a hotel employee contacted detectives about this “suspicious-looking man.” A search of Atzerodt’s hotel room turned up evidence, including a loaded revolver and a bowie knife. He was arrested five days later.

Although he did not carry out his part in the plot, Atzerodt was still executed.

Unlike Atzerodt, Lewis Powell did intend to kill his target, Secretary of State William H. Seward. Despite Powell’s strength, Seward did not die, but was severely injured. On the night of April 17, 1865, he showed up at Mary Surratt’s boarding house while police were questioning her. Carrying a pickaxe, he claimed he had been hired to dig a ditch. Powell was immediately arrested on suspicion of involvement in the assassination plot.

 Along with the other conspirators, Powell was then tried and executed.

George Atzerodt and Lewis Powell

The plot to assassinate President Lincoln involved more people than John Wilkes Booth. See how ordinary objects became evidence against the other conspirators.

Protect Our History

The night of April 14, 1865, forever changed our national history. Together, Ford's Theatre Society and the National Park Service partner to protect the artifacts from that night. Through these objects, we can better understand how that single event transformed our nation. Give to Ford's Theatre to help continue sharing the stories that shaped a nation.